I've been a backpacker since my Boy Scout days a few years back, and if I only had one activity to choose from, this would be it. I have never regretted a single day in the backcountry. This was to be a moderate-to-strenuous, 20 mile two day excursion to Marks Cove (Campsite #28 in the Park Service computer) on the Middle Prong Trail, Lynn Camp Prong Trail, the Appalachian Trail, and the Greenbrier Ridge Trail. There would be about 3,300 feet elevation gain from the trailhead to the A.T., which runs along the highest ridges of the Appalachian Mountains from Georgia to Maine. Suzanne drove me down a gravel road three miles south of the Great Smoky Mountain Institute, an environmental education center. But this was no dull, boring gravel road... it follows the Middle Prong of the Little River, one of the prettiest mountain streams you could ever hope to visit.
I wasn't sure we would ever get to the end of the road, because My Lovely Bride wanted to enjoy the river views with me before dropping me off. I couldn't blame her; this was an unspoiled paradise, with only one fly fisherman and a couple taking pictures sharing a mile of river with us. I could tell she appreciated this place as much as I...
We were surprised to encounter scores of butterflies, mostly Monarchs and black Swallowtails, along the road. (Yes, we stopped the car again...) It was obviously peak season for these spectacular creatures.
We arrived at the trailhead, where I cinched up my backpack, scratched MLB behind the ears, and gave Rudy and Gretchen farewell kisses (or was it the other way around???) Across the bridge, and turning to wave goodbye, I thought to myself, "Suzanne, thank you for understanding how much I love this..."
I appreciated this rock cairn placed in the stream at a lovely spot near my tent. What a place to meditate. I sat on a log at the water's edge for a half hour or so clearing my mind, then thinking deep thoughts. None come to mind at the moment, but they were very, very deep. (Actually, one just popped to mind... would I see bears tonight?)