Wednesday, October 19, 2016

AT - Damascus to VA 16

Day One: 9.8
Damascus to Saunders Shelter
Day Two: 12.6
Saunders Shelter to Whitetop Mt. Rd
Day Three: 12.8
Whitetop Mt. Rd to Big Wilson Creek
Day Four: 10.8
Big Wilson Creek to Hurricane Mt. Shelter
Day Five: 5.1
Hurricane Mt. Shelter to VA16
Total: 51.1

We left Friday evening and stayed at Panther Creek State Park for the night. Saturday morning we got on the trail in Damascus. In the parking area there was another couple in a blue Subaru the same year as ours, so we had to say hi. We hiked to Subway and picked up our lunch/dinner for the day and got on the trail.

The weather was great and so was the hike. This time we passed the 500 mile mark on the AT. We had fires each night and slept without our tarps every night. The moon shone like a streetlight every night. We saw a lot of Southbound Thru-hikers and dodged some bikes on the Virginia Creeper trail. We went without our drink mixes and hot chocolate that LORA forgot to pack.

After we dodged some bikers on the Virginia Creeper trail, we joined back up on the AT and met the couple from the Subaru coming at us. They were doing a day hike. Shortly after that Lora checked my heart by doing her high pitched school girl scream. The snake about had a heart attack as well. We saw lots of woolly worms on the trail, none with the same color pattern. We also got to see our first honey bee hive in a tree.

We spent our first night with eleven others at the Saunders Shelter. Lots of visiting took place around the campfire. We also found out that LORA forgot the hose to our water filter.....luckily I carry my pump as well.

Day Two:

We got up and did us some hiking today. We leapfrogged with a couple of Kentucky boys that were at the shelter last night. We passed two other guys early in the morning who said they were out of water. We passed around eight crossings right after that so not sure why. We had to do some more bike dodging as we did another short section of the Virginia Creeper trail.

We were so proud of our accomplishment today, we stopped at our campsite for the night at 1:45 in the afternoon. When we figured that the phone had the right time, we picked up our packs and continued hiking. We climbed and climbed and climbed and finally ended up on top of Whitetop Mountain. There was a little boy and his dad at Buzzard rock enjoying the view. We came to the piped spring, cleaned up, filled up and found us a campsite for real. Another beautiful night. We walked back to the road and watched the sunset.

Day Three:

It was a very rocky day today as we climbed up Mt. Rodgers. We took the side trail to summit the mountain. We found ourselves looking at a pile of rocks with no view in the woods. Not very impressed with that summit, we ate our lunch and hiked back to the AT.

The Thomas Knob shelter was more impressive with the fancy logs and upstair sleeping room. Right after that you get to some great views as the trail follows along the rocky peaks and the wild ponies are everywhere. We squoze through the Fat Man's Squeeze and saw a couple flying a kite. They had a camera attached lower on the string to get some good views.

We crossed through the Grayson Highlands State Park which was uneventful. There is plenty of water sources and camping area's before the Wise Shelter. We went beyond the shelter to the campground beyond Big Wilson Creek. We had another hiker to visit with that night around the campfire. Sometime in the night we woke up to light rain from an absolutely clear starry night. Not sure how that happened, but it didn't last long. We heard coyotes and owls through the night.

Day Four:

Windy this morning. Very windy! Lora had a hard time staying on the trail across the Scales with the wind blowing her. We saw some bear scat and cows on the way across. As we approached the corral, we saw a cow butt in the trail. We hollered to get it's attention and it turned and looked with it's long horns. As we got closer it started walking down the trail and later followed us through the gate at the corral so we could close it in with the other longhorns.

We continued to the Hurricane Mt. Shelter where we made camp across the trail next to the creek. We heard a Screech Owl that evening and we had a noise that sounded like limbs breaking all night long. Never could find what that was.

Day Five:

We woke to the call of a crow. He didn't want us to sleep in today. We continued on the trail to VA16. We got to see the Comers Falls which is pretty much a small cascade on the way. Dad and Mom picked us up and took us back to Damascus to the car.


Saturday, October 8, 2016

Thomas Divide and Smokemont Loop

Craig had to work a double shift on our anniversary weekend so I went to the Smoky Mountains to hike. On the way thru Wears Valley I saw turkeys, one white hen with younger ones. There was something wet falling from the sky that I hadn’t seen in a while. On the drive up Newfound Gap I actually had to use my windshield wipers! When I met the SMHC at the Thomas Divide trailhead on Newfound Gap Road, I got to wear my rain jacket and hat!!!
Cindy and Ken were the leaders and we quickly counted hikers (15) and shuttled 3 cars to Mingus Mill. We got back and counted 17 hikers with raingear on and ready to go. Thomas Divide trail had early fall flowers blooming, gentian, and lots of purple asters. The wind was gusting from Hurricane Matthew beating up the NC coast, trees swaying and singing.
We turned onto Deep Low Gap to our lunch stop at Little Creek Falls. We had some creek crossings that required some fancy balancing skills, log bridges with no hand rails, but no one fell in. Mingus Creek Trail was a pretty downhill trek. 14.9 miles and 17 tired but happy hikers to pack into the 3 cars, (how many hikers can you cram into a Subaru with a Ranger sitting in the parking lot? The Ranger was the same one that gave Tim a ride after our snowy return from a backpack in March.

I stayed in Cherokee for the night at Cherokee Campground and Craigs Cabins, in a bunkhouse. This is a nice small campground ran by super nice folks. The folks in the next door had a campfire between our bunkhouses so I got to enjoy the smell, while listening to crickets and night sounds. And then at 11:30 GONG GONG GONG GONG what the?? Went out to see what was going on. Asked a couple that were still up, him playing (sort of) a guitar and she playing songs on her phone so he could follow. They said it sounded like gun shots. Yeah must be cannon sized gun, I said You’re not from around here are you? They said no, hmmm. These gong sounds lasted for 20-25 minutes while I tried calling the sheriff’s office (busy) to see what was going on. After it stopped I was not lulled to sleep by the guitar playing. They finally quit around 12:45.

I got up Sunday morning to stars still shining. Went for a drive to the fields around the Oconoluffte Visitor Center and saw an Elk and several turkeys. Drove up the Blue Ridge Parkway thru some tunnels and stopped at the overlooks. Saw where we hiked yesterday from one of them. Drove to Smokemont to meet Garnett. Found her at the Ranger Station. The trailhead parking was full so we added to our hiking miles in the campground. We hiked the Smokemont Loop. Saw a few hikers on the trail, stopped at the top of the climb for lunch. Saw 3 deer as we hiked down. Saw something we couldn’t identify as we came out to the roadbed leading us to the campground. Looked like a small roof, maybe a kiosk, or ?? We didn’t walk thru the weeds to explore, maybe on the next hiking adventure.

After Garnett headed home, I decided that it was such a pretty day and early, I wanted more. I hiked the Tow String Road section toward the other horse trailhead, and some extra, up a hill to a cemetery. And a little bit of that horse trail.

More trails completed to mark off my map! Happy Anniversary!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Sequoyah Newclear - TN River

Lora and I went to the Tennessee river today to canoe. We put in at the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant boat ramp off Stonesage Road. This has turned into a four wheel drive road. It is in really bad condition. We were surprised to see another truck out there when we got to the ramp.

We put in and did both sloughs North and South of the ramp. We then headed South planning on reaching the Slough South of the Sequoyah plant. The wind was horrendous and for all the work we did, we never got past the plant. We made it to the power lines and then headed back. We got in a little more than five miles.

After that we drove down to see the next put in. We found a ramp at Dockside Drive and Hixson Pike and then at Chester Frost Park. Next trip down the river.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Canadian Rockies

Day one was flying in. We had a good flight and customs wasn't even too bad. Now the rental agency..... We had ordered a four door sedan. They wanted to upgrade us to a Jeep Wrangler for extra money. We said no thanks and they sent us out. When we got to our slot we saw a two door Dodge Charger with low profile tires. This is not going to work in the mountains. Back to the counter and of course they had no more cars left. Anyways, we are driving a Jeep Wrangler for no extra.

We got to stay with the Brewers our first night and had a great visit with them.

Day Two:

We headed to Waterton Lakes National Park. Our first wildlife before we got into the park were hawks, and four deer. Our first hike was to Alderson Lake about 8 miles with an elevation gain of 5800 feet. Then we headed to the Red Rock Canyon where we hiked around the canyon and along Bauerman Creek. On the way up the road we had a mother and cub black bear run across the road in front of us. We spotted another black bear on the side of the mountain.

From there we went back to Waterton and ate dinner at the 49 degree Pizza Place. On the way back to Pincher Creek for the night, Lora spotted a moose in a creek so we stopped and took pics of her. A tour bus load of folks are here at the hotel so we had to blend in to get breakfast.

Day Three:

Today's hike was to Crypt Lake. On the way to the park we again saw deer and hawks. There is a 15 minute boat ride to the trailhead and being a holiday weekend, they ended up sending two boats out for the 8:30 am launch time. It was windy and the waves were large. We got a lot of good information on the trip over. It seems that bear bells and whistling to make noise is 100% useless. Those attract bears.

Now, this trail was on Grizzly watch so you had to hike in a group of four and had to carry bear spray. It was only up to a $25,000 fine if you didn't. We paired up with a couple from Canada. He was German and she was originally from Arizona.

The hike was a good climb through some beautiful woods. We had three waterfalls along the way: Twin Falls, Burnt Rock Falls, and Crypt Falls. At the second falls we got to watch three mountain goats climbing on the mountain across from us. The man that was with us tripped over a rock in the trail. He was leading at the time and as he was falling he was yelling out that he was alright. He only fell about five feet off the side of the trail, but he did it over about fifteen minutes. We saw his feet and we saw his head and we saw his feet again above the brush. This is nothing that my dad wouldn't do. When he finally stopped we asked if he was still alright. He bounced back up and off he went.

After the second waterfall the switchbacks got steeper and at one section you are walking along a 500 ft cliff. The trail sloped to the wall so that was great, but the trail was only about three foot wide. This section led to a small ladder that lead to a tunnel only four feet high. On the other side the trail got narrower and you had a cable to hold on to. Then you did a small rock scramble up and back to regular trail. After that you got back on a regular trail and the heart started working again.

Crypt Lake was beautiful. We ate lunch there as more and more people arrived. All at once a large group of them got up and moved toward us. A black bear came out of the woods for a drink. As always there are stupid people. This was no exception and people were trying to get pictures with him. Lora and I started hiking around the lake in the opposite direction planning on him being gone by the time we got back. Halfway around the lake and the bear is still wondering around and actually heading toward the trail that we were going to take. Plan B, we headed back the way we came. The bear finally headed back into the woods.

Now comes the interesting part. On the way back down there are people coming up. Lora and I ended up climbing the wall above the cable and sitting down while thirty others came by us. When we finally got down and came to the tunnel we had to have people go by us again on the outside. Finally, we got our chance and got back through the tunnel and down the ladder.

After we got around the bend and quite a distance from the tunnel, we heard someone up above us yell "Bear at the tunnel". We looked across at the tunnel where there was a group of people going both ways and sure enough a black bear came down from above the tunnel and hit the trail. We found out later that one person had sprayed the bear and he ran through the tunnel. One man in the tunnel sprayed the bear and the bear swatted him in the leg. The bear ran out the cable side of the tunnel and started climbing back up the mountain. We watched in horror as we saw all these people, knowing what an unsafe part of the trail it was and knowing that there was nothing that they could do. The bear then came back down and crossed the trail on the cable side and continued down the mountain. Yea, Wow!

Things went smoother on the rest of the trail hearing lots of stories from those directly involved. We hiked the Hell Canyon part on the way back which was very steep but beautiful. The hike was 10.6 miles long and gained 2,100 feet. We did get to eat huckleberries and raspberries on the trail.

After our boat ride back, Lora and I celebrated with blueberry and saskatoon pie. Then we started our long drive to Lake Louise.

Day Four:

We woke up and ate a wonderful breakfast at the Deer Lodge where we stayed at Lake Louise. After breakfast we drove up to the lake to see it with about a thousand others. Holiday weekend. The clouds were low so we didn't have very good views. From there we drove to Moraine Lake with pretty much the same results.

From there we started our drive towards Jasper on the Icefields Parkway. The sky cleared up and we had a beautiful drive. We stopped at Bow Lake, Lake Helen, Bow Glacier Falls, Peyto Lake, Snowbird Glacier, Weeping Wall, Bridal Veil Falls,Tangle Falls, Sunwapta Falls, and Athabasca Falls. We walked up to the toe of the Athabasca Glacier and watched the 6 wheel drive buses take folks out onto the glacier. There were people walking on the glacier in guided groups....not us! We saw mountain goats on the side of a mountain while we were stopped on the side of the road looking at a glacier. And then one elk grazing on the side of the road.

We ate dinner in Jasper at O'Shea's in the Athabasca Hotel. The cook had it going on. Driving toward Hinton we saw a family of elk resting on the side of the road and then a family of mountain goats posing for pictures on a hillside.

Day Five:

We left Hinton and headed to Jasper. We saw some long horned sheep and a Elk on the way. Drove to Maligne Canyon to check it out. It is a very deep canyon carved out by the river. Then we drove to Edith Cavell trailhead on the recommendation of two different waitresses. The Labor Day crowds were still out but they stayed on the path to the Glacier. It was a steep climb to Meadows but very rewarding. We had great views of glacier but with the snow and ice we couldn't make it to the overlook. We saw marmots and a pika.

Then we drove South on Icefields Parkway and stopped at Saskatchewan River Crossing for lunch. Good chili. We stopped at Rampart Creek campground which would be a good one to camp at if anyone wants to. 

We stopped at Buck Lake but saw no bucks. Drove the Bow Valley Parkway to Banff, seeing no wildlife. We stayed at the YWCA Mountain Lodge in Banff makes us feel like we are at school. 

Day Six:

Today's hike was the Plain of Six Glaciers at Lake Louise. Once we got off the lake, the crowed disappeared and we had a pleasant hike to the Tea House. We stopped in at the Tea house for hot chocolate. We saw three mountain goats on our hike. After we left the Tea house,  we got to watch ice fall off Mt Victoria glacier down to the lower Glacier. It caused a very loud echo through out the valley. We hiked to the Upper Beehive with a wooden shelter where we had lunch. Here we saw the helicopter rescue from Lake Agnes tea house. Some hiker had heart issues.

From there we hiked down to Lake Agnes and their Tea house. They were closed for the season so we enjoyed the waterfall behind. Then we hiked to Mirror Lake and back to Lake Louise. We got to eat huckleberries on the trail which is always a bonus. 

Then we drove on West on Hwy 1 to Takakkaw Falls which is one of Canada's largest falls at 991 feet high. It was beautiful. On the way there we got to see the Spiral train tunnel and Whiskey Jack Falls. This would be a great area to day hike or overnight. 

Then we checked out the Natural Bridge in Yoho and Emerald Lake where we had dinner at the lodge. We drove the Bow Valley Parkway again, wasting our time again. There was a pretty view of moon over the mountains. 

Day Seven:

Today's hike is Cory Pass. The trailhead is just North of Banff. You have a short hike along the highway and then a "OH MY GOD" climb. During the climb we met our new hiking partners, Gordan and Linda. They had actually read the trail description so it was nice to have them along.They were from Scotland.

Once you get to Cory Pass you drop down into an old Glacier Basin which is beautiful with views of Mt. Edith and then through Edith pass with beautiful views of Mt. Norquay. We ate lunch on the slope with a rainbow in the background. All down hill from here....

We drove back into Banff for ice cream at Cows, and went by the Banff Springs Hotel to take some pics. HUGE hotel. The Bow River runs thru town with a pretty waterfall to stop and see.
Then we drove to Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack Lake where we saw a huge bull elk. Pretty drive to these lakes.

We were meeting the Brewers in Canmore for dinner and since we were early we drove up to Three sisters dam and Spray Lake for a wonderful view over Canmore. We then met the Brewers for dinner and headed back to their house for a restful visit in the hot tub.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Hiwassee Camp, Hike, and Float

15 TTA folks spent the weekend at Hiwassee/Ocoee State Park. We camped at Group camp 6, with a few ladies at another campsite and one at another park. I didn't get there until Friday evening after work. just in time to see everyone arriving at the boat ramp after a float on the Hiwassee River. The water was flowing fast and the first ones at the ramp stood out in the water to catch any that couldn't get stopped. Everyone made it in safe. We had a wonderful dinner at camp with everyone's 
contributions, with Miss Garnett's brown sugar chess pie, and Marcia's huckleberry crumb cake for dessert. Yummy! We had a real nice campfire until the thunderstorm rained it out. 

Saturday started nice and clear for the Ocoee raft trip. Someone else will have to tell that story because I went hiking with Joan, Jane and Debbie on the Oswald Dome Trail. It was cool under the canopy of trees. We had some nice views, and had our lunch at the towers in the shade with birds singing and bees buzzing. Saw some nice late summer flowers too. On the way back the temperature was rising so it felt good when we got a little wet from a thunder shower.  At the parking area there
were some nice classic cars in the parking lot with a group having lunch at the pavilion. 

We returned to camp and I jumped in the river to cool off. The current is too swift when the water gets released from the dam, but lots of folks were floating down the river, some on innertubes, some with PFDs, some just floating by.

Some of us went to the Visitors Center to see a snake presentation. Some of us were brave enough to touch the slimy scary things, and some of us weren’t that brave……Anyway there was a corn snake, a king snake, and a rat snake that was big enough to eat the annoying little girl that didn’t want to sit down and be quiet. Not that we wanted that to happen or anything.

Saturday evening we had dinner in Etowah at a nice Mexican restaurant. They had plenty of room for our big group and fed us really well.  Back at camp we had another nice campfire. Watched the stars put on a show and had a good time getting to know some new friends and reconnecting with some old friends. 

Sunday we were supposed to paddle 13 miles on the Ocoee, but the forecast put a damper on that so most folks headed for home. Joan, Marianne and I went to Parksville Lake to paddle until the storms rolled in. We put in at the Parksville boat ramp. It got warm out there on the lake so we found a good spot on the bank for lunch and a swim. We followed the lake shore and explored the inlets. We found a real nice church camp and thought it would be a nice place for a future TTA Annual meeting if we could have the meeting during warm weather. There's a boat ramp, dock, pontoons, canoes, and a big industrial kitchen, a big pavilion for outdoor dining. Something to think about.....

We beat the rain back to the boat ramp; we only got sprinkled on while loading the kayaks. We had a rude guy in the parking lot asking us to get out of his way so he could get his boat out of the water. We were in the process of loading a kayak into a vehicle, not dawdling, we got there first. Evidently some boaters do not think kayaks are boats deserving a spot on the ramp???

Joan had to get back home, so Marianne and I stopped at the Gondolier for a late lunch/early supper. Good pizza. 

Great weekend of fun with great people. 


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Holly Park

Lora and I headed out after church for a little canoe trip. We put in at Holly Park on Soddy Lake and canoed out to the Pine Harbor marina. The water was busy with lots of boats and skiers, but we survived the challenge along with a few other kayakers that we saw.


Saturday, August 13, 2016

McGill Creek

Don Deakins led a hike on the newly build McGill Creek segment of the CT. We met at the Roaring Creek trailhead and loaded into Don’s truck to ride to the Brayton Mt road crossing to start our hike. 7 hikers. And one skunk that crossed our trail just as we were starting. We hiked to McGill Creek where the bridge will eventually be built. The Southern Trail Crew is now building trail from the Downey View Trailhead (off Leggett Rd) toward the creek. After a break at the creek, we hiked back, crossed Brayton Mt road and hiked the section back to Roaring Creek. Excellent trail building on this new segment! This is a beautiful hike.

Note from some of the hikers: Chiggers were collected on this hike.