After being cooped up in the classroom for 9 months, I was ready for some much needed rest and relaxation over the Memorial Day weekend. Doing what we do best, stretching out our holiday weekends, we accommodated our extended weekend with 5 days off to constitute a mini vacation before hitting the summer school crowd, the only thing standing between me and our next vacation over 4th of July weekend.
The bad thing about leaving in such haste is that I’m apt to make careless mistakes, and in this case, we weren’t more than 20 minutes in when I began to notice the err of my ways. Needing a blanket for our sleeping arrangements, I grabbed a quilted throw from the laundry room prior to leaving, feeling confident that it had passed the necessary sanitation requirements to make it on to the shelf in the first place. Apparently, that wasn’t the case, as I sat in the passenger seat catching occasional whiffs of some foul smelling offender. After an odiferous scavenger hunt, I correctly identified the culprit as the blanket I had scored off the laundry room shelf. It was a putrid combination of animal musk (as if an opossum had laid low for a month or so, wrapped in the cottony confines) and the sour smell of laundry left in the washing machine too long before it’s transference to the dryer. To make things worse, within the temperature regulated confines of our Toyota, 4-runner, it had no place to escape without passage into my nose first, and apparently, I was the only one sensitive to smell it.
And smell it I did. For 9 hours.
When we reached our destination, Bryson City, North Carolina, there was a ceremonious eviction of the rank bedding and then a 5 minute cleansing period where I stood waving incense in and around the car and myself, likely resembling some form of séance in an effort to eliminate any remanence of funk from my presence. To say the least, it made for a longer than usually drive.
Our first destination for this trip was Deep Creek Campground, just within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, where we were united with friends, to enjoy some leisurely recreation together. Now, if you don’t know anything about Deep Creek, allow me to introduce you to some quite entertaining fun: white water tubing! We spend the day taking turns running the creek and enjoying the comradery of friendship.
We parted ways the next day to hike individual paths. Our friends took to a trail in the park, whereas we headed out the Blue Ridge Parkway to find a more shark-friendly trip. Like most National Parks, pets are not allowed beyond the parking lot and/or a few paved trails, so we ventured out of the park to find something more fitting for us. We enjoyed a beautiful sojourn along the Blue Ridge before finding a suitable trail. We got ourselves packed up when it began to sprinkle and, before we hit the trail head, it had become a more persistent drizzle. We weren’t in but a mile when the persistent drizzle turned into a substantial shower, and we decided to turn around. We were drenched from head to toe by the time we got back to the car where we stood under the cover of the hatchback as we peeled clothes from our wet bodies. It wasn’t until I was pouring the water out of my boots that I realized our second error of the trip: getting every item we brought to hike in soaked the day prior to heading out for a two-night backpacking trip. It’s one thing to get wet while hiking; it’s another thing entirely to start off wet. We were going to have to improvise a way to get our clothes dry by the next morning, so we headed back to camp to string a line. The silver-lining (or perhaps the irony): it had stopped raining no sooner than we had packed up the car with our saturated clothing and wet dog.
All had dried enough, but our boots, by the next morning when we headed out to our second destination of the trip: The Pisgah National Forest. We utilized the Big East Fork parking area to access the trail which would lead us to Cold Mountain (yes, that Cold Mountain). Eager to get out there, we ascended the 3.6 mile trail along the Old Butt Knob Trail. Anticipating nothing more than a glorified meandering (I mean, we were thru-hikers not even a year prior), we were abruptly confronted with the reality that this particular trail showed no mercy and were quickly humbled, as often is the case, by the mountainous terrain. It didn’t matter where we had come from, or what experience we may or may not have had a few months prior, it utterly and thoroughly kicked our ass.
After salvaging what pride we had left, we continue on to the Art Loeb trail, a much easier feat, to Cold Mountain where we had to turn away from our anticipated summit because of over-crowding. It was surely a glorious view from up top, but I wasn’t about to fight to see it. So, we continued on the Little East Fork trail where we found a great camp spot a long a cascading creek; it was a good day.
The next day, in drastic opposition to the day before, we hammered out 20 + miles re- connecting to the Art Loeb trail, traversing the open ridges of Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain. The panoramas were plentiful and the over-cast made for cool breezes allowing us to stay awhile and enjoy. We camped in the back country that night, close to the car, allowing for an impromptu run to the vehicle to retrieve 4 celebratory brews from our cooler to conclude our successful trip.
We left the next morning, leaving behind the green mountains, crystal streams and fresh air to return to a sweltering St. Louis to pass the time until our next trip. We’ll keep you posted!
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