I wasn't about to let a cloudy and rainy morning keep me from getting in a good afternoon hike. I was struck with an itch to take The Boulevard all the way to the AT. The majority of the hike out was in the clouds, but the temperature felt just right. I never broke a sweat the entire way, even after the ascents of Anakeesta Knob and Mount Kephart. In fact, I couldn't help but notice how considerably easier this day's hike was compared to when I last came out in all the snow and ice. Plus the park service had cleared all the blowdowns, so it became more of a stroll in the park rather than a workout. Before reaching the AT, there was a passing shower and I was close to regretting my decision not to bring rain gear, but it was very brief. Still in the clouds, I made my way to the Icewater Spring Shelter to see how it looked and if any thru-hikers had shacked up for the day. The shelter had two residents when I went by, and I passed several backpackers on my way back to the junction. What surprised me was how the clouds had risen and broken up, offering blue skies in just a matter of fifteen minutes. Unsure of how long it would last, I hurried out to The Jumpoff for a chance at some good views. I wouldn't be disappointed.
The view overlooking Charlies Bunion had to be the clearest I had ever seen. You could pick out at least a dozen shirts of brave hikers making their way around the rocky outcrops. As I looked toward Mount LeConte, you could see the very last cloud rise up from the summit and drift away. I look forward to returning here some time in June to see the cliffs adorned with blooming dwarf rhododendron. The sun's coming out party that afternoon made for an interesting journey back to the Lodge. Many of the spring beauties that were closed on the cloudy hike out had now opened, right on cue. The Boulevard is notorious for its length and difficulty that it poses for unsuspecting hikers, but I was able to come away with a greater appreciation for the trail. The smooth hiking surface, the mild spring temps, and the surrounding views made for an enjoyable afternoon.