Switchback Creek Campground
Day 38 (5/18/19)
Miles – 20.7
Total miles – 452.7
We were on the road back to the trail by 7:20 and off hiking around Watauga Lake by 7:40. We continued around the lake for about 3 miles before we came to the dam. The lake had many fingers and inlets to walk around. A morning fog shrouded the lake to add to the beauty of it. Fisherman in their boats floated along the shore as we hiked around. We passed a shelter however there is no overnight camping at it because of bear activity due to all the fisherman that clean their caught fish in the lake. The remains that are discarded are a bear favorite. Once we crossed the eastern dam, we started a long but easy up. The rest of the day we walked atop a ridge that ran straight northeast. The hiking was easy and we moved along at a good pace. Once the fog burned off, the sky was a clear blue with no clouds to be seen. It was one of the warmest days of our trip and a bit humid, but nothing like what it will be in the coming summer months. We stopped for a break at a small outcropping of rocks overlooking the lake. We stayed longer than normal for a break, about 40 minutes. Because it is Saturday and the busiest day for Trail Days, our hiking for the day was uncommonly quiet. The trail was void of human activity. We enjoyed it this way. On our CDT hike, rarely did we come across another hiker on the trail, except for Colorado. The AT is the complete opposite. That is why it is referred to as a social trail. Today we only saw Legs and Marathon and a large group of high school students and their chaperones. We stopped and talked to them a while. As the day wore on, clouds built to the South.
There is a lot of ground cover and everything is still wet from the rain a few days ago. Poison Ivy is everywhere. We all have walked through some of it at one time or another. Luckily, Mama Raven, is the only one that has gotten a itchy rashes. Another annoying plant that grows profusely here is stinging nettle. We have come across it occasionally on the other two trails, often times not realizing we were walking through it until instantly feeling our legs sting and looking down at all the small welts covering our lower extremities. Out here it is too common, completely covering large areas of land. Given all the ground cover, it is sometimes hard to find a place to sit for a break. Logs work best. However there is usually never enough for all of us, thus somebody has to sit on the ground. This is something we try to avoid because of ticks. While we were eating a snack on a few logs, we picked up a small piece of decayed log and squeezed it. Water came out. Everything is very wet and does not dry fast in this climate. We reached TN 91 around 6:00. A bit later than we wanted, but not too bad.
Gusty and Odometer were in the parking lot waiting for us. Legs and Marathon were also there. We took a short break and then piled into the van and drove to a camp ground for the night. Legs and Marathon continued up the trail. During the late afternoon, the clouds had built up into large thunder heads. As we ate dinner, thunder rumbled to the west and north. We sat and talked as we ate a dinner of hot dogs that Gutsy and Odometer brought. At one point Bling asked when will we get to see fireflies? Coming from the west coast, we know nothing about the bugs other than they show up often times in Disney movies. We have yet to see any and Odometer and Gutsy suggested that they probably will come out when the temperatures increase a bit. That was the end of that conservation. At dusk we all crawled into our tents and settled down for the night. We left the doors open to watch the flashes of lightening off too the west as the distant skies gently rumbled. All of a sudden Mama Raven excitedly exclaimed she saw a flash of light in the field, and then another. Whisper said she saw the same thing. Mama Raven was sure it was a firefly. Bling and Papa Raven said it wasn’t. We watched intensely as we started to see many flashes in the trees. They were fireflies! We all became very excited. Mama Raven had seen fireflies when she was three years old, but the rest of us has never seen them. We all got out of the tents and walked about the field looking at them. All the trees sillouted around us in the dark night were twinkling bright. Some would appear next to us as we walked around. It was a beautiful light display of a sparkling wonder!