Smoky Mountains Trip 1990

The following is a journal of the days we spent on our trip. Scouts attending were Rick Eppley, John Combs, Matt Barnes, Chris Bartlett, Chris Delaet, Mike Hennie, Ryan Larger, and Brock Mitchell.

Saturday, June 30

We left the Combs' household at 8:10 a.m. amid a joyous and jubilant group of parents. John was pulling the troop trailer with his Bronco II while Rick brought up the rear with his Century. We drove straight to the Tennessee/Kentucky border and stopped for a picture at the "Welcome To Tennessee" sign. Stopping at the Tennessee welcome center, we gobbled down a lunch of cold meat sandwiches, cheese curls, bananas, and fruit drink. It was very hot and we were glad to be in the shade of a picnic shelter. Soon after we got back on the highway, we encountered a twenty minute traffic jam caused by work on a small bridge. We continued onward, stopping only briefly for gas and pop. It was very slow going through Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, but had many interesting sights. We stopped at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) sign for a group picture and then continued on to Elkmont campground. After arriving at the campground, we checked in and proceeded back to the group camping area. As Rick drove around a corner, he collided with a camping trailer, smashing in the side of it. Since Rick's bumper was only slightly scratched and the other driver admitted to being at fault, Rick told the other driver to forget about it. We arrived at our site, finishing our 350 mile journey and set up camp immediately. Our Scoutmaster held an organizational meeting to tell us about the week ahead. Next, we started cooking dinner while it very lightly sprinkled rain. Some of the Scouts saw a deer while looking for firewood. After dinner, Ryan built and nursed a fire. This would become a very common sight. Rick and the other Scouts went down to an open field and played ball. They returned at nightfall and went to the showerless restrooms to wash up before bed. Rick returned to the field to retrieve Chris Delaet's football which was stuck in a tree. By 9:55 p.m. all the Scouts had gone to bed.

Sunday, July 1

Mike, our Senior Patrol Leader and trip Quartermaster was the first one to roll out of bed. He set up the stoves, laid out all the food, and began cooking. Mike made interesting scrambled pancakes while Ryan turned the bacon into blackened slags. After cleanup was finished, we drove to Cades Cove, a campground at the west end of the park. During the drive, we closely watched the creek which ran along side the road for possible future body rafting sites. Upon arriving at Cades Cove, John decided Rick and the Scouts should rent bicycles and take the eleven mile Cades Cove loop. The man who rented us the bicycles was kind enough to tell us that a man had been killed the day before while riding his bike on the Cades Cove loop. With John driving the sag wagon, the group began the trek. Soon after starting, Chris Delaet failed to make a sharp turn on a hill and proceeded to introduce his face to the embankment. Undaunted, he continued on. The loop was a very beautiful trip. The air was full of the smell of pine and the sounds of birds singing and bicycles squeaking. Unfortunately, the air was also very hot and muggy, causing the guys to shed their Scout shirts. Many old buildings, cabins, and churches could be seen from various spots along the road. Several of the hills the group had to ride down were very steep and full of sharp turns. Everyone had to walk their bike down these or be subject to a $50.00 fine from the ranger. The guys completed the loop in an hour and fifteen minutes. They then decided to take the entire loop again, this time by automobile. This enabled them to explore churches, cemeteries, and Cable Mill. Upon finishing the loop, we drove back to camp, changed to swimsuits, and headed for the river. The guys took turns riding Ryan's raft while John sat immersed in the river in his lawn chair. It lightly sprinkled rain, but no one seemed to mind. When we returned to camp, Rick discovered that he had lost his watch. Although we searched several times during our trip, we never found it. We forced down an incredibly delicious dinner of spaghetti and garlic bread. After cleanup was finished, we played one pitch softball in a most unusual playing field - complete with picnic tables, stumps, roads, rocks, and fire rings. After returning to camp, the guys played Frisbee golf while Ryan played in the fire. At 9:00 p.m. we went to the amphitheater for a 45 minute slide show on the GSMNP. We then returned to camp for a little leisure time until lights out.

Monday, July 2

The Scouts were pretty slow getting out of bed. However, the breakfast of cereal, toast, and apples was quickly prepared and eaten. We loaded up and drove to the visitor's center to gather information. Next, we headed to the Roaring Fork motor trail. Shortly after beginning the drive, we encountered several vehicles going the wrong way on the one way road. The occupants of these vehicles claimed a tree was blocking the road ahead. We never encountered any such obstructions on our entire drive. After driving a while on the steep twisting road, we stopped at an old farm house and explored a secluded creek. We spent almost an hour scrambling along the rocks and taking pictures of the area. When we returned to the cars, John realized he had forgotten his sun glasses and thus made a quick dash back. Upon finishing the motor trail, we headed back to camp for a quick lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. We then changed to swimsuits and headed to Pigeon Forge. John and Rick dropped the Scouts off at the Screamin' Demon water slide for a much needed break from the hot temperatures. The Scouts slid on the water slide for three hours while Rick and John showered and shopped for groceries. After leaving the water slide, the Scouts had an hour to spend as they pleased. All the Scouts, except Brock, rode the go carts and bumper boats. Brock chose to take a 60 second helicopter ride. While passing through an arcade, Mike dropped a quarter in a token slot machine and won 25 tokens. Of course Mike could not leave with his pockets full of tokens, so he plugged them back into the arcade games. We then returned to camp and ate dinner. After cleanup, we all played a game of Frisbee pickle. Mike then held a short informational meeting and also announced that there would be a tent inspection in the morning. At the end of the meeting, the Scouts immediately began cleaning out their tents and straightening their gear. After everything was ship shape the guys started into various forms of horse play. In the pitch black darkness, Ryan tripped over the base of the propane grill and banged up his legs. This quieted things down quickly and the guys were soon asleep.

Tuesday, July 3

The guys were very slow at getting out of bed. However, the cooks and cleanup crew finished by 9:15 a.m. without adult assistance. Rick inspected the guys tents and found them all to be satisfactory. With a song in our hearts and a sprint in our step, we drove to the trailhead for Laurel Falls. We hiked the 1.3 mile hike while Mike read from a trail guide which told us about various spots along the trail. We soon arrived at the falls and took in its beauty. We scrambled around on the rocks while Rick attempted to get a peopleless picture of the falls. Upon departure, the Scouts decided to follow the stream down to the road and meet Rick and John there. Mike led the group down the stream bed, but was forced to turn back due to group rebellion. The Scouts hiked back the way they had come and met Rick and John at their cars. Returning to camp, we ate lunch and changed to swimsuits. We then headed to the stream for a much needed cooling off. The first area we stopped at provided a great string of rapids. All the Scouts tried their hand at body surfing or walking upstream through the rapids. Next, the Scouts walked upstream to a popular spot which provided for wading, swimming, diving, and waterfall exploring. Finally, it was time to head back to camp. We enjoyed an excellent dinner of sloppy joes, potato sticks, and applesauce. After cleanup was finished, we played Frisbee golf, touch football, and five dollars. The day ended well with a skunk making an eventful visit. We all turned in early in anticipation of our next day's big hike.

Wednesday, July 4

The fourth of July! We arose with a bang and devoured a cold breakfast. We quickly gathered our dirty laundry and showering stuff for our trip to Pigeon Forge after we finished hiking the Appalachian Trail. We left camp at a record breaking 7:50 a.m. and started the drive up into the Smoky Mountains. We left Rick's car at Newfound Gap (the end of our hike), crammed ourselves into the back of John's Bronco, and drove to Clingman's Dome. We soon arrived at the parking lot and hiked the very steep trail to Clingman's Dome. Most of the pine trees we saw along the way were bare due to insect infestation. When we arrived at the dome we climbed up to the top of it and admired the beautiful misty mountains around us. After taking a few pictures, Rick and the Scouts began hiking the Appalachian Trail. The crew started out at 9:52 a.m. under a partly cloudy sky and 82 degree temperatures. With very few exceptions, the trail sloped down hill. Ryan bravely led the Scouts through the trail which was so thick in spots that it could hardly be seen. The crew made a short detour to view a trailside camping spot. At 11:28 a.m., the crew met John at the half way point. Here they ate a delicious trail lunch of cheese and crackers, beef jerky, and gorp. Everyone decided they could finish the trail and resumed the trailed at 12:03 p.m. The trail continued to slope down hill and remained fairly close to the road. Several salamanders were sighted along the way. The crew reached Newfound Gap, the final destination of their hike, at 1:55 p.m. After a few snapshots, we drove to Pigeon Forge to clean our bodies and our clothes. We took turns taking showers at an area campground and doing laundry at Lisa's Wash House. John and Ryan waited for the laundry to finish while the rest of the crew returned to Elkmont to start dinner. Just before dinner was ready, the laundry crew returned and we all sorted through the piles. We then ate a good dinner of tacos, salad, and apple pies. When cleanup was finished, we drove to an open field by the visitor's center and played one pitch softball. Tempers flared and the game was terminated early. The guys started playing five dollars, but tempers continued to flare up. This game ended early and we returned to camp. Most of the guys went on a walk. While walking near the camp's entrance, they encountered an accident where a boy on a bike hit another boy - badly hurting his arm. After the Scouts returned to camp, Mike had an informational meeting which told of coming events. When the meeting adjourned, the Scouts crawled into their tents and talked until lights out.

Thursday, July 5

Everyone was up by 7:00 a.m.! We ate a cold breakfast and then proceeded to tear down camp. The Scouts moved as slow as half dead snails even though getting ready early meant more time in Gatlinburg. We picked up trash in and around our campsite and then headed for town shortly after 9:00 a.m. Our Scoutmaster stopped at the visitor's center and bought National Park and Appalachian Trail patches for everybody. After arriving in Gatlinburg, each Scout was given four dollars for lunch and three hours to shop. The crew broke up into groups of their own choosing and quickly descended on the tourist trap. We returned to the cars at 12:30 p.m. and drove to a T-shirt shop where we bought matching shirts. Returning to camp, we hooked up the troop trailer and said a final goodbye to our campsite. We made a brief gas stop and then began our drive over the Great Smoky Mountains. Rick took five of the Scouts thus reducing the risk of the Bronco overheating while pulling the trailer through the hills. Once we were at the bottom of the mountains, two of the Scouts got back into the Bronco. We drove slowly through the heavy traffic in Cherokee which gave us a good opportunity to see the many sights. We continued on our drive, finally arriving at a KOA campground after over four hours on the road. The Scouts set up camp and then collected firewood for our dinner of pie iron pies. By now all the Scouts were picking at each other, so the Scoutmaster, in his infinite wisdom, let them go cool off in the pool. After a short swim, the guys returned and fixed a magnificent dinner of pizza and strawberry/apple pies. After consuming three and a half loaves of bread, the Scouts returned to the pool for a night time version of five dollars. The crew returned to camp shortly after 10:00 p.m. and soon hit the sack.

Friday, July 6

The Scoutmaster let everyone snooze until 7:45 a.m. We ate a good breakfast of French toast and uncharred bacon. The guys quickly packed their gear, broke camp, and loaded the trailer in anticipation of the rafting trip. We drove to Sunburst Adventures, our rafting outfitters, and arrived there one and a half hours before our trip departure time. We passed the time by playing Frisbee or petting the many dogs that hung around the area. At 11:00 a.m. we watched a slide show on the history of the river and whitewater rafting safety. In eager anticipation, we picked out life jackets and paddles and boarded the bus which would take us to the starting point. The bus ride took about fifteen minutes and provided good views of the section of the river we would be rafting. Since the rafts could only hold six people, Brock and Mike went in a raft with another group. Greg, our river guide, had us paddle around a little and stressed to us how important it was for us to follow his commands quickly and without question. Next, we carried our rafting to the bottom of the spillway and waited our turn to begin the trip. We began our trip by running an easy set of rapids. However, we took on so much water that our guide had to bail out our raft with a large bucket. This would happen many times during our trip. we went through a lot of rapids, each having its own name - double trouble, moon shot, buzz saw, and the ledge. Some of the rapids created waves over five feet high which drenched us as we broke through them. While running one of the rapids backwards, our guide told us to look straight up into the air. We followed his instructions and the whole raft pitched backwards almost on end. This caused John to come flying backward out of his seat, landing on poor Matt who was sitting behind him. There were several opportunities for swimming along the way and most of us took advantage of this. The grand finale rapid was the toughest on the river. However, the Scouts were so busy hanging on that they did not paddle and the guide was unable to properly guide our raft. Fortunately, our raft did not turn over and we only got stuck for a few seconds on a big rock. We then floated over to the take out point and hoisted our raft out of the water. We rode the bus back to Sunburst, took showers, and ate lunch. At 4:00 p.m. we began the first leg of our drive home. Mike studied the AAA campground book for possible overnight campsites. Just before 7:00 p.m. we crossed the Tennessee/Kentucky border. John pointed out that we were a mere four hours from home. Surrendering to hunger pains, we stopped for dinner at a Pizza Hut and discussed the possibilities of driving straight through to Englewood. With everyone in agreement, we began the drive home. We made a short stop so that John could call Terry and have her call the Scout's parents to let them know of our change of plans. After three more hours of driving (or sleeping if you were a Scout), we pulled into Englewood. We filled the vehicles with gas and then drove to the Combs' household, arriving there around 12:30 a.m. As soon as the trailer was unloaded, John presented us with our patches, thus drawing high adventure 1990 to a close.

Special thanks to Scoutmaster John Combs for writting this.

Last revised: April 4, 1999

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