The Hell Guy Trip

9/25-28  2015


Myers and Rob called one and they picked a very remote spot, campsite #82 on Hazel Creek.  Frank, Red, Laurel and I decided to break it up and start at the Dome.  Our first night was at Siler’s Bald.  And it reminded me why I despise shelters with such a fervor.  Idiot magnets they truly are and no more emblematic of that assertion is the guy we found sitting there for four nights because he had no raingear in his 9 day trip through the AT in the park.  Had he been required to carry a tent, perhaps he would have had the sense to tote raingear as well.  But then again, he claims to have been a marine in a former life and smoked like a bowl of neckbones and cabbage. 



Anyway, we began at 7 pm because the traffic through Sevier county was outrageous and it was raining buckets from a storm that was blowing in backwards from the Atlantic.  The result was a beautiful night hike in post rain softness that made the AT quite comfortable beneath heavy boots and two night packs.  We caught glimpses of the skyline through breaks in cloud formations that guaranteed a spectacular sunset along a section aptly named the narrows.


I couldn’t help but reminisce about previous trips through this area in all kinds of weather, most notably the great “Easter Freeze” event.   We set a nice pace out to Silers and settled in for a night of peaceful rest despite the late arrival of several other idiots without sleeping pads.  There is little doubt that if they removed the shelters along the AT, most of this kind of behavior would stop.  As Kephart noted, a certain set of self reliance is mandatory in the high country but these three sided edifices foster dependency the likes of which are unequalled in the Park.

A gentle rain fell through the night and we were graced by missing that during our walk.  Similarly, the next morning, a small period of precipitation occurred that Laurel and I waited out.  The result was that we walked in the dry for the entirety of the weekend.  After dropping down Welch Ridge we soon run into Myers, Mark and Rob who were several miles into their 18 mile day loop.


We left them to their own devices and strolled merrily down Hazel Creek in pursuit of Red and Frank.  Well, not really in pursuit.  There was a lot of rock hopping.

But we had to be gentle on these uns.  Gentiuns they are called.


9 or 10 miles later we arrive at cs 82.  The weather had sufficiently cleared and camp was a welcomed sight.


Before long, in came the 18 milers and they sure smelled it.  But what a feat.  18 miles is a huge day, especially considering their route down cold spring gap.

They needed a cheese board and meat snack.

Soon the Trail Bailer showed up.  He came in a straight push from the Dome.  Will his a hiking machine.  And he returned the same route next day.

They stunk so badly clothing had to be burned.

Frank was so overcome with joy that a jig was danced to the amusement of all.  He said,

There’s a party going on around here, a celebration to last throughout the year.  So bring your good times, and your Hell Guys too, we’re gonna celebrate and burn your laundry with you.”


Everyone minus Rob and Mark.  We all had to catch a shuttle back to Fontana and there were eight or ten miles to go.  By now my blisters had blisters.  But we ran down only to miss the 1 pm barge.

But Frank was undeterred.  We flagged down a passing vessel and hitched a $40 ride back to the dam area.  It saved us two hours of waiting although I had already boiled some coffee in anticipation.  So we passed the proverbial Forest Watch cup and toasted our good luck.  Dewayne was a kind man to haul all of us and five packs.  Fortunately for him I had taken a bath in Fontana Lake prior to his arrival.


Laurel caught a shot of this guy on the bank.


So in summary we dodged some precipitation and had great merriment along the Hazel drainage.  Many thanks to the Hell Guys for their gracious invitation and Myers for shuttling us all the way around back to the dome.  That is so typical of Myers, going out of his way to accommodate others.  That is how he came to my rescue when the NPS was trying to shut us down.  He’s that kind of guy.  All of them are.

The springs up in the high country are pretty dry.  Doesn't bode well for Hangover upcoming.  Be prepared to tote a bunch of aqua.  I guarantee it will be empty.

Also, our lawsuit is in the hands of the 6th circuit court of appeals.  As Myer's Father noted, "If the law matters, we will win."  That has also been the opinion of another attorney who has looked over our expertly crafted appeal of the backcountry tax.  Do not be surprised if this fee gets overturned in a court outside the reach of Lamar Alexander.   And think about the implications.  The board of SFW of which Rob, Frank and several others are proud members.    All working on the behalf of backcountry users.  We didn't see a soul in the backcountry from Siler's to lower Hazel.  But the guide service had the shelters full along the AT.  They preceeded us by a day.  The guide services have their own log in to the backcountry reservation site.  They know what is open and can book things we can't even see.  Stopping the fee may not stop this favorable treatment for enterprises like A Walk in the woods and other crooked entities like Blackberry Farms.  But it will open the backcountry back up to single moms, college kids and church groups who have been priced out of their own public lands.

We are fighting to keep the state of TN from doing the same thing and they have already followed the NPS model at South Cumberland.  You can bet they have heard and will continue to hear from SFW on your behalf.  Thanks for your continued support of the Southern Forest Watch.