After a bit of a drive and battling the traffic of Sevierville and Gatlinburg, TN I finally made it to the trail head for Alum Cave Bluffs for an ascent with Mt. Le Conte. The Smokies had just been draped over by a smearing of afternoon heavy mist adding a fair amount of water to the creek alongside the trail. The route began with a slight climb with a lot of flat recovery for the initial two miles. The climb became more serious soon with an abrupt rise away from the creek.
I was feeling really good despite the larger workload from this week. Allowing the climb to slip beneath me was liberating and soon the first climb was below me and I was able to take in a nice little view of the National Park. As the trail made its way upward I was taken into beautiful alpine forests with shear drops to the valley below. Negotiating the shale and the overrun in the trails from the earlier weather made the trip even more enjoyable. At many points the route was inundating by uphill waterfalls.
The water level increased as the climb grew higher and higher. Meanwhile the temperature was dropping as the air thinned up around 6000 ft. eventually leading up to 6,593 feet. Since the trail begins near the top of the Smoky Mountain Parkway, this is slightly deceiving... not a monster of a climb over the 6 or so miles where I decided to turn.
I LOVE summits such as this one. No visual explosion. This is the type of goal which reinforces the concept of the journey being most important. I added a small stone somewhere on the base of this rock mound, touched a pebble on the very top of the pile with my finger and turned back toward the trail head. Ready for a nice long, patient cruise to the car. My goal was to run an even split.
With this mindset I was able to stop and enjoy some of the open views so rare in the southeastern mountains. It was striking to take in the folds in the Earth from such a vantage point. Remembering the work it required to get to this point in this run and in a macro sense the work to get to this point in my life, my running.