Into the Wilderness

From deep within the dark and silent sanctuary of my nylon tent, from a stormy night in the heart of nature, from the depths of my inner need…I blog.

For the past two days, my brothers (aka “the twins,” aka “Jeff & Joe”) and I have set up a rather luxurious base camp along the shores of Lake Watauga in Northeastern Tennessee. This has not exactly been camping at its most challenging–we have nearby showers and bathrooms, our own picnic table, barbeque pit, covered supply hutch, gravel tent slab for our three, spacious and interconnected tents–our particular site even has a wooden balcony overlooking the lake (which is only about ten feet away). Other than bug bites and torrential rain for the past two nights, we’ve been spoiled. We had pancakes for breakfast this morning, and Jeff made fajitas for dinner tonight.

All this changes tomorrow. We leave our base camp behind in the earliest morning light, and head for the Pond Mountain Wilderness. That’s right…WILDERNESS– uncharted, undevelopped, uninhabited wilderness. It amazes me that such a thing still exists in abundant quantities all accross this nation.

Our itenerary looks something like this: Tomorrow morning, early, we pack our gear and ourselves into two inflatable kayaks and paddle across the lake to the Watauga Dam. Once ashore, we deflate our kayaks, stuff them in our packs, and hop onto the famous Appalachian trail, headed south. This will form the bulk of our journey for the day, as the trail curves gently eastward, and by nightfall we should be at the base of Pond Mountain, the highest peak (over 4,000 ft) in this part of the Appalachians.

There is an AT Shelter (three walls and a roof, if we’re lucky) at the base of the mountain, and we’ll camp there for the night, beginning our ascent the next day. At the top of Pond Mountain, we’ll say good-bye to the Appalachian trail, which continues south down to the Smokey Mountains and Georgia, while we instead blunder due north into the woods using only our compass for a guide. Actually, I exaggerate; there’s supposed to be a mountain bike path somewhere around there. But mostly we’ll follow the compass.

By evening we should reach lake Watauga again, only several miles East of where we began. We’ll camp in the wilderness for one final night, and inflate our kayaks in the morning for a brisk trip back to our beloved base camp.

Oh, one more thing: this part of Tennessee is reputed to have the highest population of black bears anywhere in the world. Somehow, everyone I talk to seems bent on reminding me of this fact. Before we left, a friend of mine did actually give me some encouragement. He said, “Black bears can give chase at speeds up to twice as fast as most humans. But don’t worry. You don’t have to run faster than the bear–just faster than one of your brothers.”

Here’s to exploration, excitement, adventures, and wilderness…see you on the other side!

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