Harvey Broome Group Gourmet Backpack
Mexican Hamburger Dip, Santa Fe Chicken, Ceasar Salad, fresh baked calzone, Seafood Newburg, veggie kabobs, and fresh baked lemon poppy seed cake: the menu at your favorite gourmet restaurant? No, just a sampling of the fare from the 1997 version of the Harvey Broome Group's annual Gourmet Backpack. What has become an annual tradition started as a canoe backpack in the early 1980's. Given the load carrying capacity of the boats, and the usual short jaunt to the campsite, the feasts became Herculean in proportion, and more outrageous every year. One year, the chief hurdle was thawing 2 gallons of homemade strawberry ice cream, converted to the hardness of a brick due to overzealous packing with dry ice. Another year, raccoons made off with the morning breakfast while outings participants were out skinny dipping in Fontana Lake.
In the late 1980's, the outing went on hiatus for a few years, but was revived in 1992 by Polly and Hartwell Herring, with a easy hike into the Hesse Creek campsite in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The late-September 1997 trip featured an easy 3.4 mile hike, nearly all of which was either flat or downhill, into the upper reaches of the South Fork of Citico Creek, in the Cherokee National Forest. This is the second time that the HBG has returned to this little used grassy opening in the forest. The campsite offers a number of sites for tents, easy stream access for water (or chilling a number of wine bottles), and even a taste of history: the area is the site of a old turn-of-the-century logging camp, and numerous artifacts from those bygone days can be found in the surrounding woods.
This year's trip featured perhaps the greatest age diversity on a recent HBG backpack: 4-year old Tyler Allen regaled everyone with his rendition of ET (the Extra-Terrestrial) in his Halloween garb, while 69-year old Master Baker Dolph Goodin kept appetites whetted with trail-baked blueberry muffins and biscuits and gravy for breakfast. Perhaps the only sour note was that rain ended an otherwise sunny afternoon right as the first bite of dinner was being downed. But nine folks were able to squeeze under an otherwise 5-person tarp to stay dry. The rain stopped late in the night and was replaced with high winds, only to shift back to rain in the early morning. The weather lifted enough for us to break camp in a leisurely fashion, and hit the soggy trail and head for home. Always ready to pick up a few more backcountry tips, the leaders (Susie McDonald and Roger Jenkins) learned several things on this trip: a) While you can squeeze 9 people under a 5-person tarp, it is hard to eat with someone else's head in your face; b) waterproofing a tent only once in five years can result in major drippage during the night; and c) no matter how discouraging the weather forecast, avid hikers will never miss the opportunity for a great meal on the trail.
© Roger A. Jenkins, 1998