I've been here before. Well, really I haven't been...but rather another version of me. But that's another story...or another fucking book. Holy mother of shit that sounds convoluted. Anyway, this is a story of a return to a place which should have killed me. Instead of sending me on into oblivion to Pluto's doorstep, the experience set me onto the path which I find myself peddling right now and the words you yourself find to be reading...funny how these things happen.
So here we are. Back in the Laurel-Snow wilderness. Tuning along the same familiar road. A lot can happen apparently in the span of two years. Hell, not two years even...but close. New car, new camera, new friends, a whole new by God outlook on life. Damn near a new career. All brought about by this place. Still, I'm glad to be back and breathing unbreathed air in the middle of nowhere. I'm here this time as the result of a secondary contingency. I was supposed to be humping it on the Appalachian Trail for four days but as it seems, acts of God have intervened. Or really, the acts of a morbid few who chose to set fires in the GSMNP...and damn them. In any case, plans had to be cancelled due to the wildfires in the East. My thoughts are still with those suffering as I write this nonsense.
We make our way to the trailhead; my embosumed friend and I. The friend being my good buddy Spencer, who has been a fellow Dude to me through more than one danger. Really, he might not even know the last story until now(I don't tell you everything olde Cocker). We hike in after an encounter with a comely park employee who was eager to share well intentioned stories of mine ghosts and mountain lions. No doubt, in the hopes of rattling us at the outset of our hike. Fortunately I have looked into the eyes of mountain lions and together, Spencer and I do not rattle easy. So, we thank the gentleman for his insights and continue to collect our gear for the coming three day abscond into the wild.
The hike in is familiar but not. A kind of deja vu that comes from eating a sandwich from a shit hole burger shack. When I was here last it was colder with an ice storm riding in behind me.
Things just seem different now. In any case, we meander through the switchbacks and overhangs along the river until we find the place where I made camp way back then.
Crossing the still torn down bridge I recall how I thought this might be the end of the line for me. The ice was piling with me searching up and down the river damn near frantic in hopes of a place to cross. I still remember the spot where I knew it was time to put on my ice spikes before attempting to cross.
The entire place feels warm now. Leaves are still hanging with their last breath in the face of winter. There's no snow covering the ground. The breeze feels sweet and there's no need to hurry in making camp so that I don't freeze to death. It was right then when I understood that the poets may...and I do mean fucking may...have been very well right. Time does indeed heal some wounds. Not all...but some. And some is enough for me.
As we venture back from filling our water bottles and set camp I find the tree that I hitched my hammock to during the last round in the Laurel-Snow. It was an odd feeling of return.
That hamburger deja vu I mentioned. I'm glad to be here. Back in the wild. There's another couple days ahead of hiking and lost trails. Of photographs and conversations over pine needle tea. Along with a fair mix of drinking centipedes and lost worry. In anycase, the beginning and return of this story will be infinitely more pleasing than the last time I walked these woods.
And no, I'm not including a direction to the last time I wrote about this place.