Monday, April 07, 2008

Don't Listen to Old People

We spent Sunday enjoying a hidden little National Park in the southeastern corner of the glorious Bluegrass state. Cumberland Gap, the gateway for Daniel Boone to explore the west, contains some great history, scenic views and a pretty cool tunnel through the mountains. Anyway, on our way, we decided to stop at Pine Mountain State Resort Park. We drove up to the parking lot for the (in)famous Chain Rock overlook. I'd been there once; Kelsee hadn't ever been. Keep in mind, this "Chain Rock" is just a gigantic chain connecting a big rock to the mountain in an attempt to keep it from plummeting down on the sleepy town below. You know, should the mountain ever decide to let go of it. Kelsee kept asking me about the overlook and the hike to it. My recollection was sketchy at best. I last visited when I was like 15 or 16. We had a family reunion one summer at Pine Mountain and we all went for a little excursion to the rock. I remember I was unaware of what the rock was. To me, "Chain Rock" sounded like some rock formations that looked like a chain or something. My only real memory was feeling disappointed that we'd gone through so much trouble to see a chain hooked to a rock. I didn't remember how long the hike was or how nice the view was, just that it seemed like a hassle to get there. Back to the present--or the almost present of yesterday. We park at the trailhead. There is a short hike to a nice overlook that gives you a great view of Pineville and the surrounding valley and mountains. Shoulda left it at that. Kelsee seemed to really want to see the named spectacle, and I had no reason to deter her except some vague memory. As we stood at the trailhead next to a sign that said "Chain Rock - .5 miles", Kelsee asked this old guy waiting for his party at the top if he had hiked it before. He said he had, many times. She asked him what the hike was like. "Not bad," he said. So Kelsee rephrases her question, just to be sure. "Is it very steep or difficult?" "No. Well except for one small part, but its not very many steps." With that, we were off down the trail. Our party consists of: - Me, who would never be confused for a avid hiker. I enjoy hikes to some degree, but my shape is more conducive to rolling down trails than walking down them. - Kelsee, who has regularly been walking a mile to a mile and quarter a day since around the beginning of the year. This is in an effort to strengthen her back and legs, which have given her problems since her severe back injury and surgery two years ago. - Haley, whose cerebellar issues have dramatically affected her endurance and balance. A short distance later we found ourselves at the short, steep part. Not to bad. Another short distance later, we found ourselves at another steep part. A long, seemingly endless steep part. It seemed to scale steeply down the side of the mountain for what seems like a quarter of a mile, before inclining back up the last 1/8 of a mile. This last part up to the rock involves picking your way carefully from foothold to foothold before scaling the face of a solid rock. I carried Haley this last part because she kept tripping over rocks and roots. We got to the rock face and it became apparent that in order to see the fabulous chain, we'd have to scale the rock. After a very short discussion, we decided the old man was sadistic and I hoped that the rock and chain would fall so no one else would be duped by this idiotic venture.
Going back was slow going. Kelsee's legs went numb and almost deadweight less than a quarter of a mile into the return trip. I offered to use my wonderful scout knowledge to build a makeshift stretcher out of branches and fern leaves. ("I's an Eagle Scout," I says.) She scoffed at my offer, however, choosing instead to trust her own legs, no matter how numb and deadweight they'd become. It went from bad to worse when nausea set in about halfway back. I joked for her not to hurl on the trail. She didn't laugh.
I was sympathetic, though. She was a trooper and made it out and by the time we reached Middlesboro, seemed to be back to her old self. Two lessons learned here: 1. Don't listen to old people.
2. If you start down a trail and you notice resting benches every few hundred feet or so, turn around. It's a sign.


AmberL said...

Sounds like an interesting venture. I will have to check this place out. We had thought of camping near there once. I am so glad this did not turn into something really terrible!!

caralee said...

Sounds like a good time.

I am glad you made it back alive Kelsee. At least the scenery was beautiful right?

hotlasagna said...

Are you telling me you just learned not to listen to old people....?!?! Your adventure has inspired me to get and see the sights around the state. It was good to see you Saturday!!