Trail Stories

A Hobo's Happy Meal !

(rib-eye steaks at the Doe River Gorge trestle)

Then there was the other time no one showed up, except RAT and myself, for the club's weekly expedition. We decided to hike into the Doe River Gorge with enough food to feed an army of bears, or a couple of hungry hikers. We drove to the lower end of the gorge near Hampton (TN), and started walking in. About then, a fellow walked out of his house and asked us where we were going, and we told him. He asked us if we had permission to and we said 'no, who do we have to talk to about that' and he said 'me'. So we had to sign our name to some consent forms for insurance liability and stuff (he musta seen we were trouble).

As I recall it felt a little strange walking up the railroad grade where the old narrow gauge track used to transport folks from the Roan Mountain area to Hampton and back. The last time I had been there was when the train was still running, after it had been converted into a crazy amusement park called "Hillbilly World". Now, twenty years later, I was walking over falling down trestles at breathtaking heights above the Doe River.

The one trestle, in fact, had a sign that said to 'Warning Danger keep off the trestle' blah blah blah. And Rat reads that, gets a funny look on his face, and and says 'Well, I will!'. Anyway, he proceeds to tightrope along the metal rail that led from the hillside that we were on to the island knob with the hole dug through it large enough to drive a train through. Rat was a real daredevil that day...we all were, back then.

It was impossible to keep from looking down far below at the vibrant river since most of the cross-ties were gone, and the ones that were there, well, you wouldn't want to stand on them. Lucky for us, we were more agile back then, if not a bit foolish. I didn't like the cross-tie challenge too much. The 60 foot plunge, or whatever it was, was 'tricky', as the 'Human Snowplow' would say. Rat scooted right across it with no problem--he wasn't carrying an ackward, heavy backpack. But I went more slowly, because I did, and I also had a bad reputation for 'wiping out'. I'm not sure, but since I was carrying the Rat Patrol lunch, no rocks were thrown at me while attempting to cross.

We hiked on through the mountain tunnel, Like Aragorn to the oath-breakers, to the far end, only to discover that the next trestle is even worse, collapsed actually. So that is where we stopped. I dug out the pile of charcoals, the metal grill top, and two the rib-eye steaks I had carried in my pack all the way up there. Using a few rocks I built a place to hang the grill top above the coals. About 45 minutes to an hour later, lunch was served. The ghosts of all the old hobos were surely smilin' that day, smelling the prime steak fat burning off the coals in the old railroad grade, at least that is how I look at it now, going on twenty years since. Yes, it was quite a meal--we ate like wild animals. I don't remember what all else we had dragged up there to eat, but it was good, or it wouldn't have been there.

BolDar with ribeye on tracks

On the way back, Rat, who again scooted like his namesake over the thin metal rail high above the river, decided that I was taking too long, and started throwing rocks at me while I negotiated the rail. That was part of my 'trestle training', I suppose. Apparently, he liked to bounce the rocks on the rail right in front of me so I would have to 'focus'. It's too bad they didn't have digital video cameras the size of a candy bar back then! Let's see Chuck Norris do that.

Again, no one fell from the old trestle (despite the gravel barrage) so the fellow in the house at the entrance at the gorge didn't have to show his 'waiver' page to the authorities afterall. Meanwhile, another page in the Rat Patrol Hiking Clubs had been written, a feast devoured, and a new trail hiked.