..The End of Something
Old Settlers Trail 10/29/07
There wasn't a finish line and the darkness was descending. Dave McGee was a welcomed sight as we ended our 12 miles
Beth joins me as I complete 900.
It was a sweet conclusion to a long and wonderful story that began 30 years ago and ended the same way, with friends all along the way.
I couldn't have picked a better trail to finish my quest, with scenes like these. In retrospect, this was the perfect trail on the perfect Fall day.
Kirby and Beth were rearing to go. I had a time keeping up with them.
Many fences bordered this trail like a buffer between my soul and the outside world. The Smokies have always been my refuge, a place of restoration and renewal.
The work of moving rocks must have been eternal like the Old Settlers themselves and their artifacts. It makes one wax nostalgic; our artifacts and what we leave behind in our journeys and what settles in our psyche when we are touched by nature.
Sometimes when there is drought and creeks are running low you find your friends standing there in the middle, celebrating, coaxing you to the other shore.
Never pass on an opportunity to make a side trip.
The girls decide they have had enough of the fences and decide to make a move.
...And break on through to the other side. (no actual fences were injured in the making of this photograph)
A fine looking bunch of backpackers. Dave would join us for the night and provide a shuttle back to Gabes Mtn. (there appears to be some confusion about which poses to strike)
I found that this trail held the variety that made me fall in love with the Great Smoky Mountains in the first place. As we neared campsite 33 for the night, tired though we were, I dreaded seeing that spot on which I had rested the year before. Each turn and creek crossing, each deadfall and pine thicket was a new place and the last new place on the established trail system for me. I thought about all the stories, all the campfires all the blisters, yellowjackets, poison ivy, bears, bobcats, rattlesnakes and coon dogs. I thought about the rain, wind, lightning and snow, the blistering August heat and relentless January sleet. There was the tent burned down, boots burned up, stoves exploding and forgotten tent poles. There were wrong turns, right turns and an upturn on Sunday as a matter of fact. There were the no shows, star shows, moon shows and hiking cameos. Haunted cabins, screeching owls and bloody knife men were all a part of this territory.
In retrospect, it was the best of times, even when we crossed Eagle Creek 32 times and Hazel Creek in the snow. Like life, it's not so much about where you went but with whom you shared the journey and I was fortunate to have some friends on every trip. There never was a bad backpacking trip or ugly stretch of trail. Some of the most ardent partners in my quest over the years I would like to acknowledge below in order of appearance with the exception of Beth, who is the toughest of them all.
Mike Holmes, Wayne Davis, Ed Lee, Danny Seale, John Thuren, Wendi LesMerisches, Martin Hunley, Dave McGee, Clark Allison and all the SOUTHERNHIGHLANDERS.
(this is also dedicated to Bugsy Quillen. He lived 18 years and fought every minute for every scrap of food. We found him in the woods and returned him there again on Sunday proving that if you treat an old mutt with respect he will make you the best friend on the planet.)