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Rob Eddins, CFP TVAMP Knoxville, TN

Rob Eddins, CFP® helps clients get their financial ducks in a row so they can focus their time and energy on the people and experiences they love. He also serves as our Compliance Officer. Rob loves to hike, bike, and read.

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I hike.  Not every week – or month – but enough to say I hike. 

Enough to remind myself afterward to get in better shape!  My chief partner-in-the-woods is in the same line of work as I, so sometimes the bears and squirrels are treated to free financial advice as we discuss little nuggets of wisdom on our way up a hill.

This past Sunday was a warm and sunny February day.

Perfect to get in the woods, and maybe see some vistas that are obscured by all the leaves in the warmer months.

We left a car at the end of our hike, while my son, E, shuttled us up to the Mt. Sterling trailhead on the north side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The last third of road unfortunately was closed – we had called the Park Service line, and they didn’t include Mt. Sterling Rd. in their list of closed park roads – but we made the best of the extra 2.7 miles (uphill)!

I should include for context that my girlfriend is working on hiking every trail in the Park and will join the exclusive 900 Mile club of Park hikers this year.  Very big deal among hikers and to her.  Our planned hike would get her 6.1 “green miles”, or new-to-her trail miles.  She’s now over 95% done!  They were all green miles for me – am I going to go for the 900?  We shall see.

After E dropped us off, we hurried up the closed Park road to the trailhead.  The road was easy footing, and 2.7 miles of uphill is quite the warm-up.  At the trailhead we ran into a youngster, Nate, and his dad as they were starting the trail.  More on them in a bit.  We took a couple sips of water and a pic of the trail sign, and off we went as well.

Mt. Sterling trail is 2.3 miles uphill to the Mt. Sterling Ridge trail. 

From there, it’s 0.4 miles on the Ridge trail to the Mt. Sterling fire tower and the junction with Baxter Creek trail.  We caught up to Nate and his dad, and his brother Chris and grandad, about halfway up the hill.  Nate was struggling some – they had to hike the same extra miles as us before getting on the trail proper.  We tried to be encouraging and promised to let Nate know he was close to the top when we got there. 

There were already wonderful vistas as we climbed, and it was a pretty if challenging part of the day.  When we turned onto the Ridge trail and made it the Mt Sterling fire tower, we yelled “Come on Nate!”, in hopes he would hear us and know he didn’t have much further to go.

I should say now that this intrepid hiker was feeling like the fella at Cross Fit that hasn’t been all winter – I’m wasn’t standing next to the puke bucket, but I knew where it was.  This guy needed some water and a snack!  After 5.4 challenging uphill miles, I needed to refuel.  We popped up our hiking chairs and had lunch.  Amazing pictures from the tower, both from the top and the base.  Beautiful country we live in!

Nate, Chris, dad, and granddad all arrived soon after.  They had heard us call out!  It was fun to brag on Nate a bit.  The 10-11 miles Nate and his little brother Chris hiked that day is no small thing for a 9- and 7-year-old.  Chris found a heart-shaped rock and gave it to the gal, very sweet.  Get your kids in the woods people!

We left Mt. Sterling, heading down Baxter Creek trail toward the Big Creek campground and the truck. 

6.1 miles, almost completely downhill.  Beautiful!  You can see so much more in the winter when you hike.  When you get a mild, sunny winter day, spending it in the mountains is a great idea.

I should say that downhill is much easier on this writer’s lungs, but that’s not to say it’s easy.  The trail was rough for much of the first half, and steep, which means you must watch where you put your boot, or you could slip or turn an ankle.  Sometimes you think you are going to die when hiking uphill, but it’s downhill where you are more likely to get hurt.  I’m not as graceful as I once was; my hiking poles saved me from a couple falls or tumbles.  Again.

With the leaves largely out of our visual way, the hike down had some great views, and other cool discoveries.  At the top, along Mt. Sterling ridge, the woods are predominantly evergreen, providing some shade and the groomed ground feel where their needles have fallen.  As we descended, we had almost a mile of rhododendrons forming a tunnel over the trail.  Lower still and the all the underbrush seemed to disappear, and we could see the holler all around us as the trail crossed the creek a few times and continued to lower elevations.

The parking lot was a welcome sight when we made it off the trail. 

The extra miles had made us a little over an hour later than we expected, but we were pleased.  We sat in the bed of the truck, took our boots off (Aaaaaaahh!), and enjoyed a celebratory beverage and the late afternoon sun.  We packed up soon after and were in the truck to leave when some friends finished a different hike that ended in the same campground!  We had hoped we might bump into them, and our extra miles made it happen. Trail serendipity is thing!

It was a beautiful day, and a hike I can recommend for the views and variety.

If you have any Great Smoky Mountain trail recommendations or questions, feel free to email me!

Rob Eddins, CFP®
Trail Survivor

P.S.- I’ve enjoyed using the “National Park Trail Guide” App for a little over a year now. Check it out on your app store if you have any hikes planned. It gives a ton of helpful trail information.