Camping in the Smoky Mt. (pt 1)

This past weekend I traveled to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to go camping/hiking.  A friend and I headed out from Raleigh on Saturday.  We were meeting up with another friend who lives in Tennessee.  The weather forecast was not looking promising for Saturday night.  There was a cold front coming through and it was being ushered in by thunderstorms.  It looked like it was going to be a wet night camping.

During the drive, the friend in Tenn called and said her parents had offered their mountain cabin for the night.  It would add another hour to the drive and put us near Pigeon Forge, TN.  After reviewing the radar and discussing the options, I was told to make the decision.  In spite of my plan to hike out and camp that night, I opted to get my butt kicked again at pool at the cabin.  Yep, I lost 4-2.  This has been an ongoing quest to finally beat my friend in pool.  She's many games ahead of me right now.  It all started with a fun trip earlier in the year where we had our own version of the Olympics (air hockey, bowling, pool, darts, mini-golf, arcade basketball, skee ball).  I won overall, but she consistently schools me at pool.  To my defense, games 2 and 3 this past weekend were lost due to my own inabilities.  I scratched on the break and then hit the eight ball in too early.

While we were playing pool and watching Auburn beat Ball State (I had to explain to my friend where Ball State was located since I'm originally from Indiana) our other friend was upstairs making a great hiking resource on her Smoky Mountain map.  She had all these hikes outlined with mileage.  The next morning we discussed where we were going to hike.  Since my Tenn friend had to go to work (apparently they didn't get the email that it was my birthday and she should have the day off) and would be joining us later, we choose an area on the northeast side of the park.

She went to work and we headed to Cosby, TN.  Don't blink or you'll miss the town.  We had planned on camping at site 34, but it was going to be too long of a hike out in the morning.  We also learned that the trail was flooded in a couple spots because of the rain the day before.  Since we weren't camping on the trail we decided to make it the morning/afternoon hike.  There was a waterfall about 3 miles into the trail.

Also because of the rain the streams and waterfalls were really rushing.  I ended up taking a bunch of photos.  After we saw the waterfall on this first hike we kept going to see the campsite we weren't staying at that night.  We hiked about 3/4 mile before the way was flooded.  This wasn't going to deter us, so we split up and tried to find the best way over the water.  Yes, walking through it was an option, but that would be too easy.  My route ended with me stuck.  My hands were on a log and my feet were on dry land about 3 feet back.  I looked over to my friend and explained, "I'm stuck."  Her idea was to use the plants behind me to pull myself back.  This resulted in my left arm slipping into the water and brushing some plant along the way.  This caused my lower left arm to turn red and start burning.  Since I didn't pack any Benadryl (lesson learned) we decided it was best to head back incase it got worse.  In about 10 minutes my arm was covered with bumps.  By the time we got back to the car it was almost cleared up.
We still had a bit of time before our other friend joined us.  With nothing much to do since the other trail was the one we were going to do hike to our campsite, we decided to check out the like in Cosby.  We went into the only bar in town.  My friend was ready to leave quickly after arriving.  I was enjoying the hole-in-the-wall southern experience.  I thought, this must be the stereotypical view that some liberals have of southern Republicans.  It was like being transported back in time.  I think we stayed for about fifteen minutes.  We then decided to run back into Gatlinburg.  That idea was quickly abandoned when we passed a smalltown used bookstore with coffee.  I was compelled to turn around and check this place out.  I didn't get any coffee, but I did leave with a copy of Into the Wild.

Since we spent so much time at the bookstore, when we left we headed back to the hiking parking lot and made dinner.  Once everyone was there we finished prepping our packs and headed out to the trail.  Oh, the plans of mice and men.  Just after the entrance to the trail we were greeted with this sign....

After a good laugh, we came up with plan B.  I'll explain that in the next post.

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