Smoky Mountain Trip - Abrams Creek 7-5-2012
I'm setting here still amazed. One because I've had a restored faith in people. Let me explain the trip. It was of course short because of what happened. I'm not going to go into all of the details, it is way to much right now. I'm still processing everything that happened. We are all sore, tired, and just flat out happy to be alive.
We got 1/4 mile past site 1 on the abrams trail and my daughter got tired. Keep in mind this was her first (AND LAST) trip. My son talked me into flipping a coin. well we didnt have a coin so we used a small river rock that had a smooth side and a rough side. Smooth side was up so we went back to camp site 1 instead of continuing on to site 2 as planned. We set up camp and sat around for a while. My son got into his hammock and was sleeping when he felt what he called a tug on the bottom of the hammock. Nothing pulled on it and it wasnt rubbing on anything. Then all of a sudden "riiiiiiiiiiiiip". A big rip went from his left hip to his right hip. The hammock split right down the middle. It's the walmart hammock!! he's well within the weight limit so we dont understand that. Anyway, 1 hammock down with another still up and a single man tent...sigh. So he laid in my hammock and my daughter and I went hiked back down near the camp ground to swim at around 3:00PM. The water was warm and it felt good. We went back to camp at 4:40ish. We talked for a few minutes and decided to hike back out and go home to get a refund on his hammock.
Now this is when the SHTF. About 10 minutes into the hike back we heard thunder. We thought okay, no big deal we have pack covers and ponchos. We got a little farther, maybe 100 FT, and this wind just hit. I've never seen anything like this up close and personal before. We hear some cracking and popping around us. A tree falls on the ridge to our left. Another on the ridge to the right. We start trucking it out of there. When the gusts hit I made the kids stop, put their heads on a swivel and watch the trees. My kids were brave. I'm VERY proud of my son. He kept as calm and collected as you can be in this. 6 more trees fall behind us then we hear the wind REALLY pick up. It sounded like a train coming accross the mountain. Another tree snapped down to our left near the river and smashes into the river. We can barely see or hear anything but wind, tree branches, and debris. We had tree limbs falling on us from every which way. Another gust came. Even bigger this time. A large tree on our right twisted and snapped falling right at us. We ran back up the trail going the opposite way it was falling. It hit the ground no farther than 15ft from us. The gust was still going. We watched the trees, waiting. When the gust let off a little we ran as fast as we could the rest of the way. When a gust would pick up, we would stop and watch. Hoping and praying another one wasnt coming at us.
We made it to the camp ground. I put my daughter and my son up at the bathrooms. They already had a little girl in there doing the best they could with her. Another lady had multiple injuries. The roads were blocked, no way to the car. Two other men and I started clearing a path using his truck an axe and brute force to clear the road to the ranger station. We made it to the station to find out there were A LOT more trees down. I got my car and drove back and got the kids and took them to the station. Then we heard there were people trapped and in serious need of help. A group of campers and a hiker went back to help them. The other two men and I kept clearing trees. It was like the whole side of that ridge just dumped on the road. We made it pretty far up when we heard the chainsaws. The ranger and some emergency workers ran down the road to us. From that point on I was driving crew and equipment back and forth between the injured people who needed help and the ranger station.
The biggest thing I have to say is I'm thankful. The police, EMT's, Resuce Squad, Rangers, AND the campers/hikers all worked together to get these people out and to the hospital. I'm sad to say, very sad, that one person in this didnt make it. I've never seen people work together like this. Someone told us something that I found odd. I didnt really think of it this way, but I suppose its true. They stated you are survivors, you did what you had to do to save lives. I'm brused and sore. My daughter and son are fine. I'm still a little shaken by the whole thing and I still havent caught up with reality yet. Everything happened so fast. I'm sorry people got hurt and even killed. That feels odd even saying that. But I'm just happy everyone else is safe.
There is a whole other part of this story too. The added reason we left. The reason another family and another hiker were right behind us.
Thank you guys. My daughter said she will never go back. My son,,,, well, he asked me about an hour ago "when do you wan to go again". I'm proud of them both but my son kept his cool and kept his sister safe and helped who he could when he could. This isnt going to keep me or my son from going.