This past weekend, my friends and I restarted a tradition we had back in high school. We decided to go back to our old camping spot in the Smoky Mountains. We never really pinpointed the last time we made this trip but I would beg to say it was between 15 and 20 years ago. And if I didn't learn anything else about the trip, I DID learn that a LOT has changed in 15 years.
First off, I'm not a seasoned camper. When it comes to camping I'm about as comfortable as President Obama being the keynote speaker at a Tea Party Rally. I'm also about as experienced as Sarah Palin is with foreign policy. So you can see there are a few challenges. But I'm very resourceful when I need to be and I have a lot of fun just hanging out with my friends. So camping is a fun getaway.
Of course, being a guy, I waited until the last possible minute to pack. I mean, we had only been planning this trip for 7 months. But also being a guy, I didn't have much to pack. I got everything I would need for this little trip ready in less than a hour. I didn't have an actual hiking backpack because my friend was bringing one for me. So I put everything in a laptop backpack (see... resourceful). I said goodbye to the wife and kids and I was on my merry way.
It didn't take long for the first thing to happen that made me question the trip. I got onto the interstate and start heading toward the Smoky Mountains. I happen to look at my directional gauge and it was saying W. Now, I wasn't GREAT at Geology but I do know my West from my East. The mountains are in the east (from where I live) and I am traveling toward the sun (which is rising). I guess that's another thing to add to the list of things to get fixed. I'm not sure where that ranks with the Anti-Lock Brakes probably gone as well as the driver's side airbag but I would bet it's pretty low. I have almost made a game out of it. I want to see if I can get ALL of the warning lights on my dashboard to light up at the same time. That may take some planning but I believe I can do it.
It's a pretty long trip so the night before I gathered some music. I found some old CDs (even though using old and CDs seems rather redundant now) that I listened to years ago. I have an odd variety in my taste of music I listen to from Hip Hop to Country to Rock to Pop to RnB (sometimes hard rock (borderline metal) and Celtic).... the list just goes on. So these CDs are a hodgepodge (another word that I didn't realize was a real word) of junk I put together to listen to. And, of course, it's all OLD music because I haven't burned a music CDs in years. But I found 3 disks of music that kept my loud off-key singing company on this journey.
(I'm actually going to post a little mini-contest on this site to see who can guess the songs on the travel CDs I was listening to. I will give the artist and you guess the song. After a while I will narrow the field down but adding the year the song was written. Then if people still can't get it I will add the album it came from.)
After about 5 total hours of loud singing and travel (from Knoxville to Gatlinburg the traffic was evil) I met up with my friends and we got ready to descend down the side of the "baby" mountains. My wife thinks they shouldn't even be called mountains because she lived next to the Rocky Mountains and the Smokys are over a mountain shorter than her precious Rockys. My thing is they meet the minimum requirements for being called a mountain. So no matter how SMALL something is, it still gets to keep the name by definition. (And that goes for EVERYTHING. It may be small but it should still be called what it is called... and not "funny" little nicknames. The little nicknames are not funny... ever!)
Speaking of small... My friend (who shall be named Scoutmaster) brought my backpack. And I'm not going to complain too much because he purchased it. So I wasn't picky. But he pulls out his backpack. It was a nice respectable, MANLY backpack. It looks like he could pack his clothes, food, first aid kit, his wife, his kids and his truck in that thing. The next person on this trip will be called the Dr. His backpack wasn't as big as Scoutmasters but it was still impressive. It was a NEW backpack so it was spacious and made of some of the newer high-tech material. It was very nice. The 3rd member of the crew will be called the Rookie because this was is first multi-day hike and camp. But even HIS backpack was a larger one.
So Scoutmaster brings me my backpack. And as I stated before, it was still called a backpack... by definition. I looks like I could store a toothbrush and a Dora the Explorer doll... that's it. (Good thing I left my Dora the Explorer doll at home. It was a hard decision but it looks like a wise one!) Again, I'm not complaining. The way I saw it was a smaller pack is a lighter pack. Umm... I was wrong about that one too. Apparently, I was the one designated to carry the lead (as in the heavy metal, Pb, on the periodic table) reserves to the campsite. Because everyone knows you can't have a successful outing without ample supplies of lead. I moved the lead around and was able to take my items out of my laptop backpack and place them into the backpack (thankfully) provided for me.
NOW, it's time for our hike to begin. That was until the Scoutmaster asked, "Does everyone have their walking stick?" Silly me! I didn't get a walking stick. But a good Scoutmaster always has backups. His walking stick was a LOG! It was awesome. It looked like something straight out of Lord of the Rings (even having metal bands around the top and bottom). The Dr.'s walking stick wasn't as aged or as natural of a make as the Scoutmaster's but it was still very impressive. It was a finely craft smooth chunk of wood with a thin piece of rope tightly wrapped around the top like spiral staircase covering the top 6 - 8 inches of the stick. Just like the Scoutmaster's, this walking stick could be used as a walking stick or a weapon if a bear decided it was tired of talking politics and wanted to talk about cuisine. The same could be said of the Rookie's walking stick.
But since I didn't bring one, I was at the mercy of the "what's left" pile. And just like to kids who is always picked last in kickball, I was presented with my "what's left" options. I had 2 choices. I had the choice of a walking stick that resembled a mechanical pencil and one that looked like a #2 pencil. And since this was all feeling like a test to me, I chose the #2 pencil. I guess I shouldn't call it a pencil because by DEFINITION it met the minimum requirements for a walking stick. I could use this as a walking stick or as a weapon if a squirrel wanted to jump up to me to impress his girlfriend. With this stick (which I'm grateful to have) the squirrel would be toast! (That theory was never tested but I feel pretty confident of the outcome... I think.)
Now that all of that was out of the way, we decided to head down to the belly of the "baby" BEAST of a mountain. As the Scoutmaster took point I couldn't help but think in my head "One ring to rule them all!" Unfortunately for this analogy that makes me a hobbit. Even worse, I'm not even Frodo... I'm Sam. But hey, there has to be some benefits to being a hobbit that's over 6ft tall.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series.