When you hike with others, you have to go – fog, rain or hail. And yesterday was a doozy of a day to be out on the trail.
I had made plans with Hannah E. to scout Mt. Cammerer for a Friends of the Smokies hike later on this year. And so we met and drove on I-40 to the Waterville exit. The skies opened up almost as soon as we got on the interstate. It rained and thundered. Lots of lightning followed. Hannah must have been wondering about the wisdom of hiking but she wasn’t saying anything. I kept driving.
Mt. Cammerer can be hiked from several trailheads. We approached it from the Appalachian Trail at Davenport Gap on the North Carolina side. By the time we started the hike, the rain had changed to a drizzle and soon stopped.
The trail started climbing instantly but it was a gentle, gradual Smokies climb. We saw an assortment of flowers from violets of early spring to trilliums and rue anemone. On our 3,000 foot climb (2,000 feet to 5,000 feet), the flower display changed gradually.
Many A.T. thru-hikers passed us, all happy to be done with the Smokies. They had spent a cold, wet week in the Park and were ready to move on.
“If you’re out of the Smokies in April, you’re doing well,” I said. Plodder, a chunky, smiling hiker, had put Listerine bottles on his chest with a tube system for easy access to his water.
After passing two cross trails, we reached an amazing wall, probably built by the CCC. We continued up and at the intersection with the Mt. Cammerer Trail, we met two hikers from Knoxville. They had come up from Cosby campground. We all headed for the tower.
And then hard rain started again. We scurried to the Mt. Cammerer Lookout tower, which was open – see above. After a quick lunch, Hannah and I moved out. It was wet but it wasn’t going to get any better soon.
Moth-ball sized hail came down. I felt it most on my head and hands. There was no place to stop and we walked fast up to the junction to the A.T. and down the trail. It had hailed as low as 3,000 feet.
We got to our car at about 4:30, much earlier than I figured.
We felt good. It’s been a while since I’ve hiked up 3,000 feet in a day but with the quality of the trail and grade, it wasn’t much of a problem. And Hannah deserves extra pay for hazardous duty.