One month and counting…
Exactly one month from today, on June 10th, The Pride will embark on our SB6K journey. In continued preparation for the big adventure, Mama Cat and I drove down to the area to do some scouting last weekend. As we drove from Newfound Gap to the Clingman’s Dome parking lot, the climb became foggier with each mile. In fact, when we reached the parking lot there was a moment when we couldn’t tell if there was any more pavement in front of us to drive. Visibility was ten feet and the wind was easily 50 mph with temperatures in the 40s. We set up our tent in the parking lot and prepared our backpacks for an early departure and a goal of 33-37 miles in order to bag seven to nine peaks (most would require a bushwhack).
Sunday morning, Mama Cat and I got up and had a slow start. We ran up to Mt. Old Black and saw an entrance point for a manway to the summit. This bushwhack took about 45 minutes. Next, we ran back toward Mt. Guyot and had a very tough 1.5 hour bushwhack to the summit. From there, we headed back to the shelter to get our packs and head out to meet Dixie Cat and bag four more peaks. As soon as we headed out from the shelter, we saw Dixie. She was so worried because of how late it was (already 11:45 am). She was sure that she would have seen us before lunchtime and the panic was beginning to set in. Luckily we all found each other. However, the gate was closed to reach Pin Oak Gap (our way out) so Dixie Cat had to run about ten extra miles to reach us. This meant we had twenty miles to go until we reached the car and it was already afternoon. Therefore, we decided to forgo the peaks and hike straight out. Our twenty miles only took us 5.5 hours which was good time considering we had heavy packs. The trails and jeep road were spectacular. The beauty of the Smokies took my mind off of the cold and the rain we had been experiencing for over 30 hours now. It was 5:30 pm when we reached Dixie’s car and 7 pm by the time we reached Clingman’s Dome. Mama Cat and I still had a five to six our drive home. I got home just in time to grab fours hours of sleep and head out for an 8 am class full of freshman.
It was an amazing weekend. We didn’t get as many peaks as we hoped but we did get many more miles than we bargained for. All in all, here is what we accomplished: 1) several miles and hours on our feet for back to back days (25 hours of hiking and almost 60 miles covered); 2) familiarizing ourselves with the area; 3) mentally toughing out some pretty rough weather for multiple days; 4) familiarizing ourselves with the handheld GPS as well as using old-school navigation methods with our compass and maps and 5) getting the three of us cats together and talking out some details, scenarios, and strategies. Truly, this was a successful few days.
Luckily, Dixie Cat said she can probably get out there in the next couple weeks to scout a few of the peaks we couldn’t grab (Mt. Chapman, Mark’s Knob, Mt. Yongasuka, Luftee, and Big Cat).
Submitted by Bohi – May 10, 2009