The Fifth Annual Weenie Man Expedition

(Continued from previous page.)

Sure enough, about 20 yards below us were the footprints left the previous day by our fellow Weenie Men. They were heading down into the gorge toward the river. Rob studied the tracks, then studied rock wall blocking our path.

"No way!" he said between labored breaths. "No way I'm I heading down to the stream. Look at that! I know that mud's thigh-deep. And even if we did make it, look further upstream. There's a wall blocking the way. We'd have to cross the stream over to the right side, then cross again to get to the trail. We'd never make it. No way!"

After studying all of the obstacles pointed out by Rob, I had no choice but to agree with him. No way! Forget about the path the other's had taken. I'd follow Rob.

It wasn't long before I was very pleased with our decision. Rob had an uncanny knack for picking out the route up and across the rock ledge. Only rarely did we encounter dead ends forcing us to back-track. After about a half-hour of working ourselves across the face of the rock, we emerged near the trailhead, and several hundred yards above where we would have come out had we attempted to followed the stream.

"Look!" Rob said, pointing down the steep embankment to a long, muddy skid mark. "Looks like a Weenie Man took a fall right about there."

We had a good chuckle tracing the previous day's footprints leading from the stream up the horribly steep slope to the trailhead. Recorded in the mud of the slope was the history of our brother Weenie Men's falls and rest stops.

After finally reaching the real trail, our progress was, with the exception of two stream crossing, swift and easy, and it didn't take long before we reached camp. We were warned by Gary and Mark not to pitch our tent too close to theirs, for they had inadvertently set theirs up within three feet of a large yellow jacket nest. They had to be particularly careful about stumbling out of their tents at midnight to answer nature's call.

Rob, living up to his title of Rig Master, produced a special, fifth anniversary edition tarp. It was monstrous. It probably covered over 200 square feet. Little did we know at the time just how much we would come to love this tarp over the course of the next several days. I hung the ceremonial Pâté Siorée can from the tarp, in honor of our missing Weenie Man, Michael.

Mark, knowing that Gary and Rob would both be equipped with "evil chairs", was not about to be outdone. He had somehow managed to strap a full-sized lounge chair to his pack and, living up to his Load Master title, had managed to tote it all the way up to the camp. The thing looked quite unnatural sitting there in the middle of the forest.

Gary, Mark, and Rob, each in their Evil Chairs. (Note the only few square feet of dry soil in the Smokies.)
Gary, Mark, and Rob, each in their Evil Chairs. (Note the only few square feet of dry soil in the Smokies.)

I, on the other hand, continued to steadfastly refuse to carry a chair. It just seemed too weenie, even for a Weenie Man. However, I did relent a bit by carrying a small piece of closed-cell foam to cushion whatever stump I might use as a seat.

For the rest of this day, and the following day, we had a great time hiking and fishing. One morning, Mark and I hiked far up Eagle Creek to a place where the creek was split in two by an island. As we were fishing this narrow portion of the stream, Mark called out to me.

"I got one!"