Yesterday 22 Friends of the Smokies hikers went up Mt. Sterling Trail to the firetower. We were lucky to have Holly S., marketing director of Friends of the Smokies, and Billie, the A.T. ridge runner on his day off. Here he was on his day off, on the trail.
We formed groups in Asheville, Waynesville and just off the exit at the NC/TN state line. Then we caravanned on NC 284 to the trailhead at Sterling Gap. It’s the easiest and shortest way to get up to Mt. Sterling.
Still, the trail is steep– no way around it. You need to climb about 2,000 ft. in 2.7 miles. So the group spread out. Gracia was the sweep and no better sweep could you find.
One of the hikers fell in search of her water bottle and cut her knee on a rock. She wanted to continue the hike but the cut looked bad. She and Gracia made the decision to hike back to the cars and go to an urgent care facility. No fuss, no calls for help, no major discussion. They just went.
Down to 20. I had lost my proverbial 10%. The joke is that leaders can lose 10% of the hikers and I had reached my quota. Everyone else made it to the top in fine form.
The top was foggy and only a few people climbed the tower. But there was something mystical about the fog. I climbed and took this picture looking down at the campsite.
We had lunch while Holly S. talked about the importance of the Friends of the Smokies Trails Forever program. And reluctantly, we rolled down the trail.
At the trailhead, we had to find spots for four hikers who had ridden with Gracia. With a little squeezing and cooperating, everyone got back to their cars. We thought about our injured hiker but knew she was in good hands.
I called her when I got home. She had to have 15 stitches. This was not a minor cut. Yet, she was in fine spirits and said that she would be back on the next hike.
The moral of the story is that accidents will happen and that the safest way to deal with them is to make an effort to walk out. It pays to have a good sweep as well.
Thanks to all for making this a good hike! Save the date and sign up for the next hike on September 17, the third Tuesday of the month. You’ll have a great guest leader. Stay tuned.