Trail Stories

Loch Ness Turtle !

(also known as the 'Big-Ass Turtle Story')

Most of my friends have already heard this story several times and will no doubt give it a pass, since none of them (except one) actually believe the words I told them. But, for those of you who haven't heard this incredible folktale yet, I hereby submit this 'big-ass turtle' legend.

Now I realize you want to hear about the turtle, and rightfully so, but every good story has a beginning, a middle, and an end, so allow me to give you a bit of background information. For those of you who didn't skip on to the last paragraph I will make this as entertaining and painless as possible.

It was a beautiful morning like any other beautiful morning, back in the spring of 199?. I arrived at 'headquarters' for the weekly Rat Patrol Hiking Club adventure at 7 am to discover that I was the only one to show up, besides Rat (we had about 15 or 20 members at that time, and most of them had said that they would be there). After waiting for them for a while, we determined that they were all too lazy or hungover to attend the weekend festivities and gave them all 'demerits' for their collective loafing. We didn't let their truancy spoil our fun, however, and decided to go for a walk in the woods without them.

Our goal for the day was to stand atop the 'Devil's Looking Glass' (somewhere we had never been before) and look out over the Nolichucky River Valley. After checking our maps, we came up with a plan that would get us there without having to climb that beastly cliff, where we actually would be walking downhill to it. We drove the ol' green chevy truck up into Bumpus Cove, and parked on the ridge on Rich Mountain, just above one of the 'California Fields'. From there, we began our descent through the lower fields, discovering a somewhat hidden trail at the end of them that made our hiking quite easy. It was all downhill, in fact, and the trail was clear of brambles, laurel hells, and blown down trees. I'm not sure how many miles we had walked before we found the 4-wheel drive road. We studied our map, and determined we were close to what the Juan Pardo Expedition (the spanish expedition of the area in 1566-68) called "La Espejo El Diablo"-- the 800+ foot shear cliff overlooking the Nolichucky River. For those of you who have never seen this cliff face, believe me, it does look gnarly.

From there, we found a trail that appeared to be well-traveled, and we decided that must be the trail to the 'Looking Glass'. Up to that point, everything had worked out perfectly, so why not this trail? We followed that strange trail along a ridgetop full of blooming dogwood trees, and on even further until it became a deceptible side-hill trail, used only by bears. We realized that we were on the wrong 'trail' and returned to the dogwooded ridgetop. Walking back, I don't recall ever seeing Rat so annoyed, and indeed, I don't believe he had ever been lost in the woods before (me on the other hand...well, it has become a way of life).

So what about the turtle? Hang on, I'm getting to that.

Anyway, we did find our way back to the 4-wheel drive road. From there, we decided it would be much easier to continue walking downhill to the town of Erwin and call one of the slackers that had failed to show up that morning to come and give us a ride back to our truck, than to attempt to re-climb all those steep hills we had descended during the day. It was probably another 5 miles before we hiked out of the woods, coming out in someone's backyard near the Jackson-Love Highway. Why we walked down the interstate, I have no idea, because I am quite sure that there were telephones much closer than the one we went to. In our defence, we were very tired by this time, having walked a long way, and were not thinking as clearly as we should have been.

However, it was near the end of this stretch of highway (another 2 miles of concrete hiking) that we saw the big-ass turtle.

loch ness pond

Just before we reach the 'Jonesbourgh Exit', there is a peaceful, green pond that is is situated beside the Nolichucky River. As we were walking by this pond, a fisherman who had been trying his luck there, decided to call it a day. Just after he had gotten up and walked away, there was this huge creature on the bottom of the pond resembling a large boulder that began swimming away. I'm not sure if the fisherman was hunting this beast, or the other way around, but this enormous turtle swam off while RAT and I watched in astonishment. It appear to be as large as a somewhat flattened VW Beetle. RAT immediately nicknamed this phenomenal beast 'The Lock Ness Turtle.'

As fate would have it, no one (except RAT) believes that this monstrous turtle exists, or has ever existed for that matter, in the backwashes of the Nolichucky River. We didn't carry a camera with us that day, that I am aware of, but having a photograph would do us no good anyway, as the creature would either be hidden in the green pond waters, or appear to be just another boulder below the surface. Obviously, a video camera would have been the thing to have, but we didn't have one of them either.

So, to all my friends who do not believe the story of the 'Lock Ness Turtle', I stick my tongue out in your general direction and give you the 'raspberry', because I KNOW that 'Lock Ness Turtle' exists. As a result of this fact, be assured that I will never willingly go swimming in that river, or any pond close to it, ever again!