Friday, October 28, 2016

TTA Annual Meeting 2016

TTA Annual Meeting 2016

Memphis and Jackson were the hosts for this year at Pickwick Landing State Park. I drove thru 4 states to get there, TN, GA, AL,and MS. Added Mississippi to my list of states visited. Alabama has spent some $$ on their highways. Nice. Got to see lots of WMAs on the way and some signs for Coon Dog Graveyards. People really love their coon dogs here. I got to the park before dark and set up my hammock in the campground with Sara and Gary and Cindy's tents. In our little circle also were Jan, Jennifer and Joan.

I got registered and shopped for a little while at the White Elephant tables and found some nice stuff. And some more nice stuff at the baked goods table, butterscotch brownies, yumm. The silent auction tables had some of the TN State Fair winning pecan pies again this year, and I also bid on a cool painting of a canoe. Dinner was in the Inn, then we had entertainment provided by Kindred Spirits. Then Allan Trently, Environmental Scientist gave a talk on our state natural areas.

Saturday after breakfast we met up with our hike leaders, Francis was taking 27 of us to Tishomingo SP in Mississippi. The park takes its name from the leader of the Chickasaw nation, Chief Tishomingo. The Natchez Trace Parkway runs thru the park. Tishomingo offers a unique landscape of massive rock formations and fern-filled crevices found nowhere else in Mississippi. Massive boulders blanketed in moss dot the hillside. This is a beautiful park. We had some excitement atthe end of our hike when a young hiker twisted her ankle and had to be rescued off the trail. There was a big family group there and some of their teenagers were coming down the trail and carried her to the trailhead where they were met by the Ranger and the ambulance. The girl, her mom and grandmother came back to the inn after the trip to the hospital. Ankletoo swollen to get a good x-ray. Hope to hear more later.
We got back early enough for me to drive to Shiloh National Military Park and watch the film in the visitor center. I would like to go back for a longer tour of this park, but I needed to get back for the meeting.

After another lovely dinner we went to the meeting for the chapter reports and awards. Rob Weber, the CTC Board Chairman reported on all the accomplishments of the Cumberland trail workers and volunteers and also on the future of the CTC. Looks like good things in store for finishing the trail and making connector corridors in the counties surrounding the Cumberland Trail. The silent auction was over and I scored! Pecan pie and the painting!

Sunday we waved goodbye to our hosts and followed our hike leader Glen to Lady Finger Bluff Small Natural Area. Getting to the trail was half of the hike for the day. We followed a gravel road that went thru a creek. OK for the Subarus and the Highlander but the two sedans didn't want to try it. Jackie got into my car, Glen came back for Ron and Judy.
The hike was 2.7 miles round trip. We had snacks at the bluff with a beautiful view. Gnarled and twisted red cedars along the bluff, cactus blooming below the bluff. Turtles swimming in the water. Across the river is a Migratory Wildlife Refuge. It looked like a good landing strip for migrating ducks and birds. Someone had camped on the bluff last night and left a big pile of still hot ashes. I poured my water on it, reminded of all the recent wildfires in our beautiful but extremely dry state.

Jan and Jennifer rode with me to the hike and I dropped them off at Sara's in the Boro. Got home and found my sister who had cooked a wonderful dinner and brought me a plate! Chicken and dressing, sweet potato casserole and deviled eggs. I love my sister.

It was a great weekend with the TTA folks and many thanks to the Memphis and Jackson chapters.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Father / Son Trip 2016

Day One: 7.8
Jakes Creek 0.4
Meigs Mt. 4.1
Curry Mt. 3.3
Day Two: 14.5
Forney Ridge 0.2
Bypass 0.5
AT 2.2
Goshen Prong 7.6
Little River 1.3
Cucumber Gap 2.4
Jakes Creek 0.3
Day Three: 7.8
Sugarland Mt. 3
Husky Gap 2.1
Little River 2.7
Total Miles: 30.1

This years new twist was Dad having a heart condition. During the find out what is wrong stage, we decided against the backpack and took the motor home out to Elkmont campground and did day hikes.

Trying to get in new trails along with positioning cars took some figuring. The above trails were what we came up with.

On the home side, Lora, Kathy, and Mom did the shopping figuring. Of course they had flawless trips and bagged some bargains.

The weather was mild for us. Clear skies day and night. Cool enough for sleeping and just a little warm for hiking according to me. There was remnants of snow at Clingman's Dome Monday. There were lots of hikers out on each of our hikes. The color was about halfway down the mountain as the leaves were already gone up high.

Our wildlife consisted of our drive up to Clingman's Dome to recover the vehicle at night. We saw one gray fox, four coyotes, and a couple of bats. The stars were a wonderful sight at the top of the mountain in the dark of the night.

We had some great together time and hiked some new trails along with some old.


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!