Family was down in Gatlinburg area for a vacation. Couldn’t find a hiker shuttle that was not booked solid, so my dear wife woke up early and drove the 35 windy miles up to Newfound Gap so I could get an early start (7am) on what would be a glorious hiking day. Given what I have imagined about the hiking and views in Smokies, the amazingly perfect trail conditions, the great weather, the fact that the park gets 11 million visitors a year, I was half-expecting a miserable, crowded day over worn out trails and overhyped lookouts … boy was wrong. I only encountered a total of 5 hikers between the time I started in Newfound Gap all the way to nearby the Grotto waterfalls well over a dozen miles from where I started. And it’s not like this was not THE place to be hiking. The quality of the trail conditions, combined with the light gradations (given the enormous Eastern elevations) and the many, many, many excellent vistas, and the idea that Leconte is one of the must go-to destinations for Smokies hihers really would have made this think unhikeable up in the ADKs. It would have been a madhouse.
In any case, no reason for trip reports. I should have been patient and found more places to walk, the weather and conditions were so nice. As it were, with all of the side trips in here (Jump Off, Myrtle, Brushy and a walk all the way out of Gatlinburg), was able to cover apx 22 miles in 8 hours on a fairly iffy right calf (I know, wimp I am). Did not encounter much wildlife on this day aside from some quiet and flitty juncos here and there.