Charlie’s Bunion: A unique experience in the Great Smoky Mountains

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GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WKRN) – At no time in history have human beings been so far removed from the natural world. In America alone, nearly 81% of the population live-in urban areas. It’s no wonder that many of us suffer from a deficit of nature, fresh air and the gift of being in the absolute now.

“If you think about in our evolution, sort of the industrial boom, there are all these illnesses now that we see, stress illnesses and things that are based on being inside with a computer for long lengths of time,” says Christine Hoyer.

Christine Hoyer talks Charlie’s Bunion with Janet Ivey

Hoyer is a psychologist, turned Park Ranger, who believes we have to prescribe ourselves a dose of fresh air, “Instead of us naturally getting this outdoor open nature experience and breathing that in just in our daily lives, we’ve got to prescribe it. We’ve got to make it happen, and with just four hours of time, there is research that shows that it changes how you’re breathing, what your heart rate variability might be, what your blood pressure is. It’s actually having functional changes to how the body and mind are working.”

Hiking and getting outdoors provides an opportunity to take on this deficit directly. And you’d be hard-pressed to find better medicine than trekking up to Charlie’s Bunion.

Hiking to Charlie’s Bunion

View from Charlie’s Bunion

While the eight-mile round trip hike to Charlie’s Bunion isn’t an easy trip to make, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views. You’ll be able to breathe in the fresh air and Balsam Fir Pine scented trail. Take in the vast wonderland of trees and mountains. And to top it all off, there’s the stone outcrop itself to give you a great view of the Great Smokies.

History of Charlie’s Bunion

Charlie’s Bunion’s unique look is due to a series of events in the 1920’s. A fire ripped through the area, killing trees along the slope and peak. Years after the fire, heavy rainstorms flooded the region, and with no tree roots for the soil to anchor to, it would ultimately all be washed away, exposing the bare rock.

Soon after a group of hikers, including Charlie Conner, surveyed the land for the effects of the storms. Conner was said to be dealing with a painful bunion, and when the group saw the rock knob another hiker claimed it “sticks out like Charlie’s Bunion.” The name has stuck ever since.

There is something transcendent about leaving life’s walls and ceilings behind to become immersed in nature. Be it to defrag the mental hard drive, defaulting back to reboot by hiking up a steep mountain trail or to calm oneself by the flow of a stream. And you pick up your prescription on your way up to Charlie’s Bunion.

News 2 is taking a deep look in the Smokies with the digital exclusive series “The Great Smoky Mountains: The Good, The Bad, The Future”. Click here to see more.

Janet Ivey is a special correspondent for News 2 on this report. Learn more about her here.



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