Guacamole and Chilhowee Lake September 12, 2009Posted by Jenny in hiking, memoir.
Tags: Abrams Creek, Chilhowee Lake, Happy Valley, Smoky Mountains
This post is a little different from my hiking posts, because it has to more to do with what happened after a hike than the hike itself. The hike (really more of a stroll) was from the Happy Valley side of the Smoky Mountain National Park and involved fording Abrams Creek (from the west, not from the Abrams Falls direction) and climbing Pine Mountain. There is a footlog now across Abrams Creek.
Fording the creek again on the way out, our bare feet slipped on the mossy stones, which were packed together as tightly as pieces of a puzzle. The cold clear water sloshed around our knees. We slowly moved through the light green, light blue surface of the stream. A bower of sunlit trees awaited on the other side. We carried our boots in our hands all the way back to the cars, tiptoeing through the stubbly grass beside the gravel road.
While we were putting our things back into our cars, my friend Sam spotted a grocery bag in my trunk. He opened it and found inside two ripe avocadoes, a bottle of lemon juice concentrate, and some garlic powder (scream away, food purists), together with half a bag of fritos and some dip that I had already made up at the car camp.
“I have an idea,” he said. “Let’s stop along Chilhowee Lake and get some beer and eat this guacamole!”
Brilliant, as always!
We got into our respective cars, drove over Abrams Ridge, and sped down Happy Valley. We turned right at the lake and drove until we came to a convenience store. But when we went inside, we saw a sign on the glass case that said, “No beer sold on Sundays.” I had forgotten about the strange ways of Tennessee, where the rules on liquor change every time you cross the county line. As we walked toward the door, Sam said to the fellow behind the counter, “Sure you can’t sell us some beer?”
Much to our surprise, the man said, “What kind you want?” We told him. He got us a cold six-pack from the storeroom, took our money, and sent us on our way.
Now, we had to find a good spot on the lake. A few miles down the highway, we stopped at a pullout beside a boat dock. No one seemed to be around. We carried the beer and the grocery bag out to the end of the dock, where I settled down to the business of making more guacamole to add to the small amount we already had. It isn’t easy to tangle with a ripe, messy avocado while seated cross-legged at the end of a floating dock, but I managed. I stirred in the lemon juice and garlic powder with the spoon from my mess kit. Sam handed me a beer.
We sat quietly looking out over the calm white lake, munching on our snack. The water and the evening sky began to blur together, leaving the trees along the shoreline as dark streaks in a big hazy bowl. The fishy water slapped gently at the bobbing dock.
But our peaceful isolation was soon disturbed, as a big old mufflerless car pulled up. It disgorged a man and a boy dressed only in cutoff jeans, and a woman who followed them slowly. The two males dove into the water next to us with a great splash, while the woman shook her head, her arms folded. When they pulled themselves back onto the dock, dripping wet, she said, “Let’s go on now! You’ve had your fun!”
“All right, Becky,” said the man. But then he pushed the boy back in with a laugh and dove in after, sending up a big spray. She said to us, who were wordlessly watching, “Can’t drive by the lake without them wanting to go swimming. We have to go home now. We have to go home,” she repeated as they bellied themselves onto the dock like wet seals.
“We’ll be done in a moment,” the man said. He and the boy were laughing, pushing at each other. Into the water they went again. Each time they dove in, the dock lurched. We clung to the guacamole bowl. Our visitors finally straggled back up the dock, with much talk about how dinner was late (on the one hand) and how a little swim didn’t hurt anyone (on the other). They piled back into the car. We heard the engine starting up and rumbling as the car waddled up the dirt road and back onto the highway.
We had to go too. We had each finished a beer, and the guacamole was reduced to greenish-black stripes on the inside of the bowl. It was time for the long drive back to Knoxville.
As everyone who reads this knows, the refreshment after a hike can make the day just perfect. I am thinking of having dinner in Sevierville, TN, with a root beer float on the side as the beverage, or stopping at the ice cream stand in Jaffrey, NH, near Monadnock, or having many great meals at Truants in Woodstock, NH, after winter hikes, starting with a giant bowl of onion soup that has melted cheese dripping over the sides.