*My dad's truck has a thermometer in it, reading the outside temperature. In Knoxville it was 107. In Cosby it was 95. By the time we entered the park and got to our campsite, at 4 pm, it was 82. Hottest it ever was at the campsite (and the Appalachian Trail was much cooler, and night time)
*There was no one at our campground. The ranger said it's mostly locals that camp there, and the heat probably kept them away. I had prepared for hot and noisy and got cool and peaceful. I will probably not luck out like that again. But I will try.
*We took a float/raft trip down the Pigeon River. Our guides were fun and the trip was good. It was hotter on the river than at our campsite. While we were waiting to get on the rafts, a woman and a couple of her daughters were standing on the porch with us, too, accents said locals or nearby. She was doing the hair of a younger girl, maybe 8 or 9, and a 15 year old was standing next to her. Zelda and I were watching as she told the older daughter to turn her face and put her hand down. Both of us thought she was going to whisk away a mosquito off her cheek. No. She slapped her and said, "Don't you ever talk to me like that again." She had her position her face just so...and then hit her. It was time to go stand somewhere else to wait.
*The river wore me out. That sleepy water sunshine drug. I was exhausted after the hike, but I was lethargic after the river. I slept poorly the first night (barred owls having an argument, sounding like monkeys imitating owls). I slept like a rock the second.
*The Primitive Baptist Church made me glad I wasn't a Primitive Baptist from 150 years ago. Look at those benches.
*As we drove through Gatlinburg, Zelda kept announcing things she saw, like wedding chapels and pancake restaurants. The girls in my truck were astonished. "I didn't tell lies about Gatlinburg," I promised them. No hyperbole is necessary. It is a ridiculously crowded commercial strip of craziness.
*But we had ice cream just outside the strip on the way back to camp that day. It was a nice little pause on a hot afternoon.
*Thank goodness for the swimming hole right by our campsite. Girls emerged happier each time.
*That night was a thunderstorm, or rather, a series of thunderstorms. My memories of being in tents during thunderstorms, well, it's going to take a lot to make me comfortable in one. Two tents leaked (mine and Zelda's did not). Two folks spent a long time in the VERY CLEAN bathroom (the cleanest campground bathroom I'd ever seen), two went to the van. Finally the bathroom pair got the key to my dad's truck and slept there. I didn't get any solid sleep until 4. Got up at 6 and hiked 11 miles. Yeah buddy I did.
*I was so worried that everyone else was back at camp crabby, wet, and unhappy, but it wasn't so. They'd gone swimming and on a nature walk and had a low key day. I was glad we split up. I was glad dinner was easy (I had dehydrated lentils at home, just soak, heat, and serve--and salt). I was glad the weather was better.
*My favorite view I don't have a picture of, but I'm hoping someone else got it--along the trails, to cross Cosby Creek, there were logs laid down across the water (a few feet above in some cases) with a slender pole as a handrail. They felt so old and worn and comfortable. That's how the Smokies feel to me. Like a favorite pair of jeans. Nothing hi-tech or newfangled about them. Cozy.
So where to next? It'll probably be Summer 2014. Upper Peninsula? Rockies? Four Corners? South Dakota? It'll be a bigger group of girls and a different adult to girl ratio. Starting to think....