Sarge and his hiking stories November 8, 2008Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
Tags: hiking, Smoky Mountains, Smoky Mountains Hiking Club
Writing my post about off-trail navigating in the Smokies has made me nostalgic for the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club. I started thinking about one of the first SMHC characters I got to know. His name was O.K. Sargeant, otherwise known as Sarge. We first became acquainted with each other on an off-trail hike, I believe in the fall of 1982, in the area of Tabcat Creek in the southwest part of the national park. Our happy band of hikers had to make a slightly difficult crossing of the creek, and as I stood teetering on a rock halfway across the rushing stream, Sarge stood on the next boulder holding out a helping hand to guide me. I made a gazelle-like leap and slightly grazed his hand as I landed with a magnificent splash in the stream. As I pulled myself up onto Sarge’s boulder, he gazed at me with a friendly smile and asked, simply looking for more information, “Why did you do that?”
At least I did not pull him into the water. I actually did that to someone several years later on a rockhop up the rain-swollen waters of Raven Fork, an odyssey that came to be known as “The Whitewater Hike.” (It took us about six hours to go two miles.) In that instance, both I and my would-be helper washed quite a long ways down a roaring cascade. My helper at least ended up on the right side of the creek, while I washed up still on the wrong side.
Sarge was an old-timer, and he had lots of stories. One of my favorites was about the time that a trail-maintaining group encountered a rattlesnake on the trail, and Sarge calmly stepped on the snake up near its head and waited for someone to come along with a pulaski so that he could borrow the tool for a moment and chop the snake’s head off. The other story that I remember concerned what I came to think of as “The Hike of the Nesting Spoons.” This was a famous hike that occurred in the 60’s, when the hiking club rockhopped up Cannon Creek and then down Lowe’s Creek. The trouble was that they started on a Saturday and came out on a Sunday, and this was supposed to be a day hike. Charlie Klabunde has written about this adventure in detail on the SMHC website. (Click on Trail Stories, then click on “Infamous Impromptu Overnight.”) Sarge’s version had it that during the night, the damp, shivering hikers nested together like spoons for warmth, and that at regular intervals, one person would switch over to lie on his or her other side, and then the whole group would have to switch over in order to stay in formation.
No, there couldn’t possibly be any embellishment in Sarge’s tales.