Always err on the side of “Yes”.
Always err on the side of Going instead of Cancelling.
Don’t err on the side of caution. In fact, throw caution to the wind and the rain.
It was a dark and stormy morning when I woke up. Over twenty people had signed up with Friends of the Smokies to hike to Chasteen Creek Falls and further up to the campsite .
I was scheduled to lead a hike for Friends of the Smokies but was anyone going to show up in this weather? Should I even bother to drive about an hour to Oconaluftee Visitor Center(OVC) to see if anyone wanted to hike? The Smokies staff were working in the Tennessee office, so I was the only leader.
I went to OVC because:
- My motto is that I never cancel a hike based on hiking weather. Once I suggested cancelling because of driving concerns, but never because an all-day rain was in the forecast.
- I’m a volunteer, which means I don’t paid, I don’t get expenses and I treat the work like a job. Would I cancel work because of rain? OK. I’ve always had an indoor job, but the principle is the same.
- I just finished reading A Man Called Ove about a stubborn Swedish man who believes rules are rules. Ove was a real curmudgeon but he had some wise sayings.
When I arrived at Oconaluftee Visitor Center, the parking lot was empty. I checked in with Ranger Michael who was happy to see someone on the other side of the desk.
“I’m going to walk to Chasteen Creek,” I said to Michael. “You always have to tell someone where you’re going and you’re it today. I’ll check out when I come back.”
After coming all this way, I was not going to just turn around and go home, no matter how wet it was.
I got to Smokemont Campground but no one from the Friends group was here. While I put on my boots, a young woman with colorful high plastic boots, more like garden Wellies, asked if I was going hiking. It turned out that she and her traveling companion, both from Arizona, were on a whirlwind cross-country trip and this morning was their chance to see the Smokies.
“Why don’t you walk to Chasteen Creek Falls with me?” I suggested. It was quickly obvious that this millenial woman couldn’t keep up but her male friend and I hoofed it on Bradley Creek Trail and turned right on Chasteen Creek Trail. The rain had not let up since I got into the park. Even though I had a good raincoat and rainpants, I was soaked.
When we reached the turn to the falls, three women in colorful rain jackets came toward us. Linda S, Sallye S. and Amanda Gomez, manager of the OVC Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA) bookstore had just been to the falls.
“We weren’t sure that you were coming,” Linda said.
“You know that I said rain or shine,” I said. “But I’m so glad to see you.”
We went back to the falls, so I could admire the copious amount of water coming down. See the photo on top. Amanda needed to get back to the store. The guy from Arizona needed to get back to his slow-hiking friend. But we continued up to the campsite, the way the hike was planned in the first place.
By now, the rain didn’t make any difference. I was drenched but not cold. Linda had a system of plastic bags to keep her serious camera from getting soaked. We stopped to take pictures of the waterfall from several angles going up and down the trail.
When we got back to the car, I gave them the present that Friends of the Smokies had promised all attendees. I gave them each a couple of pieces of my ubiquitous dark chocolate and wished them a good Christmas.
What did I do with the rest of the chocolate, you might ask. When I checked back into OVC, Ranger Michael was no longer at the desk so I gave the bag of chocolate to the GSMA folks. I bought a couple of Smokies calendars and headed home.
At this moment, US 441 is closed past Smokemont Campground. But there’s plenty of hiking from Smokemont or Mingus Creek Trail. Look at a map and explore.
Thanks for the folks that came out on a rainy day. If you want to be the first to learn about the Friends of the Smokies Classic Hike series for 2017, make sure to join and watch your email inbox.