began our descent through thick patches of berries, the thorns were
tearing us to shreds. In what seemed like a few short minutes, the
creek that was in the valley was coming into view. We were laughing
as we descended, we felt silly being lost after so many years of
experience. Laughter can also prevent panic. All we
had to do was put one foot down and we would descend several feet.
It was steep and a quick trip down to the creek, we descended
at least 2000 feet in elevation. We were not scared or panicking
because we had enough food to last several days and a reliable water
filter. Then there is the other fact that comforted us, according
to the National Park Service, on the east coast the furthest you
are from a road is eight miles. That means we had plenty of time
and supplies to hike eight miles in a straight direction. If the
fans of the movie "Blair Witch Project" knew this
they might not have been as scared!
reaching the creek we dropped our packs and took a break. The sound
of "Rice Burner" motorcycles could be heard in the distance.
We were near the "Dragon", a curvy stretch of Highway
129 that cyclists like to maneuver around. It sounded just
a few miles away so we didn't feel as though we were lost anymore.
taking a well earned break, we started following the creek bed.
The under-growth of rhododendron was thick and it was slow-going.
I knew from experience that wildlife, including bears, are known
to frequent creek beds on warm days. We didn't go far before my
partner Carroll spotted an old road bed that ran alongside the creek.
The forest road had not been used in many years and had large
trees growing in the middle of it.
it was reasonably level and at times it was high above the creek.
As we were walked at a leisurely pace enjoying the unspoiled creek
scene that few hikers have witnessed. I noticed that the road
left the creek at several points as the water passed through several
small gorges. I wondered out loud, how difficult it would have been
if we had to crawl along the creek bed. What great luck we've had!
We reached highway
129 before we knew it and didn't know what to do. We had planned
a three day hike and this was only the first day. We doubled back
into the forest and the park boundaries and set up a camp.
The following day we walked out to the road and stuck our thumbs
out. A retired couple from Maine stopped and drove us the eleven
miles back to our truck.
A month later
while hiking near Fontana a back - country ranger stopped me for
a permit check. After listening to my story, he speculated that
we may have "picked up" the old Appalachian Trail that
was re-routed 20 years ago. He also told us that the fire-rings
that we saw along side the creek were from fisherman and poachers
that frequent the area. There aren't any trails in this section
of the park and therefore not many visitors. This makes a perfect
habitat for bears and poachers. The ranger told me that one year
it was so bad that the park service had installed a video camera
to record the activity in the area. They wanted to record the people
entering for future legal action.