The original plans for my Martin Luther King weekend adventure was to meet friends at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. However, Mother Nature had plans of her own. The forecast called for an ice storm the entire weekend and the threat of the main road, Skyline Drive, being closed was very real.
Luckily, my friend and I joked about having a plan B. Little did we know we would actually have to implement it! On the Thursday before leaving, we called it. Instead of Shenandoah, we were to drive to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Truth be told, this worked out for the best! I was able to hike to the summits of my favorite mountains and share that with a friend who had never explored the Smokies! I was also able to tour the Chalet the Explorer Chicks will be calling home this July on our Smoky Mountain Big Hiking Adventure! (We’re about half full on this trip!)
I arrived to our campsite late on Saturday, leaving us only one full day of hiking on Sunday. To get the most out of our day, I insisted on a pre-dawn hike to Mt. LeConte. We set off for the summit at 4:30am with the hopes of catching an incredible sunrise from the top of the third highest mountain in Tennessee. Instead, we followed the beams of our headlamps through the rain to a summit shrouded in fog.
Next on our day’s itinerary was Charlie’s Bunion. This is my favorite hike in the park! It’s an 8 mile round trip along the AT that ends on an exposed bump of a ridge. On a clear day, it’s nothing but a panoramic view of mountains! By the time we reached the Bunion the rain had stopped, but the fog was still hanging in the air. Even though we didn’t have clear skies, the dancing fog created a mesmerizing view. I could have sat on the bunion all day watching the wind sweep the mist up and across the mountains. Every few minutes the view would change.
After a 19 mile day with over 4,000′ in elevation gain, we were spent! We drove into Cherokee for a humongous dinner before collapsing with exhausted legs into bed.
The next day, I toured the Chalet the Explorer Chicks will be calling home base in July. Views for days! We’re staying on top of Ski Mountain with views of downtown Gatlinburg, the cable car and mountains! We have 2 balconies equipped with the quintessential rockers and a hot tub! YES! That hot tub will feel amazing after a long day of exploring!
Next on my roadtrip was Catawba, VA. The Explorer Chicks are heading there in June for hiking the Virginia Triple Crown and a Wilderness Survival 101 course instructed by Mountain Shepherd. I arrived to Mountain Shepherd greeted by the welcoming party, the 4 dogs that call the school home! Dina, who owns the school with her husband Reggie, showed me around the lodge. It’s a little slice of heaven! They’ve put so much love, passion, and detail into the school. That night Dina and I split a bottle of wine chatting about everything from being small business owners, to the impact our companies are making, to the sheer joy we get watching women transform during our programs.
The next day, I hiked to summit of Tinker Mountain enjoying the views from the Cliffs. I encountered more fog, more mud, and strong winds, but it had no affect on the sheer joy I felt spending time in the outdoors!
The next day, I planned on another pre-dawn hike to the summit of McAfee Knob. Yet, my body had different plans as I hit “Dismiss” instead of “Snooze” on my 3am wake-up call! This actually worked out in my favor. The clouds decided to finally break up later in the day giving me an incredible view of the Catawba Valley from the Knob.
Our June trip is SOLD OUT! However, Dina and I discussed fall dates for this trip. We’ll have a second trip lined up for you in the next couple of weeks!
The final leg of my trip was to the New River Gorge in West Virginia. The Ace Adventure Resort will be home to our West Virginia Wild event in June. I had a meeting with them to discuss the event, tour the grounds, and to finally meet Chris and Agnes in person! We are still in pre-registration for this “one of a kind” event. By pre-registering you’ll receive an exclusive discount when registration officially opens on February 10th.
Before my afternoon meeting at Ace, I just had to get in more hiking! My destination: The Endless Wall Trail. This has to be one of my favorite hikes ever! The trail snakes along the rim of the New River Gorge with overlooks of the New River and the New River Gorge Bridge. For more adventure, you can follow the signs for “Climbers Access.” After descending a few ladders and walking through a cave, you end up on the floor of the gorge. I climbed down the ladders and followed the wall to the Fern Creek Falls. The creek feeds the falls into a slot of rock above. The water then splits into multiple chutes as it falls into the gorge. The entire time, I kept repeating to myself, “This is so freaking cool!”
Then it was back to home sweet home in Cincinnati! I returned from my week in the outdoors simply filled with excitement for the upcoming adventures with the Explorer Chicks this summer!
Meanwhile in Jackson, WY….
Becca has been shredding!
Becca and her husband, Alex, are wintering in Jackson working at the ski resort. They were blessed with 48 inches of snow in just 4 days!
Prices increase on Feb 1!
Book and make your deposit to lock in your savings!
Make your spring one you’ll never forget, but book soon! You’ll save hundreds by booking before February 1!
Our May 6-7 Red River Gorge Backpacking workshop is SOLD OUT! We have spots remaining on the May 20-21st workshop though. This will sell out!