2004 Father-Son Trip, GSMNP, Craig's Story
Well, the definition of a successful trip is that everyone made it back safely. We had a successful trip this year with both brother-in-laws braving the McBride adventure. Do they think that the family is worth the pain? We have still not heard from either of them.
Everyone had an uneventful trip to the homestead. There was one individual, who shall remain nameless, that felt that he had to go into work before he left and showed up a bit late—but he did show up. The shakedown went well, except that the nameless one repacked much of what was taken away, only to feel the pain of this miscalculation later on. Hey, I can understand. I've been there, where you see all of your supplies being thrown away while at the same time they talk of the many miles and days that you have to survive out where only the wild animals make it. It will shake you up a bit. I found that it is easier to just not bring anything, and then borrow everything that you need. It makes you look a bit more professional. My weatherproof jacket was still hanging in the closet where I left it when I got home.
The Scotch was drunk over a card game while the conversation traveled to the unmentionable: How did you prep for this trip? It seems that Dan was the most successful in this matter and the sad part was that he only put his pack on twice, once to walk up and down the one hill in the neighborhood and the second to mow the grass. I still picture that one. What would you think if you saw one of your neighbors cutting the grass with a back pack on? Crazy a** ! There was a high five given when Jim admitted that he had not run in quite some time. We thought that he would be the one that would smoke us. So we planned to set out in the morning somewhat even. Even though Dad had been doing the hiking, luckily he didn't do it with a pack on. This would help us later on.
There was some concern voiced about snakes and the possibility of one crawling in the sleeping bag. Steve quickly snuffed that one stating that he had never heard of it happening to anyone before. I was proud of myself for being able to bite my tongue—how many people have heard of being sniffed by a black bear while hanging in a tree. We make stories; we are the ones that other people hear about. Don't worry about the snakes Jim.
The next morning we awoke to a wonderful breakfast prepared by some special women. Those same women put a boot in our butts on the way out the door making some remark about shopping and holding them up. Dad started out the day feeling just a little bit lonely. When he got in the van, he noticed that he was all alone in the front seat. Not sure what happened there. Maybe some stories had gotten out about the flat-landers. After a nice drive...after a drive through the mountains we arrived at the cove. After a stretch-out, bathroom break, and departing pictures we headed out on the trail. Pictures might be mentioned again, as we had three professional photographers with us this year. We were used to the one photographer who usually forgot to take pictures. Now it was like we had paparazzi. I believe I even put my poncho on once cause I thought we had lighting.
The hike up went somewhat uneventful. I did make the mistake of not drinking enough and had the old leg cramp thing kick in. The other mistake was not having water as I was outvoted about going back to the last water source to fill up. They made me feel better by each donating some water to me—like that lasted very long. That would be the last water source passed on this trip. I guarantee that!
Craig is always at his happiest when collecting water
Dan mentioned that there was some kind of awful smell on the trail that come along every so often. I thought that funny because every so often I felt a little better. He quit complaining after he got ahead of me.
We did have a wonderful lunch after we got to the top. The sandwich was great, but the brownie was even greater. I suggest the brownie idea again for next year. After lunch we stretched out and took a cat nap. I awoke to the sound of the paparazzi.
The joke about making it to the first camp site was a good one. We laughed about that and did one of those hidden camp sites. Those regular camp sites are flat anyhow. Let's camp on the side of a mountain. From the water source it was one of those rappelling cliffs up to the camp. We tied our hammocks and then hung sideways from them! The briers where a nice touch. We all had scrapes on the ankles from that one. When we put the hammocks up the decision was to made about the tarps. Steve and I were looking at the clouds coming in. No sooner was it said, "the weatherman said no rain" the first drops began to hit us. The timing was great, and the laughs went out. It did stop long enough for dinner and scotch and then began again. We decided that it was time to hit the sack. We staked Jim to the cliff and went to bed (See he was the only one to sleep on the ground). Eight o'clock at night? That was good until like about three. Then we were wide awake with nothing to do. We could snicker a little every time someone went through the briers to pee. I did get jolted awake one time, when my hammock jumped. I was on the immediate defense, when after looking all over camp realized that, no, it wasn't a bear. The hammock rope must have slipped a little. Not the way to wake up in the mountains! Also, on the side of a mountain there is wind. Woke up a couple of times with the tarp flapping like it was going to take off.
Today was the water crossing day. Sixteen water crossings on the trail. It started out with the water crossing us. After we broke camp, we pulled out the poncho. We had two serious rains this day. The clouds blocked some of our views. We have been through worse, and the stories came out about the wet trip two years ago.
When we went down hill, we went down. This was the knee breaker for Jim. I managed to put some blisters on the ends of my toes as I went down one shoe size. At one point, Dad thought that he would just go straight down the mountain, but we later talked him into just taking the trail. You know how rangers are always breaking the rules. Dan tried riding down the trail on his butt, but later decided that it was not the way to go.
The sound of water rushing over the rocks and the snap, snap, snap of the cameras. We didn't have anyone go swimming during the water crossings. Another good day. We camped at a regular camp site tonight. The wood was too wet for the fire, so we sat and talked over Scotch in the dark.
After we had camp set up is when the truth came out: I thought that it was Christmas. Yes, out here in the middle of nowhere I heard the distinct sound of bells. After whipping together a quick list, I turned to see Jim coming back from the using the "bathroom," whistle around the neck and bear bells jingling. No wonder we never did see any wildlife until the end of the trip. Also, I had a distinct memory of the shakedown when the bell was removed. Next flashback was of the first break on the first day. Jim had gone around and lifted up everyone else's pack and made the comment about his being the heaviest pack. Yes, he had repacked his bag after the shakedown.
Craig shows off his quarters
Remember the story of Steve being sniffed? How he calmly cleared his throat. Sometime in the night Steve cleared his throat, then cleared it again. Well, Dan had heard him and recalled the story. Steve then got up to use the bathroom. Dan didn't know this and assumed that it was the bear. He then did the appropriate move and started clearing his throat. Much laughter the next day.
Also, we have been looking for the eclipse. Steve said that it should be around noon. We found that it was a moon eclipse. We had a full moon the night before and tonight it was full again. It worked well for the first potty break. The second one, I managed to kick both rocks in the camp and after stumbling out of camp, I realized that I could not see anything at all. On the third trip the moon was back on again.
Day three: The supplies were being removed from Jim's pack and passed around. The man was in pain and it showed. We all felt quite bad about his knees. The weather was good, but the trail was bad. Something about the mountains. When you go down, you must go up. This was considered one of the "Navy Seals training trails" in the book. I felt like a seal out of water by the time we got up this one. One water crossing was actually on the trail going up—the waterfall was the trail! You know that any trail that can break two backpacks has got to be bad. Dad and I both had to make repairs. It might have happened while we were climbing over and climbing under the trees that laid across the trail. I am sure that Dad has gone back and removed these trees by now, being the ranger that he is.
We did cross the trail that we traveled two years back and saw the shelter where we spent the night with “Speedy,” if you remember that story. We rested on the top of the mountain and ate lunch. Time to air out the blisters from the day before. Then we headed down to the Cove.
On the way down, after feeling bad about Dan being the only one to fall, I decided to out do him and pulled it off. As I was waiting for my dear brother to reach out and help me up, I noticed that it was the camera that he was reaching for as he said, "don't move.". After the snap shots, Dan helped me back to my feet—thanks Bro. We had passed a few horses and a few hikers along the trail. Now we passed the same hiker twice. The poor guy was lost and finally asked if he was still on the Appalachian Trail. We had gotten off that trail at the top of the mountain—not good for him. To the bottom we went.
Craig "resting" on the trail
It's funny how we mentioned the bad smell in the van after the wet trip two years ago. Dan jumped in the front seat as soon as the van was unlocked. What is up with that? As we pulled through the campground we saw a eight point buck. All of the paparazzi jumped out of the van, and, out of the twenty shots, I think that there is one good picture of the buck. We were soon eating the pizza that we dreamed about for the last day and had a beer or two. Another good trip and some new memories!