Monday, January 21, 2013
Whatever the Weather, We Hike Together!
On this day, the weather was iffy to say the least. That is not what the forecast had said, but we've come to know that weather forecasts in the mountains are far from reliable. Instead of clear skies when we arrived at the trailhead, we found ourselves surrounded by clouds, not above our heads, but literally all around us. The heavy fog felt like rain, but I kept assuring my hiking partners that is was just cloud moisture, (yeah right!) Thankfully we all keep lightweight rain jackets in our packs for just such moments, so we donned them and stepped out onto the Appalachian Trail. For those interested in hiking this trail, we parked one car at the Big Creek Ranger Station and one car in the pullout across from the trailhead to the AT on TN Highway 32 (which, be warned, is really a dirt road--I couldn't believe it, but it was!) I was driving my Mustang convertible so I was a tad nervous about that, but the road is well maintained and my little pony did just fine.
We stopped short of Cammerer on this day, turning around at the intersection with Lower Mt. Cammerer Trail which we had come up a month or so earlier. It was at this intersection where hiker brain turned Davenport Gap (on the trail sign) to Gavenport Dap. It remains Gavenport Dap in the minds of our group members simply because we laughed so hard about it that day.
Turning around, we made our way back to the trail head of Chestnut Branch Trail and began a not too difficult descent back toward our waiting car. The guide books had me a little worried about the steepness of this trail, but it is fine--nothing to worry about at all. It was a very pleasant trail which came in contact several times (but not with large water crossings) with what I assumed was Chestnut Branch for a truly delightful hike back down.
As our hike drew to an end, I found myself with a strong urge to turn around and go back up. I have begun to notice that, especially on a hike like this of only about 6 miles, I'm not ready to return to civilization. Subconsciously, I slow my pace on that last half mile or so, delaying the inevitable. I love my family and my job, so it's not that I don't want to go back to them, but that respite that I find in these mountains, that powerful sense of renewal that fills me, is so intense that I simply do not want to leave it. It is this overwhelming feeling that has become like bread and water to me--this that brings me back as often as my schedule allows--the driving force behind why I hike.