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2003 Father/Son Trip--Dad's Version

View from Forney Ridge Trail (day three)

Since the younger generation has already put out their versions of this adventure, I guess it is time for me to set the record straight on some of the comments of my offspring. This year's adventure started with Mom and I deciding to arrive plenty early to meet Steve and Kathy, as the flight from Detroit is always at least a half hour early. After enjoying the confines of the airport for an hour, their flight finally arrived, on time for a change. However their flight was smooth with no problems and we were delighted as usual to see them. The Maryville Festival was in progress, so we took them to town to view the crowds and crafts and heard the music from the theater area at a comfortable level several blocks away. We took in church that evening so we could sleep in Sunday morning so as to be in good shape for Craig's arrival about noon. He arrived with much less excess than last year and mom's antique sewing machine very securely tied in the back. He learns well from experience. We took a short warm-up hike to the Sisters cabin, which turned out to be a good thing--Craig could learn to tie his boots so that the string from one doesn't hook on the other! He does do well at keeping his balance while taking very rapid baby steps. That evening we packed up for the main hike after we finally got Craig's schedule straight, so we could get a good start the next morning.

It was an hour and a half to the trailhead and after reading the other versions of this exciting trip, I guess I have to include my sons in my definition of "flatlanders". Their mother can blissfully snooze around those same curves and doesn't even get excited any more. In sharp contrast to the previous year, the weather was perfect this year allowing us many beautiful views and pleasant relaxation at the end of the day. I led the first leg from Clingmans Dome, 10 miles on a nice gentle downhill to our first campsite. We set up our hammocks (Steve's latest invention and a nice comfortable one) and cleaned up in the river. Craig opted for total immersion but his howl made the rest of us happy with the sponge bath version. After cocktails, we had dinner and Craig decided we should have a fire to keep us occupied 'til at least nine, as dark came about seven. He proved once again that firemen do an excellent job at preventing fires, but persistence paid off and we finally managed a blaze until bedtime. Craig and I slept well, but Steve woke up to listen to the sounds of nature as a bear decided to play in the stream next to us. When the noise from the stream subsided, he finally relaxed and was on his way back to sleep when a sudden snort in his ear brought him back to full attention. According to him, he lay there for a while and then cleared his throat loudly to let the bear know he was there, as if it didn't know that. I'm not totally convinced that is where the sound emitted from, but it was effective anyway and the bear padded his way off into the night.

The next day we got up, had our oatmeal and broke camp to get a early start on our 11 mile leg. Somehow we were enjoying ourselves so much our early start ended up to be 9:30. I thought I had set a good example the day before, but Steve must have been upset at Craig and I for sleeping through his bear encounter, as he immediately lead us uphill before breakfast had a chance to settle. After a few miles the top of the ridge was reached and he took pity on us and went pretty much downhill the rest of the way. He still wasn't through playing with the bears though. A sow and her cub were ahead of us and up to the right of the trail. They must of heard us coming and decided to vacate the area. The cub came down first, made a wrong turn and started at high speed right at Steve. Realizing it was a cub and mama was somewhere close by He started a slow back step while muttering "Cub, Cub". Craig could see what was happening and came to an abrupt halt. I was last in line and could not see and was wondering what caused the sudden halt until Craig turned around and relayed "cub". About that time the little fellow realized he had made a mistake and did a quick turn around and headed the other way. That is when mama showed up and followed him down the trail away from us, much to the relief of us all who had been quickly contemplating whether uphill or over the edge was the way to get out of mama's way if the little guy hadn't turned around.

That about did it as far as the exciting wild life. We did scare up several grouse and some turkeys and a couple of harmless little brown snakes. We had a couple of stream crossings that had us hunting for the best fording spots for a while. Most of the crossings, and there were many, could be crossed by rock hopping. Steve and I forded one, but Craig was more persistent in his hunt for an alternative to the cold water and finally found a spot where there was a rope tied across for a hand hold and managed to rock hop that one too. We reached camp that night about 5:00 despite our late departure. There was one fellow already set up in one part but we had the rest of the area to ourselves again. Again we had a nice stream to clean up in although Craig decided to forgo the total immersion. After dinner, the other fellow in camp came to join us and Craig demonstrated his fire skills again. The guy was a computer programmer from the west suburbs of Chicago. He was headed our way to Clingmans Dome having come from Fontana Lake and so joined us the next day. That night was uneventful although Craig kept on the alert after the night before and kept track of our bathroom runs for us.

Water collection at camp

The next day was going to be all uphill and we let Craig take the lead for that one. It turned out to be much less of a steep climb than we expected from the description, but none of us complained. Our friend from Chicago kept up with us with no problem, but was completely enamored with his GPS. I kept expecting him to trip and end up with it planted between his nose and the ground, but he managed to stay upright, proudly announcing each turn in the trail. We got to Clingmans Dome about 3:00 with a stiff cold breeze blowing. We quickly shed the sweaty shirts and put on something dry and a jacket and took the extra hike to the tower. It was clear and the view was great but the chill factor kept it to a short visit.

We made it home and had the wash in and were on our second Scotch when the women got home from water aerobics. Craig had to get home to get to work Friday, so he opted out of the 8 miler we did the next day with Mom and Kathy up to Indian Flats Falls.

We contemplated another 6 miler with our hiking club on Friday, but decided to show the kids DollyWood instead. I'm not sure that it was the right idea as they featured gospel singing this month and a couple of the shows ended up to be more of a revival than gospel singing. That plus the huge crowd sure didn't make it on of our better days there. Overall it was a great time with good hiking, good weather, and great companionship.

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