Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Journal of the Smokies: Forever Cold and Tired

So you maaay not have heard the news that I'm completely in love with my new camera. The trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was a perfect opportunity to try out landscape shots, and I also had hoped for some killer wildlife shots (er...that is, great shots..not maneating wildlife). Although the wildlife photography didn't pan out for the most part I was able to get some practice with landscapes and flora in bloom. However, a trip to a National Park in spring wouldn't be complete with other nature activities; namely, camping.

We knew a rainy cold front was on it's way, but we were determined to spend the night outside at Elkmont Campground in the park. Elkmont is situated beautifully, and the prime location gives away it's former life as a resort location. Although it's built for standard car-camping the sites are set along a river, with with just enough space between sites that gives a comfortable enough illusion of privacy. We had picked two sites along the river, and, after dinner, started setting up for the night.

My photography mentor told me that the next river I encounter, I need to bring my tripod and set for a long exposure. Apparently that is the way to capture water. Anyway, this is the river we camped next to.
After some site-set up missteps, a few beers, and the very late arrival of our noisy neighbors, we finally were ready to get tucked in to bed. Or at least, I was. And I was prepared this time; lows in the upper 30s? I'm not going to be cold this time. It's no secret that I do not do cold camping well at all, Grand Canyon experience definitely being the only time I actually feared I would die if I fell asleep. No, this time I would be the victor. I had a pair of warm baselayers, my winter running tights, winter running longsleeve shirt (with extra wicking power), a jacket, and a sweatshirt, and two pairs of socks. I also had my thermarest mattress and fluffed my down sleeping bag for like 1000 years.

Around 2:00 I woke up freezing. Shaking. Shivering. I was cold. Camping 101: if you wake up cold, and your bladder is full, go to the bathroom because your body expends energy towards not peeing your pants that could instead be used for keeping you warm. However, the conundrum every camper is familiar with comes into play: do I leave my sleeping bag and get even colder, or do I bite the bullet and just go to the bathroom. I'm glad I chose to get up because the stars were beautiful out - thousands of twinkling beacons above me with a raging river beside me and not a cloud in sight. On a warmer night without a rain fly, I could see this being the perfect place for a good's night rest (brother's opinions excluded. I know they were warm, but uncomfortable). Whenever I see a sky full of stars, my soul feels like it's on fire and I feel so big knowing that there's so much out there in the cosmos and in nature and that even for a small blip on the grand scale of time, I am here to witness it.

Able to go back to sleep, I received two more hours or so of sleep before I heard the ominously deep voice of Travis saying, in his own eloquent way, "get up. Rain's coming." 10 minutes later, with the promised rain coming down, we were packed up and on our way. Granted, I thought about mentioning the fact that if we stayed in our tents until the rain stopped probably around mid-morning then we'd be better off, but I knew my brothers would be better drenched and tired than confined and tired. If Andrew and I are going to hike the Appalachian Trail, it may not hurt for us to get used to the rain a bit more since we'll undoubtedly be encountering plenty of it. At 6:00, we were making our way across the park (stopping briefly due to fog) towards Cherokee and Fontana Dam.

1 comment :

  1. Yeah, we probably should have tried hiking in the rain a bit instead of hiding in our car and eating Hardee's biscuits. But I would not have enjoyed sitting in my tent for four hours, especially when it was raining.