We did it! We didn’t get mauled by a bear and neither of us fell off the side of the mountain. We took a (sometimes too) heavily traveled trail, so that somewhat helped me get over the bear fear. The unmitigated pain is what truly helped me get over the bear fear, though. I couldn’t really focus on my surroundings because I was primarily focusing on not dying.

I can vividly remember struggling to walk up the 0.5 mile paved path to Clingmans Dome about 2 years ago. I can even more vividly remember the day I actually easily made it up the short path just 6 months ago. I was very happy, but never dreamed a fairly strenuous 11 mile hike would be in my future. I felt like I’d been hit by a truck last night, but it was worth it.

We stopped to eat the lunch we brought at the LeConte Lodge at the top and we stopped to take pictures here and there. 8 hours total, but overall I’d say we spent about 7 straight hours walking, climbing and hanging on for dear life.

The fog was pretty intense and it rained on us, so it was quite slippery at times. Also, have I ever mentioned that I am terrified of heights? Honestly, I was terrified throughout most of the hike. Nothing but sheer determination got me up that mountain.

My entire body is still pretty sore today, but it’s actually not as bad as I thought it would be. I can’t believe what a good all-over workout I got. Everything from my shoulders to my lower stomach hurts a little. I expected my legs to be the most sore and am surprised that it’s actually my stomach, butt and shoulder muscles that are the most sore today. I don’t know why this is surprising – I stepped and pulled and jumped and stretched in all kinds of weird ways throughout the course of the day.

I get a little teary-eyed when I think about it today. This is most definitely the largest fitness accomplishment of my life.

PSA: The following is NOT a good thing to say to someone hanging onto a branch on the side of a mountain praying that a bear will not kill her – “Watch out. There’s an animal coming towards you.”