Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Day 2 - A day of exploring

Sleeping outdoors wasn't so bad, looking at the stars through the tent roof, listening to the bugs chirp and trying to figure out when did the one chirping bug goes to sleep, listening to the owls in the distance and wishing for a bathroom that was close by at 3AM.

But waking up and sitting outside to eat, when everyone else is asleep, is rather peaceful. And considering I am usually the first one up, I enjoy the time alone, and I knew that it would be a while until the others woke up.

Our day started out like any other day. Cold showers, no coffee, cereal for breakfast and smelling the bacon cook in the camp next to us for those 40 people or so. That was a lot of bacon and it smelled really, really good!

But Chuck and I took off for some coffee and headed to a corner store to look for some more firewood. A small bag of cheap wood cost about $4, and it wouldn't burn very long, that would be a lot of money for a lot of wood. So, on our way back we took the road straight to explore the area some. Along the way, looking for wood for a fire. You can harvest wood as long as it is dead and on the ground. I understand that, they don't want you cutting down the trees that are green, this preserves the woods. We found quite a bit, what I thought would make it through a few days was only enough for 1 good fire. We drove for a while, picked up what we could fine and headed back to camp to make our morning fire. It still was very chilly in the mornings.

Now I know we are in the middle of July, but the weather has been fantastic. Low humidity, cooler temps, some rain on Friday. A fire is definately needed for the nights and the early mornings, that is how cool it was getting.

We found out about Gee Creek Falls when the Ranger came and got some more information about the search and rescue. So, we decided to head out there for a nice walk. Over the river, no lie, drove right through it, and through the woods, we are at the dead end and the beginning of a long walk. What the Ranger failed to tell us was how rocky the trail was and how steep the trail got in some places.

The walk was rough and on any hotter day, this would not be a trip that I would want to be taking. But considering the weather was like it was, why not go for a hike, uphill.

We walked and walked, as to what we were told a mile, turned out to be a lot longer than that. We looked at all kinds of things, plants, bugs, wilderness and water.

We came to a bridge, that crossed over a flowing stream, stopped to take in the view and to take some pictures too.

We got to a point and noticed that the trail went straight up. Now with Chuck's left knee and my right ankle, there was only so much more we could have done. So, we decided it would be best to turn around and head downhill. We know that uphill is hard, but going downhill on those rocks, that was difficult, but it was a great walk and we saw some beautiful water and rocks.

As we headed back to camp, over the river and through the woods back, we searched for more firewood, hey, if it is free, and if you are willing to pick it up, and break it, then it is worthy of being thrown into the fire.

We get back to camp, try to enjoy lunch with all the flies, no mosquitos, but flies galore. Sit back and see what else we wanted to do that day. That is the nice thing about camping, sitting around reading, listening to music, meeting new people, that is all part of it.

And this is when PJ finds a new friend and wants to go to his birthday party. This little boy is as redneck as they come, lives in the backwoods of Polk County and is extremely backwards. Let me fill you in on how redneck this little boy is, they forgot the birthday candles, and his aunt insisted that they use lit cigarettes as candles. Nice, huh?

But PJ wanted to go, they were on the other side, behind us, so I knew where he was at. Kids run all over the place here, ride bikes, go for walks and learn how to hang out with other kids and their families. In the end, they come back to camp, go home and remember a friend they had for a few days. This keeps them busy and most of the time makes them appreciate the family that they do have. Another trip to the river with the partiers and back to camp for a little while.

As I mentioned before, the camp next to us had about 40 people with more coming in just for a few hours. But it got a little irritating when people started to park in our site. The pickup truck is hard enough for me to drive as it is, but manuevering around and SLK MB, yeah, I don't think so! They weren't loud or obnoxious, it was just the fact that there were so many of them. Behind us was about 4 people, relatively quiet, cute little dog, radio playing from the truck. OK, with me, as long as it doesn't go into the night, I don't care. PJ's little friend, Preston, made a comment, "Y'all are lucky, you get some kind of music." I told him that we each have an MP3 player and we have our own music that we like to listen to. He was surprised to hear that we each had one and then he spotted Chuck's iPhone, shook his head. The boys have a cell, I have a BlackJack, the kid thought we were rich.

Preston has 5 sisters and 1 little brother. And PJ was over there a lot and noticed that the dad was there, but no mother. So, PJ asked, "where is your mother?" Preston hesitated some and then came out with this, "Well, I might as well tell ya, she is in Bradley County Jail." Nice, I felt bad for the kid. The tent was a tarp and they were eating out of the side of a utility truck. Puts things in perspective.

I really liked Gee Creek Campsite because of the things to do. A playground, a badminton set, volleyball and place for the kids to ride bikes. The boys took off to play some badminton. Somehow or another I got sucked into playing too, with a camera around my neck. It was Eric against PJ and me, Eric won.

This time dinner was cooked over a campfire. Hotdogs over a campfire, how much better can life get! And after dinner was some exploring that I wanted to do.

Earlier in the day we took the gravel road up to a point and then turned around. I decided that I wanted to go up a bit more. A new area, I want to see all that is around me. This was a very narrow road and I didn't know where I was heading, so I had to pay attention, and not look around like I prefer to do. Miles up from civilization, a few campsites later, I turned around. It was getting late and there was something I wanted to do with PJ, plus I had to go to the bathroom. I took the time to take a few pictures on the way back down.

This was from the bridge that I went over and then turned around to come back down the mountain.
I plan on going up higher next time we go out there, the temperature was about 9 degrees cooler. I passed several people that was parked on the side of the road, either fishing or camping, passed a shooting range too. But I want to see more, and early in the day is so much better, I don't like being someplace in the dark and not know where to go.

I cross over the train tracks, and get stuck behind this . He was stopping everyone coming into this part of the Cherokee National Forest. I guess because it was getting late and didn't want people that didn't know their way around to get up there and get lost. I understand this, but I really had to go to the bathroom and I had to boogie.

While I was waiting, so very patiently, I took this picture.

These flowers were everywhere and I had a chance to take one without the boys asking why I was taking pictures of flowers.

I got back just in time for us to go to the Park's presentation of snakes. Three times a day the park does some kind of activity. Saturday's presentation was Outdoor Survival, Snakes, and some kind of hiking trip. Considering I had done my fair share of hiking, I opted out of that one. But I wanted to see the snakes. So, Chuck, PJ and I headed off to the show. Eric, being your typical teen decided he would rather swing or play on the ladybug than go see a snake show.

The Ranger showed some snakes and talked about them. Found out that in East TN there aren't any poisonous water snakes and only 2 venomous snakes. Copperheads do go in the water, but they don't live there. And the East TN Rattlesnakes. We also learned that snakes are protected and it is illegal to kill a snake. Why? you may ask. Well, I will tell you why. People for the most part are afraid of snakes and when they see them, they tend to kill them. But we need snakes, like the Black Rat snake , to control the rodents. And the corn snake , also to control the rodents. Ok, I understand this, but I don't want to come face to face with any snake.

The Ranger let everyone pet them, Chuck and PJ did , I decided not to. But I did learn how to pet one though. Pet from head to tail. If you pet the other way, it is like someone bending your fingernails backwards, and it opens them up to disease and infection. Interesting, huh?

The night got cool quickly, I was smart enough to pack my flannel pink cloud pjs. Everyone else had shorts and Tshirts and here I am all nice and cozy! But Chuck had a nice fire going and it was great to enjoy it.

Chuck had gone out earlier to find more firewood, this time he came back with a root! Looking for firewood is so much better than paying for it, more exploration for me!

Roasted marshmallows, , finished a good book, trying to talk Chuck into another night. No one was ready to go home just yet.

Bedtime this time was later. Closed the windows this time, but left the canopy off. I wasn't nearly as cold as what I was the night before, still got to star gaze in the middle of the night and listened to the bugs before falling asleep.