Summer always provides the lightest of days. From a gear stand point that is. The pack gets lighter as less equipment is needed to face the elements and demands of winter. Those spring and fall mid-layers and shells are gone too, and my feet seem to move faster. My shoulders don't call out in pain under the stress of a heavy load. Summer's long days also expand the distances covered hiking, and the daylight hours in camp go up too. I like to bring only the essentials and savor the forest not my gear.
I went up Mt LeConte in the Smoky Mountains back in June. There were people bringing all sorts of crazy things I'd never put in my pack. One guy brought one of those fire starter logs, thing must weigh five pounds, and it was almost useless after a massive rain shower drenched all the wood around the shelter.
Don't get me started about shelters in the Smoky Mountains. I don't want to start any kind of riot so I'll just say that I prefer to throw up my tarp somewhere and chill out on the quietude and the sublime. While the people we met at the shelters were all great people, the frat house atmosphere is not quite what I'm after in my outdoor experience. I mean these people carried more alcohol and food than I had gear in my pack.
Now, I must admit I had a damn good time drinking many different whiskeys, and I learned some things; like, Mark Twain is still alive and awaiting the return of Haley's Comet. I really did have a damn good time, but my usual style is a flask of whiskey in my pack, and with that I just get mellow and soak in the views and sounds around me. I'm not against having a good time, but I prefer to party at parties and camp at camp I guess.
After the Smokys I went up Cold Mountain as I usually try to do each summer and I got to wondering why so many people stop in Deep Gap and stay the night there, only to come up to the summit of Cold Mountain the next day to check it out. I wonder why they just don't come on the rest of the way and stay up top. Maybe they don't know the secrets that summit holds so they stand off. I love being up there where the hawks fly.
I ended the summer with a trip to Panthertown. It was my first time ever there and it won't be my last. The valley and surrounding mountain tops here are a marvel of erosion and many other geological forces. I just wandered in and with my pack at 18 pounds decided I'd just walk around and go wherever I chose. The area has so many trails running through it so I just made up my route as I went along. Upon seeing The Great Wall of Panthertown I was wishing I had brought my climbing gear and a friend.
There is everything you look for in a hike around Panthertown - waterfalls, rivers, flat valley forest, steep climbs, lots of killer views, and lots of exposed rock.
On a late September evening I set my tarp up at a place called Tranquility Point. I had fortunately stumbled upon the perfect end to the summer and I was soaking it up. Sipping some whiskey and laying back listening to my iPod I watched the sun go down, leaving behind a sky of gold it took the summer with it.