Elevation: 1,807 Feet
We were primed and ready to do the Gregory Ridge Trail just outside of the Cades Cove scenic tourist jam. We had two men and a set of twins; what could go wrong? That by itself is at least a Double Mint Bubble Gum comercial.
The Gregory Ridge Trail took you up the spine of a gorgeous ridgeline, being able to see both sides of the mountain and being enveloped by the "most virgin section of the national park." We knew this was going to be a tough ten to eleven mile hike, gaining some 2,600 feet of elevation to the top of the Gregory Bald. Some panaramic super-view of the entire national forest. Like, who wants to see that, right?
We started out early in the morning, rousing the wives, the backpacks, water, food, bandages from my already appallingly tore up heels, each with a quarter to fifty-cent piece size blisters, hats and boots. It was a gallant effort to get up at the crack of 07:30 hours. The wives were not amused nor did they have those particular "go gettum" attitudes that they were going to need to haul their butt's up the mountain.
Along the highway to the trail head, we flew through some pretty farm looking country. We started noticing all the cars coming at us were flashing their lights at us brightly. It was broad daylight, so they couldn't be telling us to put our lights on...we weren't speeding at all...a cop! It must be a cop! As we are rounding a steep diving corner, we notice a small reflective rectangle about fifty feet in front of a semi that has smashed itself into the grade because its back tires had come off the road and dropped off the shoulder inside the corner. The cop was on the other side of the truck talking to the trucker. His prodigious belly was smashed against the window as he lay onto the door with his back turned to traffic just yappin' away. The cars were having to direct themselves by stopping and going through one lane of traffic that was pinched off by the truck and the talking sheriff's deputy.
We got to the Cades Cove parking lot only to discover the park doesn't open the scenic route on Wednsday and Saturday mornings until 10:00 AM. This meaning we were screwed because we needed that road to get to the trail head for the Gregory Ridge Trail. Evidently, Ol' Jeb is a bit partial to sleeping in on those days and he is the only one with a key to the gate. I did a quick shuffle through the book and found the Anthony Creek Trail was from the parking lot and that would be something along the lines of a six mile hike with about 1,600 feet in elevation gain.
We got our first hint of what this trail was going to be when we passed the horses sitting in stalls getting ready for another hell adventure with over-weight southerners who don't know how to ride. The trail then quickly started filling up with green horse-apples. This went on for about a single, uneventful mile. After that, it was more interspersed. We wound our way up a wide trail that was a bit soggy until we reached the campsite.
The really cool thing about this campground was that it had a bear cache in it. Basically, you hook up some wires across a couple of tall trees, drop some loops of wife with handles and dull hooks through a pulley system and you have a place to store your food that a bear can't reach. Sherri wanted to see if they could hook me up to the wiring system and haul me up to the top. I am not sure exactly what her motivation for this was.
We decided at the camp the only wildlife we had seen were snails, millipedes (red and yellow), frogs...and horseApples. We figured turning around would really be a let-down. So we consulted the book and forged on hooking up with trail and then another trail. We really only stopped for a single view:
and to swing on some of the kudzu.
Off the trail we got onto the main road and turned back towards the parking lot where we started the hike. Rick and I had the wives believing there was still another seven miles to the truck. They each gagged down a Cliff Bar (personally, I think they are tasty) and complained every step of the way. Luckily, we were meeting the grandparents with the children at the parking lot and they passed us. We got a nice ride back and played for a while at the park.