And when I say “adventure”, it really did turn into one. But all in all, a very worthwhile day, our first real foray into mountain-climbing in the Smokies with Avdi.
We began our “novice five-mile-loop” noneventfully and enjoyably. As the elevation rose, we passed through various microclimate levels, gradually becoming spectacularly colorful, with changing flora as we gained altitude, such as rhododendron forests, mountain laurel, ground cedar clubmoss, blazing red sourwood, and even some unexpected wildflowers.
The climb became more vertical and challenging, but we thought we could handle it. There were horseback riders, but the most exciting encounter was with a big racked buck, who amazingly just stood there in the path with us grazing, not even concerned about our presence. Unfortunately my phone cam had died by that time, so sadly I couldn’t document it. It was a total first for all of us.
Some time into the hike, which we now suspected (and Avdi confirmed to himself) was way more than 5 miles, E started to suffer physical pain, and eventually had to be supported by Avdi. I myself was starting to hurt, but I could go on. Around every bend we thought, now we’re finally approaching the home stretch, but instead we just kept climbing and hurting. We imagined a search and rescue and airlift! It was like Frodo and Sam laboring toward Mount Doom in Mordor.
It culminated in Avdi actually carrying E piggyback down the final stretch! I wish I could have gotten a photo of that! He deserves a Purple Heart for being such a trooper, and getting us out of there. When we finally emerged into a clearing, there was a primitive preserved log cabin from the early frontier days. It was surreal, as if we had hiked into the twilight zone.
It turned out the trek was 8 1/2 miles, mostly up, or so it seemed! But hey, with his help, we did it, and the next hike, whenever we recover, will seem a lot easier, since it will be a lot shorter and hopefully not so vertical.
We took the driving loop out of there, past old historic cabins, and beautiful pastures full of deer, tamely grazing while tourists took photos (the deer just roll their eyes and ignore the gawkers), and made our way to a well-deserved pizza and beers. We were all so exhausted and in pain, we just went home to our respective beds and crashed! But it was all worth it.
And apparently my son is not fed up with lugging us oldsters around, because he’s back as usual on a Friday to work, eat, drink, and possibly sleep some more! We all lived to tell the tale of our Cade’s Cove adventure.
Here are the photos I was able to take before my cam died, and we thought we would!