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Friday, October 25, 2013

On Chimney Tops Trail Pam Goes Thumpety-Thump, Shakety-Shake

Wayne finally was feeling well enough to try a hike on Tuesday, but when I suggested something a little low-key he insisted on doing Chimney Tops.  Chimney Tops?  You do know that it's a 4 mile round trip hike with a 1350 feet elevation gain, right, Wayne?  I know that might not sound like much to some of you, but for a flatlander like me who just did a similar hike the previous day and for a guy who has back pain....

However, Wayne was not to be deterred, so off we went.  I took 95 pictures, got it down to 56 on my first pass through the group, and now have it down to a respectable 26.  Hope you have your eyes all rested up for the show.

The trail starts off by crossing the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River.  Gorgeous? Yeah!  I have a few shots set aside of this spot for another day.  It was so pretty we came back again.

One thing this trail is not short on is stairs.  We climbed up quite a few sections on our ascent.  These stone and wood stair sections were added to help stop erosion of the trail.  They are spaced nicely and didn't cause the knee discomfort that some other stairs have caused us elsewhere.

The trail is packed with plants and trees to admire on your way up, predominantly hemlocks, ferns and rhododendren stand out this time of year.

There are a couple of more bridges before things start getting really steep, enjoy the peaceful spots while you can!

As things got steeper, my heart started going thumpety-thump and at times was beating so hard that I could actually HEAR it in my ears.  I had Wayne stop and put his hand on my chest.  He laughed at me because before we left for this trip I kept telling him he was too out of shape for this kind of terrain.  Guess who's heartbeat I couldn't even find even though he was sweating pretty good?  But maybe that's because mine was beating so hard it just made it hard to find his.  I was, however, encouraged by the regularity of my loud heartbeat.  No arrhythmia anyway!

Our admirable NPS employees were on the job making repairs to the trail and monitoring the trail cams.  We gave them the enthusiastic welcome back to work that is becoming our mantra.  They smiled genuine grins and expressed their joy with their job that lets them spend their days in such a glorious location.

I used the camera as an excuse to stop and rest often.  I even snuck in a kiss or two to slow Wayne down.  All is fair in love and hiking.

By the time I knew we had to be nearing our destination my legs were going shakety-shake along with my heart going thumpety-thump.  The lesson here is you can only prepare so much for elevation when you live in the Midwest.  Imagine if I hadn't tried to prepare at all!

When we were really close to the end the trail narrowed considerably and it was single file.  There was a sign to the right of Wayne in the pic below that said the "trail" was closed for maintenance and to climb the rock surface from that point to reach the top.  Needless to say everyone ignored the sign.  We didn't hear any screams as they fell off the mountain so it wasn't very long before we followed them.

Chimney Tops is one of the few mountains in the Smokies with a bare rock summit

I went as far as the lady to the far right in the above photo.  When the trail ended and scrambling up bare vertical rock began I declared my summit reached.  Wayne soldiered on.  I called him an idiot, but it was too much for someone who climbs electric poles for a living to resist.

My view as I waited for my husband to return or die.

He returned alive and happy with his adventure.  And it was all downhill from there.  Literally.

All downhill sounds great...until your legs start quivering and your ankles start hurting from all that momentum you're trying to resist.  I can hear Linda in Oregon laughing at me now.  She did 14 miles of mountain the other day.

The lady at the bottom of this staircase was wearing a pair of moccasins.  I told her I hoped she wasn't going far in those.  She told me she hikes in them all the time.  Since we weren't that far from the parking lot at that point I hope her idea of hiking is nothing like mine because that was just a sprained ankle waiting to happen!

I can see why Chimney Tops and Alum Cave are among the most popular trails in the park and I'm glad we experienced them.  Now I'm ready to tackle that out of the way gem no one else is taking the time to explore...any suggestions?


  1. Fab photos! What a great hike. Another post pinned to my vacation board. I can see I need to step it up on my treadmill a bit. You're right, no hikes quite like this in the Midwest.

  2. That was some hike! I was all worn out by the time I got to the end of you pictures. ;c)

  3. I can sure understand why you had so many photos. It's gorgeous!

  4. Today is my first time to see and read your blog. Your pictures are great.... I really enjoy your blog. I'm a native Tennessean, I live in Old Hickory, TN which has a population of approx 26,000, OH is just outside Nashville. I've hiked most of the trails and I 've done a lot of tent camping when I was younger....I always enjoy my visits to the Smokies.

  5. Two words - trekking poles! Take the pressure off your knees and back, add stability on precarious rocks and logs, look really cool.......
    You'll thank me, really.

  6. What a beautiful trail! All the lush undergrowth reminds me of the forests here in Oregon. Yes, I'll second Jodee's comment - get yourself some trekking poles. They are great for downhill hiking - takes some of the pressure off your knees. I don't hike without them.

  7. Looks fun. Going downhill not so much fun for me.

  8. Well done and Wayne is a man after me, I'd do the same and climb to the top. Great set of photos loved the waterfall near the end.

  9. What a beautiful hike and your pictures are fantastic. A 1350 feet elevation gain makes my heart start pounding just thinking about and all those stairs looked like killers to me.

    It sure was nice to see it all from the comfort of my easy chair here in my computer room.

  10. Oh my, Chimney Tops is one of the few trails I've always laughingly said I'll NEVER do again unless a friends whose working on completing all the trails needs me to hike it with them. It's tough, crowded and as you found, full of people that are unprepared. But it does seem to be one of those iconic trails everyone feels they need to do! (Getting ready to send you an email)

  11. I agree about the trekking poles. That was some hike. I know exactly what you mean about shaking knees. That's usually my sign to turn around. We did a 5 mile pretty strenuous mountain hike the other day and ran across some people hiking barefooted! It was pretty cool too. They went up past us towards the water fall, and we never saw them again. They either came back in the dark or spent the night in the woods because there was only one way back.

    Nice photos!

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