Day 2: (Hazel Creek & Forney Creek loop)
Plan: “Descend 9.5 miles to the secluded shores of Fontana Lake.” Plus the 2+ miles we needed to make up from Day 1 to get back to our previously scheduled program :-).
We woke up to a beautiful morning after a somewhat uneasy night’s rest. The first night in a new place is always difficult for me, but add to that that we never found our campsite and had instead camped on an old road in the middle of Moonshine country- it will make you jump at the shadows. Thankfully, nothing happened; it was just in our heads. Soon enough birds chirping and beams of sunlight peeking through the trees lifted our spirits.
We made ourselves cold bagels with almond butter for breakfast before packing up camp and hitting the trail. Our goal for the day was to figure out where the heck we were and hopefully catch up to our itinerary.
After obligatory photos with the slippy log bridge, we followed the old service road in what I felt was south/southwest.
We came to one significant fork about 30 minutes after leaving our camp, and we opted to stay left on the drivable road, which was still running parallelish to the water. Since we were on the Hazel Creek trail, we figured our best bet was to stay close to the creek which we presumed was named Hazel. Bill and I both commented about how that intersection probably would have been our camp last night if we had kept moving, since we STILL hadn’t passed site 82. Another 30- 45 minutes or so after that intersection we spotted a small post with the number 82 on it, and just beyond it, a big open area, some fire rings, and bear bag rigs. OH, so this is where we were supposed to camp.
Seeing camp gave me some relief- we were on the right path. But man, we were moving slow. Thankfully, the trail for today was much easier than yesterday. It was a gradual decline, most of it on this wide service road. Some of the trail was solid earth, while other parts of it were fist sized stones. We encountered a number of creek crossings and kept the chatter going to avoid encounters with bears. We seemed to be making good time, and stopped for lunch at site 83 or 84 (I can’t remember which one). I thought the campsite was really nice for being in the middle of nowhere. We sat on a picnic bench by the fire pit and got a little sun. I watched the butterflies flock to the ash in the fire pit- there were blue ones, yellow ones, and even some that had white undersides but purple wings. They’re beautiful creatures.
We heard a roll of thunder off in the distance and saw a dark cloud coming in, so we packed up and got back on the trail. We encountered some rain, but nothing as bad as yesterday. It was warm out, and I was hiking in just a sports bra and shorts, but when the rain came I threw on my rain jacket for a little extra protection.
As we continued down the trail, we passed site 85, and I knew at that point we’d make it to our planned camp 86 for the night, since we only had 4.5 miles left to go. At this point, our out-of-shapeness was getting to us. Our bodies ached. Feet, calves, quads, shoulders…you name it, it was angry. We came across a little bridge and we decided to stop and do one of my favorite yoga poses: legs up the wall. That would hopefully give our legs the break they needed and get some fresh blood circulating.
As we sat and watched the clouds blow by in the bright blue sky and listened to the gentle rush of the water below us, I smiled. What a beautiful world we live in. How blessed am I, that I get to spend this moment right here, right now with my best friend?
After our short break, we kept moving down the trail. My feet were really bothering me at this point. I love my Lunas, but feeling every single rock on the bottom of my foot was really painful. I could not WAIT to get to camp to sit and take them off.
Soon, we came across another more substantial bridge, and shortly after we spotted an abandoned building. I read in the hike narrative that our campsite would be near what used to be an old town. We must be getting close! It started to drizzle as we spotted another house, bridge, and sign indicating that we were just .2 miles from the campsite. Hooray! We were back on track!
The rain stopped as we arrived at camp, where we immediately spotted several large, multi-person tents and a whole bunch of tables and other materials that you’d need to prep a camping trip for a group. However, there was no sign of people near all this equipment. We spotted one other camp site a little further back, this one had a few people, but we decided to give them their space and head back towards the fire pit. These were the first human beings we’d seen since we left the Appalachian trail 17 miles ago.
Once we decided on a camp site, I plopped down and took off my Lunas while Bill set up the tent. We wanted to get our shelter set up quickly, in case it decided to rain again. My feet were screaming at me, so after my break, I put on my Vivos to gather some fuel for our Solo Stove. Again, despite the rain and wetness everywhere, we were able to find enough dry material to boil water for our meal. We made what was probably our favorite meal of the trip: Fantastic Foods dried refried beans, and a Knorr fiesta side of Mexican rice. We also had some tostada shells we had brought that, though a little stale now, were a nice little crunch. It made PLENTY of food for the two of us.
Though there was still some light in the sky, I was ready for bed. My legs and feet were throbbing after the beating I had given them in the past two days. I lay down on my mat, thankful we were back on track, and hopeful for a solid night’s rest.