This expedition started unlike any other as it didn’t start at all. Delayed one day by Mr. Mike’s stomach flu, we spent what would have been the first afternoon doing homework and reading books. We ended the first day of the would-be expedition by watching the movie Iron Will, a true story about a farm boy who enters a dog sledding competition and wins $10,000.00.
At 9:00 a.m. on Sunday, we boarded the bus and drove to Star Gap Road, and then hiked thee miles to our first camp alongside Kate Branch Creek. That afternoon, we returned to the infamous rappelling wall where most of went over the rocky face. Mr. Mike assured those of us who didn’t, that there would be another chance sometime this year. After returning to camp, I gathered small firewood (twiggies) and placed it in my tent for the next day’s fire.
The wilderness welcomed us with warm weather, and Monday morning I stepped out of my tent at around 6:15 a.m. with no coat on, and started my fire. While cooking breakfast, I made the final preparations for the day’s hike, and broke down my camp. We were all ready to go by 8:00 a.m., even though rally wasn’t until 8:30. As a reward, Mr. Mike moved our wake up time for the next morning to 7:00 a.m.
As we hiked out of camp and began our ascent, we took a small detour to Winnie Knob, where we were told we could see the school, but we didn’t actually see it until we resumed hiking, and reached the logging road. Soon after, we reached Camp Hickory, a camp that I later began calling Camp Spencer, due to a minister who kept popping up to talk to Mr. Dan. The wood around the camp was very dry, so I made sure to have a small fire.
When the third day rolled around, Mr. Mike informed us that we would be staying at Camp Hickory for a second day. During this day we hiked to Bald Knob for a map and compass class, and then did a somewhat disastrous compass hike where over half of our small population failed. After gathering wood and water for the next day, Mr. Mike gave us a brief SMEAC on the easy hike to the next camp.
On day four, I awoke to a massive red sky on the horizon, signaling an end to our fine weather. Paul had banked his fire with a large rotten log which gave him a great bed of coals, but also presented a bit of a problem in terms of putting out his fire in time to leave. Mr. Dan and I did our best to cool down the coals as Paul ran to get more water to help douse the heat. This fun little side event delayed our hike by an hour, but thankfully we arrived at the camp before the rain set in.
After setting up camp, we took a day hike to explore the logging road near where we had camped. Turns out it was a logging road to nowhere, although we did find a great supply of firewood. As we were returning from the hike, it began to drizzle. It was a mad race to get our meals cooked, but we succeeded and the rain poured down in buckets, while I slept dry in my tent on the side of the cliff.
The last day of our five-day expedition began with another red sky, showing the change from rain to sunshine. Mr. Mike taught us Morse code and briefly went over the hike to Ackerson Creek (or was it Atcheson?) Road, before we finally departed at noon down the logging road. Ike, our magic school bus appeared two miles closer that we expected. Although we students rejoiced, Mr. Mike was briefly disappointed that our hike had been cut short.
Thus ends the journey of Expedition Six, an expedition where we saw neither signs nor gates. Only the natural forests of Tennessee and North Carolina.