Friday, August 20, 2010

Great Smoky Mountains Day 2

    One interesting thing about the shelters that I forgot to mention was that they used to be enclosed in cages.  The cages are no longer there so any man, woman or bear can come and go as they please.  The rumored reason for this cage removal was that people used to feed bears through the cage.  “Let’s see you feed them now,” taunts the ranger.  Just for other’s general knowledge: feeding animals like crocodiles and bears in the wild is the worst thing you can do for an animal because it teaches them that humans have food and makes them more aggressive towards humans which often means they have to be put down (hence the crazed ducks a few nights ago).
    I was one of the last ones to get up and ate a couple breakfast bars and made some coffee.  I had hung my socks up the night before, but they were still soaked.  The German girls were going the same direction I was (AT southbound), so we decided to hike together.  I hiked behind them and, despite how sore they said they were, they moved at a swift pace (they were around my age).
    We saw quite a few people on the AT including runners, people with only day packs and other backwoods campers like ourselves.  The hike was mostly uphill and, despite claiming to be out of shape, the girls didn’t break much at all.  I think the first time we put down our packs was two hours into the trail.  As we approached Newfound Gap (a central parking area alongside one of the main highways that runs through the park, one of the German girls turned around and asked if I was ready for civilization.  I said yes.  But I was wrong.
    My greeting to civilization was a puff of cigarette smoke right off the trail from a girl who had a clear plastic cup in her hand that probably didn’t have apple juice in it.  There were probably close to a hundred cars parked in the lot and three times that many people.  It was overwhelming for someone who had only seen a few people and no cars the last few days.  I asked one of the girls how many people drove into the park, snapped a few pictures at this spot and then drove out, checking the park off their list.  She thought probably a lot.  Mother Nature is fun to look at from afar, but the real adventures happen when you go inside her.
    The girls used the facilities (isn’t it strange how much more women like using flushing toilets and how much more men like going in the woods – at least I do) and then we quickly headed out because all three of us were ready to get back to nature.  A little ways down the trail, the girl in front (an engineer, btw) starting yelling bear, bear.  The girl between us starting making loud noises to scare it, and I tried to run up ahead and see it.  It was gone by the time I got there, but apparently she saw it quite close to the trail (~20-30’).
    The girls were fascinated by and took lots of pictures of downed trees and fungus.  “What’s the English word for tree mushroom?” one asked.  I need to learn more about nature as I go.  We lunched at around 1pm at Indian gap.  We ate near a sign that gave some description of the areas history and one car drove near it and glanced at it, but then drove away.  One of the girls joked, “Do you want me to read the sign to you so you don’t even have to get out of your car?”  The girls were quite funny.  I think at one point one of them made a “that’s what she said” joke.
    Unfortunately, we got to the point where their shelter was north and my campsite was south.  Even more unfortunately, it was 3pm and they had half a mile to go and I had 5 miles.  We parted ways and I began the (thankfully) long winding journey downhill.  I passed two groups of guys who had been headed uphill all day.  One of the groups had been hiking for five hours and had left from near the place I was trying to go.  I was very tired from going uphill a lot of the day and slipped a few times on the trail.  Once I fell on my butt and once I fell so hard one of my walked sticks snapped on a branch which helped me catch my balance.
    I had guessed I’d make it to the campsite at around 5:30pm, but didn’t make it there until 6:30pm.  I had to cross a stream to get there and heard noises in the campsite which I thought might have been an animal.  Luckily, it turned out to be two guys from Tennessee.  I was very relieved to see them as I was not looking forward to camping alone.  This was only their third backwoods camping experience and they had a huge 4 season tent which took them awhile to set up.  They were friendly and seemed excited to finally meet someone else on one of their camping trips.  It was dark by the time we started cooking our food.  I had rice and chicken teriyaki and it wasn’t very good.
    One of them made a small fire which was in the center of our larger circular grassy campground and we talked some about our previous camping experiences.  Apparently, one of their first backwoods camping experiences was in the Smokies in winter when it got down to about 8 degrees.  They had on everything they had and were freezing in there (at the time) Walmart tent.  I guess I’d splurge on a 4 season tent if I had that experience too.  Not sure why they brought it in summer though.
    When I mentioned I was hiking with girls from Germany that day, we shared some typical guy - shoulda banged em’ – type talk.  There were a couple bats flying in the area and one of the guys threw rocks in the area to see if the they would use their sonar to come try to grab it (apparently that worked when he was in Afghanistan).  When the fire died down, we talked mostly in the complete dark without our lights on and I asked if they could imagine camping here alone.  It was a terrifying thing to imagine being completely alone in the middle of the woods at night and one that might come to reality for me soon.  I had hiked all day in my wet socks and was glad to get them off.  Day two start elevation: 5920’.  Day two end elevation: 3000’.  ~12 miles.


Adam said...

Should have banged them!!! I kept waiting for that part haha - j/k ;). Keep up the posts, I enjoy reading them!

Anonymous said...

...should have banged them??? One after another or both at once??? You couldn't even keep up with our out of shape HIKING pace and how're you supposed to do this then????:-)))But I'm glad we're "quite funny", cause right now I'm LMFAO!!! :-))))

- One of the german girls -

Ryan Fuller said...

Cornel - I hadn't really gotten as far as to think on the logistics of the banging, but I imagine in my state of utter exhaustion, all three would have been involved; however, one of you would be assigned to helping me move ;)

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