The Second Annual Weenie Man Expedition

(Continued from previous page.)

Finally, after a very long, uncomfortable ride, Hazel Creek came into view. Our driver nudged the boat up onto the muddy bank. We strapped on our packs and set off on a five-mile hike up the valley toward Sugar Fork.

Michael, after taking a year's worth of ribbing about lagging so far behind on our previous trip, took the lead, setting a blistering pace. He was closely followed by Gary, in a virtual Hazel Creek foot race. Rob and I brought up the rear. Even in the pouring rain, the trail was very scenic. We passed through the site of the old town of Proctor. All that remained of the buildings of the town, abandoned some 60 years prior, was the shell of the old saw mill, and a concrete pump house, once used to pump water into timber holding ponds. You could still make out the shape of the old holding ponds through the undergrowth. Hazel Creek itself was much wider than Eagle Creek, where we had visited the previous year. It was more of a river than a mountain stream. Luckily, there were bridges at each of the stream crossing.

About three-quarters of the way up the trail, we came across the Sawdust campsite, and a small group of guys from Canton, NC. One of the older members of the group hailed down Gary and Michael, saying, "You guys stop and sit down for a spell. Have a cup of coffee. You're making me tired hiking so hard."

The old guy explained that he had been coming up Hazel Creek the same week for the past thirty-two years. He also had one of the Hazel Creek carts I'd read about. These carts are usually two-wheeled, home-brewed contraptions, with a tongue or harness rigged so that they can be pulled by one or two hikers. Because the Hazel Creek trail follows an old road bed, and has bridges at all of the stream crossing, it's ideal for using one of these carts.

This guy's cart was a real work of art. It even had "Hazel Creek Special" emblazoned on its side. It had room to store a massive amount of gear. It folded out into a kitchen, complete with a two-burner stove, and a pantry. The old guy said that he could always manage to trick a couple of young, strong guys to pull it up the trail for him. They had constructed a small city with the gear they had hauled up in the cart. They had tarps covering a huge eating area, a even had a portable toilet. The Rig Man looked in awe at the block and tackle rig they had used to raise their huge Coleman cooler packed with food out of reach of bears.

Warning sign posted at the Weenie Man campsite.
Warning sign posted at the Weenie Man campsite.

"Had any trouble with bears?" Michael asked.

"Naw, but we did have a 'coon try and get at our food. But I don't think he'll be coming back anytime soon", he said with a grin, as he produced a slingshot from his cart.

We thanked the Canton guys for the coffee, iced tea, and cookies they had so graciously offered, strapped on our packs, and set off again for our campsite.

About a half-hour later, we arrived at the confluence of the Sugar Fork stream, and our campsite. We were greeted by a sign the park service had posted stating: "WARNING! Bears Are Active In This Area. DO NOT APPROACH THEM!"

This is not the kind of thing you enjoy viewing after two hours of toting a fifty-pound pack in the pouring rain.

Michael, Fred, and Rob under the marvelous tarp.
Michael, Fred, and Rob under the marvelous tarp.

We all set about the task of setting up camp. Rob, living up to his title of Rig Master, produced a large tarp, and strung it up in the middle of our camp. He received great praise from all the other Weenie Men for his selflessness in carrying this 3-pound misery reliever. Using old bricks and planks we found in the woods, we all pitched in to build an eating area under the tarp. This might be construed as a great show of Weenie Man cooperation. More likely, it was just an excuse for each of us to take a turn standing in the dry comfort of the tarp.

Over the course of the next several days, the weather broke, and all the Weenie Men had a fine time hiking and fishing. The weather was, in fact, so nice that Gary's sleeping bag and clothes even dried out. Gary, however, still managed to remain reasonably damp and uncomfortable, due to his habit of always wading into the stream to a depth of about one inch greater than the length of his waders. Every evening, back at camp, it was always entertaining to watch several quarts of water pour from his waders as he removed them.