Waking up early was hard for me, every so often someone or something would thump in the night and I’d snap awake. When the sun came up around six I was not ready to get up. I tried my hardest to go back to sleep but to no avail. This was the last day in the Smokies and we had 12 miles to go to Standing Bear Hostile. Almost all down hill, with one big uphill in the plan for the day.
The first section of downhill was horrendous going over the man made steps filled with rail road grade rocks. Each step you took had to be specifically placed to avoid breaking or rolling your ankle. After dozens of steps, one after another, my ankles were shot, tired from the constant use of my stabilizer muscles. Each step calculated, slowed my descent out of the smokeys. The steep decline led us down the mountainside, switching back and forth a long the ridges. The only real view to be had was at the end of a sharp corner.
At the corner the trail maintainer had created a beautiful rock wall, giving the trail some elegance and rustic touches. Just before this wonderful wall was a large rock. This large rock towered over the vegetation, allowing you one last look on the way out of the smokeys. You could see seven ranges of mountains firm here, each range slightly hazier than the next. One last look at this beautiful mountain range before we go. Snapping a quick picture we headed down to the gap.
From here we hit the miracle mile, thus named for the beautiful terrain. The next two miles were free of rocks, roots and mud. The flat, smooth, trail allowed me to hit my top speed. Cruising down the flat pristine trail, I made great time. Each mile went by between 15 to 20 minutes each. You couldn’t have asked for a more perfect way to finish the smokeys. The six days of hard terrain melted away in my mind as enjoyed the last bit of trail. Coming to the permit box Teddy, Kevin, and I celebrated our completion of the smokeys. 200 some odd miles underfoot and we were excited for the next two hundred. All that was left was to head the last two miles into the hostile. And it had to be up hill, of course and steps. It’s always uphill the last bit. Coming into the hostel we couldn’t have been happier to have a warm bed and cold drink.