The Vertical Bog and the Car Wash of Fire
We decided to view the hike as a hero’s quest, and the obstacles as spells thrown before us by an evil wizard to thwart our progress. Thus yesterday’s 3 mile climb through ankle deep mud became the “Vertical Bog”. Today’s challenge: Not to be distracted from the scenic cascading river by the gauntlets of stinging nettles – chest-high in places! – hanging across the trail. The “Car Wash of Fire”.
The morning started with a descent to the Enloe Creek bridge. The campsite here has been closed due to bear activity. There was a small play tent set up to look like a camp site, with a wildlife camera pointed at it. I suppose it’s to monitor bear activity rather than to catch campers. The camp site itself was tiny – just a small clearing at the foot of the bridge.
Climbing the Enloe Creek Trail (through overgrown nettles) , the roaring streams and waterfalls were spectacular. We lunched at the summit of something, at the intersection of two trails, where we met a crew of Americorps trail maintenance workers wacking weeds as they worked their way north to the Appalachian Trail. (4.7 miles away, and it was nearly 2pm – don’t know how they planned to pull that off at well under 1 mile per hour, and then get to a trail head with their equipment …). They were under direction to not run their equipment within 100′ of hikers, and not to inconvenience hikers in any way. Where were they on the Car Wash of Fire stretch??
After lunch a 4 mile downhill to this campsite beside a stream – presumably Lower Chasteen Creek. 9.5 miles on the day – plus the 0.9 from the campsite. Last 3 miles on hard packed jeep trail, then gravel Forest Service road / horse path. Very hard on the feet. The closer we get to Chasteen Creek the more horses we saw – our camp site is only a couple of miles from Smokemont, a major full-service campground in the Smokies.
I am a little anxious about tomorrow. That “did I bite off more than I can chew?” fear setting in. I know I could clean it up (upcoming tough-but-doable 15 mile days, 2 in a row, with a significant climb in the middle), but I have Jason with me and I feel somewhat responsible for showing him a good time. The last thing I want is for him to start thinking these hikes suck. I know he can do it, he may have to dig deep, but I don’t want him to be miserable and me be the cause of it / blaming me for it.
Yesterday I was at a low at not having planned well enough for the potential for rain, having all our gear soaked by faulty dry sacks, having underestimated the time added for climbing, and once realizing it, starting to fear for the long remaining days in the Smokies. Jason seems to have amazingly high spirits, looking at things in a positive light where one would not expect someone of his age to. Example: I was making a half apologetic comment about how much this sucked, setting up camp in the rain, etc, He replied with “remember, the second day is always the worst.” Cheering me up by reminding me of something I had said before, about long hikes. The second day blues – when you start to question your motivation for hiking, with the real world still too fresh in your memory not to feel guilty for the self indulgence. Inevitably, some twist of fate piles on, on that day – or perhaps it is only the perception that it does, coming from the negative outlook.