Sat, Sep 29 2012 - Gregory Bald (Smoky Mountains) - Advanced Backpacking (View Original Event Details)|
We conquered the elements and Gregory Bald last weekend. Despite a dreary forecast for Saturday, four grumpy old men, one kinda young guy and one woman (what was she thinking?) backpacked the long and winding trail (my apology to the Beatles) to the summit of Gregory Bald. I don't normally start at the parking lot, but it's worth noting that young women have prepared themselves for the high school prom in less time than it took this sorry bunch to exit their respective vehicles, do whatever prehike rituals you can imagine (think of a batter in a baseball game, who after every pitch, adjusts the velcro on his batting glove, rubs his bat, grabs his crotch, and spits). Several hours later, we began our trek on the Long Hungry Ridge trail, which has a mild elevation gain for the first 4 miles. We enjoyed lunch at campsite 92. From there to Rye Patch (no, that's not a typo), we hiked virtually straight up for the next 3 miles. Fortunately, the weather was mild and overcast, otherwise my completely drenched with sweat shirt would have been even more sweaty. From Rye Patch, we continued on approximately 1.5 miles to Gregory Bald. Dave and Michelle established their bonafides with the almighty as the clouds and overcast parted ever so briefly to provide a sunbreak just as they made their way to the summit. A dark cloud returned when Michael J arrived at the summit, and thunder broke out when Ron made it to the top. I'm sure what the significance of these omens were, but they were definitely ominous.
After setting up camp at the now famous campsite 13, we fetched water from the nearby stream under a steady downpour and then engaged in the fruitless exercise of gathering extremely wet wood, with the ridiculous expectation that the damp, soggy wood could be turned into a fire. You could almost say it was a total team effort; Michael J brought his saw and found the hidden (from my perspective) groves of firewood, Dave and Michelle contributed more easily seen sticks and wood, Michael P sawed the big pieces like a machine, Ron got the whole thing going with his fire paste, and I proudly contributed absolutely nothing. My contribution initially caused some dissension in the ranks, but when everyone realized that whatever I would have contributed would have been worthless anyway, the group wholeheartedy and sincerely embraced me as their ruler or King. If I was not so completely blinded by my own narcissism, I would have thought they were being facetious. Instead, I correctly perceived that this group appreciated my natural slothfulness as a means for empowering them to do great things, such as build a fire! And it truly was an amazing fire. We became the envy of several 20 somethings also camped at campsite 13, who came by to join our group, before we told them to get lost, and then would ask us the perceptive question, "how did you old dudes make such a good fire?" We enjoyed our little circle of fire for a couple of hours before heading off to bed.
The next day we woke up to a glorious sunrise. Actually, the best sky was just before sunrise, when the clouds to the east radiated a deeply reddish pink glow. Amazing!!! The weather cleared up sunstantially as we broke camp and began our seven mile descent to the trailhead. We passed through Parson's Bald, which is no longer maintained as a Bald and is overgrown. Then, we discended down the Wolf Den trail, while enjoying a lovely autumn morning. Toward the end, we hiked along Moore Spring Branch, a beautiful running creek, that we traversed several times across wooden bridges. When we made it back to our cars, Michael J treated us all to a beer. From there, we drove our vehicles to Wesser, North Carolina, the headquarters for the Nantahala Outdoor Center, where we had an extraodinary lunch and some damn fine beers as we watched kayakers, surfboarders, rafters and real mallard ducks make their way downstream on the Nantahala River.
Thank you everyone for participating in this event and I hope to see you on another event in the very near future.