Campsite 37 in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park resides on a beautiful and civilized trail that follows Big Creek, featuring picturesque swimming holes and trout-laden pools.
For the past three years, I have reserved a spot there, only to have the campsite shut down because of aggressive bear activity. The day before leaving for the trip this June, I got a text that Campsite 37 was closed, effective immediately, not due to bears, but a tornado that ripped through the area the night before. All campsites and trails in the area were closed due to the tornado’s extreme damage.
A ranger suggested taking Anthony Creek Trail with the hope of finding mountain laurel in bloom at Spence Field, a highland meadow traversed by the Appalachian Trail. Our hike into Campsite 9 for two nights would be three miles, where we would set up camp followed the next day by three miles to Spence Field.