Dad and I getting ready for the morning climb
Father-Son Hiking Trip, October 2016
The limitations of our 2016 Father-Son outing were somewhat determined for us by Dad having been newly diagnosed with some cardiac abnormalities that, while not causing symptoms apparent to him, nevertheless concerned his cardiologist and led her to pronounce he should avoid "backcountry hiking." Well, we decided to compromise a bit and avoided "backcountry camping" while still enjoying some beautiful Smoky Mountain trails. We, of course, avoided long strenuous uphill sections and limited our backpacks to lighter daypacks. I weighed mine down a little with an AED unit that Craig managed to scrounge up for the trip, so we could at least say we were prepared for the worst.
Our basecamp for the adventure would be Elkmont campground, where Dad had secured a site (D4) for the motorhome. This site was conveniently located a short walk from the outhouse and was a bit less crowded than surrounding sites. It had a convenient campfire pit and picnic table. None of the sites offered electrical hook-up, so we "roughed it" on battery power.
Kathy and I drove to Renssalaer, IN the night of Friday, October 21 to deposit Betty in the care of Kathy's good friend Connie. We headed on to Tennessee the following day, arriving in time for a fine turkey dinner with Mom, Dad, Craig and Lora. Sunday, Craig and I each took our vehicles, while Dad drove the motorhome, and we headed for the GSMNP. Depositing the truck and motorhome at Metcalf Bottoms until our site in the campground opened, Craig shuttled us to the Jake's Creek Trail parking lot. We took Jake's Creek Trail to Meigs Mountain Trail to Curry Mountain Trail for a 7.8 mile opening day hike. The weather cooperated, as it would the entire time, with a beautiful clear blue sky and temperatures in the mid to upper 60's. This route was a relatively casual walk in the woods with some color changes and made for a pleasant introduction to our trip. We ended our day with grilled bison burgers and drinks around the campfire.
On Monday, we piled into the truck and drove to Clingman's Dome, where a bitter wind encouraged us not to dally with the beautiful overlooks and, instead, head on down the bypass trail to the AT. This short segment of the AT is always beautiful with its more rugged rocky appearance and nice overviews. From there we took Goshen Prong Trail for a long downhill walk to Little River Trail. The long downhill seemed to mess with Dad's balance a bit, and he developed a peculiar left-leaning stance that concerned us a bit. It seemed to improve with rest and would essentially resolve by the following day. The relatively dry weather they had been having in Tennessee made both crossings of Fish Camp Prong pretty simple rock-hops. We hiked the Little River Trail to Cucumber Gap Trail to Jakes Creek Trail, picking up Craig's car for the short hop to the campground. That was a long 14 mile day! After a fine dinner of grilled pork chops, Craig and I left Dad tending the fire and returned to Clingman's Dome in the dark for the truck. That provided an excellent opportunity for wildlife viewing, as we spotted fox, coyote and bats. Apparently the hoards of tourists this time of year leave plenty of food, because the coyote were beautiful and in excellent condition!
Tuesday we slept in a little to rest from the long previous day. Sugarland Mountain Trail was our starting destination and a great way to warm up in the morning with its initial uphill climb that kept us panting for the first 0.7 miles. After 3.1 miles, we headed on to Huskey Gap Trail to Little River Trail for a 7.5 mile day. It was another sunny day, this time with the sun tanning our right sides rather than the left sides we tanned yesterday. We celebrated the adventure with ice cream in Townsend, as is our tradition, then headed for home.
Dad and I completed some projects on his motorhome Wednesday while the women incredibly still found more shopping to do. Thursday, Kathy and I took off for New Plymouth, OH, just southeast of Columbus to try out the interesting sounding Ravenwood Castle. I had stumbled upon it online while investigating potential new things to see and do on our return trip. They were having an Evening with Edgar Allan Poe dinner that night, so we decided to sign up for a night at the castle and the dinner. It was a fun thing to do, and we learned a bit about the late author and poet.
Friday found us fighting road construction and traffic that delayed our arrival back in Rensellaer, but we picked Betty up and pressed on home, coffee keeping us alert the remaining part of the trip. It was good to get off the road, and we needed to face our deeping piles of leaves at home, but we really enjoyed our Tennessee adventure.
Craig on the AT near Clingman's Dome