Gearing up for Trail days
We got up before the sun and (hopefully) managed not to wake up anyone else in the shelter. in hushed voices and dimmed lighting, we cooked breakfast, packed up, and prepared for our hike. I tied my wet, muddy socks to my pack and we headed out. So if you’re the first ones on the trail in the morning, you get to walk through a bunch of spider webs, so no one wanted to lead the way. Reluctantly, Itchy took the lead.
A ridgerunner had given KitKat the tip to take the blue blaze to see the Mt. Crammerer observation tower, so we took the 1.2 extra miles, and ventured down the blue blaze. It was beautiful, and we were so thankful that it was a clear day finally. You could see for miles, and the Smokys had never seemed so vast. We also looked inside the observation tower to find that some section hikers had broken the rules of the park, and “stealth camped” inside. KitKat then informed us that these same section hikers had gotten some of our friends kicked out of a shelter just a couple nights before. Not cool.
Anyways, we headed back towards the trail, and I realized that one of the socks I had tied to my pack fell off somewhere. I was bummed, but hopeful that maybe Darn Tough would give me a replacement sock at trail days. After returning to the trail, I decided to brave the spider webs and take the lead since I was fastest on downhills. I took off down the hill and waited for the other two at a view.
They finally caught up, and after a short KitKat, we headed back down the trail. I flew down the mountain and into Davenport Gap shelter by about 10 A.M. I took a quick break, and decided to save all the room in my stomach for the freezer pizza and beer that awaited at Standing Bear Farm.
Shortly after, I climbed down into Davenport Gap. The Smokys were officially over, and I couldn’t have been happier. I flew through the little section before the Pigeon River bridge. It took me more time than I’d like to admit to figure out that the blazes continued over the bridge, but finally I found them and rushed down the road. I was so distracted by thoughts of my lunch, that I actually fell off the sidewalk and into the road. I quickly shook it off and continued on hoping that no one saw that horrendous fall. I looked down at my stinging legs and realized that I had some gnarly road rash on my knees and forearm. Even more reason to rush to the hostel.
Finally, I made it into Standing Bear. I had heard rumors that it was an eccentric place, but no words can even describe how different it is. I found someone who worked there in order to find a sink to clean my wounds in, but was forced to take a tour of the whole facilities before I was directed to the sink. Finally, I got to wash my wounds, grab a beer and a bunk, and eat my much awaited freezer pizza.
Harambe and I hung around waiting for the rest of our crew. We found out that Mogli and Oatmeal were in route to pick up a truck so they could drive some people to Damascus for trail days, so the day was looking up.
KitKat and Itchy showed up finally, and we all hung around waiting for Mogli and Oatmeal to return with our trail days chariot. We all got to experience washing our clothes on a washboard as they had no washing machine. That was definitely a new experience for most of us. We also found out that it was Dash’s birthday, so we put a candle in a pizza and gave her a hiker trash birthday celebration. The sun went down and we all headed off to bed.
The next morning, everyone enjoyed some breakfast and eagerly waited for the return of Mogli and Oatmeal. In the meantime, we watched Itchy use literally 2 tubs of cream cheese as dip for bagels and tortilla chips. We played some cards, and finally, they arrived. Unfortunately, not everyone was going to fit in the truck. Harambe was nice enough to offer to rent a car so we could all get to Damascus. Mogli drove him to the nearest rental car store, and the rest of us waited by the side of the road for them to return.
A short time later, Harambe returned with a Jeep and Mogli with his truck. We all piled into the respective vehicles, and set off on the road to Damascus. We stopped at a diner, had some lunch and were back on the road. That night, we reached Damascus just to find that we weren’t allowed to tent in city limits until tent city opened. We spent some time driving around and looking for any available campsites with no avail. KitKat, Itchy, Harambe, and I decided to head to the nearest, cheapest motel. The others heard about a campsite behind food city and pitched their tents there. We got to the hotel, ate some pizza, and crashed for the night.
You never realize how great beds are until you sleep without one for weeks at a time. We definitely forgot how great they were, and slept great because of it. We got to do our laundry at the hotel, and invited our friends to come do theirs too. After everyone washed their clothes and showered, we headed off to the campsite behind food city.
Just a couple hundred feet away from the parking lot, there is a great campsite. Just a short walk away, there is a river, and we were literally right outside of a grocery store. What more could you ask for in a campsite? We all got settled in and relaxed. Itchy decided that he wanted to fish, so we headed off to Walmart to pick up some rods and fishing essentials. Everything we needed was incredibly cheap, and we raced back to the river to catch some fish.
We got to the river where Itchy taught us how to set up our lines, and we finally started fishing. It didn’t take long to realize that the chances of us actually catching something were pretty slim, so we decided to go for a swim instead. Harambe and I thought it would be a good idea to use our ThermaRests as rafts, so we ran up to the campsite and grabbed them.
Luckily, no rafts were lost or broken in the fun. We hung around a bit longer, and finally Itchy actually managed to catch a fish. It was a pretty small little fish, but a fish nonetheless. He used the small guy as bait for a while with no luck, so we headed back to the campsite.
To add to the great day, we came up to find that Butterscotch was preparing some steaks, potatoes and veggies for us. The guy managed to make the best steak I’ve had to date on a campfire. He’s a culinary genius. We all ate until we couldn’t eat anymore, drank some beers, and headed off to bed. Trail days was just two days away, and life couldn’t have been better.
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