July 17th, 2016

Dear Friends,

The past week has been more than a little exciting, and not always in the best way…

Smoky Mountains 1

On the night of July 11th my Bus friends and I finally arrived at Great Smoky Mountains National Park and set up camp. Established in 1934, Great Smoky Mountains is considered the most biodiverse in the U.S. National Park System; scientists think there may be as many as 120,000 species living in the park!

The morning after we got here we woke up early to start our first hike in the mountains. And that’s when the trouble started…

Smoky Mountains 5

We followed the Mount Le Cont trail for an additional 4 miles in order to reach the peak and get some cool views of the park, but along the way our water filter broke so we had to ration the water we had left. At 5 P.M. we finally reached the peak, but we were all kind of loopy from hunger and dehydration. It was so foggy that high up – I guess that’s why they call them the Great “Smoky” Mountains! My Bus friends took a great picture of me surrounded by the mist…

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(Don’t I look mysterious?)

We were in a hurry to get down the mountain before nightfall, so we tried taking a shortcut and wound up losing the trail. We had to use the river to navigate! After an hour of climbing down rocks and waterfalls we managed to find the trail again…but by then it was starting to get dark. We rushed through the dark wilderness to get to our car, but we couldn’t find it where we thought we’d left it! And to make matters worse, we couldn’t get phone service.

Tired, hungry, and thirsty we forged ahead, making our way up a large hill. All of us were talking loudly to keep any black bears nearby from approaching us…but we realized along the way that there were a couple of them silently stalking us. Suddenly we saw two sets of eyes straight ahead of us in the dark street…

They belonged to a black bear that was sprinting towards us at full speed! Luckily we knew the importance of standing your ground when approached by a black bear – we started yelling really loudly (I gave my best barking to the cause) and put our backpacks over our heads to make ourselves look bigger. I was so scared, but at the last second the bear turned away from us and ran into the woods. Afterwards, we were able to call 911 and a nice police officer came to rescue us.

Even though I almost became a bear’s snack, the survival skills I learned from my Bus friends and the views I got to experience made the adventure well worth it.

Smoky Mountains 3

We slept in the following morning to recuperate after our brush with the dangers of nature, but then we were off on another hike. We followed a 6-mile loop of trail to the Abrams falls where we got to swim and play in the waterfall! This summer I feel more like a fish than a beagle…

On the 14th of July we got up at 3 A.M. and drove to Clingman’s Dome to watch and film the sunrise. The colors were incredible…I wonder if the sunrise would look like that if I saw it back at my house! After that we hiked the Chimney Tops Trail, which had a stunning view at the top that could only be reached by rock climbing. I think the extra effort made the view even more breathtaking…

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We’re about to leave for Asheville – we’re going to spend the night at an Airbnb for some much needed rest and relaxation. And then we’re going to make our way up to Acadia National Park in Maine!

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Wish you were here,


P.S. Follow The Bus’s Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook pages to see more photos from our adventures!