We woke up late, cold, and achy this morning. We have two days left until we reach our goal. Our moods don’t match the day. It is our coldest dreariest day to wake to. There is a mist hanging around, and none of us are in a great hurry. Somehow we do manage to dress, eat, and pack up before several of the through hikers we talked to the previous night. We tried to contain our excitement and our groans as we slipped on our packs and headed out.
We had gotten good at donning the packs and doing many things with them on. We were to the point where the packs only came off when they really had to. They were a part of us, and when we walked about without them, we felt floaty. We were so used to the weight that it had an anti-gravity effect on us.
This was the first morning where we actually got to go down first thing. It was a relief. We traveled downward for a couple of miles until we got to the only lake that was on our trail. We had planned on spending time here to swim and relax. We arrived about 10am; a good time for a snack and rest. The girls found a campground for us with large bench like logs to sit upon. The packs came off, and gloves and hats came on. It was too cold down here in the valley. There was no way any of us were going swimming. The girls nearly froze their fingers off getting us our water. We sat and talked a long time.
The lake had large trees that divided the area into secluded camping sites. We could hear our neighbors having a great time – giggling and carrying on. We were quiet, in awe, and peaceful. None of us were in a hurry to leave since we had planned to spend time here. However, the cold got to us about the time the need to move did. We left heading up. The normal trajectory for us.
We climbed out of the valley and ridge walked for awhile. We heard airplanes flying over several times and wondered if it was my husband. He was supposed to be going to my daughter’s this day to meet us at the end of the trip.
There were really no problems this day. We had good trails and enough downs for the ups. At a wide spot where we caught up with the girls, we saw the trail we had hoped to have taken, but couldn’t. There were signs warning of the fire in Eagle Creek. We had dreamed of hiking down Eagle Creek since we started planning this, but a week or two before we set out, it had caught on fire. Here at the fork, we saw great plumes of smoke, the smoke that had been covering the skyline all day.
We continued on. We had a rock crossing that make us question our path, but it was fun being a mountain goat for a few minutes after we watched a seasoned hiker practically run down it. We knew he was seasoned because he told us that he had started at the gorge that morning and he thought we could make it in a day. We had planned one more night out on the trail.
When we finally found the trail leading to the campground for the last night, we were ready to call it a day. We were excited though. It was going to be our last night. We were extremely close to hitting our goal. We stepped off the main trail onto a thin little path that had us scrambling a few feet upward. Immediately it felt like we had entered another place. It was a grove of young trees many of which were down or fallen on others. Walking from here to the campground had us stepping over or maneuvering under 110 thin trunks. Unintentionally, three of us started humming Dueling Banjos. It was eerie.
We went around and about crossing several forks in the trail trying to follow the map. My map said we were headed to a camp site; my cousin’s said it was a hunting camp. Neither matched on the trails or with the signs. But after backtracking a time or two we found the right way into the camp ground. We were elated. The trees were much bigger with huge canopies. There was a large clearing with five or six cleared tent spots, four logs boxed in a large rock fire ring. And to one side were a creek and a green marsh. Immediately, Babyzon found a frog and carried him around for a while. Then we set up our tents and drug out dinner. We wanted to eat while we could still see. It was then we discovered the reason for the big beautiful fire ring. As, we sat down on the logs with our food, water, and stoves, we saw candles on the logs. Looking around, we could see that there were five laid out in a pentagram. And, there in the rocks was a large knife. Babyzon found it and wanted to keep it – that is until she pulled it out of the rocks and discovered the tip missing.
We laughed about the witch camp and had a good time. Then we gathered twigs, bark, and other fuel for the fire. We had our only fire of the trip celebrating the final night. We even brought out my graham cracker instant brownie mix and Camazon’s flask of whiskey and shot glasses. It was a party.
Even with the fun, we went to bed with an eerie feeling about us and slept restlessly.