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  • I wonder how Bryan and Andrew are doing.

  • I'm doing pretty good actually.

  • Why did I agree to do this?

  • The Smoky Mountains...

  • Right in the heart of the Appalachians, this is the most visited of all national parks.

  • Nearly ten million people come here each year.

  • Hey, doggy.

  • You can fish, camp, ride horses, bike, and enjoy the scenery and nearby tourist traps.

  • But we weren't here to be tourists.

  • We were here to commune with nature.

  • To sit by the fire and sleep beneath the stars.

  • To do that, we'd need to grab some maps; each only a dollar.

  • The Big Creek trailhead has kiosk anyone can access using the honor system.

  • Before heading out on our backpacking trip, we were gonna stay at the Big Creek campgrounds at the foot of the hills.

  • We were ready for our next adventure, but there was just one problem.

  • Campground closed for the season.

  • So since this is closed we might want to go to Cosby Campground which is close enough.

  • I don't know if that's closed either, but...

  • ...if not, we might have to sleep in the car.

  • We drive in the darkness across a precarious mountain road...

  • ...only to find that the Cosby Campground was closed too.

  • There wasn't a soul in sight.

  • We paced back and forth thinking about what we should do.

  • Yeah, my bad. I didn't even check to see if the front country campgrounds, like the developed ones, were closed or not.

  • Cause I figured if the backcountry campgrounds are open, you'd think these would be.

  • See I just thought since you made reservations, and I printed out reservations...

  • ...that one of them must have included the campsite that we were staying at the first night.

  • You give me far too much credit.

  • Okay, well I guess there's no camp to set up, so...

  • At least it's warm.

  • It is...

  • What time is it?

  • 7:41.

  • Oh god...

  • That was the worst sleep I have ever had in my life.

  • By a long shot.

  • One night of sleeping in the car, and you want to kill everyone in sight.

  • I would find a comfortable spot, and then after three seconds it felt like my spinal column was being bent the wrong way.

  • So I'd have to shift and bend it back the other way.

  • I couldn't tell when I was awake or asleep, and you kept thinking we were saying stuff.

  • I thought at some point you said something about Koreans.

  • And like, "Those Koreans." And I was like, what are you talking about, "Those Koreans."

  • It started drizzling in the morning, so we moved beneath an amphitheater to organize our gear.

  • The sky was overcast. Which was a bit intimidating considering what we had planned.

  • On this trip, I would be heading west from the Cosby Campground, while Bryan headed east.

  • Meanwhile, Robby would be hiking out from the Big Creek Trailhead.

  • We'd camp alone for a night, then we would all make our way towards the rendezvous point just beneath Mt. Cammerer.

  • From there, we'd journey together to the Davenport Gap Shelter where we'd spend another night before finally hiking out.

  • Don't be eaten by bears.

  • After we finished packing, it was time for us to split up and head out into the rain.

  • We were nervous, but filled with excitement.

  • As I drove back on the mountain road through the rain, the other two had just arrived at Bryan's trailhead at the far end of Cosby Campground.

  • Now, all three of us were alone.

  • Rain poured down from above and our glasses were fogged up.

  • But no matter what, it was time to get moving.

  • I was surprised at all the greenery I saw this early in the spring.

  • Everything from the hemlocks to the moss...

  • Club mosses like this Fan club moss.

  • And of course, the rhododendrons give this park a vibrant, verdant hue.

  • In the meantime, I had just arrived at the parking lot and made my way towards the trailhead.

  • Here we go.

  • Robby was just starting out, but I had already hiked across streams and through the mud.

  • I've reached kind of an overpass. Here you can see all the mountains in the distance.

  • It's been pretty tough so far. This rain is not making it easy at all.

  • Hopefully the rain will let up a little bit and we'll get a little bit of sun and get to see some of the views.

  • Not far into my hike, I came across an old cemetery.

  • A spooky beginning to an already uneasy ordeal.

  • You might be thinking to yourself...

  • "Man, that would really suck to be hiking out in that rain."

  • There's three reasons why it's not.

  • Reason number one.

  • It is above freezing, which is the first time it's been like that in months.

  • Number two.

  • I bought waterproof boots, so my feet are not soaking wet.

  • And number three, probably the most important, there are no mosquitoes.

  • God, there are no mosquitoes.

  • Tough as the hikes may sometimes be, the Smokies are filled with incredible scenery like this mossy cascade.

  • Well the rain has finally stopped. Thank goodness.

  • Even though it's still early March, there's all this greenery around.

  • All these rhododendrons and moss. Very beautiful.

  • I've been hiking for what feels like a while. It's a bunch of uphill.

  • But I've actually only gone a mile. And I've got about four more to go.

  • Hey, there's a pileated woodpecker.

  • Sorry, no chance I could get that on camera, but...

  • I'm actually hoping the rest of this trail is a lot of uphill because tomorrow I've got an eight mile hike, and...

  • I really want that to just be an easygoing, flat hike along the mountain ridge.

  • In the Smokies, you'll often find amazing rock formations...

  • ...much of which are sedimentary rocks formed of clay, silt, sand, and gravel.

  • And just off the trail, there were some more beautiful sights I wanted to check out.

  • I think I'm about a little over halfway to the first campsite.

  • It's been raining all day, and it's been making filming, and hiking, kind of annoying.

  • Being solo is definitely a different experience.

  • When you're hiking by yourself, you're pretty much just you and your own thoughts.

  • The whole time I was thinking, "Why did I agree to do this?"

  • "Can I hike this far?" and "Is this gonna be worth it?"

  • I've got no one else here to push me but myself. I've kind of already made a commitment, so that kind of keeps me going.

  • I'm gonna be looking forward to getting that campsite though, and...

  • ...getting in that tent, drying off, and getting a good night's sleep tonight.

  • If you've ever seen the movie Princess Mononoke, this is Princess Mononoke in real life.

  • Wow, this is beautiful.

  • I bet if I filtered some of this water and tasted it, it would be unbelievably delicious.

  • Let's head back.

  • I continued hiking up the trail, passing by a river. Which I thought might mean I was getting close to my campsite.

  • While Andrew hiked up through the hills, my trail was a bit more level.

  • I stopped to eat while enjoying the scenery.

  • The river here was wide and beautiful, and nearby there was an incredible waterfall gushing down from the bluffs.

  • Well I don't know if you can see it here, but just ahead is I guess campsite 35.

  • I can see the fire ring and I can see some logs people were sitting on.

  • And I don't see anyone there, so I might have it to myself tonight.

  • But let's keep moving and check it out.

  • Well, I got here kind of early I guess, but now's as good as any time to set up camp while it's still dry.

  • So let's get to it.

  • It's still just me here. But it's still pretty early. I got here pretty quickly.

  • I think what I'm gonna do is take a little bit of a break. Maybe we'll see if anyone shows up later in the day.

  • Alright. First night solo, here we go, right?

  • It was only noon, and Bryan had already reached his campsite.

  • Me, on the other hand? Well, I had a lot of hiking left.

  • I again passed by some incredible mossy growth. Indicative of the temperate rain forest conditions found in some areas of the park.

  • With how little progress I made, and how tired I was, I felt as slow as this snail.

  • Oh my goodness, this has been quite a tough hike, and I think I'm only halfway there.

  • But I am just gonna take a lunch break, because man, I am hungry.

  • I really am unsure if I'm going to be able to start a fire.

  • And I completely... oh, that ripped.

  • I completely forgot my alcohol stove, so uh...

  • I'll have a lot of raw ramen to eat.

  • The sun is like finally coming out a little bit, and I just cannot tell you how much of a moral boost that is...

  • Morale boost rather.

  • To just be this high up... Mountains with the clouds rolling by...

  • Oh man, it is...

  • It is just elation.

  • I of course have here my world's famous kim chi.

  • Oh yeah!

  • I was really anxious about a solo hike, because last time I got really demoralized, but man...

  • This is like seventh heaven right now, I cannot even explain. Woo!

  • It was tough, and it'll be tough. The rain made it really hard.

  • But it's all worth it for these moments.

  • As Andrew rested, I soon came to a bridge crossing fairly along on the trail.

  • As I'm sitting here, I'm wondering how everyone else is doing. I was thinking about Thomas in particular.

  • It's Friday, so while we're out here enjoying the Smoky Mountains, he's probably sitting at a cubicle doing Excel spreadsheets.

  • Bryan and Andrew are probably doing okay. I don't know if the view is as beautiful as it is here, but...

  • If it's half as beautiful, I'm sure they're doing great. Because it's pretty gorgeous.

  • Take a look at this.

  • It's called wood ear fungus.

  • This stuff is really slimy and gooey and really gelatinous.

  • And it's actually an edible fungus, believe it or not.

  • It gets its name obviously because it looks like a bunch of ears growing out of wood.

  • And this is actually found in a lot of Chinese dishes.

  • But I'm not gonna eat this right now since I'm alone and I'm not a mycological expert, so I don't even want to risk it even if I'm sure.

  • If I find morels though, you better believe I'm gonna eat those.

  • Chances are it was too early and cold to find morels, but a man can dream, can't he?

  • It's kind of hard to see, but those are two of the biggest rocks I've ever seen in my life.

  • They have to be at least fifty feet, end to end.

  • Man, I've never seen anything like that.

  • Places like this are mental landmarks.

  • And when you remember back to them, it's like an anchor for everything else that was in your life at that time.

  • So if like you were having good things in your life, you really remember those even more strongly.

  • As time goes on, even the bad things in your life, you look back on them fondly.

  • Or you find only the good things to remember about them, and you remember that.

  • This is also known as "rose-colored glasses".

  • I continued along the path which winded through forests, open areas, and even more forests again.

  • Meanwhile, there was more peaceful riverside hiking for me.

  • Wow, being in this desolate landscape here, this is where you could start to feel a little lonely I think.

  • It's pretty creepy out here.

  • I wonder how Bryan and Andrew are doing.

  • I'm doing pretty good actually.

  • I came to yet another switchback. I needed a break.

  • Luckily, the views here can rekindle your spirit instantly.

  • It's moments like these that make the Smokies so worth hiking.

  • As stare out across the horizon, all of your struggles seem to melt away into nothingness.

  • The sun had come out for a brief moment before I continued on.

  • Meanwhile, the hike for the day was just about over.

  • The final trail junction for my campsite is just up ahead.

  • There's a cement ford here, so you have to walk your horse. I don't have a horse, so that's not a problem.

  • Looking forward to getting to the campsite though and just checking it out. Wonder if there's going to be any other campers out there, I don't know.

  • As I hiked, I came across more club mosses.

  • Lycopodium obscurum and lycopodium clavatum.

  • This is a pretty cool plant. I remember seeing it last time I was in the Smokies.

  • And it's called striped wintergreen, if memory serves correct.

  • And if I'm wrong, I'll just let the narrator do the rest of the talking.

  • I was right! These leaves can be eaten as a snack, but it's best to leave them alone as they're considered endangered in some regions.

  • Now, wood is usually not blue.

  • And the reason there's this blue color on this wood is the blue mycelium of a fungus.

  • Now, the name escapes me, so I'll let the narrator tell you what the name of the fungus is.

  • It's called green elf cup.

  • Actually, the logo of our show, the blue background...

  • Most of that is actually just a picture of a blue log that Robby and I found while we were camping in the Smokies.

  • Pretty neat stuff.

  • My path and the weather continued to be more beautiful as I went along.

  • It was a different story for Andrew though.

  • Oh man, it is just windy, cold, wet...

  • The sunlight from earlier only lasted a little bit.

  • And it just feels like no matter how much I keep hiking, there's just more and more uphill.

  • I just keep thinking it's gotta be here. And I turn the corner and it's just more uphill.

  • But holy cow, I may be getting close because look at this.

  • It's a pretty sharp drop from the edge of that trail.

  • So, on the plus side it seems that I am on the ridge.

  • Which means, at some point, the trail can only go downhill.

  • I was literally just looking at the map wondering, wow, how have I not come up to the trail junction yet, and then...

  • ...I saw it.

  • It's definitely either on...

  • ...Camel Gap Trail or still on the Big Creek Trail, I'm not really sure, but it's definitely on the west side of the water.

  • If I go here, this'll take me to the east side of the water.

  • l don't have much left to say.

  • Now this fungus here is called birch polypore.

  • And it's a bit too old to do anything, but...

I wonder how Bryan and Andrew are doing.

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B1 INT US hiking trail campsite hike rain bryan

Great Smoky Mountains Documentary

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    kevinyeh00   posted on 2019/04/11
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