What in the Hell was I thinking | Lakeshore Trail
Rated L for Language
As most of you know we are hiking the Appalachian Trail
in 2014. While Fred is taking care of all the gear and planning I will be sharing our adventures as a couple who have been in love for over 30 years. For those lucky enough to be married for a number of years such as ourselves you will find some humor as I recount our day on the trailI below. I am sure you are wondering what would inspire me to rate this blog rated L for language. Grab a beverage, put on your reading glasses and embark on my latest adventure with my best friend, Fred.
It all started when we were planning a week of camping in the Smoky Mountains. I suggested to Fred that this might be the perfect time to do a back country aka “shakedown hike” in preparation for our Appalachian Trail expedition next March. Fred had previously discussed hiking the Lakeshore Trail
on the NC side of the park so this is the route we chose for a week of solitude while testing our endurance and patience. And all I can say is my patience was severely tested.
While researching hiking routes and the amount of time we’d need on the trail, Fred found a nice write up about the Lakeshore Trail
which he forwarded to me. I was excited to explore all the things this article described. We’d be seeing old homesites and learn some history of the area along the way. I was excited for this shakedown hike to say the least. Now, unbeknownst to me Fred didn’t read this entire article and found another one for his reading pleasure. His article detailed a 44 mile loop spanning four nights of camping and five days of hiking. We would be making our way to Hazel Creek and looping back to our car. I didn’t put two and two together that what we had read about, were two completely different hikes and my excitement of seeing the remnants of past history would not be realized on this trip. Oh well another time, I said to myself, and embraced the adventure Fred had mapped out for us. I told myself I was up for the challenge as we made our way to the trail-head in Bryson City, and to the famous tunnel leading to the “Road to Nowhere”
We would be hiking 9.4 miles to campsite 98 on day one. The trail started out nice and I was impressed with the trail and it’s ease and before I knew it, we had quickly made it to campsite 74 (lower Forney Creek), where we enjoyed the beauty and tranquility surrounding us for a few minutes before tackling the next 6.4 miles to campsite 98.
As I looked at the direction sign with the miles on it I thought holy shit, we have a LONG way to go and this thought kept running through my head like the ticker tape on CNBC. We were on pace for 2 mph and I was happy with this. As we made the 400′ ascent up the moderate ridge I quickly became aware that between my allergies, my personal weight and the weight of my backpack I was seriously getting my ass kicked.
I learned quickly that it easy for one to lose all sense of time out on the trail and this was evident when we took a break for lunch which consisted of a Snickers. Fred was anxious to get moving because he thought we had “rested” too long. When I informed him we had stopped for approximately 11 minutes I don’t think he believed me and at this point we were half way through day one, so why not rest a little was my philosophy. We had another 39.2 miles to hike over the next four days and I was seriously having a hard time breathing and questioning my sanity at agreeing to this hike, let alone hiking 2,184 miles on the Appalachian Trail. Fred stood there rock solid and asked me if I wanted to turn back. If I did, now was the time. My feet, back and head screamed “oh hell yes”, but my heart wouldn’t let me. If I quit on us now, what would Fred think of me and would this put his dream of hiking the AT in jeopardy. I really needed to test myself and it was now or never. I pulled up my big girl panties as they say, and soldiered on. I was finally getting used to the weight of my backpack when my feet started to burn, but what was annoying me most was my trekking pole straps. I was beginning to sweat and the straps were sticking to me and I just wanted to rip those straps off and fling those damn poles over the side of the ridge and watch them tumble down the mountainside. But this action would’ve been counterproductive as these poles are a necessary evil and kept me upright a few times.
So we walked and we walked and we walked some more and Hallelujah we turned a corner and realized we were at long last only 1/4 mile from our campsite. I was exhausted and couldn’t get my boots off fast enough. I switched shoes and grabbed a packet of Lipton Rice Sides to make for dinner. Fred has by this time gone to get water from the nearby stream, started filtering it and begins “exploring” the area. While waiting for our dinner to cook, I slowly started to wonder why we were weren’t setting up our tent and settling in. A red flag began going off and I wasn’t sure why, but I knew in my heart we weren’t spending the night in this remote area of the trail. And sure enough halfway through our nasty dinner, Fred say, “are you ready to head back to the car?” What! Are you f-ing kidding me, “HELL NO” I am not ready to walk another 9.6 miles. For one, I am dog tired and I certainly can’t see myself hauling my ass up mountain ridges and in the dark no less. Is he CRAZY???? He tells me that he really wants to see how far we can push it in one day. As he is telling me this he is also pointing out an area of ruts which he sensed was from recent bear activity. I wasn’t worried in the least, but in reality I didn’t have a choice and like any true friend I expressed my aggravation in the change of events, put on those damn boots, hoisted on the backpack that now felt like it weighed 50 pounds and set off.
Now mind you it is 5:30 p.m. and my best friends says “we should be back at the car around midnight”. At that moment I knew he was off his rocker. I keep telling myself that if we can just make it back to campsite 74, I can convince him to stop for the night. Taking one step after another I start remembering the beginning of the day, which seemed like a lifetime and those first three miles being easy. Yeah, easy going down, but they would be a bitch going up, especially after hiking for over 10.5 hours. As we began the climb out of campsite 98, Fred went ahead and when I caught up with him, he was doing something with his pack. He told me to go ahead, which I did all the while wondering what he was up to. We walked in silence for quite a while and at some point stopped and regrouped. Sitting on a rock dumping out the loose gravel from my shoes I asked to make camp at the lower Forney Creek, but all I heard was NO. Pissed doesn’t begin to explain just how mad I was so, I put in my headphones, cranked up my Lynard Skynard
which kept me sane and helped ease the physical pain and anger I was feeling. There were a few times that I stopped with tears threatening to flow, telling myself that I could not take another step, but I was determined not to let Fred or this trail get the better of me.
I recall at one point during this madness, standing in the middle of a flat plateau and literally begging and pleading to pitch the tent and sleep right here. Fred looked me square in the eyes and said “will you be okay here, because I am going to the car”. I was taken back by his response and asked again why we couldn’t make camp here. He responded, ” we can’t, I don’t have a sleeping bag.” What happened to his sleeping bag, I wondered. He had it when we left home, and at the hotel the night before when we made our final gear check. At that moment my evil twin emerged and before I could stop myself I said “are you f-ing stupid”. Some may think this may have been a little harsh but in my defense I have never in thirty years said that to him and at this moment I could have literally smacked him over the head with a frying pan, had we had one. It seems he had pulled a Katz (for those who’ve read A Walk in the Woods
, by Bill Bryson you’ll understand what he did. But for those who haven’t read the book, let me explain. While his pack was too heavy Fred decided to leave a few items including his sleeping bag behind on the mountain somewhere. The weight was too much and he had decided that he’d get a new lighter one upon our return home. My tears were there, ready to burst when he looked at me and told me I was an amazing woman. He then abruptly turned around and quickly very quickly began to walk. He made sure that there was a good 50 yards between us, just in case I decided to throw him over the mountain ridge or put my boot up his ass. From this point on, I turned off my music, switched on my headlight and soaked in the sounds of the night with a full moon helping guide the way to campsite 74.
As we came down the mountain we could hear the roaring creek and see the flicker of campfires. I kept praying that we would stop. I am not sure what made Fred decide to stop and make camp, but my prayers were answered. It could’ve been seeing the other campers, pure exhaustion or knowing if he did not I might just maim him. Whatever the reason, his common sense prevailed and after 10.5 hours and over 17 miles later we called it a day and rested our weary bodies. I did share my sleeping bag
with him against my better judgement, even though I really wanted him to freeze his balls off. I laid there realizing that with no sleeping bag in his pack, and ten pounds of food left hanging on a bear cable for other hikers, why, if he had lightened his pack then why he didn’t offer to lighten my load.
As we laid next to each other in the safety of our tent and in each other’s arms, he quietly said “I really wish you would’ve said yes to turning around when I asked you if you wanted to”. So now you know why my patience was tested and why this was the “Hike from Hell”.
Setting out we each had an agenda and whether or not we accomplished it is still in the air, but I think we did. God only knows what this adventure will lead to next. And after thirty years together I would do most of this day over again simply because I had my husband and best friend all to myself doing what we love. And although my patience was tested my love for my impulsive husband never wavered.
Until our next adventure!
Remember what you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it.