Balls! This word, although a tad bit on the rough side, is best used to describe our relentless and unstoppable ascent of Mt. LeConte ( in the Smoky Mountains. We were so consumed with the idea of backcountry camping. To be clear here, the term ‘backcountry camping’ delineates the concept of roughing it out. In National Parks, there two methods to camping- one is the quintessential campground with all of the amenities provided, or there is backcountry- where it is free for all. You have to hike miles and miles and camp wherever the group sees fit, whether it be a quaint clearing or on a 20 degree slope.
With both our eyes on Mt. LeConte and unquenchable thirst for backcountry camping- adventure comes gliding along. Instead of taking a standard day hike to the summit, we decided to take a long and circuitous route to the summit. We all packed for a night out in the wild, ensuring that we brought all supplies necessary such as tent, food & water, and of course books. (We debated heartily over the matter about bringing a toilet paper-it was decided quite democratically that using leaves were much more naturalistically heroic) The beginning stages of our hike went glidingly, stopping ourselves to dip into the icy waters of a waterfall, and then pushed onwards up. As we climbed, the sun went deeper on us. It was time for us to make camp; however, there were absolutely no adequate camping grounds anywhere near to us as the terrain was very steep. Scott and Bobby sat down on a monstrous log and their faces showed failure. Digging deep inside down, I felt a surge of Lewis and Clark inspiration and decided to explore off trail for a place. Presto! There was one, just 50 feet of the trail. Scott and Bobby were surprised that there were such a place, clapped on my back in an awe-struck way. (The proudest moment of my life right there) However, what we didn’t know…hilarity followed us into the deep woods.
We were sound asleep. It was really dark, so dark that you couldn’t see your hand in front of you. Bobby’s bladder decreed to call its master’s attention. On all counts, it was persistent with its mission, nagging and prodding. Bob finally gave in and got out of the 67 dollar tent to take a lovely 3 am piss. As he emptied his apparently insistent but not so large bladder, he suddenly heard someone shout “HO!” He didn’t want to address the phantom voice because 1) we were camping in a place that was outside the boundaries of the backcountry areas permitted by Park authorities. 2) it was (expletive) 3 A.M. in backcountry Tennessee! He quickly scampered into the warmth of the tent and his companions. However, the “HO’s” didn’t stop. “HO!” called the apparition, a bit louder than the earlier one. Bob didn’t know what to do, as he quickly got into his 30 degree sleeping bag, a third “HO!” was sounded. Three HO’s followed again in rapid succession with the last one being exceptionally loud. Bob was so sure that the caller was in the front of the tent, his poor heart thumped about wildly as his eyes pored over his two companions who were soundly asleep and deaf to Bob’s 3 A.M. fiasco. Suddenly all was quiet on the western front. Needless to say, it took Bob awhile to fall back into stupor consciousness. As he related his 3 am pee session and the “HO!” affair, Scott and I found it to be of surpassing comedy value. When we hiked up to Mt. LeConte, I couldn’t resist the temptation to yell “HO!” six times. Which spurred the ever feisty Bob to hurl a sizable wood stick directly at Kevin. Hilarity ensues.
In all seriousness, the hike was a great one, 13.7 miles in total. A good practice, one would say, before the mighty peaks of the West- however, mountains like Mt. LeConte serves as a reminder of how every mountain has its own charm, uniqueness that sets itself apart from other mountains. As you can see, the views on top are spectacular.