I drove up the morning of the 8th leaving Anderson, SC about 9 am and arriving in the Great Smokey Moutains National Park shortly after noon. I drove to the Newfound Gap parking lot also known as the Tennessee/North Carolina State Line Parking Lot. After arriving at the parking lot I couldn't find exactly where to pick up the AT South towards Clingmans Dome. I found a well equipped group heading north on the AT who tried to tell me at first that the north route went to Clingman's Dome; fortunately I knew this wasn't true so I stated it needed to go the opposite direction. FYI cross the main road and the AT Southbound begins on the otherside of the road directly across from the parking lot. I hit the trail 1230 pm and called some loved ones to let them know where I was in case something unpredictable happend. About .6 miles into the hike, something unpredictable happend. At first I thought I saw a pack of black dogs and figure the owner had brought them out for a hike in the park. But 15 seconds later I still had not heard the dogs bark or the owner talking. So as I got closer I paid better attention and just as I came to a straight away and gained a line of site, I noticed two black bears. The bears were younger but not quite small cubs, it was just two of them on the trail about 50 yards in front of me. It appeared that they were playing with each other so I took cover behind a tree and watched them for a few minutes. I knew I was in a race with the sun starting so late, so after a few minutes I began yelling at them and the internet advice is true. If you ever have a bear encounter make a lot of noise, these two bears took off for the woods when I began yelling, and when I crossed the poin on the trail that they stood at, I couldn't see either one. I arrived at the summit at 415 pm. Like any peakbagger/highpointer I took many pictures of the summit tower, signs on the summit, etc. I hit the trail again at 435 with a dead cell phone, one bottle of water left, and sore legs. The hike back the trail was isolated I thought I was the only person left. Fortunately I passed a group that I had passed a few hours ago on the way up (their way down). This was reassuring knowing I had someone nearby in case the worse happend. At about 1.6 miles remaining on the descent you pass a parking lot with the summit road to Clingman's Dome exposed. With tired legs from 14.2 miles with one small break at the summit, I began to question if I would get off the trail by dark. It was a little after 7 and I knew at my pace I wouldn't get off the trail until a little before 8. Worried about the darkness underneath the thick tree cover and the fact I still had to cross where I had previously seen the bears, I decided to stay on the trail. Fortunately I was off the trail by 8 pm without another bear siting. All in all the trip was good, the trail was enjoyable, but the skies were overcast and the pictures were not impressive. All said and done its another hiked highpoint in the bag and many more to go.
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