Monday morning, since we had the day off for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr day, my friend/exercise buddy/coworker decided that we should spend the day hiking. Not surprisingly, she picked a difficult trail - a guarantee for a high calorie burn. We would be taking the Bote Mountain Trail to Spence Field and from there, if we had the time, continue on to Rocky Top and Thunderhead.
Yes, the Rocky Top that the song was named after. If you don't know which song I'm taking about your local University has obviously never played the University of Tennessee in any sort of sporting event. Its the
most annoying song in the world song the band plays after every touch down at Vols games.
No, I'm not singing it. I'll have it in my head all day. If you wanna know about a moonshine still or a girl that's half bear the other half cat then you'll just have to google it. Google is your friend.
Thankfully, since my husband cares not for calorie burn, it was also forecasted to be a clear day. The peak elevation of 5500 feet promised to be chilly, but assuming you plan for it, the cold is no big deal. A hike on a cloudy day with obstructed views, however, can be a deal breaker for Jay.
As we pulled into the Cades Cove parking lot, Jay lamented our time crunch. "I bet we'd be guarenteed to see some wildlife if we went through the loop now." We parked, and Jay went by the creek to take pictures while we waited on our hiking companions to arrive.
Oops - guess he walked away at the wrong moment. No need to go through the loop for wildlife. Thankfully, they lingered long enough for him to get a few pictures. The bathrooms were closed for renovation, so we answered nature's call then started up the trail.
I'm not sure who found the sticks, but they came in handy much later in the trail!
I had decided that the chilly conditions warranted a long sleeve tech tee, a hoodie, and a thick jacket. About 5 minutes in I was already shedding layers. Since my super manly "I can carry everything" husband had insisted I didn't need a backpack, I could only tie the unnecessary garmets around my waist.
The first part of the hike was fairly easy - which I knew meant trouble for the later parts. The average elevation change per mile was over 500 feet per mile, we'd be compensating for the easy trail towards the end.
About half way up, we hit ice and snow. That's when the sticks really came in handy. I felt more secure being able to jab my stick into the snow and having something some what stablizing as I walked over the icy patches. Some how, Jay stading on the ice with his hand out saying "trust me" just wasn't good enough. Common now - he had no control over the ice so who's to say he wouldn't have ended flat on his butt on the ice too?
We started seeing tracks in the snow, but weren't sure what they were. At first we wondered if someone had brought a dog on the trail - something expressly forbidden on the signs. Then our super sleuths realized that some times the prints had claws, others they didn't. A retractable claw meant one thing for sure - a cat.
Thankfully, we never happened upon the critter responsible for the print, so we really don't know for sure.
As we got closer to Spence Field, I started struggling. My muscles weren't sore, I just lacked the energy to move up the side of the mountain as well as the rest of the group. I'd like to blame a poor diet the day before and a change in my pre-game breakfast.
In an effort to be thrifty (with both money and calories) I had a peanut butter and jelly English muffin instead of my usual Bacon Egg and Cheese biscuit with hashbrowns. Whether it was the real reason or not, next time I'm going for the biscuit.
Never have I been so glad that Jay is that annoying camera guy. While he was off taking pictures, I got to rest and scarf down a few snacks. I'm still a little bummed, though, because I'm fairly certain this was where I lost my Tommy sunglasses.
Not sure if I've admited it before, but the reason I'm wearing sunglasses in most pictures of me is that I can't keep my eyes open for a picture. Either the sun or the camera flash or both make me squint like a fool. On top of Spence Field this was the best I could do.
You totally would have thought it was a candid if I hadn't told you - right??
The braniacs caculated our average speed hiking up, factored in the time left until dark, and decided we had enough time to head on up to Rocky Top and Thunder head.
This was where we seperated the men from the boys. Or the equiped hikers and me.
I really struggled on the climb up to Rocky Top. Thankfully our friends went head. After a few minutes of slowly putting one foot in front of the other I stopped and told Jay that I couldn't do it. I didn't have anything left.
"What's that guy's name - Derek Redmond? He didn't give up."
"Yeah but he was stupid." He's the never give up guy on my motivational wall and my husband knew this. "And he only had 400 yards to go. This sucks. I hate this."
"You can do this. You really can."
My walking choices were the ice covered trail and this:
In my head I was preparing a speech, one that told how I was different from all those people Jillian tells not to quit on Biggest Loser. I challenge myself. I push myself. I overcome obstacles. And if I say its time to quit, it is.
I wanted to kick Jay in the family jewels for being so encouraging (where was this encouragement when I actually wanted it?) but I didn't have the energy to lift my foot up that high.
So I kept going. Knowing that I didn't have the energy to proceed. Knowing that I would slip and fall and hurt myself. Knowing when I did, I'd be able to say "See - I told you I couldn't do it. You should have listened to me."
Lucky me - I even have a picture of that moment.
Or not. So maybe he was right. I could do it. I did it.
Although I did draw the line, and let them know I couldn't make it on to Thunderhead - another 0.8 miles away.
We all pulled up a rock and had lunch whilst taking turns yelling "woohooo!"
As in: "Good ole Rocky Top - WoooHoo - Rocky Top Tennessee."
Crap, I said I wasn't going to sing. Jay was the only UT fan out of the group, and was very proud to have his picture made with his Vol hoodie whilst standing on Rocky Top.
We spent about 40 minutes up there eating, resting, and enjoying the beautiful views, then it was time to head back down the mountain. I had already told Jay that I wanted a hot bowl of french onion soup in a bread bowl from Atlanta Bread Company, but they convinced me that we should go to the brewery for pizza, wings, and beer.
The Brewery has the best microbrews I've ever tasted (okay not that I've tasted a lot, but the Black Bear Ale is yum!) and the wings are incredible. I thought about them all the way down.
I stopped at Spence Field to look for my sunglasses, but no such luck. If you'll notice off in the distance is a body of water - that's Fontana Dam. I'm not clever enough to know how to figure the mileage between the two areas of the park, but I do know they aren't close. Its very rare to catch a glimpse of it from one of the trail peaks.
For me at least, the trek down was uneventful. I was much more comforatable walking down on the ice/snow than I was going up. Obviously the elevation change was much easier to deal with. Kelly had anticipated knee problems going down, but beyond a momentary twinge it was smooth sailing.
She had worn her heart rate monitor on the trip and we were eager to see how many calories we had burned. She and I are close enough to the same weight and fitness level* that her results would be similar for me.
*You couldn't tell it by looking at the pictures could you? This is why I don't like skinny friends.
Are you ready for the calorie burn for the 6 hours we spent hiking??
I didn't worry about the calories in the pizza and wings for dinner.
Until after I'd already consumed them of course.