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Sarge and his hiking stories November 8, 2008

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
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A spot downstream from where the "Nesting Spoon" episode occurred

A spot downstream from where the "Nesting Spoons" episode occurred

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.


1. Ray Payne - December 30, 2008

Jenny, I was on that hike. It was led by the late Ernie Dickerman who hated trails and considered a “Rhododendron crawl” to be a stroll through the woods. Once a man was describing a very attractive trail to Ernie, and Ernie’s response was ” Regardless of adjectives, it’s still a trail and therefore not fit for human use.”

The impromptu overnight occurred very shortly after I joined the SMHC. I joined the Club in 1964. There was a relatively large group on this off-trail hike, most of whom didn’t know Ernie otherwise they wouldn’t have been there. And shouldn’t have been there. Ernie’s hike notice led many to think that it was easy off-trail hike, and for Ernie it was. Just a stroll through the woods.

This hike was done in June and fortunately the night was relatively warm. I was wearing a T shirt for my upper layer of clothing with a thin nylon wind breaker (no rain gear) and a small lunch in a day pack. We can learn a lot from our mistakes. Ever since that hike I have always carried to much on either a day hike or backpack trip; and have never come up short of either gear or food when needed.

2. Jenny - December 30, 2008

Yes, I think there must have been people on that hike who never ventured off trail again! That is one of the classic stories of the SMHC.

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