Thursday, December 26, 2013

Times, they are a-changing! Hiking Through History

Something unusual has happened to me since my last post of the video from our Appalachian Trail section hike in June.  I've had Change-Induced Writer's Block!  During the last 6 months, I've continued to hike--probably more than ever before, but I've been unable to write about it.  You see, during the Appalachian Trail hike a relationship between the bulk of the group and one individual was severely damaged.  It's strange how 4 days spent in the wilderness can exacerbate an already strained relationship and ill-advised and unsafe decisions prove to the elders of the group that it's no longer smart to continue to hike with that person.  The failure of that hiking relationship has been difficult to deal with and I've not felt like talking about it.  I still won't talk about it, but I DO want to share my hiking adventures again!  So, enough of that!  Times, they are a-changing, and that's OK!

To catch up with where I am in my quest to hike ALL the trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, here's the current number: 455.7 of 791.4!  My goal for this year was to be at 400 by December 31, so I met that goal with plenty room to spare--actually over a month ago.  I hiked over 150 miles just during the time I was out from school (I teach, remember, so I enjoy about 7 weeks of summer vacation!)

On the Monday before Christmas, we ventured back to Kephart Prong Trail to catch up one of the group who wasn't able to go the first time around.  Kirsten and I had done this hike in July as part of an overnight trip in the Smokemont Campground.
Our Smokemont Campsite during July
THAT was a great trip where we snuck in a Friday afternoon/evening hike to Kephart Shelter and back and then a 15+ miler the following day up Bradley Fork, Chasteen Creek, Hughes Ridge, and back down Bradley Fork Trail.

On Monday though, Jennifer and I were able to do only the Kephart Prong Trail.  At some point, we'll need to repeat the longer loop with her, but the days are too short right now. This was a leisurely trip back in time as we meandered along Kephart Prong leaving the trail to look at relics from the bygone days of the 1930s and 40s when this part of the Park was home to a CCC camp and a fish hatchery. What struck me as cool on Monday was how different this same hike was only 6 short months ago.  Relics that were covered in bright green foliage were laid bare by the winter chill and its effects on the plant life in the area.  Some things we did see during the summer, like rock gate posts and the entrance sign to the camp.

Other things like this hand-pump well mechanism (that's my best guess anyway), we never saw back in July.  The bare vines and trees were not enough to hide this and other remnants of what once must have been a busy community of men who were willing to do most anything for a check during the Great Depression.

Moving on past the CCC camp site, we made our way further up the trail and came to the location of a fish hatchery which was put here to replenish the overfished streams of this great Park which provided food to locals during a time when money to buy food was difficult to come by.

This large cistern was once the home to fry which were grown to a large enough size to release to hopefully survive in the streams and grow up to proliferate on their own in the waters that are the life-blood of this special place.

At the end of this two-mile hike in, is Kephart Shelter, named for one of the men most influential in the development of the Park in the 1920s.  This is a wonderful shelter that I hope to one day stay in.  It is located so close to the river that you would listen to the river music as you drifted off to sleep and wake to its cascades in the early morning light.  I could so do this!

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