Last summer I bought an old Olympus Pen FT half-frame film camera off of eBay and took it on vacation to St. Petersburg, Florida. We went on a half-day fishing trip aboard the Super Queen with Captain Stan and bagged up a bunch of little grunt fish a even a few puffer fish. Even with 94 people on board there was a lot of fishing action. After a ~45 minute boat ride out to the fishing grounds it was all lines in, and all lines down. As soon as my little circle hooked tipped with squid made it to the ocean floor there was a fish nibbling and soon hooked.
After surviving our first Alaskan winter, my wife and I finally found time for some much needed R&R. We packed our bags this past week and flew down to Saint Petersburg, Florida for a few days of fun in the sun before heading up to Georgia to visit family and friends.
The sky opens up with a light rain as we head out out on the Lost Cove Trail around Fontana Lake. This short stretch of dirt will connect us with the Eagle Creek Trail, which we’ll follow into the remote stretches of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was 90-something degrees when we left the valley surrounding Knoxville, but here’s it’s pleasantly hovering in the mid-70s. I can’t complain.
On its face, a 30-mile hike in three days seems like a piece of cake. Equally divided, that’s only 10 miles daily–but as we’re about to find out, legs of this trip aren’t equal, campsites are sporadic, and there’s 5,000-feet of near-vertical mountain between us and the finish line.
When January gives you a 60-something-degree weekend (and just a week after snow at that!), you don’t ask questions and you go outside. My wife and I didn’t argue. We grabbed pit bull Peaches and set our sights on House Mountain, a pointy bit of hill just eight miles outside of Knoxville that also happens to be the highest point in Knox County, Tennessee, and off we went.
A night’s antics on Bourbon Street was still taking its toll when my wife and I reached Fontainebleau State Park on the north banks of Lake Pontchartrain around noon. Thankfully our hikes — or strolls, rather — through the marsh lands turned out to be easy to navigate and not at all strenuous, even being a bit hungover.
We would have made it into the woods before dark, but instead we stopped at the Tapoco Lodge right over the North Carolina border to see an old friend there cooking pizzas. It was Friday night and we ate sandwiches and drank IPA until sundown, then we made for the Slick Rock Creek trailhead and headed in.
By the time my wife and I made it onto the trail it was nearly pitch black. For a few minutes we could see the fog rising thick off the Little Tennessee River, then nothing but the 40 feet of trail lit by our headlamps. The fog eventually made its way to the trail about 50 feet about the river and visibility dropped even more.
Editor’s Note: Have I been slacking? It doesn’t feel like it. Even though I haven’t posted in nearly two months now, I’ve been busy. You may remember in one of my last posts I laid out our month-long itinerary for a trip across Europe. We made the trip, and as soon as we got back to the states we hit the ground running, officially making the move to Knoxville, Tenn. and starting work in a four-day window. At any rate, expect journal-style entries from our European adventure to start popping up soon, and for now there’s this:
I can’t believe there’s nobody else on this trail. It’s 10 a.m. on a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning in Knoxville, Tenn. and the pooch and I are virtually the only ones out here at Sharp’s Ridge Memorial Park just north of downtown. What’s going on here, Knoxville?
This place is a mountain biker’s paradise. The first thing I see after finding my way onto one of the unmarked trails running the south face of the ridge is a sign for the expert-level mountain bike trail that cuts off to the right. “No foot traffic” it warns, so I go left.
For six years now (roughly since 2009) this gal, Gail, has been making palm roses and selling them on the streets of Savannah, GA. Also known as the Savannah Rose, Gail was folding flowers in a park along River Street on a Tuesday morning when my wife and I stopped to take things in and chat a bit.