Day 3 began as it should: waking up rested, awake, uninterested in much more sleep. A little shove and I was up, walking to the cabin kitchen in the mountains. Eggs and sausage from the BBQ found on my bun.
Packing granola bars and bananas and jugs of water, jugs of ice, Ger and I were ready for a day of hiking- well almost ready, just missing one thing: shoes. The need for hiking shoes a reason to travel into town first, but the carnival atmosphere was not what I was ready for that early in the morning, especially when I had already psyched myself up to climb a mountain. Space and quiet was what I had a hankering for. Instead I found myself in the middle of what Ontarians can only equate with as the Niagara Falls strip chaos- a long road of loud restaurants with animals carved into the side, Dracula themed haunted houses, and mini-golf courses dressed up with animated dinosaurs. Please just get to me to the shoes.
After the Merrels were bought and put on we took the long road to Cades Cove through the mountains. The twisted roads reminding me why I like to drive. Pushing the car around the corners and laughing at how fast the locals made me go, trapping me from in front and behind. Only one lane – get on it, get with it, stay at it if you can.
Abram Falls, our first trail. Poor Ger forgetting socks, his new Merrels bleeding out instead of just being broken in. Climbing over rocks with the others. Under the trees a band, a family, was playing southern songs by heart. A woman nearing my grandmother’s age leading the way. The voices connecting and splitting, mirroring the guitars. The slide guitar held up in the wind. Ger’s popped blisters finding a place to rest in the grass.
And then the bear. Yes, a bear. A little black mother bear eating munchies by the roadside uninterested in the folks parked, snapping shots so very interested in her. The cubs in the tree base on its side not too far. 2 black ears only just visible on the other side of the camera lens. We stood there long enough for reality to warp. We stood there just long enough to be convinced she wouldn’t hurt us if she felt the need, that she wouldn’t hit us, punch us if provoked. Wouldn’t it be great to hug her? I caught myself thinking. No wonder idiots like me get hurt by these beauties from time to time. We’re just dumb enough to think she would want to be friends.
It was almost dark by the time she wandered back to her cubs and we made our way back to the car. Another grill and hot tub waiting for us back at the cabin, a cold shower and moisturizer for my burnt shoulders, hydrogen peroxide and band-aids for Ger’s feet. A sleep to get us ready for another climb, more vertical this time, on the agenda for us tomorrow.