The Second Annual Weenie Man Expedition

The human mind is a funny thing. You'd think that four reasonably intelligent men would not soon forget the discomfort of squatting on blistered feet on a steep mountain slope, in a cold rain, constipated by days of freeze-dried food consumption.

However, the Weenie Men forgot in no time flat.

The Second Annual Weenie Man Portrait - Fred, Rob, Michael, and Gary (with poking stick at the ready).
The Second Annual Weenie Man Portrait -
Fred, Rob, Michael, and Gary (with poking stick at the ready).

Within a few months of returning from the First Annual Weenie Man Expedition, we were all making plans for a second trip. In the time since our last trip, we had all managed to get into pretty good physical shape. Michael, recently separated and trying to look good for the ladies, had been on an exercise regimen. Rob had been taking long walks almost every day. Gary had been lifting weights and using a ski machine. I had been doing a great deal of hiking, and had even managed to climb Mt. Whitney (at 14,494', the highest mountain in the continental US). The lean and mean Weenie Men decided to tackle a little longer hike up the Hazel Creek trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

On October 4, 1992 we set off for the mountains. As was tradition, I rode with Rob in the stogie-smoking, non-stop truck, and Gary and Michael traveled in the let's-stop-for-breakfast, let's-stop-at-the-tackle-shop, let's-stop-at-the-fruit-stand car. Again, even though Rob and I left Greensboro much later than Gary and Michael, we arrived at the Fontana Dock far enough in advance of our comrades to enjoy a leisurely lunch before their arrival.

"What took you guys so long?" we asked Michael.

"Well," he answered, "I was dying to take a dump, so I was hauling ass up I-40 trying to find a rest stop. Next thing I know I see blue lights in my rear-view mirror. It took the cop forever to write me a ticket. I thought I was going to shit right there in his car. And this asshole," he said, pointing to Gary, "didn't even wake up!"

"I did too wake up." Gary responded. "I saw you sitting up there in the police car and figured there was nothing I could do about it, so I went back to sleep."

Needless to say, this sent Rob and me into a laughing frenzy. It was vintage Gary.

We finally stopped laughing, gathered up our gear, and made our way over to the little park service restroom building near the parking lot. Knowing this would be the last civilized toilet we'd have access to for several days, we all took full advantage of the facilities. We also changed into our rain suits, since the morning drizzle had bloomed into a full-fledged rain storm.

Michael, Rob, and I, decked out in our rain suits and heavy packs, stood in the pouring rain waiting for Gary to get done fiddling with his pack under a dry overhang of the restroom building.

"Come on Gary, let's roll!" Michael called out to Gary.

Gary continued to stand under the dry overhang of the building. He finally answered.

"Hey guys, why don't we get a motel room tonight, and start out early in the morning when the rain has stopped?"

"Motel room!" Michael shouted. "I'm not getting any stinking motel room. I'm ready to fish! Come on!"

Gary continued to stand in the dry protection of the overhang.

"Gary, aren't you going to put on your rain suit?" Rob asked.

"Well, I was in a hurry to pack last night and I forgot to bring it with me." Gary mumbled.

As it turned out, not only had Gary forgotten to bring along his rain suit, he had also failed to pack any of his other gear, including his sleeping bag, in water-proof containers. The balance of the Weenie Men suggested that this was pretty poor planning, given the fact that it rains about 90 inches a year in the Smokies. The Weenie Men also took no pity on Gary's plight, instead opting to proceed with the trip. Gary relented, and followed us in the pouring rain down to the boat dock.

Once at the dock, we paid for a boat ride across Fontana Lake to Hazel Creek, and requested to be picked up 4 days later. We loaded our gear into a rickety old pontoon boat, and set off across Fontana Lake. About ten minutes into the trip, with the shore line barely visible through the pouring rain, the boat began to make strange noises.

Buzz, buzz, buzz, CLUNK! Buzz, buzz, buzz, CLUNK!

With each clunking sound, the boat would jerk, as if it were going to quit for good, stranding us in the middle of the lake. I surveyed the faces of my fellow Weenie Men. They all looked as if they shared my concern over whether or not we would ever make it back to land. Gary had assumed a fetal position in a futile attempt to guard his last few remaining square inches of dry clothing. I looked at my pack, resting in several inches of rainwater on the floor of the boat, and wondered if Gary's motel plan wasn't such a bad idea.