The old man in the red Chevy pickup warned us it would happen. His group tromped out of the woods while we threw on our gear at the North Pocket Trail in McLemore Cove outside of Chickamauga, GA.
The Cove, as locals call it, is a famous site of an almost ambush/trapping of Yankee troops during the civil war. The Union army escaped their destruction by cutting across a gap in Pigeon Mountain; we wouldn’t get so lucky, our trail went straight to the top.
The old man’s group had a few adults, three young children, and a wild-eyed, heavy-set lady who informed me, “if a fat granny like me can do it, anybody can!”, She was referring to the one-mile route to a nearby waterfall down a flat gravel road.
As we strapped on our backpacks and synced our JBL speaker, the old man backed his truck out and slowed to a stop beside me, hand-cranked his window down and said, “Hold up. Are y’all doing that 10 mile trail?”
He lifted his fuzzy eyebrows, flung his arm out the window, and brandished a Timex at me, “It’s going to get dark! The sun’s going to go down ‘fore y’all can get back!”
“We’ve got headlamps and jackets.” (I lied. I had forgotten my jacket. But we had enough lighting apparatuses to bring about a fake sunrise if need be).
He squinted and studied me over, from with my Merrell Trail Glove 4’s to my blue Georgia on My Mind ball cap. He stuck out his head in my direction. “But, it’ll be too late when y’all get down!”
“We’re running it.”
I should have just told him we were hunting a Sasquatch riding a unicorn. He adjusted his sights to my amigos. First to our friend, a local teenager training to be an adventure tour guide; then he peered over the window’s edge to peek at my athletic teenage sons; upon visual approval, his unsolicited inspection found its way to my seven-year-old son, a skinny kid with bottle-rim glasses. His final glance fixed on my big, fat belly. He, finally, shook his head, grunted, and drove his truck away in a blaze of gravel and disbelief. As he darted away, I realized I hadn’t gotten the chance to say, “If this fat dude can do it, anybody can!”
Unfortunately, after climbing two-thousand feet and travelling 6 miles, we missed a perfect view of the sun setting over Lookout Mountain by just five minutes. Nightfall would now arrive during our descent. Ahead of us laid four steep miles down a washed out drainage ditch pretending to be a trail. We strapped on our head/chest lamps and I realized we had brought an extra set. Too bad, I thought, that old man could have came too.