Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

Spring break suffering

Spring break in college has taken on something of a legendary status in our culture. It’s a time to get out of the cold and crappy weather on campus and catch some rays on a beach littered with White Claws and High Noons. If you’re cool enough, you may even be able to spend some time partying with cool frat dudes and sorority gals. 

Getting tan and getting drunk – what else could one want from their only break in the spring semester? It sounds like the ultimate relaxing getaway. So what did I decide to do with my spring break? The exact opposite.

Our wonderful humor editor Teddy Johnson and I decided that, instead of soaking up some sun, we were going to trudge around in the woods for four days and three nights. Great Smoky Mountains here we come.

The craziness began before our trip truly started. On our first night in the national park, we had to sleep in Teddy’s car while the rain poured outside. I’m a light sleeper and Teddy is a snorer. After that night, I met the executive decision that we weren’t sharing a tent. 

But the morning finally came, and with it the realization that I had left my hiking boots back in Oxford, five hours away. I’m supposed to be the experienced outdoor guy, and I was already fumbling. $140 down the drain (sort of). Can we just get on the trail already? 

And get on the trail we did. Nine miles on our first day, with approximately 2,000 feet of elevation gain, and a light rain that refused to go away. Remember what I mentioned about the sunny beach? At least we had a pretty mountain stream to keep us company for most of the day. 

When we got to camp, it was too cold and wet to do much, so we sat in our tents and barely talked. Quality bonding time with my hiking partner. That night it got below freezing and I woke up the next morning with ice covering my tent. No getting tan here I guess. But, I made it through that freezing night, and I have to admit it made me feel pretty cool. Much more than shotgunning a Natty Light in the Florida sand.

Teddy kept talking about how he was looking forward to the suffering that would inevitably come with our trip. I think the trail heard him and decided to punish us for it that second day. How does gaining 3,000 feet of elevation in your first five miles of hiking sound? Let's not mention that I was the one who planned our route.

I had decided to take us to the highest point in the entire park, and we ended up gaining 4,000 feet of elevation over 12 miles of hiking. Florida is the flattest state in the U.S., by the way. But, I can’t complain too much. We saw some incredible views from the top, met some cool people, and learned that some Appalachian Trail thru-hikers chain smoke. The more you know.

The next day we were treated to a trail crossed by so many fallen trees that it felt more like an obstacle course than a hike. Army crawl or climb: the choice is yours. We were walking through an area that had been previously burned by wildfires, so the trees standing were pretty sparse and open, which made for even more awesome views. But crazy wind gusts took full advantage and whipped us around the mountain that morning. A calm ocean breeze sounds pretty nice.

That day we lost 3,000 feet of elevation, which did terrible things to my knees, and we made it to our camp mid-afternoon after another nine miles of hiking. The sun was poking through the trees, and we got our chance to lay out and bask in some sub-par UV. This must be what Florida feels like.

It was our last night, and the mountains decided to send us out with a bang. Remember those winds I mentioned earlier? They came back overnight. Only this time at sustained gusts of 40-50 mph. The wind howled, my tent was flapping like crazy and I could hear the branches above me cracking and falling off the trees. I had two thin strips of nylon protecting me. Another restful night hoping that Mother Nature would spare my poor soul. 

Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter

I did not relax much on this spring break trip, but it certainly was an adventure. And adventures make you cool. And give you good stories. So I can live with that.

Oh yeah, and a mouse tried to get into my tent. Twice. Maybe they don’t have mice on the beach.