Duke of the Trail in Cherokee National Forest

The other day was the first day in a relatively long time that Sir Squatch and his Lady (I’ve knighted myself as defender of the forest) were able to get out and go hiking. I say relatively because we are on the Get Out More Tour after all – so when we go more than a week or so without hiking, it starts to feel like a long time.

We were in Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee and were looking for a quiet trail to help recharge our inspiration batteries. Luckily for us, the campground where we were staying had a network of trails that ranged from one to twenty-plus miles. It was like a Choose Your Own Adventure book for hikers.

cherokee national forest lost on trail trail blaze

Trail blaze in Cherokee National Forest

I mapped out a network of trails that would be about a 7 mile hike. So we donned our hiking boots and day packs, and set out from our camp.

Our first trail wound around a tiny mountain lake that had a beach area with kids playing. Kim and I looked at each other and wondered how much solitude we were going to get for the next 7 miles.

But we soldiered on, determined to get away from the crowds. We made our way to Benton Falls first, on the recommendation of the wonderfully nice people at the Forest Service ranger station. And, true to their recommendation, it was a lovely place to stop, but as with many pretty waterfalls, “secluded” would not be included in its description.

cherokee national forest lost on trail benton falls

Benton Falls in Cherokee National Forest

So on we went, deeper into the forest. As we hiked, we talked. Kim and I always have our best talks while hiking. Something about looking at the trial, concentrating on only what is directly in front of you, and breathing in the fresh air brings out our best conversations.

Cherokee national forest lost on trail trail

A trail deep in Cherokee National Forest

We looped around, connecting trail after trail, heading deeper into the forest. I had the map in my pocket, and would give it a quick glance at every trail junction, navigating our way. Eventually we found ourselves on what looked to be an old forest service road.

“I don’t think we’re on the trail anymore.” Kim said to me.

I stubbornly disagreed, saying we were on our longest stretch of trial for the day and we had about two miles before we hit our next trail junction, so just be patient.

A few minutes later, two guys walked past us decked out in camouflage from head to toe and each had a gun slung over a shoulder.

Kim stepped up the pressure on me – insisting she didn’t want to be on a trail with people who were looking for things to shoot. I agreed, but insisted that we just needed to continue down the trail and that putting more distance between us and the gun-toters would be a good thing.

My idea worked until our “trail” dead-ended into a highway. Kim gave me the “I told you so” look as I frantically searched for the trail junction that should have been right under our noses. I pointed to the map and said “see, there should be a turnoff right around here.”

Kim then took the map and said “no, there shouldn’t be – because we are here” as she moved her finger about two inches below where mine was.

Ah, shit, I muttered under my breath. I had taken a wrong turn and taken us a mile and a half in the wrong direction.

Cherokee national forest lost on trail map

Can you tell where I got lost?

I tried to convince Kim that it wasn’t a big deal – we’ll just hike a little further than we planned and neither one of us minds a little extra hiking, right?

The look I got in return let me know that my cavalier attitude towards 1 – getting us lost, and 2 – cracking a joke about it, wasn’t appreciated because now we had to walk back towards the people with guns who were looking to shoot things.

“Why didn’t you listen to me when I said we were on the wrong trail?” Kim asked. I muttered something about being sure we were on the right trail as I continued my fruitless search for a trail junction that would save my navigational pride. Pride goeth before admitting I’m lost.

“Getting shot wasn’t what I had in mind today” Kim informed me. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that my smart-ass response didn’t do me any favors at that point.

So we turned around, headed back towards the hunters. We didn’t see them or at least we didn’t notice them as we walked down the trail – they were wearing camo after all. Even though neither one of us mentioned it, we both argued talked a little louder on our way back to let the hunters know we were there and to help scare off whatever they were hunting (see, arguments can save lives!)

Luckily for us, we made it back without getting any buckshot lodged in our backsides. But now it looks like Sir Squatch is getting demoted to Duke of Sas until he can get his map reading skills back in check.

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Author: Brian

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