Friday, January 16, 2009

I've Lost My...Mind?

Townsend Base Camp – 1/5/09 - Day Four – Meigs Mountain Trail/Meigs Creek Trail – 8.1 Miles

Ready to get wet again? Today was a shorter hike so driving in the dark was unnecessary – how refreshing! But we were still early risers and packed and out of the cabin by 8:15 a.m. We left a car at The Sinks parking area on Little River Road and went on to the Jakes Creek trailhead at Elkmont. We were looking forward to some fun with Hike #5 in the Tremont/Elkmont section of “Day Hiker’s Guide,” and I recommend hiking this in the opposite direction that Ms. Etnier does – why go UP Meigs creek when you can go DOWN it? As we got our boots and gear together, I remarked at how light my daypack felt. I must be getting stronger!

Just a short walk up Jakes Creek brought us to our first creek crossing (and the only one for us on Jakes Creek) and the luxury of a footbridge. Since I am still relying on Judy’s photos, here is one of Judy on the footbridge to prove that she was indeed with us!

Soon afterwards we turned right onto Meigs Mountain Trail and passed an area of old home sites with stone walls and this springhouse foundation right beside the trail. As the “brown book” reminds us (“Hiking Trails of the Smokies”), “The settlers had just enough time to drag out rocks and establish their tilted corn and potato fields here before they had to sell their land to the park commission. The Smokies was the first U.S. national park in which private land was purchased for inclusion; it was also the first park where eminent domain was used to force land sales.” Meigs Mountain itself is named for Return Jonathan Meigs, a surveyor in the area in the early 1800’ s and a Revolutionary War hero. “Return” refers to his father’s persistence in courting his mother.

Meigs Mountain Trail could also be called Grapevine Jungle – we were amazed at how prolific the grapevines grew at many places along the trail. Even downed trees were covered in them and tiny fruits were scattered along the ground. I’ll have to do some asking around to learn more about this. Kinda creepy, though. Imagine what it looks like in summer when the leaves are all out.

We paused at the cemetery on Meigs Mountain Trail that I had visited two weeks ago with Megan and Laura. Today was not nearly as cold. During our walking I was having trouble getting water to flow from my Camelback, and at the cemetery I removed it from my pack and was able to diagnose the problem – no water! No wonder my pack felt so light! Now, I can most distinctly remember filling it the night before and setting it beside my pack and loading it into my pack. There was no water puddle on the cabin floor this morning because I swept it out myself. So what the heck is going on?? My friends each gave me some water and I was good to go, but still puzzled at the mystery.

Finally we turned right onto Meigs Creek and prepared to count our 18 creek crossings. Rock hopping is a lot of fun AFTER you have done it successfully. Even with the recent rains, we managed to stay dry for the entire trail. Crossing #9 was a little sketchy, but we did it! This trail was very different from Meigs Mountain, going immediately from a ridge walk to a more closed in feeling. There were very cool trees and a lovely unnamed waterfall and an eerie, foggy feeling in the air.

After our 18th crossing we expected to pop out at the trailhead, but there is actually a good uphill climb, kind of anticlimactic after all that water. And the trailhead sign for Meigs Creek Trail is not at the parking lot, but about a quarter mile down the trail. Could someone explain that to me, please? At long last we came to The Sinks, a series of big cascades roaring into a deep pool. The story goes that a logging train once derailed and plunged into the Little River at this spot, never to be recovered as the bottom could not be reached, hence the name "The Sinks.”

Well, over 50 miles of hiking for this trip and we were feeling quite terrific. What better way to celebrate than to stop at the Sugarlands Visitor Center and lock my keys in the car? Carolyn and I decided to change pants in the parking lot and I knew as I slammed the door that my keys were in my hiking pants that were no longer on my body. Gee whiz…But we watched the cool movie there at the VC and chatted with the rangers, who gave us candy, and within 45 minutes the nice key man broke into my car for me. Yes, this makes two times now, for those of you who are keeping score.

When I recounted all this to my husband he summed it up this way: lost camera, lost water, lost car keys…dementia is setting in earlier than expected…

My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She's ninety-three today and we don't know where the hell she is. ~Ellen DeGeneres

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