During the ride I encountered more than one Tree of Woe. The first one I came across is at Neel's Gap. The Appalachian Trail crosses the highway there, as it also does at Unicoi Gap. Northbound hikers frequently abandon the quest after Blood Mountain. Others, though, abandon their gear -- an outfitter has set up shop in a early 20th century stone building up there, and does land office business selling ultra-expensive, ultra-lightweight alternatives to all that stuff you brought. They will even ship your old gear home for you. Many too-heavy pairs of boots have been abandoned there.
Southbound hikers, coming from Maine, often abandon their boots for a new pair too. These boots are frequently held together mostly with duck tape.
Boots at Neel's Gap
The second Tree of Woe is actually called "the Tree of Shame," and it stands at the Dragon. It is covered in motorcycle parts from bikes destroyed on the road. The "Tail of the Dragon" has 318 curves in its 11 miles, some of them quite extreme. The rugged and difficult passage over this arm of the Great Smoky Mountains has an interesting history. I've done it three or four times, and it never gets old.
"The Tree of Shame"
Independence Day weekend is a big occasion at the Dragon. Lots of motorcycle riders are veterans, and the General Store was all decked out for the occasion. They closed early yesterday so their employees could get over to see the fireworks show.
Independence Weekend at the Dragon.
UPDATE: Below the fold, another shot of the dragon sculpture for Douglas.