Monday, August 3, 2009

Haunted Hike

Friday I decided Justin, my 6 yr old, and I would go hiking and camping on Sat. The weather looked shaky at best, with 2" of heavy rain forecasted after 12 midnight. I wasn't sure if I wanted to make this adventure, but Justin sure was.

He was very excited about the hike. We first had to decide what he would eat for dinner. Amazingly he choose a Noodle and Chicken freeze dried meal I had been saving. I wasn't sure he would eat it once it as cooked, so I packed some bagels and a peanut butter sandwich for backup.

We drove up to Cades Cove to check in with the rangers. On the way up a baby black bear cub ran in front of out truck. It looked very cute, Justin was amazed. I felt like Grizzly Adams. We had decided to stay the night at back country campsite #12. or those of you who know the park, it is about 2 miles up Gregory ridge trail, off of Parsons Branch Rd.

As we arrived at the trail head, another couple were sitting in their car looking at the map. They were wondering if they should attempt the hike up and down to Gregory bald. It was about 2pm and they would be pushing the limit on light. The Bald is about 6 miles and 2,700 ft of climbing.

All four of us started out together, shortly Justin's legs couldn't keep up. We had a much shorter hike and there were way too many bugs and animals to see on the way. He was amazed to see so many Daddy Long Legged spiders.

The hike is really nice, it follows a small creek the whole way. The only issue was this small creek, after as much rain as we have had, has grown to a fast moving violent creek. On the hike, we have to cross the creek three times on a small one person tree limb. As we approached the first crossing I realized, even though it was warm, If Justin fell into the stream it would be bad. I attempted to catch up to him but before I knew it, he was rushing across the bridge. I raced behind him and we crossed without incident. For the next two crossings, I was sure to have a hold of him. Sorry Mommy, I know I should have been closer.

After the first bridge the hike goes uphill and away from the stream for a bit. Then when you closer to the camp, you drop back down to the stream for the 2nd and 3rd crossing. We made it to camp around 3:30.

The weather looked like rain. I decided, I needed to get camp set up asap. Just as I finished with the tent, rain began. I was pissed, it wasn't supposed to rain until midnight. We got in the tent, Justin playing DS and me relaxing. The rain lasted about an hour and it was hard. I kept thinking about the couple who were on their way to the bald. I don't think they had any rain gear.

After the rain, we played at camp. Justin wanted to go swimming in the stream, and dad used good judgement and said no! All I could think about was a cracked open skull and me carrying him for two miles out of the woods. The water was just moving too fast. Justin was determined to have a fire. Even with all my Grizzly Adams skills, I could not get soaking wet wood to burn. We spent about an hour playing with the fire. We then decided to go on a small hike up the ridge and around the camp. Some of the 1st generation trees we saw were amazing. Very few 1st gen left. Up until this part of the hike, the trees are 2nd generation. When we got back to camp e cooked dinner and Justin loved his chicken and noodles. I had some nuts and a peanut butter sandwich. Just then, the rain started again.

This time it lasted only about 30 mins. I was beginning to get bummed about the weather. After the rain, I set up my eagles Nest hammock and Justin and I laid back and relaxed. The sounds of the GSMNP are amazing. He snuggled up next to me and we just listened. The thing about being alone in the woods with bears, is that you never ever seem to relax. I found it hard to lay back and rest my eyes. This is whey the next time go hiking, we will go with a group.

After our rest, the couple who we started out with, stopped by to say hello. They had made it to the bald and said it was beautiful. I had been there 2 yrs ago with James my 11 yr old.

Once they left, Justin and I made a little snack. He finished his noodles and I had some trail mix. Then Justin looks at me and asks if we can go home. Understand, it is about 8:15 and dusk. I look at his eyes and make the call. Lets go! To be honest, I was over the rain and the evening called for more of the same. So dad packed up cam in about 12 mins. I think my triathlon transitions have helped me make more efficient moves.
Justin with his firefly lantern and me with one led pen light I use to search around in my pack at night, head down the trail. We have about 45 min hike to the truck, so I know it will be pitch black when we are finished. With the cloud cover I mean Pitch BLACK!
All I can say, after about 45 feet, Justin stops and yells snake! I flash the ground with my light and sure enough, snake. The next 15 mins, Justin thought every root was a snake. I kept positive and kept pushing the pace. The GSMNP at night can be very scary when you are alone. Guess what, we were VERY alone. We were almost back to the trail head when up in front of us was a large black object. My heart was in my throat! By this time, it was black and out little light and lantern were not hardly enough light. I had my whistle in my hand ready to blow. The dark object was just standing there. I inched forward to get some more light on it, and that's when it happened. I realized it was a large puddle that had formed during the rains. Justin and I were about at jogging pace now. We began up the last incline and I thought I heard a noise behind us. I turned and shined the light backwards, nothing there. This however was enough of an event to put us into full rush. About 30 secs later, we could see the trail head and truck and all was well. We slowed down the pace a little and were all smiles after we got into the truck. We decided the reason we came down was to go and get some ice cream. So we did, and it was just too late to go back up and camp.

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  1. Oh my gosh, I totally want to go camping and hiking after reading this! Im so glad I have a son! I think the only thing that would have topped off your camping adventure is some spam musubi's, you will love em!!

  2. You will both remember this trip forever! I treasure the memories of camping with my dad, who is no longer with us.