Today’s Carolina Mountain Club Firescald Bald hike was nothing like the scout.
Lenny and I scouted the hike a couple of weeks ago. We started from the top of Viking Mountain Rd on the way to Greeneville, TN, took a blue access trail that led to the A.T. heading north toward Jerry’s Cabin.
Same hike today, with only two other hikers. Were the others concerned about the forecast? We took the famous Firescald Bald, a section of rock steps and slabs with great views toward NC on the right and TN on the left. We went slowly but the weather was with us in the morning.
We got to Jerry’s Cabin shelter, a shelter that had obviously been a cabin a long time ago. Part of it was still stone. We sat down to lunch when John, a backpacker, came in with a dog. From the dog collar and radio antenna, we could see that the dog was a hunting dog.
Hunting season has not started but hunters are training their dogs and staking out their territory and strategy. The dog was part of the training regiment but it got separated from the group. It was following John who had fed it.
Now John was turning the dog over to us. What!! He felt that we should try to get it back to its owner. John had called the owner; the telephone number was on the dog collar. Reluctantly, we took him on. But why was it sniffing me? There were three other hikers to befriend.
After lunch, we seduced it with food. probably not the kind of food that a dog should eat – trail mix and chocolate – but we wanted it to follow us and let John continue his backpack. At one point, I gave it a piece of apple but just like a child, the dog refused it and was looking for more sweets.
And then the skies opened up. It rained hard. Little rivulets became streams on the trail. Water came out of every side spring. We got drenched, all but the dog, of course, who didn’t have any equipment to worry about.
In all that rain, I called the owners again and left another message. I told them exactly where our trailhead was and that’s where we were leaving his hunting dog.
When we got to the blue trail, there was a huge pick-up. While we had walked this access trail, the hunter had driven it with his monster truck. Hunters don’t walk. “The dog got lost yesterday,” he said and thanked us.
When we got back to the trailhead, it was like a pick-up convention. Several groups had driven to the trailhead just to look; they weren’t walking.
But one man, Ronny, approached us and said that he walked a little of the A.T. here but didn’t know where it led to. He lived locally but had never explored the trails, which is not surprising at all.
He wanted to walk from here to Roan Mountain. He had never backpacked before; he hadn’t even done a full-day hike but he stopped smoking and lost quite a bit of weight and wanted to know how to backpack. He had left us a note on my car which said:
Hello: My name is Ronny. I see you may be a hiker by the stickers on your car. I am thinking about hiking the Appalachian Trail from Roan Mountain to this spot here where your car is. It’s about 84 miles according to the Internet. Any info you may have about the trail would be greatly appreciated.
And he left his phone number. It seemed like a strange way to learn about the A.T.
I’m glad we got a chance to talk to him. We suggested that he join Smoky Mountains Hiking Club and go out with them for a while. Will he do it? We’ll never know.