Day 2: Getting to the Park

Trip Start Jun 10, 2012
Trip End Jun 16, 2012

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Where I stayed
Smokemont Campground
What I did
Malaprop's Bookstore Asheville
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of United States  , North Carolina
Monday, June 11, 2012

A quick look at the sky upon rising from my slumber gave me cause for concern about our desire to begin camping that night. The rain was pouring in sheets and the weather report offered little encouragement that it might cease anytime soon. I didn't particularly want to spend the first day of this trip camping in the rain, but the point of this trip was adventure, and changing plans because of some rain was out of the question. Therefore, around noon, we embarked on our journey towards the Park.

To the Smokies

Before getting on I-40 West to officially start the drive, we stopped at Walmart to pick up some Peanut Butter and bread as a generic snack and lunched on Western North Carolina's premium cuisine, Japanese Hibachi. For $5.25 you get a massive plate of chicken, rice, sweet carrots, and shrimp sauce. I'll take this over North Carolina barbeque any day, and not because the barbeque is bad in any way, but simply because the hibachi is that good.

As all drives in Western North Carolina seem to do, our drive provided some really nice mountain views, and we rose and descended over various hills and peaks. Our drive was only interrupted once, when we stopped in Asheville, NC to read at this quaint little bookstore called Malaprops. I'd been there once before on a previous visit to Asheville and couldn't resist the chance to go back and read in there relatively spacious reading room for an hour or so. Their cafe makes a great Vanilla Italian Cream Soda, which Tory and I both enjoyed. 

Around 3PM, we arrived in Cherokee, NC, which is the closely town directly south of the park. We went to the only grocery store in town, a good ol' Food Lion, loaded up on fruit, veggies, and the all important trio of Smores foods: Graham Crackers, Marshmellows, and a 6 pack of Hershey Chocolate bars. Then, we made our way up US 441 and into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The Campsite (and yes, let's make a campfire, it's easy, right?)

Our campsite was quite spacious. It contained a picnic table, fire pit, tent pad, and was conveniently near the bathroom (but far enough away so as not to be annoying or odorous). It hadn't rained in about two hours and was quite sunny, contrary to the weather report we saw earlier in the day. We took advantage of the pause in downpour to quickly set my little 2 person tent and unroll our sleeping pads and sleeping bags. 

Next in the logical progression of First Night Campsite Shenanigans was to set up a campfire. What ensued, instead of sitting by a cracking campfire, was a veritable comedy of errors. I had never actually set up a campfire before, but hell, I saw about 5 other campfires from other people in the campground, so I figured it would be pretty easy. Ha. 

First, it made sense to try and light the wood with BIC lighters. Apparently big slabs of wood don't light that easily. OK then. Next, we ripped up some cardboard to use as faux kindling. BIC lighters work fantastically on cardboard, but sadly, it wasn't enough to make our friends, the Log Quartet, even think about heating up. They were too busy chilling out in the sun, secretly conspiring not to provide warmth to us common folk. Fine. But I had one more trick up my sleeve.

In my bag of camping tricks, there was one bottle of flammable liquid, some Rubbing Alcohol. After a half hour of trying to light this fire, it was time to give a bad idea a try. Surely logs coated in flammable liquid will stay lighted!

15 minutes later and half a bottle of Rubbing Alcohol later, we sat next to 4 barely burned logs, smoking ever so slightly to add insult to injury.

I maintain the wood was wet and wouldn't have lit anyway. That can obviously be the only explanation...

One hour later and a sizable chunk eaten out of my ego, we elected to use my camping stove to boil some water and eat a yummy freeze dried meal. Queue the rain. As we didn't particularly feel like getting soaked, dinner consisted of peanut butter sandwiches and Ruffles chips. It was quite a tasty consolation. Take that Freeze Dried Cheesy Lasagna!

Text Messages and Trees: Mortal Archenemies
At about this time, Tory looked at her phone and a stark realization of fear appeared on her face because THERE WAS NO CELL SERVICE IN THE CAMPGROUND! For a 17 year old with a boyfriend, there clearly is nothing worse. We took this as an opportunity to visit the Dairy Queen in Cherokee so I could get my ice cream fix and to see if service existed in town. To Tory's utter delight, it did. So we ate ice cream and sent texts for a half hour or so. After that, it was around 10PM, and we went back to the campsite, read a bit, and got to bed early in anticipation of the first hike of the trip: Clingman's Dome and Andrew's Bald.
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