Monday, April 16, 2012

Hannah Mountain Hike

Diane's Easter weekend backpack got scheduled for the weekend after Easter. So 6 of us set out for the Smokies on Friday: Diane, Sue, Nancy, Amy, Garnett and me. We met up at Garnett's, and after a tour of her lovely home we headed to Cade's Cove. Driving around the loop road we saw a mama bear with her baby feeding on the side of the road. A Ranger was warning folks about the bears, don’t get too close!

We drove up Parson Branch Road to drop two cars, had lunch there (with jelly beans for dessert) and went on to Abrams Creek Ranger Station to start the hike on Rabbit Creek Trail.

We traveled most of the day so our hike to campsite 14 was a short hike, only 3.5 miles. We saw lots of Dwarf Crested Iris along the way. #14 is a big camping area so we all had a flat spot to set up our tents. Ever had a tent pole break? Nancy had a small issue with a tent pole, quickly fixed with duct tape. We gathered a lot of firewood and stacked it up. Sue showed us how to really get a fire started, didn't need the dryer lint or starter log. After supper we passed around the cough medicine and watched the stars come out. We got to listen to the creek sing us to sleep. Sweet.

Saturday we packed up and crossed the creek, show off those legs Miss Garnett! Wee, that water is COLD! Diane had bandanas for each of us to dry our feet. Gifts from the Easter Bunny. We hiked back to the Hannah Mt junction to Abram's Creek. We saw all the huge trees that blew down during last April’s tornado. The trail was in great shape thanks to the trail crews that cleared all those trees. There were lots of wildflowers and the dogwoods were in full bloom among the trees that were left. Crossvine was blooming, adding color to the trees, and we saw Magnolia blossoms, and Silverbell blossoms. So much beauty among the broken trees. The forest renewing, and still very much alive.

We watched two dads with their sons cross Abram's Creek only getting water in one boot hanging from a pack. We climbed back up to the trail junction and had lunch at campsite 16. Then on toward campsite 14.

We stopped for a break to cool off and a backpacker came by and asked if we were headed for #14. Yes. He said there would be 4 of them plus us. Then told Sue "you work at REI" and hiked on. When we got there we left the area around the firering for them and set up on the slope. Slanted sleeping. Diane scouted the area for water and reported there was a seep down the hill with a small pool of water that would require scooping a cup full to pour into a bigger container, or the creek 375 paces up the trail. Seep or creek....hmmm. We hiked to the creek and filled up all the water bags and bladders and munched on brook lettuce.

When we got back to camp two of the other guys had set up and the 4th came in right behind them. They were talking about all they had seen along the trail and were comparing pictures of wildflowers. We shared what we had seen and looked at their pictures. They told us to watch for the flame azaleas tomorrow along the trail. We told them about the Gaywings and pink Lady Slippers going the other way. They asked if we had heard about the Park Superintendant wanting to start charging backpackers $4 per person per night for campsites and shelter use in the backcountry. We had heard a little about it. They gave us info about their website, and asked us to check it out. I hope you will check it out too. The fees will come in 2013. They told us about a protest at Sugarland Visitor Center on April 21. You can also get info from Southern Forest Watch.

We cooked supper and then one by one the ladies went to their tents to read and study maps. I stayed up to watch the stars. Glad I did cause the lightning bugs showed up too. First ones I've seen this year. Craig and the Outcasts had seen them at Natchez Trace a couple weeks ago. One of the guys recognized me from the blog. I was wearing my Outcast shirt and he knew the name from the blog. How cool. They were wearing Southern Highlanders shirts. I got to watch them cook supper over the campfire; bacon wrapped steak on a big stick. Only one went into the fire, quickly recovered from the ashes and put back on the stick. Very entertaining. A little more cough medicine and visiting and star watching then a night slanted sleeping. The wind howed across the Gap most of the night. Gaps seem to attract the wind that way....

Sunday morning we were serenaded by a turkey gobbling his way along the gap below us. Then the songbirds and woodpeckers. No sleeping in this morning. He must have strutted for a half hour but we never did see him. After a good oatmeal breakfast we packed up did some yoga and said goodby to the guys.

It wasn't very far from the creek that we started seeing the flame azaleas. So bright orange! Met a couple that said there were bears about a mile ahead. They had seen 9 this morning, coming in from Cades Cove. Sure enough, a mile later the mama and two cubs crossed the trail and ran down the slope. They stopped anwatched us. Mama Bear stood up and checked us out. I couldn't get a good pic, I hope someone did. We also got to see the huge tulip poplar 6 feet in diameter right by the trail. We passed a group of day hikers that recognized Diane from hiking in the parks around Nashville, then another recognized Garnett. We made it to the parking lot and retrieved our cars. The parking lot was full. We drove back to Abram's Creek Ranger Station to get the other cars. The kiosk at the campground had a bat trapped inside the glass.

We headed out with Nancy and Amy heading to Cades Cove for more hiking and the rest of us drove to Maryville for lunch at a sweet little place called the Tomato Head. Thanks Diane for another great weekend of hiking with the ladies!


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