Over 20 of us were coming in from Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, and Oklahoma to campout at Elkmont Campground for three nights. The first day everyone arrived at different times. Flowing in when they could and enjoying the journey to get there.
We set up camp, cooked hobo pockets, and laughed around the campfire. Hobo pockets are one of Angela's favorites. You take chopped up potatoes, peppers, onions, mushrooms, chicken (or any meat or veggie meat you want!), a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and roll it all up in aluminum foil and throw it on a fire for a bit. Delicious, warming, and perfect to eat while camping. Then Sarah brought out the s'mores. The biggest decision we probably made that night was whether to go with the classic Hershey's Chocolate or curveball Reese's Peanut Butter Cup with the marshmallow.
We woke up on the first morning taking in the bright sunrise. A small campfire by the grill kept everyone warm while someone cooked breakfast. Sausages fresh from Katie's farm. Pancakes mixed by Aaron Cook. Coffee brewing. Tea steeping. Easy conversations and laughter to start the first day.
The first trail we decided to hike together was Chimney Tops. A steep climb to the top led us to some of the greatest views in the Smoky Mountains.
All around the trees were changing colors, the sun was coming and going between the clouds, and a wind would catch us here and there reminding us of all the changes happening at this time of year.
Mary Beth made a couple of friends from Kentucky with her bright energy. Angel found some kindred spirits in a few kids that had climbed to the top. Sam inspired all of us by climbing to the tip top of one of one of the peaks.
We made our way back down the trail and cooled off by the creek. Jaden jumped into the cold water. It was so cold! Most of us took off our shoes and rested our feet in the water for a few minutes at a time.
It was a moment to rest. To take it the exhaustion from the climb. To see the sunlight moving through the leaves as colors dancing in the breeze.
That night we cooked tacos and played games around the fire. Bo's hot sauce completed the meal. Tyler and Aaron Chokbengboun grilled all the tortillas. Jason carved an amazing pumpkin. Zach introduced us to a game that helped us learn about each other more. Jose laughed. It was good vibes all around.
Some of us went to catch some sleep and some of us stayed awake way into the night. We started to head out to Clingmans Dome at around 3:00 AM to watch the moonset and the sunrise at the highest point in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Tyler and JP led us through the night and into the clouds to reach the trailhead. It was cold and windy, but we were there for it.
We grabbed all the blankets and layers and started making our way to the top just as the clouds started to break up and stars shine through. We walked up the trail making it at last to the final spiral that would take us up into the sky. We watched the moon turn red as it sunk beyond the horizon. An Ly was bundled up completely in blankets. Cassie always looked like she was freezing. James cocooned in his sleeping bag. We were there together, facing the wind, taking it all in, and waiting for the sun to rise.
Slowly, more and more people started arriving to take in the sunrise. The platform filled up while all of us shared a moment in time watching the light shine over the mountains.
The fog rolling through the peaks reminding us of infinity. The space that reaches beyond the distance horizon is like the space in our mind that allows us to create and move in a way that inspires us.
After the sunrise, we made our way back to camp to sleep, eat breakfast, and take it slow for awhile. It was that moment in the trip where everyone felt that full feeling of contentment and exhaustion. It felt good. Later we kind of scattered about while some went to explore Gatlinburg, some stayed around camp, and some went fishing. We all came back together around the fire playing music, cooking dinner, and enjoying our last night there.
We started waking up just after the sun started shining through the trees. Packing up the tents, hammocks, and all of the camping supplies back into the cars. We talked and said goodbyes before heading out to the visitor center for one last picture together. There was so much bright energy coming from our group. Joy and happiness coming from each and every smiling face.
Our trip to the Smokies is such a beautiful reminder about the inspiration that comes from sharing time together in meaningful ways. The best parts were getting to know each other, exploring the mountains, and taking it all in with people who are also there to enjoy the moment. We are so grateful to everyone who came on this trip and shared their light.
Much love and see you next time!
Traveler, Writer, and Content Creator for Nature Backs