Pyle on hiking the Smokies
Rambling Reporter By Ernie Pyle MT. LE CONTE LODGE, Great Smokies Park-When Park-When Park-When I go to see a National Park, I like to walk in It. I don't want to mope along with a tourist party behind a naturalist, and I don't want to ride a horse. I Just want to eet out i J-s(SWto J-s(SWto J-s(SWto - uj uy .-cu. .-cu. .-cu. iiR.e a, neruufc Bum square off my shoulders and head uphill. There is plenty of walking for a fellow like me in the Great Smokies. In fact, there is 675 miles of walking, on trails that meanCer all over this vast park. But the main trails patronized patronized by tourists are the five different routes which lead up to the top of Mt. Le Conte. nearly 6600 feet high. Many people make it un and back in one day. But others, like myself, add 95 per cent to the pleasure by staying on top all night. People had told me the Alum Cave Trail was the prettiest and most spectacular. So, the day before starting, I went over to Park Headquarters to inquire inquire and get my bearings. I wound up talking to Assistant Chief Ranger Harold, Edwards. He wears a uniform and has a desk and lots of papers on it, so I believed every word he said. He said it would take me five hours to climb the Alum Cave Trail. He said it would be the longest five and a half miles I ever walked. He said it was very steep, and the footing irregular. Ranger Missed His Guess Well, it is possible I misunderstood Ranger Edwards, Edwards, but I doubt it. Also it is possible that I'm a better man than I thought. But that seems somewhat somewhat fantastic, since I think I'm practically perfect to start with. So I can only deduce that Ranger Edwards, Edwards, in spite of being a nice fellow, simply has days when he isn't all there. For, instead of five hours, I was on top of Mt. Le Conte in two hours and 50 minutes. And since I had prepared myself for a terrible ordeal, it seemed like the shortest five and a half miles I ever walked. It was, in fact, smooth and nice all the way up. In preparation for this historic stroll I awoke at 7 a. m.. yawned a couple of times, and went back to sleep for half an hour. Then I ate breakfast, read the morning paper, got those old gray pants out of the back of the car and, as a final gesture, put them on. Also I filled un the little chamois packsack which That Girl made for my gallant walk through the Rockies last year from the unitea states io oauaua. In this packsack I put an extra sweater, four handkerchiefs (because I still have a cold), an extra pair of socks, two chocolate bars, two oranges, an old ham sandwich, and an extra pack of cigarets, in case my wind gave out. A Trip in the 'Jungle' It was 9:20 a. m. when I stepped out of Ranger Edwards' car, shook hands, and. without once look-: look-: look-: ing back, plunged into the jungle. Exciting experiences experiences were not long in coming. I hadn't gone 200 yards when I came upon two couples standing in the trail, hiking. They didn't see me coming, so I had to walk around them. As I did so one woman said, "Oh, excuse me," and I said, "that's all right." Fifty yards farther on I came upon a man with a cane, sitting against a tree. He said, 'are those people still gabbing back there?" and I said "yes," and he said, "I thought so." When I had been walking an hour and a half, I met two young men coming down the trail like rockets. We stopped and smoked a cigaret together. They had walked clear to the top already this morning, morning, and were well on their way back down, and it was now only 10:45. It was then I began to smell a mouse in Mr. Edwards' sinister warnings about this trail. . At 12 o'clock sharp I came around another bend and there ahead, across a valley,' stood a sharp precipice. They had told me that right behind this precipice lay the Le Conte Lodge. I stood a minute, and tried to judge how long it would take to get there. Distances in the mountains are very deceptive. Out West you can see 'a long way, hence an actual distance is much farther than it looks. I remember once, in the high Rockies, figuring figuring it would take an hour to get to a certain ridge, but it actually took three hours. So with that in mind, I estimated one hour to get to this precipice. And shiver these old timbers if I wasn't there in 10 minutes. The climb was over, and I hadn't even eaten my sandwich. Just as I topped the ridge, I turned around in the direction of Park Headquarters, and looked far down toward where Ranger Edwards was probably nestling behind his desk, and I puckered up my mouth and said, "Five hours! Pvvvvwvtt!" The old bird sound, you know.