I had promised a report on the Rocky Top hike, so I guess I need to get around to doing that pretty soon before I forget some stuff. Well this has been sitting in drafts for a while, so tonight I decided to finish it and post it.
I had planned two routes, one was a really long route (~16.4 miles) and the other was slightly shorter (~12.1 miles). There were 6 of us that went hiking. David R, Charles G, Alex W, Sheridan D, Meredith M, and I. We parked our cars at the Cades Cove picnic area since the trailhead to Anthony Creek is located there. At the trailhead, we ran into some backpackers that had just come down and they warned us about yellow jackets being active on the trail about 2 miles in. We thanked them for that information that would turn out to be pretty useful. After only about 10 minutes on the trail, we had our first wildlife encounter. It was a whitetail deer. Encountering deer on the trail isn’t really all that rare, but it was a sign of other things to come. Shortly (and by shortly, I mean just around the next turn) before we reached the Russell Field Trail junction, it became pretty apparent that we would be having another Team E and Team C issue that could arise. We spit into two groups, David and Charles would go together, and the rest of us would be another group. At each trail intersection we would meet up. I hadn’t expected to see David and Charles again until the intersection of Anthony Creek and Bote Mountain, but yellow jackets would somewhat thwart them a little bit. At about 2 miles from the trailhead, David and Charles were stopped. They had encountered the first of five yellow jacket nests we would encounter that day.
At the Bote Mountain intersection, we agreed to meet back up with David and Charles at the Spence Field shelter. On the way up to Spence Field it started raining on us. I have learned its always best to have a packable rain jacket in your pack for those unexpected rain showers. The forecast for the day had called for rain; being in the mountains further increased the probability that we would be getting wet. Getting wet is indeed what we did. We ate lunch at Spence Field shelter and headed for Rocky Top. About a half mile from the summit, we decided to turn back for many different reasons. Mainly, I knew the view was not going to be impressive at all because of all the clouds. On the way down, Meredith had her first encounter with a bear. This was also at the same place that Alex had stopped to go off the trail to answer nature’s call. I didn’t see the bear, so I didn’t know which direction it went, but with Alex off the trail, I knew we had to get him back onto the trail. We called out to him to make sure he knew that a bear was in the area. This must have scared the bear away, because he wasn’t anywhere to be seen. On the way back down Anthony Creek the yellow jackets were still active, but I think everybody managed to make it without getting stung.