With a gray sky lightening up, we got up, had some hot tea, gathered and packed all of our stuff. This is hopefully the only time our packs would weigh more on the last day of a trip than on the first day. ((Clothes were still damp and heavy.) We put on rain pants over our long johns and said goodbye to our bed-and-breakfast. The daffodils were blooming in the yard, nodding heavy from the rain but blooming still.
We started walking west along the Lakeshore Trail towards Fontana Dam and Judy’scar that we had parked so long ago. I felt fine this morning, the anxiety was gone. What was that all about, anyway? Definitely frustration at having plans go awry, fatigue from the pack, stress from rushing to meet a deadline (no more shuttles at the end of hikes for us), disappointment at not getting a shower, a good meal and a warm bed - but it was also just plain being scared at the realization that Judy and/or I could have not made it back out of Hazel Creek. It ended up as a good story for the campfire, but still a cautionary tale.
But here we were with Willie Nelson, on the road again. A plus for the day – this section of Lakeshore was new miles for us! Yay! (We were supposed to do a long loop hike today in Deep Creek with members of Carolina Mountain Club – turned out they canceled because of the bad weather forecast, so we did come out ahead for mileage for the weekend.) A half-mile from the Calhoun house we passed the Proctor Cemetery, nearly 200 graves, and took the time for a quick visit. Click on the photo to read the inscription here about the original residents of Proctor.
The rest of our hike out was small ups and downs. The rain had stopped and a couple of times we saw brief bursts of blue sky. We crossed the intersection with Eagle Creek Trail, remem- bering the fun we’d had back in December on all the creek crossings, and rejoicing now that there was an intact bridge to cross here. The last mile of Lakeshore seemed long, as does the last mile of every hike. And finally, there she was – a picture is worth a thousand words.
As we drove towards Bryson City, cell phone reception came around and I listened to voice mails from family and hiking friends who had expected to hear from us the night before. (The hiking buddies had guessed that the shuttle forgot us.) It was a relief to talk to be back in touch.
We weren’t home free yet because a bad snowstorm was already closing in, and we drove through a bit of it going to Judy’s house, but had no problems. I transferred my stuff from her car to mine as quickly as I could, waved good bye and headed for Charlotte before the snow could catch me. I beat it home by about an hour.
There’s no place like home! And next weekend I get to go backpacking again!
(Postscript: I talked with Ronnie at Fontana Marina later and he informed that there should have been a sign posted at the Hazel Creek/Lakeshore intersection to take Ollie Cove Trail to the temporary boat shuttle pickup because the bridge at the usual site was out. Hey – Ollie Cove Trail is suddenly very important to know about! There was no sign, of course, and I suggested that Ronnie should tell every person who reserves the shuttle about the exact pickup spot rather than relying on a sign out in the woods. In this case both Ronnie and I assumed that I knew where it was and we were both wrong. I also communicated with the Park Service that this relo should be noted on their trail cautions page, which they agreed to do. I didn’t tell them that we had enjoyed the Calhoun House!)