On December 18,2018 I did my longest hike to date, accompanied by my daughter Marissa. 20 miles with 4,587 feet of elevation gain. We started near sunrise at 7:30am and headed up the Lead Cove Trail, which intersected with Bote Mountain. We continued upward to the Appalachian Trail at Spence Field and took a break at the same spot where we experienced the solar eclipse of August 2017.
The section from Spence Field to Rocky Top is a tough hike. It starts up, and then goes back down, then up again. It’s only about a mile, but I found it to be the toughest part of the day. The scenery was fantastic from the top, so it was worth the effort.
We continued on to Thunderhead Mountain before turning around and heading along the AT. The section from Thunderhead to Russell Field shelter is a pleasant stroll, although there is the uphill section after Rocky Top.
A few patches of leftover snow covered shaded grassy areas, but nothing was on the trail form the previous week's 18" snowfall.
We hiked a short distance past the Russell Field Trail intersection, but turned back since this was within a day or two of the shortest day of the year. The afternoon was fading and we had a ways yet to go.
We made it to the car after 7pm at the Lead Cove trailhead, so it was dark at this point. A long day but full of memorable scenery and time well spent with my daughter. Making memories in the Smokies-