After a beautifully sunny drive from Atlanta to NC, we encountered persistent cloud cover as we entered the Smokies at Big Creek. The trailhead starts with a walk across a bridge over the roaring Big Creek. Soon we were ascending one of the great elevation gains on any trail in the Southeast, as we slowly made our way to the to of Mt. Sterling. We could feel the temperature drop and began to forage for wood, knowing full well it would take miracle to get any of this soggy wood to actually burn. But fortunately, our prayers were answered. A couple of nearby backpackers (more like heavy-duty sherpas) had brought the works for a steak dinner, including charcoal, and they graciously offered to share their campfire with us. We took them up on it and gradually our soggy wood dried out. By the time we went to bed, the fire was going pretty good. A couple of us climbed the fire tower on Mt. Sterling for a view of the clouds at sunset. We had an amazing view of clouds as the evening began to clear up. Gradually, overhead we would see more clear sky than not. Eventually, all of the stars came out. In fact, everyone who had to get up in the middle of the night for nature's call enjoyed the view, if only for a short while, before we dove back into our tents and snuggled deeply inside our sleeping bags. Morning came, and the humidity and wind had ceased. While it had to have been in the mid-30's when we first rose for sunrise, the sun quickly warmed us. The views of the sunrise from the firetower were amazing. Fluffy clouds were floating in the valleys and autumn was in full bloom on nearby mountains. We had a beautiful fall hike back to the trailhead. But all was not well on I-40. A major rockslide had taken out both lanes of travel, blocking our way back to Asheville. Instead, we had to travel the long and winding dirt road to Cataloochee. 18 miles of largely single lane road that had become a major detour. We were treated to some amazing fall color as we passed a horse pasture and viewed full peak colors on the hillside above the pasture. Eventually, we made it to a two-lane asphalt road and later onto I-40 to Asheville. Why? Because we had to quaff a few brews and enjoy some of the most amazing pizza in the Southeast at Barley's Taproom. If you're in Asheville, you have to give this place a try. It was a long day, but we (well, all but Tony) eventually made it back to Atlanta, ready for another adventure.