It’s a beautiful spring Sunday, Mother’s Day to be correct. We leave the house around 7 and start making our way south towards Cleveland, TN. After stopping for an early morning coffee, we make it down to the designated meeting point just before 9. Shortly after arriving a caravan of Toyota, Land Rovers, and Jeeps arrive. This is the Earthbound Overland group ride. While we don’t know Joshua personally, we have been chatting sporadical over social media for the past few months. Once every has arrived, the customary gawking over vehicles commences and questions are asked. There are FJ Cruisers, an older Land Rover Discovery and many many others. Some are almost stock, while others are complete expedition style vehicles. This is what I love about this type of event, it welcomes everyone. Within a few minutes Joshua gives us the sign that we are getting ready to head out on the predesignated route. Today we are heading into the backcountry just south of the Ocoee Whitewater Center headed east towards Ducktown, TN.
After leaving the parking lot where we all gathered, we are headed south on TN 411, headed towards the TN/GA line. Just prior to crossing the state line we take a side road and start heading east into the mountains. Slowly our convoy of 18 vehicles, which now more closely resembles a snake is making its way closer to the Cherokee National Forest. Within several minutes of leaving the main road, we are now entering the National Forest roads, our primary route for the day.
Todays route will snake eastward towards over mountain tops and through gaps, filled with small streams and blooming trees and flowers. At one point, the radio crackles and Joshua in the lead vehicles advises us that there is a bear just off to the left, up on the hill. As we all slowly make our way past the bear, we can’t help but notice how we must look to him, we couldn’t tell who was more intrigued.
After continuing down our route, we stop at a group campground and rally the troops for lunch. Within a few minutes of stopping, I am approached by a gentleman who is camped across the street with his family. He’s looking for help, apparently while out driving last night he and his family hit a very large hog. When the car struck the hog, it seems that the hogs tusk sliced through the front right tire. He stated they limped back to camp and the truck has sat there since the tire went flat. Just as a side note no matter what type of trip we are going on, I always take all my recovery gear and tools, you never know. I assessed the situation and determined that the front tire was completely destroyed, we checked the spare and found it flat. With no other choice, I started up my compressor and we checked the spare. Luckily, it was just low on air, with the compressor humming away we quickly filled the tire and removed the destroyed tire and rim. Within no time, the worry that filled this campers face had faded and he and the rest of his family were set to continue their family weekend escape.
After fixing the wheel, I made my way back to our group where my wife was fixing me a PB andJ sandwich. It was at this time that I had my first chance to really look around at our lunch location, what a beautiful campsite, situated just of the road was a large group campsite with a moderate size stream running through it. I took a moment to listen, kids and dogs playing in the water with adults talking trucks and trips, today is a good day
Once lunch was finished we all packed up and continued on our way, headed east again, now heading towards the top of the peaks. A few minutes later, there it was, our first real view of the day. As we peered out looking north you could see the sea of green, no bald peaks here. Spring has officially arrived in East Tennessee. We continue on our path with another 30 miles to go till we reach pavement again. My wife is driving now, giving me a chance to get some photos and videos as we continue on our route. The constant chitter chatter on the CB that was so abundant at the being of the day has now dwindled with only the occasional conversation. As we pop out on some county roads near Ducktown, TN everyone is excited to be out of the dust that was so prevalent for much of the ride. We all make our way to a local gas station so we can air the tires back up, its not that we needed the extra traction or footprint, but it helped with smoothing out the ride. The day is coming to an end, new friends were made and the road less traveled was explored. Always remember to embrace the unknown and enjoy the journey.