In early November, 2015 Scamper went with a dozen or more ladies of a variety of shapes and gaits to hike in North Georgia. She had such a great time that I was not surprised when she suggested we hike the same trail. We have hiked together before. And we had such great plans for hiking that we bought the book “Hiking Trails in North Georgia”, the pair of hiking boots she no longer owns, and my well-worn pair that became work boots. We hiked portions of the Pine Mountain Trail in Roosevelt Start Park and we ventured into Tallulah Falls – before Beagles Bud & Miller joined our household. Then for almost nine years we didn’t hike at all. But, since the Beagles have grown accustomed to managing the home-site during out daily absences, we were determined to resume hiking. On the day after Thanksgiving we drove 100 miles to Amicalola Falls State Park.
There we began a 5-mile hike into the Chattahoochee National Forest in the direction of Len Foote Hike Inn. All was not the same as the days when I patrolled the forest during Ranger school. Let me clarify that statement. The terrain is the same – but my ability to walk the terrain seems to have lost a step or two. Still, our trek was reminiscent of Ranger school routes – up and down seemingly for the sake of going up and down. At the 4.7-mile point, as my legs began to feel the aggregate strain of multiple ridge climbs, I stumbled on a hidden root and chided myself for not eating a Clif Bar for energy. A few moments later I realized that I had blown out the sole of my left boot at the toe. It was pretty obvious that something was amiss as my boot made a plop-flop sound at each step. I figured the blowout was sure to develop into a greater problem as time passed – if only as a mental irritation. I only had to ponder that for a few hundred meters (mixing units of measure) before reaching the turnaround point – The Hike Inn. We had reached the Inn in two hours – well ahead of the 3-hour estimate offered on a wall at the Amicalola office. And lunch was not how I remembered the meals in the Forest. Nope – our lunch consisted of turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce, Pringles, and a sliced apple; not C-rations or LRRP rations.
|View from The Hike Inn|
After a combined lunch and rest break of 30-minutes, we returned to the trail for the 6-mile return route. That route proved to be easier, albeit a mile longer, since we followed the main ridge line and did not cross multiple, perpendicular fingers as we had trekked on the outbound leg. Just short of a mile into the steady, uphill, homeward climb with my boot continuing to plop-flop, we came across a Tupperware container with “Trail Magic!” scrawled on duct tape. That the Tupperware was empty was no big deal since we didn’t need any “Magic” if snacks were in fact was what the container once held. For my needs, the duct tape itself was the Magic! I ripped off a long, narrow strip and used it to tape the toe and sole together. It was a halfhearted attempt since it did not fully wrap around the toe and was likely to be worn off within the next 100-meters.
Surprisingly, the fix held up for another five miles which let me wander into crannies of my brain long out of use – no, it did go to the depths of thermodynamics or the heights of Hannibal-over-the-Alps, but it did wander. It stopped wandering when I heard a little voice. It was a little voice like those I used to hear in the same woods during Ranger School – like children talking and laughing. Knowing that my hearing has faded in recent years, I figured it could be something else. Not seeing anything ahead, I turned to look for Scamper who usually was 20 or so meters behind me. Twenty meters would be a tactically sound distance – depending upon the threat. But there was neither a threat present, nor was there a Scamper.
That is when I heard the voice again – calling me in softly. No, not that kind of softly! I retraced my steps along the well-marked trail and eventually came upon her kneeling as if examining a new variety of moss or fern with her hands still grasping the walking poles (ski poles without baskets) that she had purchased for the previous hike with her lady pals. The poles apparently had done nothing to prevent a fall – and in my mind probably served to trip her. But that was my opinion – she claimed it was the tree root under her. Possible. Quite possible. After handing her poles to me, she pulled her day-pack off her back to get a water bottle and a towel so that she could wipe the blood off her then swelling upper lip. Fortunately she did no further damage to her teeth – she had cracked one the day before Thanksgiving. Nor had she damaged her new hip – or her old hip for that matter.
That would have been a nice annex to my list of Ranger School-Chattahoochee Forest adventure stories. Scamper cleaned up nicely so that other hikers would not suspect that I had attempted to off her like some unsavory characters have done with their Brides in recent years. Her next two sudden descents were not as serious, but they were noteworthy for utterances made. Methinks the utterances were not made during the falls or because of the falls – they were made after her fall and because I noted her falls. (If no one sees Scamper fall, does she make such utterances?) Said injury stoppages did contribute to a slower return pace but not to any significant degree.
Without additional fanfare we made the 6-mile trek back to the start point in 2.3 hours. Along the way we enjoyed petting a 98-year old whippet, several golden retrievers, and a pair of sheepdogs (wearing survival pouches), all who we asked to be allowed to greet us. We also encountered several laughing children – it was reassuring to see that they weren’t figments of my Ranger School imagination.
While I did have a Camelbak filled with tap water – it tasted so much of BPA/PET that I could neither drink it nor give it away to a hiker who had inquired of us about the location of the nearest spring so he could fill his water pouch. By his own admission his water was slightly muddy (a strange fact in any event). Next time I will fill my pouch with Gatorade and carry spare Gatorade packets and a water purifier for strangers. Yes, I kept a whistle, a compass, and a map handy – and a fully charged iPhone! And while I am thinking about it, I might stash 1-ounce Scotch bottles in a pouch to use as mile markers!
We had a grand hike together and I had a grand time with my memories – old and new.