Our second day in the Smokies continued along the Lakeshore Trail, taking us past cemeteries, ruins, a former town, and a veritable zoo of animals, including everyone’s favorite, ticks.
It was pretty warm overnight; I barely needed to use my sleeping bag, only crawling in sometime after 3 am after it had gotten cooler. I was glad I swapped out my 20-degree sleeping bag for my 35-degree bag before returning to the trail.
CareFree and I left camp later than we planned, but since we knew exactly how far we were going, we had more than enough time to get there. We somewhat lucked out when planning our Smokies campsites, with the three easiest days first (which is great, since our packs are heavier to start). Though what we didn’t realize ahead of time was that today was going to have an easier hike than yesterday (and tomorrow will be a little easier still)!
Our first major sight after leaving camp was what little remained of the town of Proctor, evacuated in 1944 with the flooding of Fontana Lake when Fontana Dam opened.
Shortly before we got to the town proper, we noted that someone had recently cut the weeds growing in the trail, which would represent an unusual level of trail maintenance compared to what we saw yesterday. Then, we passed an unmarked side trail with a “no horses” sign. We wondered what it was, but continued on. At the second of those, which seemed to lead a short distance uphill to a clearing, we decided to check it out. We were a little surprised to find a cemetery, which I suspected (and later confirmed) was Proctor’s cemetery. We didn’t explore the cemetery too far, but close to the entrance was a number of tombstones for short-lived children (one who lived only three days), and one for someone who died in 1986 (and so was probably buried with a relative).
Between the cemetery and the town, a chimney stood in the woods, functioning only as a landmark that there used to be a building there.
The only remaining building from Proctor left standing today is the Calhoun House, a white one-story wood house with a stone foundation. Across from the house, Hazel Creek flowed, and Rhododendrons bloomed. (Behind the house now stands a trail shop for this part of the park. An old barn houses a small fuel depot; we could easily smell the gasoline from the trail.)
We saw quite a few animals today, starting off with a rabbit chomping on grass near a log not too far from our tent this morning. There was also a huge number of ticks; so many more than yesterday that we just stopped counting. CareFree wondered if they’d be resilient enough to survive a nuclear war. Later in the day, we saw a bear off-trail running away from us. Gnats continued to dive-bomb my eyes. And throughout the day, frogs of all sizes scurried away from us to avoid being trampled on.
We also saw a crayfish as we hiked up a creek — the first time I’ve seen a crayfish in a long time. And, we saw another snake.
The trail continued to taunt us with views of Fontana Lake, which we could rarely see clearly due to the trees. At our second break, a short distance away from an (unmarked) trail to the lake, we saw our first people of the day, two hikers who were heading back the way we came.
Our almost 14 mile day ended at the campsite at Kirkland Creek, around 4:30. We saw two hikers who were also staying there returning from a dip in the lake as we arrived. Having been swimming, they were wearing less clothing than usual, and one of them commented, “You’re the first people we’ve seen all day, and we’re not even dressed!”
The ticks at the campsite were just as bad as they had been elsewhere on the trail today. We found several ticks at the campsite; I even got one on me while I got water from the creek! CareFree even turned to burning one of them with her lighter when it proved unusually resilient to bring crushed. Bees joined in being nuisances; a good dozen or so seemed to have decided there was something incredibly fascinating about the tent.
Today was unexpectedly tiring, even though it was not an especially challenging day. Most likely that was due to the heat (high 80s) and high humidity. We’re not expecting much better from tomorrow’s weather, so instead, I’m hoping we’ll leave camp earlier and get a little more hiking in before it becomes too hot.