1267 11/1/00 I hiked the Alum Cave Bluff Trail with Tillroe Smith from Moody, AL, Joe Steele from Leeds, AL, Jim and Barbara Davis from Newport, TN. Connie Houk, from Sevierville, TN was supposed to join us but she wore severe blisters on her feet while making a practice hike to Mt. Cammerer, last Saturday. It was a beautiful, clear 39 E F day at the trailhead as we departed. Back on June 20, 1998, I started the fourth volume of my hiking logs. It was a 300 page 9 ½" X 12 ½" volume which I titled "Hikes to Mt. LeConte, The Final Chapter?" With today’s write-up I will fill pages 285 and 286. That leaves room for seven more write-ups at two pages per hike. Perhaps after knee surgery, I can fill those pages. At this point, my knees have become so painful that walking to the mailbox is an ordeal. In addition, I have injured a muscle in my right shoulder and it is black and blue from my elbow to my neck and is almost useless. I cannot use this trusted right arm on my hiking stick to give me the added boost while climbing and the safety of retardation, during descents. My left arm is a very poor substitute however, I used it 99.5% of the time on today’s hike. So before the snow falls and ice covers, I intend this to be my last hike until after surgery on my knees.
I do thank God for allowing me to safely make 1267 hikes to top of his Magnificent creation. That covers a span of 160 continuous months without a miss. I am also most thankful for the thousands of charming hikers that I have met during this endeavor. If I take a very conservative estimate of meeting 100 hikers on each hike, that would come to 126,700 people, all of them are great. Of course, I have met many folks lots of different times. Many of these hikers have become dear friends and they will remain as such as long as I can remember! I thank each and every one of you for your friendship and kindness.
I enjoyed my ten years as a Volunteer In Park (VIP) Trail Volunteer for this Magnificent Alum Cave Bluff Trail. I have been honored to work with employees of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, From Karen Wade, Superintendent, Don Utterback, Chief Ranger, North District, Keny Slay, Chief Ranger for Little River, Darris Clabo and his Trail Maintenance Crew. I have appreciated the fine work done by Dr. Charles Maynard, Director of Friends of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and his crew and to Steve Kemp and others of the Great Smoky Mountains National History Association of which I am a life member.
I have enjoyed the friendship of the late great hikers Paul Dinwiddie, Ernest (LU) Lewellen, Bucky Sliger and the late Richard Haiman and his generous gifts to the park. I still enjoy the companionship of 87 year old Margaret Stevenson, 77 year old Betty Jane Barnett, Bo and Shirley Henry, Jean Lambert, Dave Scanlon, Tom "Monday" Morgan, Tom Borsch and his crew at the Happy Hiker, Bill Sharp, Gerry, Diana and Mary Strech, Sandra, Keith and Cole Warren, Lodge Crew members, Tim, Lisa, Nathan, Grace, Jacob Line, John, Donna, Matt, Vallerie, and little Johnny Mansfield, Henry Neel, Bruce Newman, Tina Norwood and her great hugs, lodge owner Bill Stokely, My hiking companions today and a cast of thousands of others. I have really enjoyed their letters, telephone calls, visits and E-mailings and other ways these friends have shown the interest and friendship.
Because this was my last planned hike, I made no effort to record the names and places that the folks that we met were from but I did keep an accurate count. I was challenged enough just making the hiked in my hobbled condition. We met lodge staffer, Henry Neel at the saddle and chatted with him at length. I took my granola bar break three miles up the trail and met and were passed by several hikers and overnight guests. We met a couple of Florida State fans near Shirley’s Rock. At Bust @ss Rock, we wet two couples from Chattanooga, TN, Bill and Mary Jane Allen plus Jim and Sue Moore. Below West Point View, we met long time friend Diana Reid, formerly from Maggie Valley, NC but now from Hartford, TN with her handsome son Jeremie. At West Point view, we were overtaken and passed by John Koerton from Sevierville, TN and a man and his young son from St. Louis, MO. The lodge was clear, warm and sunny although lots of smoke from numerous forest fires in Anderson county darkened the skies.
I stopped by the water faucet and filled my CamelBak, tossed my pack in a rocking chair and went inside and signed the register. I noted that this was Tillroe’s 193rd hike. I surely would like to be with him on his 200th but that is not in the cards. I then returned to the rocking chair on the porch and ate my turkey sandwich, while visiting with my hiking companions and other day hikers and lodge guests. Joe Steele took the Knoxville News-Sentinel newspaper into the kitchen to save me anymore wear and tear. John, Donna came out with little Johnny who turned one-year-old October 19th. They visited until I left. They told me that Tina Norwood was to give birth to a baby girl any day now. Lucky Mike, her husband. He surely has a loving, lovely wife in Tina. John gave me several warm handshakes and Donna gave me a warm embrace and wished both me a speedy return to the lodge.
Shortly after reentering the trail, I met a man wearing an Auburn shirt. He said that his son had just graduated from Auburn and his younger daughter was going to enter. At the top of the steps, we met a young man, Sterling Gipson, from Knoxville, running up the mountain. It had taken him only 40 minutes to reach this point. It had taken me three hours to get there earlier today. He took off up the mountain at a hard running pace. Below the steps, we met his Godfather, Sam Shell, also from Knoxville, but 30 years older. He was also setting a fast pace. At Shirley’s Rock, we were overtaken by a distant cousin, Michael S. Wright, Chief of the Niceville, FL Fire Department. We then met four young ladies, Carol, Joan, Cam and Eileen from Cincinnati, OH, reading printed out copies of my trail description. I asked them if I could help. They said that they couldn't figure out where they were on the trail. I asked them where they got the trail description. They said that some "Old Man" had written it and a friend had printed it out for them. I introduced myself as that "Old Man" and told them that they were about 100 yard from Shirley's Rock. Near the bluff, we met seven young folks heading to the lodge. They were: Tim and Showna McConnel and Doris Rutledge from Maryville, TN, Fred III and Kelly Berry, Reeve and Kristi Rummel from Knoxville, TN. They took lots of pictures.
I took my snack break at Inspiration Point and enjoyed the magnificent views of the Dolly Parton Peaks and Myrtle Point. We met 92 day hikers and two backpackers today. 8:45. We said our farewells at the parking lot and I drove to Park Headquarters to turn in my final report. I told Babette that with this hike I was stopping and she should get another Trail Volunteer to take my place. She is hoping that my friends, Phyllis Henry and Mack McNutt will take the trail. So do I. She gave me a big hug and a peck on the cheek and wished me well.
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