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[at-l] smokies

Hi, all--

As a recent transplant to North Carolina, I haven't made it down to Great
Smoky Mountains National Park yet.  Well, it seems that I may be able to
take a long weekend next week, and I'm going to try to get down there. So, a
few questions for the GSMNP vets out there:

1. Can anyone recommend your favorite 3-day, 25-35 mile loop hike in the
park, preferably using some of the AT?

2. Are the car campgrounds still open? I will probably drive down Friday
afternoon, and need a cheap place to sleep for the night. How about a
cheap-but-decent motel?

3. How about an opinion on a specific hike: Start at Davenport Gap, hike
south on the AT to Cosby Knob shelter for the first night, then on to Big
Cove Gap  and left on the Balsam Mtn trail to the Laurel Gap shelter for the
second night, then any one of several trails back to the car (Gunter Fork,
Sterling Ridge, Big Creek trails). That's 8 miles, 14 miles, and about 12
miles on day 3. Is this reasonable given the elevation gain and the short
day length? (I'm in okay shape, and these distances wouldn't bother me in
central VA.)

4. I still need reservations for the shelters, right? How crowded is the
park in November? How's the weather? The bears? 

Okay, so I'm dropping down onto my knees and begging for information. Thanks
in advance.


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