Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rainy Day Hiking

Appalachian Trail Backpack Weekend – 10/25/08 – Day One – Lead Cove Trail/Bote Mountain Trail/ West Prong Trail – 9.7 Miles

Okay, okay, so most of you have figured out by now that my trips usually include more than one section of the Park. This trip began with the need to place a car at the Cades Cove ranger station where we would come out at the end of an overnight backpack along the AT from Clingmans Dome. Since we are in the neighborhood, we decided to do a little hiking.

My hiking buddy for the weekend was Mike, a member of the Carolina Berg Wanderers in Charlotte. He completed the Smokies 900 a while back, section hiked the entire AT, section biked the entire Blue Ridge Parkway, does trail building on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, and many other accomplishments. It takes a while to get all this information out of Mike because he is not very talkative – except when he is stuck with one hiking partner for three days. Then you can cover a lot of topics. Suffice it to say that Mike is the expert and I am the amateur in the outdoor world.

We left Charlotte early Friday morning, driving two cars because I would be staying (as usual) an extra day or two. I had made reservations at Smokemont Campground for one night because Elkmont Campground was full, which was pretty inconvenient considering we had to put a car at Cades Cove. (Do you have your map out to see what I’m talkin’ about?) Anyway, since it was on the way, we stopped at Elkmont to talk to the nice rangers and – yes – they did have a cancellation – yes – they could move our reservation from Smokemont – yes – we could set our tents up right then while it was not raining. Yes! Moral: Do not ever give up on scoring a campsite.

We hurried to get our tents up and discovered that we had the exact same type of tent – the good old Big Agnes Seedhouse 2. I began to feel some confidence that I am making some good equipment purchases. Then we took off to place cars for our hike du jour – remember, always take advantage of cars for shuttling. We left one at the West Prong Trail at Tremont and drove to the Lead Cove Trail on Laurel Creek Road. That is when I discovered that (sigh) I did not have my camera. Will I ever get my act together?

The hike can be summarized in a few words: up, rain, down, rain, splashing, cold rain, wet boots, wet socks, rain, rain, rain.

Now the long version: There were serious winds earlier in the day and all the trails were littered with broken branches. Mike was throwing debris off the trails left and right, but if we had tried to clear it all then we would still be there today. We went up Lead Cove, then turned right and up Bote Mountain Trail to the intersection with Anthony Creek, then back down Bote Mountain all the way to West Prong Trail. By then the rain was steady and even in rain gear we were pretty wet. There was a moment of interest on West Prong where the trail was deceptively hard to find going through Campsite 18 (which is the biggest backcountry campsite area I have seen yet). There were three guys camped there with a tarp strung up by a dozen ropes at eye level – I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them got decapitated stumbling around at night. The other excitement happened along the same trail when Mike pointed and I saw the back half of a bear scampering off into the woods. Mike swore it was two turkeys, but I saw a bear’s rear end and two legs. And in my blog a bear counts more, so that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Finally back at the car, we hurried into Townsend looking for a gas station with heated bathrooms to change into dry clothes. Then we had a terrific meal at the Back Porch (which Jim and I had discovered on our trip in June.) There was a guy playing his guitar and singing and we stayed as long as decently possible before we had to go back to our wet campsite. In my tent I listened to the wind and rain and prayed for it to be over before morning.

Since I did not have a camera to record this rainy day, here are some leaf photos from my last outing. Enjoy!

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