Smoky Mountains Day 3 itinerary:
- Slept in (forecast of rain)
- 11:30 – stopped at NOC for a hat
- 12:00 – Alum trail to Mt. LaConte
- 7:00 – return to trailhead
- Return to hotel, made dinner
- Went to Morton Overlook for sunset
It was supposed to rain on Saturday, so we didn’t really hurry to get up and going. Turns out, that forecast was wrong and we probably could have gotten an earlier start.
We had noticed that there was an NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) building on the border of the park just in Gatlinburg. I was unaware that NOC had physical stores – I thought they were an online only entity – but since it was there it got added to our list of things to do. We stopped in mainly just to browse, and because I wanted a less warm hat than the one I was forced to use the day before.
Midday we headed up the Alum Cave Trail to Mt. LaConte – it’s about a 5 mile hike, pretty steadily uphill with a stop at the “cave” about half way. I put cave in quotes because it’s more of a divot in the side of a cliff, but I guess, had it rained, it would have provided some protection. The trail is pretty steep and narrow at places, with one log bridge that I found quite questionable. There are hand hold cables along the rock for some of the areas. None of them seemed very truly necessary, which is good since some were clearly missing anchors and there was a disturbing amount of duct tape in places.
Very near the peak, there’s a lodge where cabins can be rented overnight. Looked like it would be a pretty cool place to stay, but I think they were also quite expensive at $100+ per night per person (but that does include meals). Just a bit further than the lodge is the actual peak, Myrtle Point. The day was mostly overcast and at the point, quite windy – enough that standing around for about 5 minutes was enough to dry everything off from the hike up.
As usual, we spent more time on the descent taking pictures of all the stuff we had breezed by on the hike up (except the salamander, since animals have a tendency to not hang around for picture time later).
We hit up Morton Overlook again for sunset, but the clouds were not playing along. There were none high in the sky and a pretty dense patch on the horizon so we couldn’t see the actual sunset. Did the best with what we saw – I got a couple shots that I think are OK, but the grey mass of cloud on the horizon kind of throws them off in my opinion.