Monday, December 2, 2013

AT - Newfound Gap to Max Patch

DAY ONE: 3 Miles

We pack up the Subaru and head over to Lora's parents house.  We pull in the driveway and the squealing starts.  The power steering is jerking the steering wheel.  Not a good sign.  Looks like a belt issue, so back to the house and transfer everything over to the Honda.  It's Thanksgiving day and after a wonderful meal with Lora's family we head out to the Smoky's.  This is the third day that Newfound Gap Road has been closed due to snow.  We are planning on them opening it up before we get there.  We call again and as of 2:30pm they have the road open and we finish our drive.  At 4:30pm we get on the trail in six inches of snow heading to Icewater Spring shelter.

We know that with the storm we will have the shelter to ourselves, but as we get there right at dark we can smell the smoke.  There are twelve people at the shelter before us.  Two of them set up a tent to make room.  All of them had been out at least one night and were heading out the next day, except two which were heading to Fontana Lake.  They had said that the night before it had gotten down to eight degrees and  the drifts were higher.  Two of them had come from Davenport Gap so we would have tracks to follow in the snow.

Lora and I had brought turkey, eggs, and rolls from our Thanksgiving lunch for our dinner.  Needless to say it was a noisy night.

DAY TWO: 12.6 Miles

We got up and headed out after a good breakfast.  Right at the start we came across a yearling deer who really didn't care that we were there.  The views were wonderful and everything was covered with snow.  When we got to Charlies Bunion the snow had refroze into ice and we had to very careful along the cliffs.  The views were spectacular and this is still my favorite part of the park.  We ran into the two that camped in the tent here and they were heading back towards Mt. LeConte where they started.  They changed their plans with the snow.

We continued on with Porters Gap, took in Bradley's View, climbed both Mt. Sequoyah and Mt. Chapman.  We kicked up Grouse three different times.   A few miles from Tri- Corner Knob we came across a thru hiker and then a French couple.  The French couple said that they had come across some bear tracks in the snow.

We had Tri-Corner Knob shelter to ourselves.  We had to search for our firewood and then when we got a flame going it just would not burn.  We did manage to dry out some socks before giving up and going to bed.

Something comes to mind here.  I know our government is not run by the brightest people.  I know our laws are not the smartest.  But why can they not use some common sense every now and then?  There are wheelchair accessible toilets at the shelters on the AT in the Smoky's.  Really people?  Why is our country broke?

DAY THREE: 14.8 Miles

Today we start out with Mt. Guyot.  Between Mt. Guyot and Old Black Mt. we come across the bear tracks in the snow.  Yep, they are still up high.  We stopped for lunch on Camel Hump Knob where there is a great view of Balsam Mountain.  We had missed the wreckage of the F-4 in the snow.  Here we also meet a proud "Peak Bagger" of the Smoky's.  He had peaked all the of mountain peaks over 6000ft in the Smoky's and was now doing all the ones over 5000ft.

The next people we saw was a couple coming down from the Mt. Cammerer tower as we were climbing up.  After Mt. Cammerer we headed on to Davenport Gap Shelter which is pretty much all down hill.  This shelter is the last one in the Smoky's that still has the cage on the front.  They had originally put cages on the front of all the shelters to keep the bears out.  So people do what people do and they were feeding the bears through the cages.  So the park had to remove them.  I assume that this shelter still has it because this is the only camping area in the Smoky's without bear hangers.

We got a good fire going tonight and dried all socks and boots out.  I did a little too good of a job on the socks and we had a couple of burns.  Well after dark a couple of thru hikers came to the shelter.  Delta and Sherpa were their trail names.  We visited on through the evening and then called it a night.

DAY FOUR:  10.5 Miles

Our goal for today was now Groundhog Creek Shelter since we made such good mileage yesterday.  This is the first time we have ever hiked out of the Smoky's and kept on hiking.  Usually we get in the car and drive home.

After you cross the State Line branch, the Pigeon River, and I-40 the climb is on.  You go from 1500 feet to topping Snowbird Mountain at 4263 feet.  We passed the thru hiker "Captain" and a dozen more today.  We also met a family of seven and their dog who were out on a nine day backpack.  The youngest was around seven years old.  It is so good to see families that still hike together on the trail.  We also got to watch a six point buck who was not afraid of us just grazing through the woods.

There is a FAA tower on top of Snowbird Mt. with a gravel road going all the way around it.  From the road you can see forever off all sides of the mountains.  It is so cool to look back at the Smoky's and See Max Patch off the other direction.  On our descent we passed a trail runner and some more thru hikers.

When we got to the bottom of Deep Gap, Lora took me on a tour of the springs off to the West which afterwards we had to go back and go East to the shelter.  She is always looking for an adventure.  We collected wood and ate dinner when "Sparks 2 Fire" came hiking in carrying firewood with her.  That's the type of hiker you like to see coming into camp.  She kept us entertained for the evening.  After we had gone to bed it rained a few times during the night.

DAY FIVE:  5.6 Miles              

After an entertaining morning with Sparks we headed out.  We got some steep climbs in and the temperature kept dropping.  A couple of more thru hikers and we climbed from 2850 feet to 4380 feet to Max Patch Road.  The last thru hiker we talked to said that there was someone looking for us up ahead.  He had talked to our good friend and shuttle man Ray.

We ate lunch with Ray in Gatlinburg and then he took us back to our car at Newfound Gap.  When we got back there we found that a mouse had spent some time in the car chewing up a Kleenex.  Another great hike!



Saturday, November 16, 2013

Rock Creek Segment - CT

Lora and I decided to take a day hike on the Cumberland trail.  It was a cool down for me after my Georgia Loop and Lora's regular hiking date.

We went to the Rock Creek segment and hiked the six miles to the bridge and back.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Elkmont Camping/hiking Weekend

Smokies Camping/Hiking Weekend
Nov 8, 9, 10

I drove to Elkmont Campground to meet up with Nancy, Diane, Marietta, and Amy for a weekend of hiking in the Smokies. I got to the camp just before dark on Friday evening to find the ladies already set up and eating dinner around the campfire. Got my tent set up and joined them around the fire. The stars popped out and the night air got colder. We got warmed up and jumped into our sleeping bags.

It was cold when we got up, so Nancy got the fire going and we ate breakfast warming our fingers around the fire. Then off to the woods.

We dropped our shuttle car past Newfound Gap at the Deep Creek trailhead then drove to Clingman’s Dome Road to the Fork Ridge trailhead. Nancy only needs 10 trails to finish hiking all the trails in the Smokies and the Fork Ridge trail was one of them. It was all downhill starting at 5,880 ft going down to about 3,100 ft. This trail has a reputation of being overgrown so Nancy figured after the frost came would be a good time of year to do this one. She figured right. 

The fir trees that are still living here are beautiful. We passed thru fir, then red spruce, then rhododendron, then hemlock, then oak and maple forests seeing lots of old growth trees along the way. Some of us took a little fall or two on the trail. No lasting injuries. We could hear Deep Creek roaring below us. The chestnut oaks along the creek are huge. 

We got to the creek, looking for the log bridge……..must have washed away. Boots off pants rolled up, barefoot crossing and WOW that’s cold water! We stopped for lunch at Campsite 53 by the creek. This campsite is over used and wasn’t appealing for camping. 

We headed up the Deep Creek trail.  There is a lot of stream crossings and lots of dog hobble whose leaves were turning purple, pretty. We watched for salamanders but didn’t see any. This is a pretty trail and we climbed back up to 4700 feet to get back to the car. The switchbacks on the trail made it easier to climb.

We drove back to Clingman’s to get the other car and headed back toward camp. As we started down the mountain we got into a traffic jam. We speculated on what the hold up could be; Saturday traffic, a wreck, bear sighting…..about half way down the mountain we saw a lot of folks with cameras pointing down the bank and the traffic flow got faster. Yep, bear sighting. We didn’t see it but I hope all the folks in the hundreds of other cars got to. 

Oh well. Back at camp, the ladies in the other car had gotten back first and the table was spread with chips and salsa and cheese and bean dip and cookies for the hungry hikers. Had to wait a while to cook dinner after that snack. Another great campfire and star gazing and good fellowship and sipping warm stuff like hot chocolate with butterscotch. A big thank you to Amy's sister for the awful ginger cookies that we couldn't stop eating. They were so terrible that we all ordered a dozen. 

Sunday morning was a little warmer starting out. I packed up my tent since I would be headed home tonight. 

We headed back to Clingman’s Dome, this time starting on the AT for 2 miles to get to Goshen Prong Trail. We hiked up to the tower in the cool air, getting warmer as we climbed. We took in the gorgeous views from the tower. This two mile section of the AT has awesome views on both sides of the ridge; just watch your step. 

Found the Goshen Prong junction and down down down we went. We started from the highest point in the Smokies and would end at 2750 ft. It’s rocky and very shady on this ridge side, found a little ice on some of the rocks. After the first 2.6 miles we started seeing cascades and pools.  We came to a sign that said we had come 4.4 miles from the AT and was 3.3 from the Little River Bridge and trail. It’s strange to come to a sign when there is no junction. Maybe they rerouted the trail? It is in a flat area. 

Just around the bend was campsite 23 and our lunch spot. We found a sunny spot and got busy eating. The next couple of miles we saw the devastation from a July tornado last year that took down numerous trees. Whoever had to clean up this mess had a tough job! On down the trail we crossed an iron bridge over the river and found the Little River Trail. We took pics to show we finished another trail!

The Little River Lumber Company logged all this area; they took out the old growth until 1938. But a beautiful forest grew back. We hiked thru all the leaves that had fallen, making the path yellow, gold and brown. The walk along the river is beautiful. It has a few house sized boulders along the way. As we got closer to Elkmont we started seeing the old vacation homes. Nancy spotted the one that her yoga instructor’s family owned and took some pictures for her. 

We got to the campsite and I said my good byes to the ladies, while they headed back to Clingman’s to pick up the other car. They were staying another night to get in another trail Monday. Ace Gap was another one on Nancy’s map. After that she will only need 7 more to finish her map. Glad we could be with her the knock out these!

Monday, November 4, 2013

AT - Fontana Lake to Newfound Gap

Fontana Dam to Mollies Ridge Shelter 9.9 miles
Mollies Ridge Shelter to Derrick Knob Shelter 11.7
Derrick Knob Shelter to Double Springs Shelter 7.2
Double Springs Shelter to Newfound Gap Road 10.8
Total Miles: 39.6

Well it was time for another section hike of the Appalachian trail.  We started off right with a homemade cookies from Lora's mom and a homemade caramel chocolate apple from my mom.  It was added weight, but it sure was worth it:)

My Dad and Mom took us to the trailhead at Fontana Lake.  We had a picnic lunch and then off we went.  Dad and Mom took our car and was going to drop it off at Newfound Gap.  It was a late start at 1:30pm and we had 9.9 miles to our first shelter on a short day.

The colors were beautiful as we headed up the mountain.  It was all uphill today.  We had to stop at Shuckstack tower to absorb the view.  We saw a couple of dayhikers at the tower and they were heading back out saying it was getting late.  Well, we still had 6.5 miles to do so we headed out soon afterwards.  The higher we got the less colors there were.

After Doe Knob we dropped into Ekaneetlee Gap so we could climb back up Mollies Ridge.  We got to Mollies Ridge Shelter right at dark.  A few minutes later we would have had to use our headlamps.  There were two guys from Alabama at the shelter and they had gotten a fire going in the fireplace.  Now that's a sign of a rookie.  Yes, we got to breath smoke all night long.  It was a first backpack for one of them and it was a first time in the Smoky's for both of them.  We had a good visit before time to call it a night.  We got to hear both a Barred Owl and a Screech Owl.


We got up and off to a early start today.  Today was going to be alot of uphill.  In between Russell Field and Spence Field we met a group of the Nashville Meet Up people doing a backpack.  They were taking a break when we went by.

We climbed to Russell Field and then Spence Field followed by a climb to Good ole Rocky Top, Rocky Top Tennessee.  Sorry, I just couldn't help myself.  Between Spence Field and Rocky Top the sleet started.  As continued our climb up Thunderhead Mountain it turned to a mix of snow.  We still got some great views all through this area.  The last time I was up here, with my dear old Dad and Brother, we spent the entire trip in a cloud and had no views.

We got to drop off the other side of Thunderhead so we could start our climb back up to Derricks Knob.  We got to the shelter and got camp set up.  It was getting colder, so we got a fire going.  Right at dark, three other backpackers showed up.  They were from North Carolina.  After everyone got fed, the guys went to bed and Lora and I stood around the fire until the snow got too bad.  It snowed with a good wind all night long.


A good and cold morning.  Today we were going to do some uphill.  We got enough snow to make some snow cones.  Yum Yum!  It was cool walking through the area's where the clouds had passed over and left ice on all the branches and weeds.  We climbed to Silers Bald Shelter for lunch.  From here we climbed to Silers Bald for all the wonderful views.  As far as you can see, beautiful mountains.  We met some women from New York and Boston at the peak.  While we were talking to them seven backpackers went by.  You could tell we were getting closer to Clingmans Dome.  Lora worked her magic and got to see a snake up here.  It was a little grass snake, but all the same to her.

The ridge hike between Silers Bald and Clingmans Dome is full of beautiful views.  It was our short day with the lay out of shelters in the Smoky's and you have to stay at the shelters.  We stopped at Double Springs shelter for the night.  We got in early so we got to find some firewood in this area.  That is quite the challenge in a popular area.  The women came back by on there hike back out to Clingmans Dome.

As it started to get dark the colder it got.  The wind picked up and was blowing from every direction.  We couldn't stay out of the smoke if we had too.  After a good smoke battle we called it quits for the night.


We got up in the nice cold wind and made breakfast.  Today we had some uphill to do.  We climbed Clingmans Dome to the tower.  There were a lot of people out this morning and views to be seen.  Now alot of people think it is all down hill from here.  There are a lot of ups and downs over the next eight miles.  That is not even talking about Mt. Collins that you go over.

We saw a couple of other backpackers today.  There is also one section that has been fenced off to keep hogs out of for a study of the impact they have on the area.  You climb around the fence on a metal grate to keep the hogs out and hikers in.

At the parking lot at Newfound Gap you are always greeted by visitors and you are always a through hiker of the AT.  They are ready for the stories.  If you tell them anything else, you are a let down to them.  We stopped by the bathrooms to clean up only to find that they have removed the sinks here and you only have hand cleaner.  No hiker shower in the sink here!

204.7 miles done 1972 miles to go.

We stopped in Townsend for dinner and then we had the drive home.  The only wildlife other than birds, squirrels, and chipmunks we see was a Grey Fox on the way home that was on our mountain.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

2013 TTA Annual Meeting at Fall Creek Falls

Lora and I attended the 2013 Tennessee Trails Association Annual Meeting which was held at Fall Creek Falls State park.  Lora went up Friday after work and I joined her Saturday morning for a group hike at Fiery Gizzard near Tracy City.  Brent Morris was our hike leader.  He did a great job and covered the history of the area along with some good stories.  John and Nancy were the other couple to join us.  The weather was great and there were a lot of hikers and backpackers on the trail.  We hiked up to Werner Point and back, a 4.8 mile hike.

After the hike we made a trip to the Dutch Maid Bakery in Tracy City.  If you are ever in the area, it is a must visit place.  We picked up some calories for the trip back to camp.

Once each year, Tennessee Trails Association members from all across the state gather for a weekend of fun, food, and fellowship. There were hikes, exhibits, programs, auction and entertainment. The Annual Meeting was held at the Fall Creek Falls State Park and Convention Center, Pikeville, Tennessee. Annual Meeting of the membership we elected Officers and Board Members, heard about TTA developments, and presented several awards recognizing individuals or organizations for their outstanding contributions to the furtherance of TTA’s missions and goals.

Our hosts for this year's event were the Plateau, Soddy-Daisy and Upper Cumberland chapters. The Theme for the 2013 TTA Annual Meeting was: My Heart and Sole belong on a Tennessee Trail.

There were 13 different hikes planned to choose from including hikes with waterfalls, rock houses, serene woods and a historic farm. The hikes varied in levels from easy to strenuous and lengths varying from 2.5 to 11.5 miles. In addition to hiking, there were programs on wildflowers, first aid, leave no trace and birds.

Tentative figures from the meeting;
   - 227 meeting attendees
   - $4400 collected in registration fees
   - $300 collected from bake sale
   - $600 collected from cash bar
   - $4000 (approx) collected from auctions (including the white elephant sale)

2014 Officers

President- Carolyn Miller- Plateau Chapter
Vice President- Levonn Hubbard- Plateau Chapter
Secretary- Diane Manas- Nashville Chapter
Treasurer- Kathy Woods- Nashville Chapter
Membership- Tim Townley- Jackson Chapter

There is a current opening for an East Tennessee Representative due to Levonn taking on the Vice President role as well our Middle and West Tennessee Reps positions will be coming open this year. If anyone is interested in serving or knows of someone who would be good in the position let me know. The regional reps help the chapters, look for opportunities to create new chapters, and assist with public relations for TTA and the chapters in their region.

Life Time Achievement Awards: Jim Schroeder and Martin McCullough 

There were lots of active hikers.  Heiss Mountain to Little Possum Creek had 21 hikers and Wheeler Farms had 45.

The next morning we joined everyone for breakfast at the lodge and then we hiked the 13 mile Upper Overnight Loop.  It was a great weekend with lots of great people.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Lookout Mountain

Lora and I headed out to Lookout Mountain after church.  We parked at the Cravens House off Shingle road to start our hike.  The Cravens House is part of the Chickamauga Chattanooga National Military Park and is the site of intense fighting that took place in "The Battle Above the Clouds" during the Civil War.

There are more than 30 miles of trails in this area and some of them are part of the Great Eastern trail.  We took the Cravens House trail to the Bluff trail.  We visited Sunset Rock where there were alot of people and rock climbers.  The view was wonderful from on top of the rock.  Most people walk down to Sunset Rock off West Brow Road.

We continued our hike doing the rest of Bluff trail which is one of the most scenic hikes in the park.  The rock formations are fabulous along this trail.  We passed several hikers on the trail.  Do to the lack of time we had we took the Upper Truck trail back and finished on the Rifle Pits trail.  The Upper Truck trail is an old roadbed.  We ended up hiking somewhere around nine miles.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

North Chick Trail, Cumberland Trail TTA

The Plateau chapter of TTA hiked Saturday on the North Chick trail. Jim the hike leader had worked all week on the Big Soddy Creek bridge project so I got his phone message about the hike plan on my way to the trail head. We were going to hike from the new parking area on Barker Camp Rd. I met the other hikers at the Lewis Chapel exit on 111 and headed to Barker Camp.

We had about a mile walk on a dirt road before entering the woods. It’s really pretty on this end of the trail. There are views into the gorge and an overlook on a short spur trail just before Panther Branch. It overlooks North Chickamauga Creek. We found a couple of campsites that are not marked on the CT maps. Along a rock wall someone had worked really hard to build a rock fence around the end of the wall and had a fire ring just beside it with some rock furniture. Things that make you say hmmmm?

We reached the Stevenson’s Branch campsite and the waterfall was just a little more than a trickle. Then up Ladder #3 onward to where you start back up the ridge. There is another campsite here (unofficial) so we sat down and had lunch before we started climbing. It’s a tough climb up to the rock shelf. When we stopped huffing and puffing, we split up with two going on to the Montlake Road trailhead and the other two going back for the car. Don and I continued onward climbed ladder #2 and then used the cable to keep climbing. The trail then follows an old roadbed to an overlook of Boston Branch and the beautiful creek gorge. Then the wooden steps that Craig and I overlooked the last time we were here. Much easier than the goat trail. We met a lot of people and dogs along the trail on this end. Lots of folks hike to the overlook and back from the Montlake Rd. Trailhead. We checked out the mine entrance and then took the Upper Hogskin Loop to the trail head. Jim and Cheryl met us a few minutes later.

We headed back to 111 toward the beautiful Sequatchie Valley with plans to eat at the Cookie Jar Restaurant outside of Dunlap. Lots of other folks had the same plan, 1 ½ hour wait………oh well, lets just head home. Said bye and see you next week to Jim, Cheryl, and Don. Next weekend is the TTA Annual Meeting at Fall Creek Falls State Park.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Father / Son Trip 2013

Day One: 8 miles
Slickrock Creek (42) Trail 8 miles

Day Two: 5.4 miles
Big Fat Trail (41) 1.4 miles
Hangover Lead Trail (56) 3 miles
Haoe Lead (53) 1 mile

Day Three: 8.5 miles
Haoe Lead (53) 1 mile
Hangover lead (56) 5.4 miles
Ike Branch (45) 1.5 miles
Slickrock (42) 0.6 

Total Miles: 21.9

This years hike was scheduled and permitted for the Old Settlers Trail in the Smoky Mountains.  The government decided that NO YOU WILL NOT!  Plan B we decided to hike the Joyce Kilmer Wilderness Area.  No government involved, which as usual is a good thing.

I arrived at the Ponderosa to find the place of honor open in the driveway.  The van was parked to the side so I figured I had moved up in seniority.  I found this to be not true and the van was moved to unload the mulch that was loaded in the back.  I found that I arrived in time to start the new project.  So we went to slinging mulch and transplanting plants.

Shortly after we ran out of mulch, the ladies arrived from the first day of shopping.  I got to visit with my buddy Betty while the guys went and got more mulch.  After finishing the projects for the day we quickly went over maps and descriptions for the next day.

We got up the next morning and after a wonderful breakfast we headed off for the Dragon and across the Dam to find our trailhead.  Yes, the roadbed right next to the bridge is the trail parking area.

As soon as we got on the trail we noticed that the bear hunters where getting dropped off all along the river side by boat.  I got out the old orange backpack cover just to make sure there were no communication problems.

We passed the Ike trailhead and the creek when I noticed the hole in the ground.  It was like a horror movie as the ground started climbing toward me I realized that it was Yellow Jackets.  With a quick scream I ran the next thirty yards with only one sting on the leg.  After I got it brushed off, I did a check on my fellow hikers.  Steve, who was behind me, got three stings on the arm, one on the hand, and one on the side.  Dad got one sting on the arm and one on the belly.  What a way to start the hike.  Steve had run back across the creek and Dad had climbed uphill so it took a while for them to build up the nerve to get by the nest.

After we got back together, we headed on to find the trail challenging with downfalls and washouts.  After a mile we came to Slickrock Creek.  Slickrock Creek is a challenging trail.  There are 12 fordings of the creek. The trail is also washed out in different area's and the trail is rerouted with sharp climbs and descents as well as climbing rocks and over tree falls.  Lot's of slippery areas.

During one creek crossing Steve and I heard some serious sloshing going on and found Dad running down the creek.  He had tripped over a rock and was trying to catch up to his pack and upper body.  At another point after climbing rocks, going over trees, and holding on to tree roots and using the toes of our shoes to hold onto the washed out trail, I find a log running about eye level.  As I pull myself up by the log I notice that it is actually the trail.  All three of us had missed the turn off of the rerouted trail.

We did see a couple of guys from Knoxville out dayhiking.  There are campsites all along the Slickrock trail.  We stopped at the Big Fat trail connection for the night where there are numerous campsites.  We had gotten a good  workout in today and were ready for a break.  As we were collecting firewood, Steve found another Yellow Jacket nest on a trail by the campsite.  We enjoyed a quiet night by the fire telling lies and taking cough medicine.

We got up and got breakfast in us before we started the climb up Big Fat trail.  There are two fordings of Big Fat and there is a campsite at both.  The trail is all uphill, but most of the 1050 foot climb is in the last half a mile.  We took a break at the trailhead where there were many bear hunters and a father and son backpackers.

The 2189 foot climb up Hangover Lead South, not including the ups and downs in between, is a good workout.  Add in the tree falls and slick boulders it becomes a challenge.  We stopped at a down tree to enjoy our lunch.  We crossed through the color layer of trees and on to the overlook.  Dad stayed at the trail junction while Steve and I made our way through the thick brush out to the overlook.  We did get some pictures between the clouds before it totally socked us in.  We joined Dad and then continued the climb up to the ridge.  We had decided to go with plan "C" by this time.  Originally we were going to hike down the other side of the mountain by the Haoe Lead trail down to the Joyce Kilmer memorial area to see the big trees.  Instead we hiked to Naked Ground trail and camped at the campsites there.  I knew there was a good spring there from a past hike with Lora.

On the way to Naked Ground, Dad decided to be a tree hugger.  He slipped around the tree on the side of the trail with a leg on each side.  We had to pull him back up as he had a leg under him and could not get himself up.

When we got to camp we found that you really have to search to find any firewood around the area.  We had a bear hunter come through camp on his way to find the dogs.  After we got camp set up Dad showed us he still had energy to spare.  After hanging his foot on his tarp strings he flew across the camp and dove into the push-up position.  Always showing off he is.

We enjoyed the evening listening to owls and coyotes while we sat around the fire.  When Dad decided it was time for bed he climbed in his hammock and flip on the rain switch.  We decided we would go to bed as well and it rained all night long.

We got up and ate breakfast under my tarp.  Afterwards we hiked in the clouds back down the Hangover Lead trail.  The rain had stopped and we only had to put our ponchos on one other time for a short period.  The 4100 foot loss, not counting the ups and downs in between was tough on the knees today.  We took a break at the Big Fat trailhead where there were more hunters and another couple of backpackers.  From there we gained a quick 1000 foot just for practice before continuing down the mountain.  At one point Dad did a quick somersault to show us his agility.  That got us worried, but as usual he bounced right back and kept going.  Right before you get to the Ike trail you pass a sign for the Belding trail which is not on the map.

As soon as we got on the Ike trail there was a tree down in a bend of the trail which took some serious negotiating to get through.  The Ike trail continued our drop down to Slickrock.   We had five crossings and a very slick trail to follow.  Dad showed us some of his famous dance moves all along this area.  We got back on Slickrock and headed to the van.  Another great hike.

The next morning we did more yard work to ease out the tightness of the muscles.  We did some more transplanting and mulch work.  We got some good visiting in before I had to head home.


Steve's Story:

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Raccoon Mountain Reservior

Lora and I headed off to Raccoon Mountain to do some hiking.  We went to the TVA reservoir on top of Raccoon Mountain.  This was our first time up there so it was neat to check it out.  Basically it is an extremely large water tower.  When they let it out it also provides electric power.

There are miles of bicycling and hiking trails around this reservoir.  We drove around the reservoir and checked everything out.  We stopped and had lunch at the Laurel Point Picnic Area and then hiked the Laurel Point and Tennessee River Gorge trails.  It is listed as a five mile loop.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cohutta Wilderness Area

Day One: 8.6 miles
Day Two: 10.5
Day Three: 10.1
Day Four: 13.3
Day Five: 5.6
Total 48.1 Miles

We had a Smoky Mountain section of the AT planned when the government decided that we needed to go elsewhere.  Lora had talked about doing some more of the Jack's river trail so we got us up a five day hike in the Cohutta Wilderness Area.

We started at the Jack's River trailhead off Sheeds Creek Peavine Road.  There is a sign at the trailhead stating that bear have been going in tents and taking backpacks.  We hiked the 8.6 miles of it to Rough Ridge Trail.  We had 23 fords of the Jack's River under our belt the first day.  We did get to see Jack's River Falls which is always nice.  We had alot of people on the trail Saturday.  One group had been out a couple of days said that there were a lot of Copperheads which we never saw any.

The last crossing of Jack's River before Rough Creek was the deepest, but it was not over our heads as it was the last time we hiked through here.  We just got going on Rough Ridge when we found an empty campsite for the night.

We got up and started the climb after breakfast.  It is a good climb for the first half of Rough Ridge.  We never did find the trailhead for Sugar Cove which we came up last time.  We hiked the 7 miles to East Cowpen and headed to Panther Creek.  During this 2 mile section we saw our last people who had day hiked in from Service Road 64.

Panther Creek is a very steep trail.  I would rate it difficult no matter which way you did it.  I hit the ground once just for practice.  We went down 1.5 miles to a good camping area to spend the night.  They were calling for rain that night so we put the cover on the tent.  It was our only night we used the cover and it poured down hard all night long.

We were just up from the top of Panther Creek Falls when we camped so that was our first sight of the day.  It is a pretty falls at 75-85 feet tall.  It is quite the boulder hop down to the base and not may markings to follow.  We continued the 1.9 miles down to the Conasauga River for another ford.  The Conasuga River trail and Hickory Creek trail run together for about a .5 mile along the river.  We forded the Conasuga again then followed the Hickory Creek trail to the end.  Another 5.7 miles.

We walked to the trailhead parking area on SR51 to find the trailhead for Rice Camp Creek.  We hiked another 2 miles to find a campsite on the saddle with a creek.  When we started up the fire, a small lizard ran from under one of the rocks right into the fire.  We thought he was a goner then he ran out the other side.  I know he got hot.  Another beautiful night around the campfire.

We finished Rice Camp Creek with another 1.9 miles down to Jack's River.  Another ford and a 1.8 mile hike past the waterfall to Hickory Ridge Trail and another ford.  The 3.5 mile Hickory Ridge trail is a good climb with rolling hills.  The last section is a little steep climbing back up to East Cowpen.  There would be a lot of good winter views.

We took East Cowpen 2.7 miles back down to SR51.  This is pretty much just old roadbed going down the whole way.  Once on SR51 we had a 2.5 mile road walk to Horseshoe Bend Trail.  We stopped and filled our water at one of the many water crossings.  Once on Horseshoe Bend we hiked 0.9 miles to the second creek crossing at a small campsite along side the creek.

We got up and hiked the other 2 miles of Horseshoe Bend.  There is one section where it splits and you have to look uphill to see the trail sign.  The views off this trail are overgrown but you can see a long ways.  The last part of this trail goes straight down to Jack's River and I mean straight down.  The trail sign is far enough off the Jack's river trail that it would be hard to see if you were trying to find it.  Then we hiked the 3.6 miles and nine river fords back to the car.

We saw a lot of bear sign, but no bear.  We did startle something on Rough Ridge which could of been a bear, but we never got a look at it.  A guy with long gray hair and in camouflage met us at the car.  We didn't know what to expect, but he was a bear hunter and season opens tomorrow.  He had lots of stories to tell, but we had to go get us a greasy burger for lunch.


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Ware Branch, TN River

We headed out from Soddy again putting in at Armstrong road again.  We paddled out and across the main river and headed South on the East side.  We hit all the inlets with the longest being Ware Branch.  We crossed under Thatch Road and went to most inland part of Ware Branch.  On the way out we went straight across the TN river and followed the West side back up to where we put in.  9.21 Miles today.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Cumberland Trail Building

The Cumberland Trail Conference hosted a National Public Lands Day event spanning yesterday and today. Besides Tony Hook and staff there were a large number of Volunteers that showed up both days in order to construct/extend the trail on the Graysville Mountain section of the Cumberland Trail. The section we worked on was located near Dayton, TN off of Highway 30. Anyone in our area that wasn't there missed out on helping to provide something that will live on for generations to come. We had one gentleman by the name of Charlie which traveled all the way from Lexington, Kentucky to help out both days after he read about the event. Way to go Charlie!

I helped out Saturday on the trail work. Worked with a lot of great folks adding to the Cumberland Trail. Thanks to Tony Hook for all your hard work. 


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Lora's Hawk Watching

Lora found an article in the Tennessee Conservationist magazine about Hawk watching in Soddy Daisy.  We went out Saturday evening to see what they had going on and met Bill who filled us in on what they do.  Lora went out the following day and got to meet the actual people interviewed by the magazine and spent the day with them.  Attached is a segment on from there blog Soddy Mountain Hawk Watch:
Saturday 9-21 was pretty much a total rain out until the last hour of the day.  Bill Holt and Lora McBride had about one half hour of blue skies but never saw any migrants.

Sunday 9-22-13 was our best day so far this season!  The skies were washed clean of haze earlier in the day.
  • Temps were from 66 degrees at 1000 up to 77 degrees at 1800.
  • Barometric Pressure 29.90 dropped to 29.87
  •  Humidity dropped from 65% down to 43%
  • Wind was variable at times but mostly from the North to Northeast up to 12 MPH
  • Visibility ranged from 40 kilometers to 45 K and then back to 40 K
  • Cloud Cover was off and on from 0% to 5% making it extremely hard to see birds in the clear blue skies.
We had many wonderful visitors to include: Lora McBride, Bob Saunders and Millie his wonder dog, Pete & Marg Krampee, Ruth Ann Henry, Kathy Andregg who drove up from Acworth, Georgia, Charles Murray and Carla Quinn brought her parents Martha and Ben Hall.

 Jimmy & Cynthia along with Bill Holt logged: 622 Broad-winged Hawks, 3 Sharp-shinned Hawks, 1 Cooper's Hawk, 1 Osprey and 3 adult Bald Eagles.(assisted by our count helpers)

...SPECIAL RECOGNITION needs to go out to Lora McBride who helped us get on so many of the single specks as well as several kettles.  Pete Krampee no doubt has a special ability to just look up and see specks the rest of us needed binoculars to see.  Marge Krampee also got on a group of near 100 birds while others were looking at another 100 in the opposite direction.  

Year to date we have seen:
  • 1353  Broad-winged Hawks
  • 4  Osprey
  • 11  Sharp-shinned Hawks
  • 3  Cooper's Hawks
  • 2  American Kestrels
  • 1  Peregrine Falcon
  • 5  Bald Eagles < 4 adults, 1 sub adult, 4th. year >
  • 1  early Red-shouldered Hawk
  • 1 un-identified accipiter

If you've stuck with me thus far, from the bottom of our hearts THANK YOU! to Louise Zepp for her wonderfully spectacular article in THE TENNESSEE CONSERVATIONIST  about our special place we call Soddy Mountain Hawk Lookout.  She is a unique writer and was factual to the last degree in every word she wrote and also the photo layout she selected. [Thanks Vicki Henderson for your  great kettle of BW’s(pic), C.]

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Montgomery Bell

DAY ONE: 7.7 miles
Wildcat trail 0.25
M.Bell trail 4.5
Creech Hollow trail 1.2
M. Bell trail 0.25
Spillway trail 1.0
M. Bell trail 0.25
Wildcat trail 0.25

DAY TWO: 8.5 miles
Wildcat trail 0.75
Ore Pit Loop trail 1.0
M. Bell trail 4.0
Woodland Shelter trail 1.0
Creech Hollow trail 1.2
M. Bell trail 0.25
Wildcat trail 0.25

Lora and I won a free night stay at any state park inn, for sending in a story about a state park, so we headed out to Montgomery Bell State Park for the weekend.  We checked in at the Inn and found out that the motorcycle club Christian Motorcyclists Association was having a convention here.  There were a lot of really nice bikes on the grounds.

We moved into our room and then headed out on the trail.  We started out on the Wildcat trail leaving from the Inn heading to the Montgomery Bell trail.  We headed North and then around the North side of Lake Acorn.  We saw the first of many deer here.  We got to the Wildcat shelter and noticed that they had taken the bunk beds out that they had the last time I was here with the Outcasthikers and replaced them with a single shelf.  They also added two benches next to the campfire ring.  We stopped at the next water crossing for lunch.

We hiked to the Creech Hollow trail and took it along Creech Hollow lake.  There were quite a few fishermen out.  From the Creech Hollow trail we headed West on the M. Bell trail to the Spillway trail which we took to Lake Woodhaven.  Lora did her famous snake scream on the Spillway trial which of course not only scared me and all wildlife within a mile, but about gave the black snake a heart attack as well.  We enjoyed the peace and views of the lake for a while and then headed back the way we came.

We hiked the M. Bell trail back to the Wildcat trail and back to the inn.  We got cleaned up and then headed for the steak and shrimp dinner buffet.  It was good!  After stuffing our selves we walk up Hotel Avenue and took the Beach Avenue back to the Inn for the night.

The next morning after the breakfast buffet, we headed back out hiking.  We took the Wildcat trail across the road to the Ore Pit trail doing the Western side of the loop checking out the pits.  We stopped and checked out the McAdow cabin, the Presbyterian monument, and then the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.  Lora took time out to play a couple of songs for me on the piano.

Then we headed South on the M. Bell trail.  We took us a break at the Hall Spring shelter then took a snack break at Lake Woodhaven where we watched a fisherman battle a big Catfish.  We checked out the Woodland shelter and then headed back to the Inn on the Creech Hollow trail.

This is a beautiful park to visit and the trails are all in good condition.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Frozen Head - TTA

Camping/Hiking weekend at Frozen Head State Park arranged by Joan and Sara. We had 13 campers- Joan, Sara, Marietta, Richard, Wayne, Linda, Kat, Marcia, Greg, Steve, Cindy, Gary, and me.  I got there after work Friday evening right after most everyone else came off the trail for the day. Greg and Cindy got there after I did.  Kat had a campfire burning and had gathered wood for the weekend. It looked like tent city in the group campsite. Plus two adjoining sites had more tents. I brought veggies and dip to go along with all the other munchies and goodies. Supper was baked and fried chicken, potato salad, slaw, baked beans, macaroni and cheese. Dessert was peanut butter cookies and chocolate cake with a candle for the birthday girl. Sara, Linda and I all have September birthdays. We visited and sat around the campfire. Owls talked to us thru the night.

Saturday dawned clear and sunny. Sherry and Carolyn joined us for the day. The trail for the day was up the Lookout Tower trail to Bird Mountain. We saw Castle Rock, Mushroom Rock and the Retention Pond where we had lunch. Some of our hikers descended on North Old Mac after Castle Rock while the rest continued on the Cumberland Trail. Parts of the trail are overgrown with grass, briers and stinging nettle. We need more folks walking the trail to keep it clean. At Ross Gap we went down a rutted road bed climbing thru downed tree branches. At the end was a creek with really cool water, boots and socks came off and splish splash. A little further down the road was a swimming hole. Gary jumped in and Cindy and I were right behind him. Refreshing! Back at camp, into dry clothes, we went into Wartburg to have dinner at El Patron. The food and service were great. When we left we stopped at a few local stores to find liquid refreshment for the night. After conferring with a local police officer we found what we were looking for without totally incriminating ourselves. Another great campfire and visiting. More owls sang to us. 5 of us used our headlamps to walk to the entrance to an open area to watch the stars. No moon, dark, bright stars, one really good meteor, growling bear???, barred owls, one screech owl, then walked back to camp. Everyone else was already turning in for the night. We turned in too. Really early morn, a great horned owl woke everyone up for a concert. It was so cool.

Sunday morning, we ate and packed up camp. One headed home, 3 were going to check out the park for a while and head home; one was covered with chiggers and suffering, the rest of us drove to the entrance and started the South Old Mac Trail. We hiked up to the junction to North Old Mac and 2 more hikers headed back. The rest of us kept climbing and had lunch at the tower where there was a pile of flowers blooming around the area. 3 hikers started back. Back at the junction the rest of us (4) checked out the Panther Gap Rockhouse. The North Old Mac is a really pretty trail. There was a spur trail out to an overlook with a campsite but no known water source right there. We looked for water as we hiked on down. There were several places where water would be coming down the ridges in wet season, mostly dry today. At the end of the trail, Joan was going to head home, Gary, Cindy and I headed for the swimming hole. We cooled off before the drive home. Middle TN for them, south on 27 for me.

Great weekend in a beautiful park with great friends.    


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Eagle Creek Hike

Three ladies with a long weekend went to the Smokey Mountains to backpack.

Garnett invited us to come to her house Friday night so we could get an early start on Saturday. She was baking apple pies and blueberry crumb cake when I got there and the kitchen smelled wonderful. Nancy and Amy came in with wine and cheese. We had a wonderful supper and enjoyed the slumber party.

Saturday’s morning shower washed the day clean. We drove to Cades Cove to leave our shuttle cars. Getting there just as the gates opened at 10 hindered our parking for a little while. You cannot leave cars in the picnic area overnight at the Anthony Creek Trailhead where we would be exiting the trail. We left them in the gravel lot where the horse ride area is. 

We drove around the loop to Parsons Branch Road. Drove that way to 129 to Fontana Marina for our shuttle. Lots of motorcycles on the Dragon Tail and around Deals Gap. We made it to our boat shuttle with 5 minutes to spare. 

Danny took us on the pontoon to Campsite 90 to drop us off. The sun was shining bright by now. We had our lunch at the campsite, but not in the rock sectional sofa where we wanted to eat; it was underwater! Lots of kayakers were staying at this camp. 

We hiked to Eagle Creek and put on our water shoes for the day. We had 8 creek crossing to get to campsite 96 which is on an island in the split of the creek. Good camping area with a nice spot in the creek for the ladies to do a little skinny dipping. Our firewood was a little damp but we got it burning anyway. During the night I had a visitor by my tent that made a blowing noise right by my open tent flap; I yelled, it jumped and took off. Woke up Amy and Nancy with my yelling.  Think it was a deer.

Woke up at daylight, rain shower made me run back to the tent. Got back up to cook breakfast, another shower had us eating in out tents. It finally stopped, packed up wet tents, put on water shoes for 8 more creek crossings. Had another shower after we started walking. Put on the boots when we started climbing. 

The trail goes straight up in places.  It was muddy here and there with seeps running in the trail in a couple of places.  Lots of trees had blown down in this area; someone did a lot of sawing to get all the downfall out off the trail. I kept looking for the rope or cable to help me up the hills, and kept hearing whimpering noises, with a little groaning to go along with it. Realized it was me whimpering. I had to wipe sweat out of my eyes to be able to look up to see the next climb. We did have a couple of switchbacks, the rest was straight up. 

We did see a lot of mushrooms and fungi, dead men’s fingers and eyeballs. Not sure of their Latin names…… We also saw Cardinal Flower, Bee Balm, lots of yellow and white bloomers, snails, salamanders, bees, blood, sweat, tears….ok not blood. 

We had two rock hops on the way up, one of us managed to get wet, so much for dry boots. We were so happy to find the water source for the shelter even if it wasn’t enough to jump into. It runs out of a metal pipe. 

We unloaded all our wet gear and spread it out to dry at the shelter. Some young hikers came by for water. They were from Chicago and wanted to hike on to Rocky Top while they were close. A little later the rain came again. Glad to be in the shelter. Four backpackers came in after hiking 17 miles, all National Guard guys, couple of them on their first backpack. I heard some more groans and whimpering only it wasn't me this time. One guy said even his eyebrows hurt.  17 miles in the Smokies would make anybody hurt. They told us bedtime stories to put us to sleep. Two more backpackers (husband and wife from WV) came in and climbed into their sleeping bags. It was her first time backpacking.  Thought it was morning when I heard some talking and eating going on, looked at the time 4:30??? Not Yet!

Monday morning sunshine greeted us as we headed for Russell Field Trail along the AT. We headed downhill to the Anthony Creek Trail spotting Fringed Orchids along the way. We got to the picnic area at Cades Cove and back to the cars. I headed for home and Nancy and Amy headed back to Fontana to pick up the other car. It was a great trip with fabulous ladies to backpack with. Thanks ladies!

18.4 miles


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Hendricks Creek - Dale Hollow

We went to Hendricks Creek Marina to start our overnight adventure.  We fell for the whole Resort thing and planned on eating lunch at the Marina.  No grill there, so we went back to the border for a hamburger at the Border Grill which is a gas station on Hwy 62 on the Kentucky side of the border.

After getting our food we headed back to Hendrick's Creek Marina.  You have to store your trailer on top of the hill and park your car at the bottom.  Never had to split the rig up before, so it took a little while to actually get on the water.

We made it to the first inlet before we ate our lunch.  From there we canoed all the inlets on the West side down to the main lake and then paddled West to Natty Branch and explored all of that river.  Then we headed back across Hendrick's Creek and further East to campsite #12, Anderson Point.  We put in 7.5 miles and crossed the border four times.

When we got to the campsite there was a houseboat just West of the camp and around to the East about five houseboats.  We thought it might be a noisy night, but we never heard anything from any of them.  After we set up camp and ate, we took a walk around the cove and out to the next point to the West for a view of the sunset.

We sat on a tree that was down while we waited on the sun to set.  After a little while a pontoon boat went by really slowly while checking us out.  A little while later she came back by and stopped.  She wanted to know if we were staying here and we told her where we were staying.  Her husband was behind her in a house boat and they wanted the spot.  So we met Mike and Terri.  After a visit and pics of the sunset, we headed back to camp.  We got a fire going and later went down to the water and laid on towels looking up at the wonderful star display.  Got to see some meteors and some satellites as well.  Some time in the night we heard owls talking to each other.

After breakfast the next morning we packed up camp and went exploring again.  This time we went East and explored all of Pusley Creek.  We got to see a few deer, a barred owl, and several other birds.  There is quite a selection of water craft out on the lake as well.  We stopped by to visit with Mike and Terri on the way back to Hendrick's Marina.  We got in 9.8 miles and crossed the border five times.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Tennessee River Canoe Trip

Lora and I did 7.7 miles on the Tennessee River after church.  We put in at the boat ramp on Armstrong road and paddled out to the main river.  We went South and canoed the first three sloughs on the West side of the river around the Green Pond Road area and Stonesage Road area.  It was a good day for canoeing with the water calm and hardly anyone on the river because of the rain chance.  We did get in one downpour which we got under a mans boat house for cover so it worked out well.  Birds, turtles, and fish were our wildlife.

When we got out of the water at the boat ramp the excitement began.   After we got off the lake and were securing the canoe, a red Dodge full size pickup came speeding into the boat ramp parking area and did a doughnut right next to us in the gravel.  We watched as he decided to do another doughnut while thinking great now what?  Well he sat in his truck a while and opened his rear window to look at us.  Lora got in the car as I finished up the rope work.  The man got out of his truck, walked to the back and peed while leaning against his truck.  He was saying something that I could not make out.  I'm thinking I need to call the law and I have nothing to defend myself with at this time as I am standing at the trailer in just a swim suit.  I finish with the ropes while keeping an eye on this guy.  I get in the car and tell Lora to go while I get my phone out.  

Well, we pull out on the road and head across the bridge and look back to see him swaying back across the road and turning our way.  We stop at the stop sign and see that he is picking up speed so we turn right onto Hixson Pike and got going.  The man turns and  follows us awhile swerving across both lanes.  He keeps picking up speed and there is no where to turn off or pull over.  Finally he rams us then backs off and there is a road to our right and we take it.  While we are turning he tries to ram us again, but pulls over in the passing lane heading straight into two oncoming cars.  We get over, the other cars swerve out of the way.  We stop and I get out while dialing 911.  The man turns left into a driveway and stops.  He backs up onto Hixson Pike and heads back our way.  I am talking to the dispatcher as he continues back up towards the bridge.

The cops stop by long enough to let us know he has hit three other cars and take off looking for him.  We saw four other cops speed by.  When the cops came back they told us that they were still trying to find him, but he did hit three others.  While we were filling out paperwork they said that they think they had him.

We did not get hurt and the canoe got buckled up a little. 


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Sewanee Perimeter Trail - TN Hiking Group

I met up with the Tennessee Hiking Group at Sewanee for an out and back hike on the Perimeter Trail. There were 17 hikers and 2 four legged hikers. Bob was our hike leader for the day. The view from the parking log on Greens View Road was beautiful, looking over the farmland valley below. The trail is well maintained and marked well. Mostly level with a couple of climbs. Since you start downhill from this trailhead, know it was out and back, we would finish the day with a climb. There are a few overlooks that would be great in the winter time. We stopped for lunch at the forestry cabin where I found passion flower in bloom; and then hiked to Dotson Point. This was our turnaround spot. Ended up with 12 miles of hiking.

I didn’t see any wildlife other than butterflies and centipedes.  This is a great trail, hope to hike the remainder of the Perimeter Trail someday. I think the hiking group plans to hike it soon. Check out their website


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Austin's Wedding

Lora and I went to Knoxville to attend my cousins wedding and spend special time with the family.  We went to the hotel where my Aunt's family was staying and did a lot of visiting before we headed over to the rehearsal dinner.  The dinner was great and then we headed over and stayed the night a Dad and Moms.

The next morning we knocked out a few projects for the folks, had a great lunch and then headed over to the wedding at Castleton Farms.  It was a beautiful wedding with lots of food and dancing.  We had a great time.


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Soddy Lake II

After church, Lora and I headed out to Soddy Lake.  It was another great day for being on the lake.  When we put in another couple said they were impressed with our rig.  We use a trailer for hauling our canoe and they had so much problem putting theirs on the top of their car.

We put in at the Armstrong Road bridge and canoed the slough across the way first and ate lunch there.  We watched a group of boys having fun on a rope swing for a while.  After we came back under Hixson Pike we canoed counterclockwise out to the big river and back.  Once again there were lots and lots of people out on the water.  We did 5.12 miles.