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352 Packing Mistake 2011-02-23

Le Conte Shelter

A great place for lunch...

Last weekend we went to visit our daughter, Rose, in Knoxville, TN. We originally were going to have a family camping trip; but Amy (wife) was sick and we decided to change plans. On Saturday we would visit Rose and on Sunday, I would hike alone.

Since I was only day hiking I did not need to pack much. My day pack stays packed and ready to go. I would only have to add water and make a few clothing changes to match the weather.

Sunday morning, I woke early and made the hour drive from Knoxville to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. At the trailhead, I quickly ate a piece of cold pizza, finished off my coffee, and started hiking Mount LeConte.

Hiking at a steady pace, I only stopped to take photos. I grew a little hungry as I climbed but decided to wait until reaching the summit before eating. The hard refrozen snow on the upper mountain slowed my pace and took more energy than expected. Finally at an intersection near the top of the mountain, I stopped to put on an extra layer, change into boots, and grab a bite to eat.

The only problem was I could not find my food bag. I knew exactly what items should have been in my food bag, I just couldn't find it. I was chilling so I decided to continue walking and look more thoroughly at a site better protected from the wind.

At the LeConte Lodge there was a sign saying "closed." I didn't know what the Lodge's status was going to be when I started the hike, but I thought a hot lunch would have been nice. After climbing to High Top, the summit, I stopped at the hiker's shelter and took everything out of my pack. The shelter would have been a great place for lunch, except my food bag decided not to make the trip.

I was hungry and could not figure out what happened to my food. I did not recall seeing the food bag at the trailhead; but I did not search for it in my pack, I only added a few things.

As I left the top of LeConte I knew it was going to be a hungry hike down the mountain. I distracted my thoughts of hunger by trying to solve the Case of the Missing Food Bag and singing "99 pieces of pizza in the the box, 99 pieces of pizza, take one out, eat it down, 98 pieces of pizza in the box; ..." On returning to the trailhead I still did not find the food bag; but I did find the pizza box. I sat on the tailgate eating and singing like a happy hiker.

It was a few days later before the mystery was solved. I found the food bag hidden underneath my front seat of the car. I had taken it out of my pack during Saturday's drive to Knoxville and did not replace it. Oops.

A few notes ...

  • I resolved to start checking my packing list before leaving the trailhead - even on dayhikes!
  • It is disgusting to have to be so absorbed with packing, but the essentials are really essential.
  • I slowed my pace when I found that I did not have food. I could not afford an injury slowing me even further.
  • Yes, I just wrote about the essentials. Leaving an essential is the first building block to an emergency.
  • If I had tried to eat before reaching the top, I would have probably turned around.

Next week, the Day Pack Gear List.


Happy hungry trails


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