Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Accomplished Goals and Great Friends
Campsite #49 was a beautiful campsite indeed, flanked on one side by the gorgeous Bradley Fork Creek providing ample swift running water and on the other by a ridge rising high up above. The flats between the two makes for several great tent sites, and I saw two fire circles both with some seating available for hikers. There was even a "recliner" available--a tree trunk bending in the perfect curvature to emulate a fully reclined Lazy Boy. It was snow covered so I didn't try it, but I bet it would be comfy after a long day's hike.
Just before reaching the campsite, we came across a rusted old trestle bridge on which we crossed Bradley Fork Creek. This structure insisted that you stop and wonder about its past. I don't know if it was once a rail crossing used to harvest the timber from the area or what, but I've never seen anything like it in these mountains before. It looked old and I'd love to know its history. We spent a bit of time there taking pictures and enjoying the beauty of the bridge and the gorgeous afternoon.
In truth, I've done two hikes during the week after Christmas in order to reach my goal. I had the pleasure of taking my stepson, Phillip, who lives in sunny Florida on a hike on Thursday. On that day our choice of hikes took us to the back of Cade's Cove to do the first half of Cooper Road Trail. I had wanted to do a destination hike like Charlie's Bunion with him, but we were a little afraid of the higher elevations and after the snows the night before, we didn't think Newfound Gap Road would be open. We were also on a tight timetable due to other obligations that evening, so we chose one of the few close hikes we had left. We were not prepared for what we saw.
Utter devastation prevailed as we moved along Cooper Road, literally an old roadbed, away from the Cove and further toward the intersection with Hatcher Mountain and Beard Cane trails. We crawled over or under more trees than I could begin to count that were downed across our path. The tornado that hit this area a year or so ago and the storm that came through this spring, killing at least two park visitors, had destroyed innumerable trees in this region. It eerily felt as if you were moving through a war zone. Phillip summed it up pretty well when he said it looked like someone came along with a lawnmower and sheered off the tops of the trees along the ridges. The tops of those trees and whole other ones uprooted or broken off were scattered everywhere, piled askew like someone spilled a box of toothpicks. It's something you would have to see to believe.
As I hiked my way out of 2012, I contemplated how lucky I have been to fine a group of women who love to hike these mountains along with me. Having set our sights on the loftier goal of hiking all of the trails in the Smokies, we have worked our way into a full-fledged addiction. We find ourselves drawn to the woods on almost any day that we aren't working and the weather is cooperative. The camaraderie is a blessing and the serenity of the mountains has become our source of sanity in an insane world. So, Happy New Year, and here's to lots of "new miles" in 2013!