Saturday, July 27, 2013
Start: Lower Forney Creek – CS 74 | Finish: Pilkey Creek – CS 77 | Miles: 13.7 | Total: 74.8
I guess you can consider yourself fortunate for having missed this one. The sort of inevitable day that only counts toward the greater accomplishment of the total hike, but as a standalone would be disappointing, or drudgery. The sort I would be apologizing for having subjected you to. Your company would be needed to offset a hike like today’s.
It started off weird, though. When I got in to camp last night and was swapping itineraries with the Dudes there, they told me they had walked a few hundred feet down my trail, and it was “totally flooded”. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but it sounded like wet shoes again. It rained twice that night- one thunderstorm just after dark that lasted a couple of hours, and another shower in the middle of the night.
New fuel-saving super-breakfast: put the Via coffee in the chocolate protein shake = awesome frapuccino caffeine bomb!
I had to do some major duct tape work on my feet this AM, but still managed to be on-trail by 8:30. About 10 minutes later the trail seemed to disappear in to the lake. I stood there and scratched my head for a few minutes. There had been no trail closures as of last Saturday. I considered putting on Crocs and wading out to see if I could figure out where it came out. I considered how far the walk to Bryson City is (11 miles, 3 till I could start hitchhiking) to then somehow find a ride to Fontana Dam and skip the Lakeshore section (no telling how much of it could be under water, based on this). I considered going back to borrow the Dudes’ map and figure out an alternate route to 20 Mile Ranger Station, over the mountains.
As I was walking back the 1/4 mile to camp, I took another look at the trail sign I had followed. It was not pointing at the lake, but 90 degrees at the trail headed up in to the woods. I had walked down the lake access path for canoe campers and horse waterers, and ignored the orientation of the sign right in front of me. I decided to let the Dudes think I waded across the lake, and wondered who had that in the pool.
The rest of the morning was uneventful. The trail meanders along the edge of the lake, but rarely close enough to see the water. It was lined with baby trees that were hanging over the trail up to my chest, and dripping wet from last night’s rain. Soon I was soaked from the waist down and my socks were squishing. I could tell my blisters were coming back, and could feel them starting to get painful. At lunch I had to completely redo my feet and put on dry socks.
All day I kept seeing odd “civilian” looking litter, not stuff you would expect from hikers. It dawned on me that a lot of lake fishers must pull their boats in to these sites to camp. That would explain the vienna sausage and spam cans, beer bottles, etc.
The afternoon was a long walk on what I’m pretty sure had to be the road grade for a 2-lane highway that was never completed. Probably the same one with the tunnel – Bryson City to Fontana – that may have been curtailed by the creation of the lake or the GSMNP. (I have since read that it was a road project that was started in the ’40s to replace a road that was submerged by the lake, and abandoned in the ’70s.) At times it was eerily cool, but mostly it was wading through waist high weeds and mud bogs littered with cut-up treefall. But you could make out the smooth two-lane width of perfect grading, even through the trees.
Finally made it to camp at 4:40 – great time, but it was mostly flat. I did see one tusked boar earlier today. We locked eyes for a moment, at a distance, then he ran off.
Camp site is a little bit marshy and very buggy. Today wasn’t bad, just not great. Opinion probably tainted by blisters. Tomorrow should be better.