Congress, Obama Spare Hikers’ Big Weekend

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 21, 2011

CHARLIE’S BUNION, On the Appalachian Trail — The long, quarrelling arms of Congress and President Obama threatened to evict us from a $17-a-night campsite in this idyllic wilderness Friday night.
A park ranger warned campers to be prepared to leave Saturday morning if a federal budget wasn’t approved. While hotdogs roasted over the campfire, I tried to figure how to salvage a long-planned camping trip with son Michael, 12.
Neither the President nor Congress had fans among the trout fishermen and few retirees camped along our mountain stream. Our weekend in this Garden of Eden paradise was in jeopardy.
Fearing the worst, I made sure I spotted the delicate three-petal white trillium growing along the creek bank Friday evening. Searching out wildflowers has been a thrill for me since 1975 when a Western Carolina University biology professor led an expedition here. I spotted beds of the tiny spring beauty with its striped petals near Newfound Gap and purple violets and phlox in the low elevations. The mayapple plants were up. I didn’t find my favorite flower, jack-in-the-pulpit.
Deep in the mountains, we were cut off from telephones and the Internet, and we didn’t know until Saturday morning that we could stay. Not exactly primitive woodsmen, we ate breakfast at Peter’s House of Pancakes and Waffles in Cherokee. After hiking, we came back to Dairy Queen at night.
On the trail, we saw maybe 20 of those hardy Georgia-to-Maine hikers. They had made about 200 of the 2,100 miles since starting in mid-March, and they all seemed cheerful. We talked to hikers from Maine, Ohio, Michigan and North Carolina. Some were recent college graduates unable to find jobs. One man was down to his last thousand dollars and decided to spend it hiking instead of paying for another month’s rent.
I have hiked this 11-mile section many times, bringing my sons here to measure their maturity. Any youth in reasonable …