This morning, I drove down to Gatlinburg, and this afternoon was spend hiking. I’ve come to an important conclusion. I need new hiking boots.
The boots that I have were bought at a Salvation Army sale. they are Nike hiking boots, which usually go for about $80. I got them much cheaper than that, for two reasons. First of all, for strange unscrutable tax reasons, the Salvation Army can’t charge more than $5 for any item at a sale like that. And, secondly, the reason that Nike had given them to the army in the first place was that they were mismatched by a half size. this did not seem to matter much at the time, but apparently my feet have grown a little since then, and, while the left one still fits nicely, the right one squnches my toes just enough to make it painful after a long hike.
So, why an I in Tennessee? Well, the oficial reason is “no apparent reason.” I needed to get away, and I needed to do something fun. Life is getting me down, and I would like to spend a few days not thinking about it.
On the way here, I stopped at the Smoky Mountain Knife Showroom, which is apparently the largest knife store in the world. Having had my entire knife collection stolen last summer, I decided to drop in and start with the basics, and got a Swiss Army Knife, which I used to have about 6 of.
After finding my tent site – $14 a night for a spot to pitch a tent – I went hiking. I started up Laurel Falls, but when I got there I kept going, and went all the way up to Coves Mountain. I presume that there is supposed to be a nice view from there, but I just could not say, since I had about 10 yards of visibility the whole way, having climbed into the cloud cover immediately after passing the falls. The hike was 4 miles each way, so I am quite tired.
There is no cell phone signal at the camp site, so I had to drive 6 miles down to the main road to call Sarah to say good night. For the most part, I like being unreachable. I am typing this on my Visor with my StowAway keyboard, because I know that if I tried to write it on paper, it would take me 7 times as long, and my hands would start hurting. The only other technology I brought with me was my GPS, with which I hope to find come caches, if I have the time tomorrow. I really have not decided what I’m going to do tomorrow. I’ll sort of play it by ear, except that I would like to go to Chimney Rock, or whatever it is called, where we used to go all the time in College.
From my tent, I can hear the stream. That’s about all I can hear. It is very nice. When I was up on the mountain, I stopped to listen, and it was almost entirely silent. It is so hard to find anywhere that is silent. When I climbed Mount Kenya, we stopped about an hour below the summit, and listened, and it was absolutely silent. No birds. No machines. Not even any insects. I don’t think I have ever heard absolute silence since then. I suspect that most people will go through their entire lives and never experience complete silence.
Anyways, it is getting rather cold, so I think that I will get in my sleeping bag and read a while before I go to sleep. I’ll probably stay up until some of the camp noises stop. There’s an occasional vehicle, and the sounds of people getting ready for the night. And some joker just beeped their horn.
Today I made the rather alarming discovery that I am not 19 anymore. I think that I must have been 19 the last time I went up the Chimney Tops trail, and I remember that it was a pleasant stroll. Perhaps I remember it a little better than it was, but it was certainly not the painful ordeal that today’s hike was.
The original plan was to do Chimneys in the morning, and Clingman’s Dome in the afternoon. the former is just 2 miles, the latter about 4. However, after the 8 miles yesterday, my legs were screaming this morning, and the 2 was quite enough. I’ll need to come back some other time to do Clingman’s. Perhaps come down some Saturday, camp the night, and then hike it Sunday morning.
Anyways, I made it to the top of Chimneys, and got some good pictures (I think) before my batteries died. We’ll see, when I get home, if they are really any good. And as I forgot that I had spare batteries in the camera case, I did not take any more pictures today.
I went down to Pigeon Forge for lunch, and, presumably, to get some groceries for dinner. But I decided to save myself the trouble, and just had dinner in town. I spent most of the aftnoon napping and reading, rather than hiking. So apparently I’m getting old.
I also discovered today that it is impossible to really get away. There’s always someobody that needs to track me down, and it is seldom pleasant.
I remember, in College, getting into Bill’s Dad’s car, and seeing the mobile phone. It was huge. And I was amazed by it. Could he really make calls from his car, while driving down the road? And, of course, they were called mobile, not cellular, because nobody knew what cellular meant. Every American adult today knows more about cellular technology than just about anybody did 15 years ago. So, from just a few years ago, when it was a luxury item, the cell phone has become a standard, almost expected, accessory, for everyone to carry. And when I fail to return a phone message within 12 hours, it becomes a crisis. This strikes me as silly, and profoundly annoying. Most of the point of this vacation was to get away from exactly those annoyances.
I received one phone call on Wednesday, but the caller, upon discovering that I was on vacation, immediately said goodbye and that he’d talk to me later. That was fine. The other call left no fewer than 7 messages, in increasing degrees of consternation, as though my failure to answer somehow constituted a personal insult. And, upon finally speaking to this person, it was to answer a question which was immediately obvious, given 12 seconds of thought. There are times when I profoundly loathe technology
This evening I had dinner at Huck Finn’s, where I had more catfish than I could possibly have eaten, along with ENORMOUS frog legs and gator tail. Yummy. There was at least as much left as I had eaten, but, alas, as I told Shannon, my lovely waitress, I don’t have a fridge in my tent.
Tomorrow, I will go back home. I brought information ffor a number of geocaches, but I really don’t think that I’m going to take the time to look for them. I think I’ll just go home,take a long hot shower, and get a nice long nap. I managed to sleep OK last night, but it was rather cold, and the floor is very hard. I expect I’ll be a little worn out by the time I get home.
“You can go out, you can take a ride, and when you get out on your own you get all smoothed out inside, and it’s good to be alone.” (face up, rush, 1991)