Last weekend Jon, Yuri and I went to the Smokies for a run. We started from Catalooche and headed for Mt. Sterling. A thick frost and a herd of Elk greeted us as we rolled in.
We headed up Pretty Hollow Gap trail and quickly hit the snow line. While no other humans had been on this trail since the snow many animals had. A bear had ambled down low, even crossing the creek on a log bridge, and we ran several miles along side a single set of coyote tracks before another set of bear tracks rejoined the trail for another short stretch.
Once we hit the gap and Mt. Sterling Ridge there were plenty of human tracks as well as some living humans. The snow was deeper and we were suddenly exposed to the fierce wind as we slogged our way up to the lookout tower.
It was all downhill from there with a pounding descent on loose snow and even looser rocks. This downhill, combined with trying to keep up with Jon, who is now one of the fastest guys around, on the climb as well as our frequent stops started to take its toll on my right knee. By the time we reached Little Catalooche trail I was in pretty good pain with a classic case of runner's knee.
Little Catalooche trail is littered with historic remains and I did my best to appreciate them as I hobbled by.
Yuri is a notorious history fan so I gave him my camera to play around with in an attempt to slow him down to my painful pace. Somehow he accidentally changed the settings and added a stamp to the pictures.
Eventually I had enough of the pain and resigned to walking the last few miles back to the car. Jon and Yuri were kind enough to join me on my stroll and we chatted as we wrapped up another excellent adventure.
Driving out of the park the same herd of Elk were still on display, now bathed in the warm late afternoon sun.