SHUCKSTACK APPALACHIAN Trail Hike | SEPT2014 12.8 mile loop
To pick up from where we were forced to exit prematurely a month ago due to a bear incident. The party of 4 was down to 2, except the two were myself and ole hiking buddy…”Easy Go-it Marco” Handy. His work schedule fell just right for us to take a quick weekend trip up to the southwestern part of the GSMNP.
We were suppose to leave at 7pm from Marco’s Northside of Birmingham, AL loft putting us in North Carolina with some time to get a decent night’s sleep in the wife’s swagger-wagon at the Fontana/Lakeshore Trail Trailhead. The 7pm departure ended up being oh…around 9pm. We landed at this Appalachian trailhead around 1:30am or so. We parked off the road and prepared to slumber.
The next morning arrives and believe it or not, I slept ok. Marco wasn’t stirring yet, so I decided to get out of the wagon to stretch a bit and walk around until he arose. After about 30minutes and no sign of Marco coming to…I decided to take things into my own hands and prompt the arousing of “Easy Go-it.”
We get on the trail and the initial ascent was a pretty good one. Us 2 old men are passed by some young hikers that are loaded down with what looked like to be lumberjack equipment… seeing how they had axes and such. They were young bucks that hadn’t come to realize the Ultra-light benefits yet. Hey…, we all have been there. Easy-Go-It and myself get to the first view and rest stop to take 5 or 10minutes. I’m ready to go…but Easy-Go-It Marco had other plans…to take the 20minute break.
We finally make it to Shuckstack and it was already proving to be a great hike. The firetower made for a great rest stop / focal destination. I couldn’t wait to get to the top to check the view. However, 2 day-hikers had gotten there first and I didn’t want to crowd them. Plus Marco hadn’t made it up the approach trail to the tower yet. Once Marco got there, we struck up a conversation with the 2 day-hikers and they were actual nuclear physicists that had flown in for a meeting @ the Oak Ridge facility.
Well, we took our turn as the 2 physicists were a little sheepish to go to the top…opting to come down. I didn’t waste anytime scurrying straight to the top….WOW what a view!
Marco wasn’t far behind me as he made his way up a little more gingerly than I. He made it up and stood on the opposite side of me until he got his balance. The floor was a little suspect…but thrilling all in its self.
We spent some extra time there eating lunch and napping before making our way to our already reserved GSMNP campsite.
We get to our campsite and have to hang our bags as this is Park regulations…very prudent seeing how there are bears out there.
I re-up our water from the mountain stream that ran just behind our camp area. After filtering the water, I collected some firewood for a small campfire to set the camp mood with the sweet smell of burning wood. The classic campfire fire gave us some entertainment as we prepared our evening meal.
While we were sitting there with our meal, we spoke of the young bear we had seen just a few hours earlier and the potential for bear attack. I re-assured Marco, they were more afraid of us, than we were of them. As we were sitting there cleansing our souls with the sound of that mountain stream and watching the fire, another interesting sound came from the forest in the distance …the sound was almost like an Elk bugling. There had been a re-introduction of Elk into the GSMNP / Cataloochee Valley in 2001 as they had been hunted to extinction in the early 1900’s. It was odd as I didn’t think they would be as far southwest in the park as we were on this trip. Maybe we were lucky to hear a wonderful sound like that of which we heard. Something you can’t hear unless you invest the mileage into the backwoods of a wilderness.
The next morning, we break camp to head down to Lakeshore trail which is named appropriatley…as it runs along on the shore of Fontana Lake. The neat thing is that it was a mountain road many, many years ago. We run across some junked cars that had overturned and been abandoned. They look to be from the 1940’s or so.
We continue our flat trekking back to the wagon at the trailhead. Even coming across old homesites that had to be left for ghosts when the National Park was developed along with others all over these valleys. The timber from these homesites had been decayingly repossessed by the forest from whence they came only leaving only the rock foundations, chimneys, and fences. 60+ year old trees grew where a living room or bed room might have been only 6+ decades ago. Truly…, if left alone everything does return to the earth as all are elements of the same mother earth.
Easy-Go-It Marco… gave me permission to move ahead since my pace was a little faster, so I put at least mile on him by the time he appeared at the trailhead. I had already changed into my riding clothes, cleaned up with body wipes (normally for my children…thanks babies & mommy), re-hydrated, and spoke to some day-hikers when, I finally see Easy-Go-It Marco’s 6+ft frame top the rise catching up like he had said he would do.
We felt accomplished and vowed to return to these ghostly valleys to ascend to their grand views…
Until Next time…,