The Best Views In GSMNP: Charlies Bunion

Coming back to real life after vacation is such a drag, like a shoot me, I wish I had some moonshine right now kind of drag.  But muddle through we must…until the next vacation…which is on Thursday, thank God, or I would have to find something high to jump off of.  We’re heading to Long Island for some soul medicine known as salty air, prescribed by the Almighty as an antidote to the occasional drudgery of daily life.  Also, December is depressingly busy.  Happy busy (maybe?), but just too much happening.  I didn’t even realize it until we got home last night and I opened up my circa 1992 Hallmark, fit-in-your-purse calendar to look at the month and nearly had a heart attack.  All those tiny squares fill up so quickly and then people get mad because you have too much going on and have to draw the line at some things.

For the two more days that we’re in town prior to salty air inhalation, I’m thinking about the mountains and trying to remember all the emotions felt while standing on top of the world, looking out at an endless sea of peaks on Charlies Bunion.  This outcropping of rock has a weird name because it looks like a bunion on the side of a hill, but the views…THE VIEWS!!

A friend recommended this hike to me because it’s her favorite hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Then, I watched two park volunteers get dewy eyed when talking about the trail and the sights from Charlies Bunion.  “You should really do that hike, you have to see the views from there, it’s incredible.”  The trail to get to Charlies Bunion starts out at the Newfound Gap parking lot and goes directly along the Appalachian Trail.  We’d hiked on the AT the day before and I was convinced it couldn’t get any better, but it does.  I’ll add myself to the list of people utterly enchanted by everything having to do with this trail.

We came upon another shelter, the Icewater Spring shelter, which had a lovely view of the mountains.  Still sparse, but quite a nice place to spend the night.

Thankfully the pricey trekking poles saved our knees.  We got one pair and each had a pole, but I noticed a difference in how my knees felt, as in I could still walk to the bathroom to take some Advil at the end of the day.  If I had pulled 18 tendons in my legs, it would have been worth it to see what we saw on Charlies Bunion.  We had it to ourselves for a few minutes to just silently take in the breadth of what we were seeing and to climb carefully up onto the rock for a picture without falling to our deaths.

When we finally tore ourselves from the bunion, we headed back along the trail to an offshoot called the jumpoff which included a steep uphill .3 mile climb to a whole different perspective of the mountain sea.  In fact, we could see Charlie’s Bunion from where we were and we traversed a mountain like the Von Trapp family, people.  Rob couldn’t see the bunion because he’s going blind at 40, but the neon shirts of the people standing on the rock to get pictures where we’d been standing an hour before showed up against the backdrop of leafless trees.

In short, a magical respite from the usual pace of life to an altogether different daily challenge of tackling nature.  I hope we can get back there soon to experience even more places in the park, but what a lucky blessing to be able to see what we saw and feel so teeny in the middle of it all.

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