Friday, August 1, 2008

Linville Gorge Adventures, Part I

Part of my decision to move to “the south” was to take full advantage of the beautiful weather and scenery by incorporating more outdoor activities in my life. These activities were rather prohibited while I lived in OH due to weather, work and personal issues. One of the things I used to enjoy the most was hiking. Hiking in my definition was driving to a state park (usually in OH, PA, or MI), hiking a multitude of fairly moderate trails, and then returning home exhausted at the end of the day. Since hiking is bountiful here, I have taken up this hobby again, and also in part to having friends who enjoy the same past time. To add to my hiking adventures I have incorporated camping to the mix. I have never camped outside before, but again having friends and the boyfriend who are pros at it, makes it much easier to partake (b/c they have all the gear and know what to take, what to do, etc).

This past weekend I went on my second “car camping” trip. Myself, the boyfriend (S), the labmate (E), and another friend (J) all drove up to Linville Gorge near Ashville for a weekend of hiking, beer drinking, and being one with nature. We left work a little early on Friday afternoon so we could arrive there in time to find a decent camp site, and set up the tents before it got dark. The first night we were there we were visited by the Parks only two Park Rangers. They just wanted to check up on us and then reprimanded for not having a camp fire (it was too late and we were feasting on fried chicken by the latern- we were saving the fire for later).

We were up with the sunrise on Saturday morn to be greeted by rain, despite the fact the weather report predicted only a 20% chance of precipitation. We set up the tarps and hung out until the rain dissipated and the sun returned (the great part of NC, it rains briefly, stops, and the sun comes out).

We headed out to our first trail, Pine Gap, one of the “easiest” trails. It was beautifully lush, with many tiny frogs, butterflies and all kinds of plants. However, it was rocky, slippery and very single-track. On our way down we came upon another hiker, Peter. He had taken a stumble attempting to get back onto the trail after getting lost. He was lumbering, by himself, with a pack equipped for a three nights stay down by the river. We talked to him with a bit, making sure he was alright. He claimed he was OK going back to his car. We felt a little uneasy leaving him there but he assured us he was fine. E loaned him her trekking poles to help him along the way, and we continued on the trail telling Peter that we would be back this way in case he did indeed need some assistance.

We made our way to the river, trekked around, and enjoyed the time down there. Finally we decided to head back to grab another trail that had a junction with Pine Gap and continue that way. Unfortunately (or fortunately) the maps aren’t the greatest and the trails aren’t clear paths, so we were confused. It was decided to play it say and just head back to the car, find the beginning of the trail head we wanted rather than getting lost in the thick of the “jungle.” On our way back we ran into Peter again (this was almost 2 h after we first ran into him and he hadn’t made much progress). It was clear from this second meeting that he was not OK. We decided a head of time E and J would trek back to the car, go to the info center and call for help. S and I would stay behind, I would carry his gear and S would help him walk along the trail. As we were with him, he retold us how he lost the trail, found it again, but decided to take a short cut to get back on track. Well, the short cut wasn’t the safest of routes especially b/c of the recent rain and he slipped, falling down the face of the mountain, until he was stopped by a large fallen tree, right on his hip, a branch narrowly missing his face. He struggled back somehow, where we ran into him. He looked in visible pain, but refused to sit and wait for help so we continued to walk with him. The trail was difficult his left leg was injured or something and having to lift it even slightly was excruciating for him. We figured if he had broken something there would be no way he could walk, so perhaps it was something minor-we hoped. We had small talk along the way until J came back maybe 30-45 min later letting us know help was on its way. EMS was finishing helping another hiker with a dislocated shoulder and should be here soon. Only then would Peter finally stop and wait.

To be continued...