Don’t ever go on a hike with your mother.
These are words of wisdom that I wish I would have known about before I attempted Mount Leconte with my mother.
This story began a few years ago after a Tennessee family Christmas in the Smoky Mountains. My mother grabbed a brochure for this super-cool lodge that is only accessible by foot. I wanted to go. She wanted to go. We couldn’t ever coordinate schedules.
Finally, the moon and the stars aligned. Mom would be in the area with my dad, I had a few days off from the day job, and my brother agreed to ride with me the 10 hours to meet them. We sent our non-refundable payment and waited for the big walk. Mom assured me she was walking three miles on her treadmill each day. Yeah. Right.
Two weeks before leaving town, my brother broke his foot. So much for having him with me for moral support. I drove 11 hours by myself, which was rather peaceful. Mom was waiting with her newly purchased hiking stick and what she referred to as her hiking boots. Her pack was ready and weighed at least 100 pounds. There were gourmet lunches packed and plenty of water. My situation controlling father took my suggestion of taking Alum Cave Trail and threw it in the trash. He “researched” on his own and advised me that I would take my mother up the mountain on Trillium Gap Trail, the trail the llamas bring the supplies up. This was suggested by the receptionist he spoke with as the easiest hike and would take five and one half hours.
We loaded up and dad took us down Roaring Fork Road. We passed all the parking areas where all the people were. He dropped us off at a trailhead where a bear cup was hanging in a tree branch. I did not want to find out where the mother was. As my father pulled away, the clouds opened up and began to pour on us. Perfect.
Ten minutes into the leisurely stroll, my mother has to stop to catch her breath.
“Mom,” I say to her,”I thought you were walking the treadmill each day.”
She replied nonchalantly,”Oh, that was a few months ago. I stopped.” Great, an out of shape overweight ninny baby was with me.
We walked for a good hour, stopping every ten steps for my mother. There wasn’t a soul on the trail with us, just lots of llama poop. We made it to Grotto Falls, where the trail led behind the waterfall. Did, we go that way? Of course not. Mom wanted to be adventurous and walk THROUGH the falls. Ha!
Half way through the walk (or mountain climb for Mom), she complains of her hip hurting. She can’t even lift her leg six inches. I have to help pull her up each step of the way. She starts griping and complaining,”What did you talk me into? Your father was right. We’re both f%$ing nuts.” Wonderful attitude, Mom.
Then, she starts laughing hysterically. “Let a m-f-ing bear eat me! I don’t care!”
About that time, I suggested we stop for lunch…to eat the TUNA FISH sandwich my mother fixed. Gee, didn’t she think about bears eating fish or smelling food? I could smell it a mile away. I shoved it down my throat so that we could get going. Did she eat? Of course not! Not her, the diabetic woman. She eats an apple.
Seven hours into our five and one half hour hike. My mom sits on a rock and refuses to move further. She wants Air Med to rescue her. She really got mad when I told her I didn’t have my cell phone. Thankfully, she gets back on her feet and starts moseying up the trail. The lodge couldn’t be much further, could it?
Fifteen minutes later, my mom starts gagging. Her sugar had gotten so low that she was in distress. Could it be because the stubborn woman only ate an apple during the entire hike? I forced her to eat gummy bears and told her to keep moving. She called me some mean names, but this is coming from a woman who faints at the sight of a needle. She’s a ninny. The best thing is to keep her going to the top.
This was a nightmare. A total nightmare. It was getting dark on the trail, the mists were coming in, and I was hallucinating. I smelled blueberry muffins. My mother was sniffling behind me and talking to herself, “I’m not going to cry.”
Eight and a half hours from the start of our hike, I saw I sign. Seriously, it was a sign pointing to Leconte Lodge. Halleluah! Praise be! The top of the mountain. I turn to my mother who has a miraculous recovery from her Air Med moments. She starts yammering away about how much she loves me, what a great daughter I am, and how she knew we would make it……Whatever.
At least we made it to the top.