The Great Smoky Mountains National Park


So the next stop of our trip was the Smokys and we could not ask for better weather. It was PERFECT I tell you... the three days there were mostly overcast with the sun peaking out from time to time. Kyle and I also stayed at our very first hotel together (since we've been staying at Airbnb on every travel) and it was... weird. haha! It was also the cause of my worst experience on this whole trip combined. After hiking from 10am until 8pm on the second day, Kyle was dragging me into the hotel's pool which was HUGE and had this crazy big slide and jacuzzi and all this fancy stuff and I swear that was the reason why I woke up the next morning with my eyes tearing. My contact got irritated and I couldn't even open my eye. I didn't bring glasses or a new pair of contacts so... it was the worst. I immediately called my parents to overnight ship my contacts to the next destination we'd be at, which was Asheville. That whole day, I couldn't hike, I could eat because I felt nauseas, and I had the worst headache. Although it was slowly getting better, I still could not see out of one eye and that was making me SOOOOO dizzy. So much so that I decided to buy an eyepatch. Yep, I walked around the Smokys with an eyepatch, and since this was on the last day, I also walked around Asheville the same way. Boy did I get the craziest looks. I went two and a half days either one eye blind, or with an eyepatch on. #adventure .. right?

Anyways, on a positive note, the highlight of the entire stay had to be sunset on Cingman's Dome, which was 6,644' up there. We decided to climb up about an hour before the sun came down, and underestimated how high and how cold it would get. The temperature dropped about fifteen degrees and it was such a steep walk up that although we had plenty of time to get back to our cars to grab a sweater, we decided against it because I don't think my calves would have made it back up a second time. So, it was FREEZING. I was sitting up there in my tank top and shorts and poor Kyle was shivering the entire time. He went up and down the walkway a few times just to warm up and even stayed at the bottom of the dome until it came closer to the sunset. As I was setting up my camera next to all the photographers, the man right next to me happen to be a professional photographer working on the most visited national park in the whole United States... The Great Smokys! He was doing this piece for a British company and also shot pictures for National Geographic in the past. He shot with all Nikon cameras and was lugging around this backpack that was about 25 pounds filled with three tripods, 7 or so lenses, and two camera bodies. When he saw what kind of camera I was shooting with, he let me shoot a few of my shots with his lenses and I just about screamed. How lucky did I get?! Also, he explained to everyone up there (who was complaining about the cold) that this was his third and final opportunity to climb up Clingman's Dome for a sunset. He said that the past two days were too overcast, the sun didn't even make it out, and that today was perfect. So again... how lucky did we get to be able to witness that beautiful sunset and exchange words with this man?! Pretty darn lucky. After the sun came down, we lingered for about 15 more minutes, while everyone went running down, and caught some beautiful colors. And although it was about 45 degrees at this point, I felt a little spark of warmth when I thought about how much this climb was worth it and how lucky I am to be on this trip with Kyle.