Hiking the Goshen Prong Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Goshen Prong
Goshen Prong
To traipse afoot through copse and hell*, As toes go numb and ankles swell, The throbbing legs chastise the brain, Can all this “fun” be worth the pain?       (R Weisser 2014) On paper it seemed like a reasonable plan. A fourteen mile hike from the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the campground in Elkmont near Gatlinburg Tennessee. Most of the hike was downhill. Substantially downhill. And making the hike on one of the longest days of the year allowed for plenty of daylight from start to finish. I used to run up and down the trails like a mountain goat. Now I am just an old goat with circulation problems that make even the shortest walks painful. So I was expecting a challenge. And I got it! Since we left a car in Elkmont and were shuttled up to Clingmans Dome, once we started there was no turning back. The most challenging uphill climb was the first half mile of the hike which was easy.
Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains
Appalachian Trail
As most experienced hikers know, severe downhill trails offer a unique obstacle. You have to retard your momentum with every step. If you do it for a mile, you are hurting. If you do it for seven miles, your body makes its objections override any other sensation! But the rewards are immense. First, you have the pleasure of seeing things that you would have never seen otherwise, and there is satisfaction in that. But the biggest prize is knowing that you met a challenge head-on and conquered it! It may not have been “fun” in the ordinary sense, but a tremendous amount of pleasure in the achievement will last indefinitely. Are there bigger physical challenges in my future? I don’t think so. But you never know, do you? * A “hell” is eastern mountain dialect for a rhododendron thicket, purportedly because they are “hell” to get through!

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