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reveries of an amateur long-distance hiker

Walking to the Smoky Mountains, Day 20

June 17th, 2021

Walking to the Smoky Mountains, Day 20, June 17

Pole Road Campsite (55)  to Bryson City

The day opened in reluctance. I knew I had a 13 mile walk out to get to the road to hitch to Cherokee NC, so it wasn’t a simple stroll, though it was the end of a very long trek (250+ miles in these mountains is no joke). I geared up for the last time, following the rituals of the summer—those that sustain hiking and peace of mind. I had camped in a place where three different sites were closely connected, so soon after setting out, I was passing a site where three men were just about to start their trek out. Ryan, Jake, and Steve— three men finishing a three day fishing, hiking, camping trip— were on their way to the Deep Creek parking lot to head back home to Columbus Ohio (except Jake who was heading back to the main-line near Philly). They happily agreed to drop me at Bryson City on their way to Asheville, so, for the first time in many years, I fell into a walk with three other trekkers, alternately talking and walking in a gregarious and pleasant way— each was a really interesting person to walk with, so the miles melted away and soon, after seeing a number of waterfalls and watching the kids tube down the river,   they dropped me at the Relax Inn in Bryson City. The perfect spot to end this long Benton Mackaye Trek.

T. Hugh Crawford