Home for Thanksgiving.

The Smokies are in the books. Yes! Grand total mileage: 400.8.

The park is a special place. The shelters have unique character – complete with fireplaces. The terrain is as awesome as the unpredictable weather.

Our national parks are not only national treasures, but a patrimony to be passed to generations yet to come. They need lots of TLC.

As I neared the GSMNP northern border, two rangers on weekend patrol stopped to chat when the noticed my Potomac Appalachian Trail Club patch. They related that the original trail design didn’t account for erosion control. Moreover the AT suffered neglect until congress acted just a few years ago.

Since, the volunteer organizations have been playing catch up, trying to repair nature’s damage. The sections of the Appalachian Trail near urban areas enjoy and abundance of volunteers while those in remote locations suffer.

Each year the Appalachian Trail Conservancy helps GSMNP by organizing volunteers from around the nation to work in the park. Their work in the Clingmans Dome area was impressive. Much, much more is needed. I’ll return as one of these volunteers in the future.

Meanwhile, after finding micro spikes for my boots, but incredibly no mittens at the Gatlinburg outfitter, the icy trails and snowy slush vanished as obstacles.

It also was old home week in a sense. I ran into around a dozen southbounders I previously met on my Shenandoah hike. It was fantastic to see their success. One of the pics includes a few of them at a hostel. breakfast.

Best of all, I ran into another bear on my last day. This time, no surprises.

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