It’s Saturday morning and I manage to sleep until 6AM–woo hoo! We are leaving for Great Smoky Mountain National Park today and we have no plan and haven’t started to pack. First, we decide we will camp, but not backpack. This tells us what we will need. Next, we decide we will enter the park from the South side, which tells us how we will get there. Next, we head for the storage room and start digging out our gear. Most of our camping gear is neatly packed into our two backpacks, but my sleeping bag and the camp stove are missing. Back in the storage room, we dig up my sleeping bag, stored full and puffy in it’s large storage bag so that it doesn’t lose loft. I love my sleeping bag. It’s a Western Mountaineering down, water resistant bag that weighs next to nothing but manages to keep me warm in sub-freezing temperatures. I toss the big bag in the air a few times just to appreciate how light it is. We find the camp stove (well, it’s really a super-light single burner that screws directly onto a small propane tank) in a plastic storage container that also has bug spray, an extra flashlight, wet wipes (a must for camping), and two super-absorbent, fast-drying camp towels. We collect our booty and return down the hall to our apartment.
All of our gear is spread out on the floor, looking much like an explosion. We sort through what we need for camping in the front-country from what we only need for back-country. Having decided not to backpack, we need less stuff but don’t have to worry so much about how much space it occupies. We thought we were going to take our mini-van so that we’d have the option to sleep in the van if the weather turned nasty, but the front brakes were making some nasty noises when we drove the day before (making Pat extremely angry since he’d just had the brakes done a month ago and the dealership had ensured him the front brakes were fine) and we decide we’d better take the BMW. It’s a small car and we don’t want to have to leave anything valuable sitting in the seats, so we debate whether we should roll the sleeping bags into their impossibly small stuff sacks or leave them in their storage bags. Deciding they will fit in their storage bags, we move on to packing clothing. I grab two pairs of hiking pants, a couple of high-tech T-Shirts that will dry fast when wet. Then I choose some bra tops that are comfortable for hiking, my five-fingers trekking shoes, a pair of socks for night time, and the world’s most comfortable underwear, Ex Officio boy-cut briefs. Normally, I would not mention my unmentionables, but these are just so awesome for the active woman that I can’t help but share. I slip on a pair of cropped hiking pants and tank top along with my Chaco Z sandals. I grab my 1-quart zip lock bag of toiletries from my trip to New York and remove the items I won’t need while camping. I stuff it all into a reversible stuff sack that has a nice fuzzy interior that can be turned inside out and stuffed with the perfect aount of clothes to make a nice pillow. Since we’re not worried about weight this trip, I throw in my neck pillow.
Now that my gear and garments are ready to roll, I focus on water. Unfortunately, our faucet is one of those sprayer types that you can’t attach a water filter to. I filter 2 gallons of water through our filter pitcher and fill two large water bladders for our day packs and a gallon jug to take with us. We drink a lot of water when we hike. Since we can’t carry the gallon of water with us, I also prep our backpacking water filter that will allow us to safely refill our bladders from any stream should we run out. I’m a little paranoid about hiking. Maybe not paranoid given my proclivity for hurting myself, but I like to make sure I always have a first aid kit, emergency blankets, and plenty of water. I figure that ensures we can survive any accident for at least 3 days. Even when we are taking short, easy hikes, I like to know that we’re prepared for disaster. Maybe I’ve read too many stories about hikers who died from hypothermia after a minor injury laid them up on the trail, but I want to know that I will be able to stay warm, dry, and hydrated even if we’re only a couple miles from help.
Having gathered together all the necessities save food, we load up the car. Pat decides to take two trips. I wait for him outside, keeping an eye on the car now that I’ve put my backpack containing my camera gear in the front seat. He returns with the last load and we pile in and head out. I am practically bouncing in my seat as we head out of town. While part of me is so tired I want to lay around all weekend, I don’t want to miss the opportunity to spend a long weekend in the Smokies. We talk about what we will do when we get there, since we still have no real plan beyond getting there. Our first goal will be to find a campsite. I’m somewhat worried that with it being a holiday weekend, there won’t be any available. We also stop for gas and stock up on snack food so we can go straight from getting a campsite to going on a hike. It’s taken us so long to get out the door that we won’t get there before 3PM. I don’t want to miss out on a hike just because we don’t have any snacks to take with us (another little paranoid thing I have–unless I’m hiking in a metro park, I want to make sure we have some food on us).
It strikes me as funny that we spent so much time rushing around to get ready, yet we don’t know what we got ready for. I pull out my iPad and start digging through old emails, trying to find the name of a trail a friend recommended to me. Unfortunately, I’m not able to locate it. I figure I’ll have to ask again and we’ll catch it next time. I download an app that is supposed to help with planning a trip to the park, but it has little information about hiking trails. I do searches and try to figure out where we should go when we get there, but in the end, I have to sit back and relax and assume that it will all work out.