The First Annual Weenie Man Expedition

(Continued from previous page.)

"OK, Bean", Michael said, strapping on his pack. "Where's the trail?"

Trying not to appear lost (I had, after all, provided maps and bragged about my prowess with a compass), I pointed in the same general vicinity of the woods as our boat driver had, and answered semi-confidently, "It's right up there." As luck would have it, it was, and we struggled up the long muddy hill right to the trailhead. Our big hike was off on the right foot, so to speak.

Gary, Michael, and Rob crossing Eagle Creek.
Gary, Michael, and Rob crossing Eagle Creek.

The trail, for the most part, ran right alongside Eagle Creek. The stream was quite beautiful, and we all had fun pointing out spots where we were sure Mr. Trout was lurking (as if we had a clue). As the hike proceeded, Gary and Rob got further and further ahead. Michael got further and further behind (due, in part, to a combination of uncomfortable, jury-rigged pack straps, and a long string of nightly ice cream binges). I attempted to stay in the middle, hoping to not lose sight of anyone.

Eventually, I saw Gary and Rob had stopped to observe something lying on the trail. I hurried to catch up to them. We all stood around taking guesses as to what kind of animal had left behind the large pile of ordure laying in the trail. After a few minutes, Michael caught up with us and joined in our game of "Name That Dung". A yellow jacket, that for several minutes had been enjoying our smelly diversion, flew directly to Michael's leg and, without any provocation, proceeded to sting him. Quite naturally, this amused everyone except Michael.

We hiked on. After three tricky crossings on the icy slick rocks of the cold, swiftly flowing Eagle Creek, we arrived at our campsite at Ekaneetlee Creek. It was a joy to slide out of our heavy packs. We all went about the task of setting up tents - one for Rob and me, and one for Michael and Gary.

Next, we turned to the task of hanging our food out of the reach of bears. This is a necessity up in the Smokies, and is not as simple as it might first sound. Rob, equipped with several miles of rope, rigged up a fine hoist for our food. In the meantime, Gary, who had apparently tired of waiting for completion of our rig, decided to hang his food on a separate line. We all watched as he tied a large rock to a length of rope. He then threw the rock over a branch about 30 feet up in the air. To our horror, the rope snagged on the limb, and the huge rock came hurtling in a perfect arc straight toward Gary's head. With only microseconds to spare, Gary managed to dive out of the way, narrowly averting having his head turned to useless mush.

"Damn, Edwards!", Michael laughed, "I thought we were going to have to toss your dead ass into the creek."

This little episode would be recounted with much glee around many a future late-night campfire.