Finally the last stretch of trail before Damascus. We had discussed a timeline but a very attainable itinerary kept a low key vibe all day. We even had some room for delay which we would certainly take advantage of.
We played a delightful peer pressure based game where every time someone said we should go, someone else bought a round of Yuengling.
The first day we got a solid 16 miles through manageable terrain paralleling a stream (also called “hand railing”). I didn’t see anyone most of the morning and afternoon until I was hit with a pod of south bound (“Sobo”) slack packers. Gandalf from Brooklyn gave me the scoop that a local hostel dumped a dozen thru hikers 25 miles north and had them hike back to stay another night. “Slack Pack” hikers only have to hike with a lunch and water so your pack weight goes from 40 to 8 pounds. It’s an easier way to catch up miles but isn’t part of the more pure doctrine to which I subscribe for my personal hike. One of the greatest galvanizing principles of our Thru Tang Clan was an evangelical opposition to cutting the corners of an experience we should be savoring. Snuggles didn’t fully respect anyone that slacked or “yellow blazed” (caught a ride north). I’m not trying to look for reasons to dislike people, especially on the trail. People should hike however they please. The woods are our common denominator and one of the best places to spend time. If you wants to slack, do it. Just don’t expect my homies to miss a foot of trail without my full pack.
If you wants to slack, do it. Just don’t expect my homies to miss a foot without my full pack.
We hit Dennis Cove early in the next day and decided to walk to a small resort a half mile off the trail for some microwave lunches and a few beers by the river. Snugz, Rock and I were the first to the spot so we patiently waited. We played a delightfull peer pressured based game where every time someone said we should go, someone else bought a round of Yuengling.
The rest of the group found us 2 hours later. Caboose and Tesla immediately started their own round of peer pressure ball until it was way past time to leave.
We hiked a flat 2 miles into the Pond Mountain Wilderness to Laurel Falls. It was just long enough to work up a sweat and wet the appetite for swimming.
Laurel falls dwarfed most previous waterfalls in height and flow. There was a large pool in front of the falls that looked so inviting. Though there had been a drowning at the falls a few years back, this time with a safe flow it was a fun and refreshing swimming hole.
Rockman jumped in and started his “I’m a fake Coloradoan who’s immune to cold” routine. I paused shin deep and waited for the right moment to jump in. Rock proceeded to heckle me like the bully that stole my lunch money in the 6th grade. He loves these power trips where sensible people with appropriate standards have rational filters that may keep you from jumping deep into the unknown.
I paused shin deep and waited for the right moment to jump in. Rock proceeded to heckle me like the bully that stole my lunch money in the 6th grade.
Rambo, Snugz, and the I hopped in and all completed the stated challenge. Every water event has some jump, dive, or breath holding that you wager your manhood for. Today we had to swim to the falls, climb up, and jump off. A lot of hiking can be described by the simple regression to the social dynamics of 10 year olds.
I swam out with Snuggly and parked my back to the falls, talking with Snuggles as the frigid cascades slid down our backs. We both eventually climbed up and went for it.
We made camp a few hundred feet away and called it a day.
In a day to day lifestyle of exertion and determination, some days require you to vacation from your vacation and relax. At any moment the 20 projected miles can get rounded down to “me time” where you can easily forget you used to have a completely separate life. It’s what the AT is all about, connecting with yourself, others and the natural world around you (even if it’s a little chilly).
Name: Pond Mountain Wilderness
Managing Body: United States Forest Service – Cherokee National Forest
Size: 6,890 acres
Features: Laurel Falls, historical mining country, Pond Mountain
Maintainers: Tennessee Eastman, Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards