I'm participating in back to back Road Scholar hiking programs in Smoky Mountain National Park. At least I thought I was. Come to find out the first program at the Hinton Rural Life Center in Hayesville, NC, actually consisted of hikes on the AT in Nantahala National Forest.
There were 17 participants and two leaders. Each morning after breakfast we made a bag lunch and set off in two vans to hike a section. The hikes were planned to be in and out which was a bit of a disappointment. Since there were two vans it was possible to hike the same distance and cover more trail mileage but unfortunately this is not how the trip operated. Monday we hiked from Deep Gap to Standing Indian Mountain where there were fabulous views. We ate our lunch on the summit and returned to the vans. We stopped at Standing Indian Shelter.
On Tuesday we hiked about 2.6 miles from Rock Gap to a side trail that led down to Standing Indian Campground. We found a spot for lunch and then walked back out. On this hike we stopped at Rock Gap Shelter. It was empty on the way in but on the way out we were joined by a number of thru hikers who were planning to spend the night. A shuttle service operates from Rock Gap to the town of Franklin, NC, where many go to shower and re-supply before entering the Smoky Mountains. The hikers we met were planning to visit Franklin the next day. The shelter is quite close to the road.
You can see our fearless leader, Jack, in red, standing in the shelter.
On Wednesday, in order to give group members alternatives, The vans traveled to both ends of the section. From the north, it was a two mile hike to Siler Bald, from the south, four miles. This gave hikers the choice of a four mile round trip, an eight mile round trip or a six mile point to point hike. I was delighted and chose the six miler. As we took the two mile steeper walk in, we arrived on Siler Bald much earlier than the other group. The views were magnificent and we enjoyed our lunch up there.
On the way out I took the opportunity to visit Siler Bald Shelter, located quite a way downhill on a loop parallel to the AT. I joined the group taking the four miles back down at the trail junction.