in the Smokies!
happens to the best of us. Off of the trail and disoriented. Trying
to remember the last time the trail was obvious or the last time
you saw a trail marker. Finally, after hiking in circles and trying
every trick you know, you realize that you are lost. What now? You
may have thought that it wouldn't happen to you but now it has.
had an experience like this a couple of years ago. We were hiking
in the Smokies and the trail was littered with blow-downs, trees
that have fallen during an ice storm.
stream crossings we continued on the wolf ridge trail. We passed
campsite 95 and started the steep climb up to Parsons Bald and then
Gregory's Bald. As we gained elevation, there were fallen trees
blocking the trail more and more. Eventually we were were having
to crawl under and around giant oaks that had been toppled by a
recent ice storm. Huge trees were blocking the trail, making
it nearly impassable in some places. Our packs were snagging
in the branches as we spun, crawled and inched our way through the
tangled mess. At some point, as we were climbing through twisted
branches, we unknowingly turned on an old trail. As we kept climbing
the trail was getting harder to follow. It disappeared several times,
causing us to back track to pick up where we lost it.
the faint trail not realizing that we were on the wrong trail.
I found out latter that we were on an old section of the Appalachian
Trail that was re-routed more than 20 years ago. Surprisingly, we
saw fairly fresh energy bar wrappers littering the trail.
As we climbed away from the more traveled path, damage from wild
boar rooting was becoming widespread. Acres and acres that appeared
to have been "roto-tilled". The hogs, skittish of humans
and rarely seen, had dug and rooted the ground all around us.
We were in a section of the park that rarely saw humans, so the
boars thrived .
for the trail in the middle of a patch of dirt that extended
for at least half of an acre. We couldn't find the trail because
the mountain side was covered with many of these large patches of
freshly "plowed" dirt.. We just went from being a little
off of the trail to being very, very lost. We stopped and
rested and gathered our thoughts before panic had a chance to overcome
us. It was April and the usually thick ground cover had not
grown so hiking off of the trail was virtually un-obstructed. It
was a clear day and we were at an elevation of 4000 feet.
We thought a minute and spotted a creek at the foot of the mountain
we were standing on.
We both decided
that the creek at the bottom was the best way out. The valley below
us was approximately a 3000 foot elevation change and extremely
steep. Most trails have switch-backs to help you through the elevation
changes. We were off of the trail, so no help from the trail-builders