A family bonds in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The first guest post of my “maternity leave” is from my pal, Traveling Ted. He shares a sometimes scary story of how a hiking, traveling family comes together during a rough time on the trail.

A young Traveling Ted with hiking mom

A young Traveling Ted with hiking mom

What was supposed to be a six-mile hike to an Appalachian Trail shelter in Great Smoky Mountains National Park turned into a nightmare when we were stuck in the pitch dark with lame flashlights. It was at a time of year when most families were planning on sitting around a table with relatives eating turkey dinner; my family and I were on a three-night hiking trip in the great outdoors. I was only 9 years old and on a hike with my mom and dad and my brother Rich with two other experienced hikers. The other hikers had left us, and my family and I were alone on the mountain. We were not even sure if we were on the right trail.

The trouble began early in the day when we hit a ford on the Little River. Apparently a recent flood must have taken out the bridge over the river. The river was flowing fast and waist deep with no bridge or tree to easily cross. It was not an easy crossing for adults, much less for two kids aged 9 and 12.

My parents and the other adults scouted up and down the river for over an hour looking for an easier crossing. We finally just forged straight across as no easier spot was found. We crossed with the help of ropes and walking sticks.

We all made it across successfully, but by the time we had lunch and got our shoes back on, we had squandered over two hours on this crossing. These two hours turned out to be critical. It was November and there was not sufficient light to finish the day. We then had two more river crossings, which did not take up as much time, but still delayed us further.

Anyone familiar with trails up to the Appalachian crest knows that they are not easy. They usually consist of two to three hours of hell for even experienced, fit hikers. The Goshen Prong Trail was no exception and we moved slowly up the never ending switch backs – up, up, and up.

The Great Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains

Soon night fell, and we were stuck halfway up the mountain in the pitch dark. It was wet, we were tired, and we had horrible flashlights. As if it could not get possibly any worse, we all of a sudden heard loud charging footsteps coming down the trail.  My dad dropped, put his arms up in defense and yelled, completely startled.

A charging white-tailed deer came down the mountain and appeared out of the fog. It was November and rutting season and apparently this guy must have thought we were a competitor male deer. He charged twice more, but each time he stopped when he realized we were humans and turned around.

We slowly made our way up the mountain – my dad in front, my brother and I in the middle, and my mom in the back. We took baby steps up the trail. I slipped and fell one time and started to cry. My brother helped me up and comforted me.

Despite the fear, the bad equipment, charging wildlife, fatigue, and the elevation climb, we slowly made our way up the mountain. Just when we debated stopping and getting in our sleeping bags (we did not have tents as we planned to stay in the shelters) we came to the Appalachian Trail. We now knew exactly where we were. We knew the Double-Springs Gap shelter was only .2 miles from the Goshen Prong Trail and Appalachian Trail junction.

Our spirits lifted, and we sailed down the rest of the trail exhilarated that we found the trail and the shelter. We took everything Mother Nature could throw our way, but bonded as a family and made it to our destination.

Traveling Ted's brother, Rich, and family friends in front of a Great Smoky Mountain trail shelter

Traveling Ted’s brother, Rich, and family friends in front of a Great Smoky Mountain trail shelter

Traveling Ted started hiking when he was 9 years old, over 30 years ago. Although his adventure may take him where families fear to tread, he does remember being a 9 year old hiker. In fact, his maturity level in some cases has stayed at 9 years old: adventure travel keeps you young.

He can be followed at: 


Twitter @travelingted

Facebook www.facebook.com/travelingtedtv

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20 Responses to A family bonds in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

  1. Traveling Ted July 23, 2013 at 5:03 pm #

    Thanks FF for the honor of posting on your site. Maybe this will inspire other families to go out and hike up mountains in the dark.
    Traveling Ted recently posted…If you don’t know – Chicago Electric Boat Co.My Profile

    • Francesca July 24, 2013 at 10:14 pm #

      ….er, maybe not? 😉

      It’s my honor to have you guest post, Ted. Thank you so much! Thanks, too, for the groovy photos, especially that last one. That’s some sweet 70s style.

  2. Anita Mac July 24, 2013 at 7:17 am #

    Wow – glad a crazy and scary experience didn’t hamper your lust for adventure Ted! I can’t imagine the charing deer – I think I could have overcome everything else…but that would have really done me in!!!
    Anita Mac recently posted…Monday Morning Series: Adriatic Beach – CroatiaMy Profile

  3. Erin at The World Wanderer July 25, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

    TED! I love this story. First, I love the photo of you and your mom, because you look exactly the same! Second, I am actually so glad I’m familiar with the Appalachian Trail, as I’m reading A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson (so funny and I’d definitely suggest it). I’ve also been wanting to hike in the Great Smoky Mountains, as I’ve heard they are the best. Anyway, I’m glad all worked out, and I love that your parents started you hiking nice and young. I plan to do the same with my future children, just hopefully with better flashlights, back up tents, and no deer incidents – let’s face it, I’m a baby…
    Erin at The World Wanderer recently posted…How to Make Pad See Ew Without Looking Like an Idiot.My Profile

    • Traveling Ted July 25, 2013 at 10:19 pm #

      I hope you make it there soon Erin as the Great Smoky Mountains are amazing. I hope you have better flashlights too. It would not be difficult especially in today’s technology. I have read a Walk in the Woods. Great book although I was a little disappointed they did not walk the whole trail and in fact he skipped half of the Great Smoky Mountains. He did not like that section of the trail, which just floors me.
      Traveling Ted recently posted…Take me to the Pilot Travel Center for an adventure travel showerMy Profile

    • Francesca July 25, 2013 at 10:41 pm #

      I read A Walk in the Woods, too. It was a long time ago so I don’t remember much except that I really enjoyed the book. Erin, you need to get to the Smokies. It’s such a beautiful section of our country!

  4. Leah July 26, 2013 at 4:10 am #

    I barely recognized young Traveling Ted pre-fanny pack. Wow! I love a great family memory.
    Leah recently posted…Six Simple Amenities that all Luxury Hotels Should OfferMy Profile

  5. thelazytravelers July 26, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    LOVE these old photos, ted!! some things never change…
    thelazytravelers recently posted…no travel required: #frifotosMy Profile

  6. Pola (@jettingaround) July 28, 2013 at 5:47 pm #

    Neat story! And I love the family photos – now I *see* where you got your adventure bug from. 🙂
    Pola (@jettingaround) recently posted…Photo(s) of the Week: Steel wings of Milwaukee Art MuseumMy Profile

  7. D.J. - The World of Deej July 28, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

    Wait…no fanny pack, Ted? Great stuff….I visited Smoky Mountain National Park with my family as a kid, and it was one of the best trips we ever took. Hope to make it back someday…
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted…Early Morning at Disney’s California Adventure – Random Picture of the WeekMy Profile

  8. Jenn July 29, 2013 at 11:44 am #

    I’m ashamed to say that I live within hours of the Great Smokey Mountains NP and I’ve only been there once, and even that was with a school trip. It’s definitely time to strap on the old hiking boots and get out there. It is absolutely gorgeous after all, why wait!?

    • Francesca August 6, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

      I agree, Jenn. Get back there sooner rather than later!

  9. lola July 31, 2013 at 7:35 pm #

    LOVE this post. Ted, you are a hiking rock star!!
    lola recently posted…The Top 5 Beaches to Visit in PortugalMy Profile

  10. The Family Voyage April 4, 2017 at 11:08 pm #

    Wow, that sounds crazy! Glad you made it back to civilization eventually 🙂

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