On Tuesday, I decided to hike up to Alum Cave Bluffs, a relatively good hike - two and a half miles up and then two and a half miles down. The trail changes a lot; it's a streamside hike for about a mile, all rhododendren tunnels and splashing little runs of water. I took my time. It's a pretty popular hike; I saw about 20 other people over the course of it. Mile 1.2 brought me to Arch Rock, which is pretty much truth in advertising, a rock with an arch and a steep staircase through it. At the top of the stairs, the trail changes completely, into a steeper uphill grind through mixed hardwoods and then suddenly it's like being in the Sierras, all evergreen and open and smelling like Christmas. I picked my way along the edge of Peregrine Peak to an open heath bald, where the trees gave way to acres and acres of bay laurel and expansive views. A few more uphill-torture-yards and I was at Alum Cave, which isn't a cave at all but a big overhang but I wasn't complaining because there was also a bench. I ate my sandwich and wrote a little of what you're reading.
The walk back down was verrrrry interesting. I passed a lot of people who were hiking up to the top of Mt LeConte, which is where the only lodge in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is. You can only get to it by hiking up one of three or four trails. Alum Cave Bluffs is the shortest, but also the steepest. Anyway, every single person I passed was an asshole. In that way that hikers who hike more or more seriously than you frequently are. I think it's about the gear, honestly. They have their ten thousand dollar shoes and their outfits made from the golden fleece and, you know, a silkworm in a cage who is going to make the silk for the fabric of their one-ounce tent. It's so irritating. And I think that what really irritates them is that there I am, traipsing down the mountainside in Crocs and like jean cut-offs and a t-shirt that says Delicious in fancy letters. And I lied to every one of them. "Yep! I'm coming from the lodge! All the way! Whew! What a fun walk! Easy peasy!" I think they can't stand the idea that someone got to the same place that they're headed, but did it so ill-prepared. There's a life-lesson in there somewhere, even though I completely lied and never went to the lodge. It's sort of like when Sister Meg won tickets and flights and lodging to Superbowl XXXIX and we learned very quickly not to tell anyone that because there were people who had mortgaged their houses to get there. "Hey, it's not my fault you're stupid." But I didn't want to rub it in.
Anyway, a pretty hike. Difficult on the way up, but I handled it way better than I thought I would. I think I could have gone all the way up. And then I would have given the finger to every single one of those REI-holes.