I've been wanting to post this picture and story for a while. but the photo always remained on the camera. Its mostly for Dan and Darryl, so you two can laugh at how excited we look and how hopeful we are. its hilarious.
So here we go...(Dan and Darryl feel free to post comments on your side of the story.
We left around 4 am (i'm pretty sure, that or 5, but i think it was 4). Anyway, we were on our way super early being that we wanted to be on the trail sometime around noon and we had to make it almost all the way to GA.just shy. The trip down is not very interesting, so we'll skip ahead (one note of interest, i do remember trying to defend Lance Armstrong pretty much the whole way down. Darryl you are next!). So we pulled up to our trail head sometime around 1, after not finding it for about an hour. My wife snapped a few pictures and i didnt see them for almost 6 months after, having forgotten the whole ordeal. i laughed quite a bit
We were expecting snow...lots'o'snow and it was about 50 degrees. We stripped a couple layers off and we left. So i was pretty excited, because i thought i was in decent shape from running and playing tons of indoor soccer (i was wrong) Dan and Darryl both easily out did me and all they had been doing is walking up and down apartment stairs and to class. The first "day" was about 7 miles? and it was about 3500 feet altitude change. i believe the first 3 miles was about 2500 or something stupid like that, which is way more ridiculous than the Shenandoah's (all of what I've hiked up that point). We didn't see Dan for the first 2 hours because he's always in a rush, and Darryl is always NOT and at the time i was just slow.We Enjoyed a beautiful sunset somewhere around 5000ft, and could see Clingmans Dome peering over the rest of mountains just in front of the slowly disappearing sun. We got to camp later, in the dark and thanks to 3 other guys there was a fire already. Darryl and i found out the hard way that the cheap Uncle Ben's rice is disgusting in every flavor and we were extremely jealous of Dan's dehydrated meals....lasagna.
Day 2 started with the prospect of rain. Great. I hadn't thought of that. I had only thought of snow as i said before. But luckily all my hiking clothes are "waterproof". As Dan and Darryl unpacked their rain covers for their packs i figured out that i was doomed to have wet gear for the rest of the trip, but i was lucky because there was a super big black trash bag behind the hut we stayed in. I jimmy rigged it cover my pack and we were off. I said i was leaving first because i was slow, and Dan (always being in a rush) said he was leaving too, which left the intentionally slow Darryl at the camp still, who caught me about 30 mins later sometime around when i couldn't hang with Dan's pace. The rain gradually picked up through the day. The day was supposed to be fairly easy because we were supposed to be on the "ridge" which implies being relatively flat...it wasn't, granted i was obviously out of shape. There is no way to describe the rest of the day, if it were to be in a book, the next couple of hours would be a chapter all in itself, but i'll summarize- it was about 37 degrees (just cold enough not to rain), wind gusts literally around 50mph, and constantly around 30mph. (I later found my guesstimate on the mph were correct after hearing the news on the weather) and it was pouring rain. So this rain was 37 degrees and felt like bullets as the drops came at us sideways. Everything "waterproof" had given way to wetness, save Mine and Darryl's jackets, which though rain hadnt made it through, sweat was collecting on the inside. Darryl was starting to mention hypothermia, so i got worried and we continued to truck along. We cut the day short by about 3 miles stopping at a hut along the way at mile 8.
As we got up to the hut we say smoke coming out of the chimney, i was desperately hoping it was Dan, because we hadn't seen him since mile 1.
The huts in the smokies are awesome, they have little fireplaces INSIDE them and tarps that hang down over the front of the hut to keep the heat in. Usually there are rocks on the bottom of the tarp to make sure the wind doesn't blow it open all the time too.
So i walk up to the edge where the tarp meets the wall and poke my head in and Dan is crouched next to the fire in only his base layer (i.e. spandex in layman's). I think i shouted something and i scared him. Anyway, we got in and proceeded to strip down. We ended up calling it a day sometime around 2 when we realized the rain wasn't going to stop. Dan said he almost got hypothermia, and Darryl was saying he did too. The events following differ depending who you are talking to, or who is in present company, so if you want to know, or have to, you may ask and one of us might tell you, or we might not. One thing is for sure though, don't be the only one to fall asleep while the other two remain wide awake, bored, and figure out a way to act like their is a bear in the hut to wake you in a dire panic. Also, dull ax blades don't cut trees very good.
Day 3 we were going to make up the millage we lost in the rain the previous day by waking up around 4 and heading out at 5. The only problem is, i woke up at about 3 wicked thirsty and seconds after i almost pounded back an entirely liter, i had to vomit. I tried the same process 2 or 3 more times without success of holding anything down. After discussing options for a bit, Dan decided he would hike the next two days and get the car and pick up Darryl and sicko at a campground partway back. Darryl would stay with me. So he unloaded every unnecessary item from his pack and headed out around 5. Darryl and i went back to sleep hoping to curb the sickness.
Darryl and I:
I woke up about 4 hours later feeling like a champ. The sun was out, it was slightly warm, the day was the polar opposite of the previous day. Darryl got up around 11 finally and we slowly proceeded to take our short journey to this unknown campground. The day consisted of trekking back most of the way we went yesterday. Then descending out of the mountains to a campground and meeting up with Dan the following day. With two days to kill, we took our sweet time, spending many moments screwing around atop some mountains, discussing a quick bushwhack to a peak (which we voted not to), taking tons of pictures, and talking to everyone who passed us.
I'll do my best here...He hiked from the hut to Clingman's Dome? and that was about 15miles by lunch? (i think the millage gets longer every time we tell the story). Anyhow, after chatting with a couple, they demanded that they drive him to my car on the other side of the park. He agreed. Now, from what Dan tells me, the "ridge" wasn't that terrible, but as the couple tells him, the "ridge" beyond Clingmans Dome is miserable, UP and DOWN, UP and DOWN, not really much of a ridge. So thank God for this couple
Darryl and I:
We were screwing around on top of this mountain part way back, taking pictures, calling my wife, etc. When we decided to try and give Dan a call, and to our disbelief he answered...not only that but he was saying he was going to pick us up that same day because he was hitchhiking the rest of the way to the car. crazy...haha.
So we hurried along after that. descending the 3500ft into this campground on the north side of the smokies. It was pitch black when we got down there and there was no sign of Dan, and we had no reception. After waiting a while, we started to walk through the darkness, out of the park, it seemed to be the only road into the campground, so we felt assured we'd see Dan if he came. Finally after a couple hours we got service and got ahold of Dan for a short second, just long enough for him to tell us that he was somewhere about 30-45 mins away. and we told him we were walking out of the campground. We finally got to the entrance/exit (depending which way you're going) and there was a "Park Entrance Grocery", we stood outside and called Dan to tell him to look out for it, that's where we're at. Just then a BIG truck rolls up and this dude pops out with an open Budweiser in hand and walks in the "grocery store". We go in for a snack...and it was one of the craziest things I've ever seen. There were about 5 or 6 people in there, watching TV and playing guitars in a bar type area. About 3 of the 5 people i could only understand one word a sentence and the others never spoke so who knows. The ones that were talking were missing all but 3 teeth and this one lady was definitely a meth addict. We sat in their and tried chatting with them while watching the Giants attempt to beat the Pats in their last game of the regular season.
I'll let Dan comment and fill this in.
We got a hotel that night, got crappy pizza some beer, and watched the rest of the game. The next day we drove to Chattanooga to pick up my wife and then proceed to drive back to DC.
Montana Fishing Beaverhead
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