I have found it very hard to convince people that I’m a nature girl and that I have absolutely no problems roughing it. This maybe because I spent a good part of my career with the Travel Channel staying at exceptionally luxurious hotels where I would indulge in their award winning food, wine and spa treatments. With that show I certainly grew a fondness for a nice bed and a deep soaking tub but I wouldn’t wither away if I didn’t have that. So let’s just say I am really excited, no overjoyed, about this trip. Even though I love the outdoors I never camped — my family preferred the kidney shaped pools and scratchy small bath towels of Motor Lodges. But I always thought that I could really get to love camping if I just had the chance.
Before we start our next few days of camping we are staying at a beautiful hotel called the Lodge at Buckberry Creek. Located on top of a mountain it looks out over a beautiful forest with large balconies and even larger fireplaces. First order of business is to go for a quick hike to absorb the outdoors, next is to buy beer and wine for the crew. I headed down to Gatlinburg to find a liquor store when I brought my order to the counter the older gentleman asked me if I was going to Dolly Parton’s parade that night in Pigeon’s Ford. “Is Dolly Parton going to be there?” — ask a stupid question — “well, yeah” he said, “that’s why they call it Dolly Parton’s Parade.” I deserved that.
Gatlinburg is an interesting place. Considered the gateway to the Smoky Mountains, an area of extreme natural beauty, there’s actually nothing natural about it. In fact I needed to buy a few more pieces of outdoor clothing and foolishly thought I could pick something up in town but driving down main street with its fudge shops, t-shirt emporiums and wax museums, I realized that it’s easier to buy camping equipment on the island of Manhattan. Unless of course the t-shirt which listed why a six pack of beer was better than a man had wicking technology. The one place we all desperately wanted to go for dinner was a place called Cooters with a replica of the General Lee out front. We never did make it.
Morning at the trailhead we all feel like we are school kids away from our parents on a field trip. We have a very challenging hike ahead of us — 7 hours to the top of the over 6,000 foot Mt. LeConte. I think I practically skipped the first third of it I was so happy. Rory on camera and Damian on sound have a more challenging task due to the added weight of their gear but everyone is pretty fit. Even Christina my intrepid stylist is hiking along. There of course is some concern about “my look” a large hike followed by camping with no water or electricity means no shower or blow dryer. Let’s just say I don’t wake up looking like I do on camera — no where near it in fact. Actually my skin’s pretty good, I don’t need or like a lot of make-up but my hair is another story. Not blessed with beautiful hair when I wake up I could pass for one of the members of 80′s rock bands like Poison or Flock of Seagulls. So in Christina’s bag she has packed dry shampoo, Velcro rollers and hairspray. Items you would never find at an R.E.I store.
We all did very well on our hike until I would say the last hour. The trail was at its steepest and 18 inches of snow had dropped two days before making it a bit more strenuous. The good news was the snow had forced a group of hikers to cancel their trip so a large cabin opened up and now the entire crew would be sleeping in a cabin as opposed to a bear shelter (???? — I didn’t ask). By the time we got to the top I was too tired to move my lips. I could have so easily curled up in the snow and fallen asleep. We still had to shoot the dinner and as we sat down with the camera rolling my mind went blank and I couldn’t remember what the fluffy white contents in the bowl were (mashed potatoes) I think I just mumbled “please pass the…the…” and then my voice trails off. The people who run Mt. LeConte Lodge are just awesome. Smiling happy faces — a welcome site for tired souls and soles. They even made me a birthday cake. As exhausted as we were at the end of dinner the crew and the staff sat around a kerosene lantern with mason jars of wine and talked. Well fed and exhausted it was time for bed.
We were all sharing the same Cabin which had a large main room and two smaller rooms off to each side. Christina and I were in one of the side rooms WITH BUNKBEDS! There’s something really wonderfully awkward about sharing such an intimate space with the people who you work with. We end each shooting day exiting a van, confirming tomorrow’s call time and saying good night ultimately going our separate ways to our own rooms behind bolted doors. Now it was like a 13 year old’s sleep over party. Christina and I ended the night in fits of giggling — about what I now forget — and we all yelled good night to each other like our last name was Walton.