Great Smoky Mountains and Georgia
I woke up early in Nashville the morning of day 5 and set off the for Great Smoky Mountains. The mountains were a sight to behold as I approached along the interstate, and my first stop in the national park was at the sign at the front of the park (of course). I then made my way to Cades Cove which is a looping road that provides beautiful sights of the mountains with a lot of pull offs along the way. Almost immediately on the road, there were horses. I pulled off and took pictures and videos of me petting some of them. It was incredible to see wild horses so close, but they liked being petted by people. The looping road also provided some incredible shots of the mountain range, so I stopped a few more times to enjoy the scenery.
Once done with Cades Cove, I drove through Gaitlinburg TN. Gaitlinburg is on the border of the national park and feels like an incredibly touristy mountain styled Disneyland. There was no where to park to get food, so I drove through and got gas, before heading onto my camp site at Cosby Campground.
Cosby campground is on the far north eastern side of the national park. Most of the camp sites require that you parrellle park along the road, then set up your tent on a nearby campsite. Since my tent is on top of my car, that meant that I would be sleeping pretty much on the road. That was ok with me, but what was not wonderful is that there was a steep decline next to the road, so my tent's ladder did not reach the ground. I had to prop up the bottom of the ladder by setting it on my folded tarp, and even then my ladder was nearly vertical so it is was difficult to get in and out of the tent. At the campsite, I met a friendly man named Joe who was spending the weekend with his family. Joe used to live in Oregon, so he gave me some great tips about the best things to see at Crater Lake once I eventually get there. Crater Lake is an old volcano, with lake at the top. He told me to drive to the top at night because the stars are incredible due to no light pollution.
I turned in a little early that first night, but got up early the next day with the goal of climbing Mt. Cammerer. There was an old fire watch station at the top of the mountain that I wanted to see. The hike from the campground was incredibly difficult. The first 3 miles of the trail were non-stop upward. Finally, after that portion you get to the Appalachian Trail, which was difficult for about a mile, but then finally leveled off. After that, there was probably another 1.5 miles of trail until you get to the top, and the sights were incredible. You could see so incredibly far from that fire watch station, that it was hard to take in all of the beauty at once. I took a lot of pictures and eventually made my way back. That night, I was so exhausted from my climb , I went to bed early and slept about 9 hours.
The next morning I had a long drive to my friends Cathy and Adam in Valdosta Georgia. I met Cathy at Virginia Tech when I was doing my Ph.D. She was also a graduate student, but she studied crops while I studied business. Cathy and I became close friends during graduate school, and she helped me get through the tougher parts of it. We were also roommates for a short stint. It was so nice to see her and Adam again, and I also got to meet their 18 month old son Emmett who is one of the happiest kids I have ever met. We had a great evening reminiscing about grad school, and sharing updates on our lives together. They were moving to Delaware in a couple of days, so I am glad I got to see their place in Georgia before they moved onto better things.
I also picked up my two new battery packs from Cathy and Adam the morning I left. Some initial testing show that one of the packs may not be charging from the car, but it does from the solar panel, so I am hoping it is simply a cord that is not functioning. If these two newer battery packs also have issues, I'm going to have to try to find another solution to let me be able to use my cpap at night. I figure that I would try to solve the battery problem once I got to my friends John's house in Miami the next day.