With no air conditioning, it was hot and muggy in the camper when we woke up. The night before had been a soaker and the day wasn’t shaping up to be much better, although we couldn’t be sure since we had no way to check the weather. We decided the best course of action would be to visit Gatlinburg and get some laundry done.
Even though it was only thirty miles away, it took well over an hour to get to Gatlinburg because of the tight, twisting roads. But all at once we emerged from the forest and were plopped directly into pure tourism, with shops and restaurants packed along the street in brand new buildings with old facades. There were way too many places that had the phrase “old time” in their name with most of them spelling it “old tyme” just for a more authentic (sarcasm) feel. Obviously, and perhaps thankfully, there were no old tyme laundry facilities, and we had to drive to the edge of the town to find our super fun tourist destination.
We ran our clothes sacks to the laundry mat in a downpour and got to work like a well-oiled machine. I stuffed each person’s clothes into a separate washer, Jason poured the soap, and I inserted the proper coinage to get things rolling. We ended up with five small washers and one giant washer swishing away as I went to get lunch at Mcdonalds. Again.
It’s too bad we didn’t contact McDonald's before we left to let them know that we would be visiting locations in multiple states over the course of a few weeks and would be happy to conduct secret shopper reports as we went. Trust me, we ate plenty of peanut butter sandwiches out of the car, but when it was more convenient to eat out, such as while doing laundry, we ate at McDonald's. While many people mock McDonald's for their poor quality, they are actually incredibly friendly with all of my food allergies. Truth be told, I prefer Culvers, but they don’t seem to be a thing in the south.
As we scarfed our McDonalds in the laundromat, we switched all the clothes over to dryers and then emptied the clean, dry clothes back into our separate laundry bags. It was a record-breaking laundry session!!
We made our way back to the camp, where I insisted on stopping at a visitors center to get some fresh reading material and to ask about trails to hike in the rain. By this time, I had thoroughly scared the crap out of myself with the books I had read on missing hikers and unexplained deaths in the Smokies, so I thought why not keep my level of terror well above normal. After selecting another horrifying book, I talked to the ranger about what we could safely hike in the current weather conditions. We didn’t want anything too long where we could get into potential thunderstorm trouble in the middle and still have to walk miles back out.
It was decided we would hike Clingmans Dome, at the end of which is the highest point in the park. The trail is paved and short at a ½ mile. At the top of the hike is a spiral walkway that leads to a circular observation deck. It is like a spaceship straight out of Tomorrow Land at Disney. Anyway, the hike also allowed Jason to walk on the Appalachian Trail for a few yards. He’s slightly obsessed with hiking the AT, and I fear that our retirement years may be spent schlepping up and down mountains.
Driving up to Clingmans Dome, the road was difficult to see through the soupy air that enveloped the car. In fact, I ended up with vertigo from being disoriented and zinging around curves at what felt like a hundred miles per hour but was in reality more like 17 miles per hour.
So the thing with Clingmans is that it’s straight up for a ½ mile, which doesn’t sound far or hard, but it is when you’re an out of shape adult. I ended up resting every .2 miles. I may have also been hangry. It’s hard to say, but fairly likely given our history of not eating properly. Marcus, of course, ran the entire way up but had to stop to wait for us when he got out of sight because I didn't want a book written on the little boy who got lost in the fog and was never found.
Once at the top, the climb was well worth it. While we couldn’t actually see more than 25 yards or so in the chewable fog, there was a sense of accomplishment and awe. I imagined what it would have looked like had it been a clear day, and in my mind, it was pretty freaking spectacular. Big surprise I'm sure, but it turns out, coming down a very steep hill is also slightly annoying and required a break.
At my urging, we began the long ride back home and when we finally arrived, Jason whipped up some delicious chicken scampi. Then the sun came out for a few minutes before it set. Even for just a fleeting moment, it was a welcome sight. Finally, we wasted the night away playing Catan and reading by the fire.