Saturday, May 2, 2009
Well, my regular hiking buddies let me down. Troy came down with some sort of illness and Greg got scared of the weather forecast and bailed out saying that it was going to be too hot. Good thing that I can count on dear old Dad. He was scheduled to hike with us as we were going to hike Big Ridge State Park which is North of Knoxville.
I called Dad and asked him to pick out a hike in the Smokeys. When I showed up he gave me an option. We could either hike out of Clingmans Dome or out of Cates Cove. I picked the Cove because it was closer. As usual Dad pick a direct route to the top of the mountain to see the Flame Azaleas, the Gregory Ridge trail . Only 5.5 miles which as with any mountain the shortest distance is straight up the side and only a 3000 ft gain. Another .5 miles to camp 13. I'm not sure if he just doesn't like me to hike with him or he really does enjoy punishing himself as well.
Anyway there was a flat spot about twenty feet long that I remember somewhere along the trail. If you want to see a bear all you have to do is ask Dad. Every time I have gone into the cove he schedules me in a sighting. We saw three cubs and we know that Mom was around somewhere. We also got to see some deer all before we even started our hike. He likes to get the wildlife sighting out of the way.
We got to the trail head and headed in the upward direction. The weather was beautiful and we had a nice breeze blowing to help us out. We passed only one group of guys on the way up.
The Park had done a controlled burn sometime earlier and as we came up to a large tree on the side of the trail that had a ribbon to keep people away we stopped to comment on the ignorance of the average person now days. As we stood there a squirrel came rolling down the side of the mountain. I mean doing a somersault all the way down. I have never seen a clumsy squirrel and was wondering how a squirrel could have a McBride trait. When he finally hit the trail just in front of us and laid out on his back, we noticed that there were actually two squirrels and they must have been wrestling. They looked at us and you could tell that they were quite embarrassed to be caught.
Belive it or not we took a couple of breaks on the way up to Gregory's Bauld. When we got there we got to take in the beautiful sight of about six bushes in bloom. Oops, a week or so too early. We did get a beautiful sight of Cates Cove and the surrounding mountains. Dad was a little hesitant to list off the names of all the peaks. I guess just shy.
When we got into camp there was one other couple camping there. We picked the sight furthest from them and set up camp. The first thing we did was ask them where they found the spring. They said that there was not much of a spring, but it was down this other trail about 300 foot. Well luckily I saw a little mud through a break in the trees as we passed the "Spring". There was mud and that was about all. The biggest puddle we found was just deep enough to cover our screen on the water filter. Every time you pumped the silt covered the screen and you had to clean it off again. So other than the leg cramps, the back aches, the bugs, the cleaning of the filters, and Poison Ivy it was a wonderful experience.
After we finally got our water we headed back to camp. Dad started the dinner and I gathered the moist wood. After dinner we entertained ourselves with the starting of the fire. After a few hours we sat back and enjoyed our flame.
We had a doe come right up to the camp fire and look across it at us. You could tell that she was not impressed and wondered off. After we hit the sack I was wakened by the Does' fawn. She had quite the interest in my hammock. Four different times I heard the approach and looked up into the face of a deer. I would politely say "Excuse me" and she would run off. Finally she must of got the hint and wondered off. They stayed in camp and were waiting patiently beside my hammock when I got up in the morning. It was a Doe with two fawns. They even posed for a picture. After Dad got up they wondered off into the woods.
We got us a good breakfast and headed off down the mountain. We passed two different pairs of girls and a couple which were friends of Dad. For some reason the trip down was faster than the trip up so we ate lunch back at the ranger station. We celebrated a good hike with a fresh ice cream cone from the visitor center.