Friday, April 29, 2016

Joyce Kilmer TTA

Nancy and Gloria Dale planned a camping/hiking weekend at Joyce Kilmer. At the Rattler-Ford Campground (snakes???) group camp on the road going toward Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest in NC. I had to work Friday so I got there after suppertime. I got off work and couldn’t find my car keys; Craig had taken me to lunch and I sent my purse home with him after taking out my necessary things. Forgot my keys were in there L. My rescuer had to bring my keys to me, so I started out late. The drive from Tellico Plains to the campground was spectacular! The Cherohala Skyway shows off the beauty of the mountains. (Except for the teenager on the bridge spray painting her declaration of being there)The rest of the group had gotten to camp in time to hike the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest trail, set up camp, grill brats and were having dessert when I arrived. Lots of food and a birthday cake for Marietta! I set up my hammock and joined the party around the campfire, and thanks to Ewing we even had marshmallows to toast. Yumm!  Lots of stars out and a peaceful night sleeping by the creek, life is good.

Saturday 13 of us loaded up to hike to the Hangover, Ewing and his brother David, who had arrived late last night from Virginia, guarded the camp, a few more went hiking and exploring Robbinsville and the surrounding area. The 3 carloads of Hangover hikers drove the FS road to the Wolf Laurel trailhead. Short trail to Stratton Bald trail. After inspecting part of the Stratton trail, we turned around to go the right way, finding lots of wildflowers, red trilliums, Canada mayflower, violets, and as we climbed higher, the early spring flowers, trout lily, anemones, spring beauties, and flowering trees, silverbells, dogwoods, service berry, and flowering bushes, viburnum, and/or witch hobble, and hydrangea. And a few piles of bear scat, evidently that bear had eaten well! The Haoe Lead trail took us to Hangover Lead and the Hangover. Top notch lunch spot with a 360 view of mountain after mountain after mountain. The trail to the Hangover was clear, the first time I came here we had to push our way thru the overgrown bushes and trees. Glad to see it’s maintained. As we hiked back the thunder started and down came the rain and out came the raingear. The rain washed everything clean and made the green things greener. And it settled the dust on the FS road. Back at camp, plans were made to drive into Robbinsville for dinner. I had a little while to relax so I drove to JKMF to hike the loop the others had hiked yesterday. I remembered those huge trees from the trip Craig and I did in January four years ago and wanted to see them again. I met some folks at the trailhead asking about trails in the area so I gave them info about the hangover and how to get there. Two more folks asked me where I was from and knew about Bloody Bledsoe and the Sequatchie Valley. It’s a small world after all. The lower loop trail and a little bit of the upper was all I had time for to not miss dinner. It’s a different trail with the spring wildflowers showing off.
Dinner was at El Pacifico, good food, and all of us got our food piping hot, not sure how many servers got it on the table that fast. No beer or margaritas here, it’s a dry county. We can always make up for it at camp with the right cough medicine.  Got back to a rainy campground so everyone retreated to their tents to read. Or drink cough meds.

Sunday morning the birds singing woke us up. We packed up and parted ways, 3 left ahead of us to check out some overlooks along the Cherohala Skyway. 6 of us traveled together stopping at Hoopers Bald, where we hiked up to the pretty meadow on the bald. It would be cool to see the native azaleas in bloom, might have to come back in June. We drove on, stopped again at West Rattlesnake Rock trailhead (what’s with all the snake names???) This is a nice trail, lots more wildflowers. We hiked about a mile, then back to the cars. Another car pulled, driver got out and raised the hood, we asked if they needed help, he thought maybe water, and Betty just happened to have a gallon jug full. On to Bald River Falls, always pretty, but the previous night of rain made it spectacular! Then on to the Tellico Plains Visitors Center to shop. Just behind there is a neat eatery Tellicafe. Ran by some NY’ers serving some really good food. Nancy and I tried the trout cakes, and fried green tomatoes. Gloria Dale said her catfish was the best ever, Kathy said the Rueben sandwich had to be good made by a NYer. Betty and Joan raved about their food too. Offers of being hosed down out back if the napkins were not enough made a heehawing group of ladies. Right Nancy? We then went our separate ways with plans for a return trip to Rattler Ford Campground in October. On Monday a message from Nancy said if we had hiked further on the West Rattlesnake Rock trail there is a waterfall. Our book didn’t have this trail in it so we didn’t have descriptions; next time…..

What a wonderful weekend with old and new friends: Nancy, Gloria Dale, Thomas, Jerry Lynn, Marietta, Ewing, David, Sherlene, Jan, Julie, Kathy, Jackie, Kate, Betty, Sue, Joan, Alice, Joni.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Laurel Fork Creek - BSF

Day One:
West Entrance trail 1.7 to
Laurel Fork Creek trail. 6.9

Fork Ridge Trail 3.8 to
Black House Branch trail 2.0 to
Jacks Loop Trail 1.0 to
road walk .5
West Bandy Creek Bike trail 1.4

Total Miles: 17.3

Lora and I headed out to the Big South Fork for a weekend backpack.  We started at the West Entrance trailhead and took the West Entrance trail to the Laurel Fork Creek trail. The weather was great and the water was still cool for our eleven or so crossings of the Laurel Fork Creek. Lots of wildflowers on this trail. We hiked to the John Muir trail and then backtracked to the first good camping spot on the Creek.

While we were hiking, we met one of the rangers. He filled us in about the ten or fifteen year project where the Big South Fork is installing pavers on the horse trails. They got a grant and stock piled pavers which they located all over the BSF. Every year they put in one or two crossings. He also told us about the five year plan they have for clearing trails throughout the park.

There were two lost horse riders, and two other sets of backpackers that first day. We also saw a grouse, many migrating butterflies, turkey, and lots of birds. We saw a large bull frog which was hopping so high he would make anyone proud at a frog jumping contest. That night, there is no telling how many owls we heard. They talked all night long.

The next day we took the Fork Ridge trail back to the Black House Branch trail. Fork Ridge is a steep climb; the signs tell riders to lead their animals. We crossed the Laurel Fork again and headed up to the Jack's Loop trail. Lunch time we sat on a gate by the road. 3 lady horse riders came by and inspected and critiqued our lunch. We didn't tell them about the brownies we had for dessert. From Jacks Ridge we hiked back to the road and then took the bike trail back to the West Entrance trailhead. We met one bike rider. He was definitely going to get a workout on this trail. It goes up and down the ridge into creek gorges, past rock overhangs. Much more interesting than the road walk with gravel dust flying.

It was a beautiful hike.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Ladies Spring Backpack 2016

Once again Diane has succeeded in getting us to the Great Smoky Mountains for a ladies Spring backpack/camping trip. We met up in Greenbriar. I had gotten there early and did a short hike on Porter’s Creek to see the wildflowers. Diane, Sara and Nancy got to the Grapeyard Ridge trail at lunch time. We hiked up to campsite 32 where I had been with Craig and his dad on a previous hike. We saw the wrecked engine in the creek, missed on the previous hike due to missing the right trail. After hiking back down, we drove to Cosby Campground and met Amy, set up camp and gathered firewood. With firelogs and plenty of starter and a big bag of paper we were set for the week.

Day 2 
We packed our packs and drove to the Maddron Bald trailhead. Up and up to the Albright Grove Loop to see the old growth forest. After lunch Nancy headed back down, to camp at Cosby for the night. The rest of us went on campsite 29. Rocky but with a good fire ring and logs to sit on, we recalled the last time here; the squirrel that Sue knocked out with a rock. We had to really search for firewood but we had enough for the night. Saw a young dayhiker come thru late and then go back down.  Just before dark the wind started blowing and howling up through the valley, making us wonder if our tarp and tents would stay put. We went to bed to hold them down. My tarp was taking a beating, stakes got pulled out 3 times. I gave up and took the tarp down, and watched the stars. Didn’t realize how much my hammock would blow and rock with the wind. Diane had to rescue her stakes too, she found mine the next morning.  
Day 3
When we took our food bags down we found holes chewed into mine and Diane's. Those darn mice ate my pastel M&Ms!!! and got into my peanut butter crackers. They had Diane's crackers too. Yuck!
Finished Maddron Bald, went up Snake Den to the AT (yes Sara you have to do it) then down Snake Den back to Cosby Campground for the night. We hiked the Cosby Nature Trail, with Nancy reading the descriptions of what we should be looking for on the walk. Plus wildflowers everywhere.
That evening the wind started kicking up and rain was coming in, I took down my hammock and tarp and slept in my car, no wind. Nancy had Diane’s car for the night.

Day 4 
We had breakfast at the picnic shelter, out of the rain. Met some other campers from NC, SC and PA. Guys getting together every year to hike in the Smokys too. We were hiking today in different places; Amy on the Gabe’s Mountain Trail, we dropped her off at Maddron Bald. We went on to Gatlinburg to the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Baskins Creek Trail is 2.7 miles with a few stream crossings and Baskins Falls and a CLIMB at the end. In the rain. There were a lot of trees down at the start. We picked up the other car and drove to Sugarland’s to have our lunch in the dry. I bought a jar of bread and butter pickles while strolling thru the bookstore. On to Husky Gap. I needed the 2 miles of trail up to the junction with Sugarland Mountain. We saw so many wildflowers on this trail; dwarf crested iris, yellow and large white trillium, mandarin, bellwort, ginseng, anemone, star chickweed, trout lily, and Morell mushrooms! We were going to harvest them on the way down, but someone or something had gotten them before we got back. After coffee and treats at the grocery store, we ended up at Laurel Springs Resort for the evening, hot showers and warm sunshine to dry out tents and clothes. The parking lot looked like our packs had exploded. We went out for dinner at the Magnolia Tree. Amy had lunch there after her hike and had recommended it, we had seen it on the way. Yes, yes and yes it was good food, delicious whiskey sirloin, fried corn and lots of butter for the baked tater. We tried not the interrupt the bear’s card game in the back. Full and happy, we had a peaceful night.

Day 5 
I ran a shuttle for the other ladies for their overnight on the Old Settlers Trail so they end at their cars. They had a long hike today to get to their campsite. I headed to Cades Cove to meet my hiking partner for the day, Craig’s dad Jim. I had lunch at the cove store, then he and I headed to the Finley Cane/Lead Cove Trailhead. I needed a 2.5 mile segment of Bote Mountain Trail and this loop got that in. We saw lots of wildflowers on the Finley Cane Trail. Jim was challenging my ability to name the white ones. DWF. We climbed Bote, then down Lead Cove with lots more wildflowers along the bottom section. We had Carol’s brownies for an after hike treat, then the family tradition ice cream in Townsend. Yumm! I dropped Jim off at home, and after getting some more brownies, drove home.

It was a wonderful time with the ladies in the Smoky Mountains!

The other ladies will have to fill in day 6 for the Old Settlers Trail.


Diane's Pictures: