"Go eat dirt" has a whole new meaning. Wilder was unstoppable when it came to nibbling wood chips and going between playing with fistfuls of dirt to snacking on whatever was REALLY on the menu. Like they say, "God made dirt, and dirt don't hurt."
Brian, the more experienced long distance foot-traveler, said we needed to stock our bodies with lots of carbs for our 12 mile hike that day. After our trip to the ranger's station the day before we got educated on just where in the heck the Naked Ground Trail really went and which other trails to connect with in order to make a loop back to where we parked. 12 MILES. That's the longest I've ever gone on foot in one day, to my knowledge. So we made quite a morning of it with oatmeal, french toast and scrambled cheesy eggs with sausage. AND delicious hot coffee.
Wilder trying his toes at "hiking" up the trail out of our campsite. That's about as far as he ever got.
Yum! The french toast was a bit soggy, but still pretty tasty!
Gathering wood so we had a good pile for the fire tonight. We knew we wouldn't have the energy (and possibly not the daylight) to get wood together after our hike. The pine trees in the area are being killed by a fungus, which is sad, but all the fallen limbs gave us plenty of firewood. We never once had to purchase a single log the 9 days we camped there.
The "Before" picture.
We started out with relatively equally heavy packs -again, Brian carrying Wilder and me being the food and water camel. Of course my pack would get lighter along the way, but the hard part was the first half -climbing nearly 3, 000 feet along 5 miles.
"On the trail again! I can't wait to get on the traaaaail again!"
A flipping big centipede, this sucker was nearly four inches long. Brian said they get quite a bit bigger than that, but I'd never seen one before. Pretty impressive.
Savannah got a full set of black socks from dipping in the mud.
Stopping for lunch at the stream we stopped and turned around out last hiking attempt, Wilder just had to get out for another dip. This time we went sans diaper.
*Ah* refreshing. A taste of the Rockies in the Appalachians ;)
Back on our feet -rested, fed and watered- we continued our trek. Now we faced nearly two miles of switchbacks up the steep mountainside. But the wildflowers continued to offer pockets of treasure along the hard path up.
More lovely stream crossings.
The man with the map -and compass. The map was a bit tricky to read since it didn't mark all the streams we crossed and the turns in the trail weren't exact matches with what's on paper. Thankfully the trail was very worn and easy to follow.
Up, up and away.
A cool, swirly log laying in our path.
We made it! -to the top, at least. Here we stand at Naked Ground. The trail comes up to this relatively clear area which was once a Cherokee trading spot and is the intersection of three trails in the forest. It was awesome walking the Naked Ground trail knowing that years ago for many generations the Cherokee traveled this same trail to meet up with others and trade their furs, baskets and other wares.
"You take the low road and I'll take the high road, and I'll get back to the car bef-oooooore you..."
Wilder playing in the puddle of water Brian poured for Savannah so she could wet her whistle. Speaking of whistles, Brian got me started on Day 2 of our trip trying to wolf whistle. Nearly every day I practiced. Sometimes I can get a pretty good note out, but it takes awhile to warm up. I'll get the hang of it one of these days, then I'll pass on my skills to my hubby.
His Indian name is "Stands With Cracker."
Rested and watered, we take the Hoae Lead trail E/SE. It follows the ridgeline of the mountain so we had views on both sides as we walked this new trail. I have a video of the ridgeline I'll post after this.
Spring is wonderful.
King of the Rock.
A little note on Wilder. Major kudos to him for being such a traveling trooper. Yes, there were times he was very unhappy to be stuck in a pack for so long, but on the whole he did an outstanding -extremely outstanding- job hanging tough. We kept him entertained with Brian's whistling marching tunes and old country songs, me singing some of his favorite musical numbers, and feeding him crackers kept readily in my cargo pants pockets and watered with his sippy cup. And he liked yelling at the dog when she ran up ahead and out of sight.
The faded signs were a bit hard to read, but we never made a wrong turn (thank goodness!)
Just one of his many good moments.
Alright! We made it through the Hoae Lead trail to the Jenkins Meadow trail, which eventually loops around back to the start of the Naked Ground trail. We are on the home stretch -and good thing, we're burnin' daylight!
Not sure where the meadow on Jenkins Meadow trail went, but the trail was rather barren compared to the lush greenery and flora on the previous trails. It made us thankful that we hiked the Naked Ground trail those previous times instead of trying to conquer this boring one.
The giant yellow poplars. Very "poplar" in these parts of the wood...
Happy Dance! (That is, if we can move our feet.) We made it back to the Naked Ground trail! Now we just have a 20 minute hike back to the car.
Quick, take the picture so we can take our shoes off and go "home!"
We were officially bushed (except Wilder, who was ready to run like the wind after being in that carrier for 9 hours. We stumbled down the hill to our campsite at last light, around 8:30pm, fed Wiley and tucked him in bed. Then we had a relaxing fire, roasting our steak and potatoes on the open flames. Yes, it's a VERY good life.