I am not always sure what to write about for these trail-blogs—I am sure, however, I could ramble on for hours about ‘trail magic’, ‘trail maintenance’, ‘waterfalls’, and just ‘trails’ in general, but I don’t like the idea of boring people, including myself. I suppose there is a difference between ‘quality entertainment’ high on a mountain ridge and sitting on the couch at home. Swapping hiker stories just seems more appropriate when conversing with other hikers on the mountain trails; something, I think, is lost in translation when attempting to write it down, and the inspiration for doing so diminishes somewhat when there isn’t any interaction, feedback, or other perspectives to interpret. And while comments and other perspectives are always welcome (providing they aren’t just cleverly disguised ‘spam’, which has been attempted) in the end it always ends up with me talking about myself and places I have hiked, which bores me. Unfortunately, that seems to be the nature of a ‘blog’. I would much rather be out hiking than writing about hiking, which may explain why I am so far behind in this internet-journal. I have been told in the past, however, that reading about some of these adventures has inspired a few people to get out to the woods trails more often, which is why, I suppose, I continue. Anyway, I am boring myself again…
Carter’s Lake, Georgia…
Last May, I drove down through the Nantahala Gorge to Northern Georgia. My friend, ‘Grasshopper’, had been wanting to do some camping, and it seemed like a great opportunity to just relax and check out some Georgia trails and waterfalls. I had just a little trouble navigating my way through Ellijay, but the rest of the drive went fairly smooth, ending up at the campground on Carter’s Lake. Grasshopper had gotten there before me and had already set up her tent. I was feeling a bit cooked by the time I arrived, not having any air conditioning in the car, but the weather at the lake was nice and the campground was quiet. We spend the rest of the evening getting acclimated to our camp, which was quite easy actually, partly because it had running water, electricity, and 2 conveniently located bathhouses (with hot water). While I am not accustomed to so many comforts and luxuries when I camp, I have to admit, they were very nice to have.
It appears that I am still way behind on my trail-blogs. And while it seems just a bit strange writing about the trail adventures of last springtime, in some ways, or on some level, there may be some slight advantage to waiting this long, kind of like allowing a bottle of wine to age so the flavors can mellow out somewhat. Although this may sound like a ‘Steinbeckian justification’ and the blogs may be untimely in their publication, hopefully the subject matter, the mountain adventures themselves, will still be considered ‘relevant’. While I actually wouldn’t mind heading down to Perelli’s for a bottle of wine, or two (I am sure Pilon has got some good stories to tell), there are several trail adventures to tell you about, so let’s get on with it.
‘The Waterfall Tour’…
‘The Waterfall Tour’ is the name ‘Rat Patrol’ came up with over 20 years ago to describe the loop hike from Sill Branch around to Devil’s Fork, stopping at every waterfall along the way. Although some of the trails were primitive, even back then, during the old ‘trail club days’, this was a very popular hike, and we walked it several times with many people; some of these adventures were ‘epic’. Originally, when the loop hike was first conceived, it was a 12-mile hike to see 5 major falls bordering the Sampson Wilderness Area, but after learning the mountains a little better, we found enough shortcut trails to lessen the mileage to around 9.
In late February, I met up with fellow hikers Rat Patrol, his son Tyler, and Fireball for a Buckeye Falls adventure. In case you have forgotten, or perhaps have not had the opportunity to read the hiker-blog about last year’s Buckeye Falls expedition yet (there were 2 of them, one was a solo hike), as a reminder, Rat, Tyler and I climbed the left ‘Buckeye’ ridge to get a view of the ‘big picture’. That was a steep, gnarly climb and descent, especially with the slippery snow, but the view of the falls from that distance was rather incredible. Having already accomplished that, and having not gazed up at the falls from the base in nearly 16 years, I was wanting to go there and experience that perspective.
It has been quite a while since I have uploaded a new trail-blog, which is unfortunate, and I apologize, but please note that I have been very busy and have not given up on either hiking or blogging. While I am way behind in chronicling my hikes, I do hope to get caught up eventually. While it doesn’t take very long to write a trail blog (unless you lose your notes, like I did… and having the pc fried by lightning didn’t help either), sorting through, resizing, and uploading the photos rather does, so I may not go too much ‘in depth’ like I usually do, but I will try and give a good report, never-the-less.
In mid-January, I was contacted by waterfall enthusiast and aficionado, Dave Aldridge; he had been studying maps and making plans to find the ‘Bailey Falls’ in Greene County, and asked if I could go along. As it turned out, I wasn’t busy that day, and having never been to Bailey Falls, decided to hike with him in an attempt to find them. We drove to the trail-head just beyond the old ‘Shelton Mission’ about mid-morning of the 20th, and began our quest, hiking up the cold creek trail into ‘Bullen Hollow’. As I just mentioned, it was a chilly morning, particularly in the mountain hollow, and there was still quite a lot of snow and ice in the trail and along the creek-banks. Even so, quite a lot of the snow had melted down over the previous couple of days, and the cumulative snow-melt had made the water-level and overall flow of the creek rather substantial, making every cascade along the way appear like a waterfall unto itself.
A few words about ‘Bastard Bears’…
‘Bastard Bear’ is a descriptive adjective (that can reasonably be confused as being a noun) I use to describe a particularly steep, or difficult hill-climb, or anything formidable and tough to manage, really, and has now recently been associated with a ‘low trail gear’ for climbing even. I remember the first time I ever heard the phrase being used; it was Dave (‘Nurse Without A Purse’) Bigard in May of 1991, while hiking the Georgia and Southern North Carolina section of the Appalachian Trail.
Some background information: ‘Rat Patrol’ and I met Dave near Stover Creek Shelter on our 1st day of 12 out on the trail. He went on to Hawk Mountain Shelter that afternoon, while we camped in the soft pine needles next to the creek (before the big flood that swamped our tents). We accidentally caught up to him again the next evening after we had hiked 16 miles, mostly in the cold, pouring rain, the last 2 miles in the dark. Anyway, it was at the Gooch Gap Shelter that we became friends with the ‘Nurse Without A purse’ (‘NWAP’ for short) and another cool hiker/adventurer named ‘Dr. Faustus.’ While the shelter had been full the night before, and Rat and I camped out in the rain again…the next morning I woke up with a pond inside my tent, and we both were still exhausted from the 16 miles the day before, so we decided to take an entire day off, trying to recuperate and dry out somewhat, watching it rain the entire day and night from inside the shelter. Dave and Gwen (‘Dr. Faustus’) had decided to stay at the shelter, also, and we soon became ‘the gnarly family’, hiking the rest of the way to ‘Rainbow Springs’, NC, together. There are many stories I could tell you about that trip through Georgia, like how Dave carried ‘a bear horn’ and fired it off every night before retiring to his sleeping bag, or how I had 30 pounds of trail mix, or even how Dr. Faustus kept us all entertained and inspired; every day was a new adventure, but to make a very long story a bit shorter, I will get back to the ‘Bastard Bear’ part of the story.
For the 3rd consecutive year, the event known as ‘Rat’s Birthday hike’ did occur; this year, my hiking buddy, ‘Rat Patrol’, decided to hike from Max Patch to Hot Springs (NC). One of the things I like best about the ‘Birthday hike’ is that I don’t have to plan anything…all I have to do, usually, is load up the backpack and go. I was quite inspired to go, too–not only because Max Patch is such an awesome place, and I haven’t been there in several years, but especially since I had hiked over ‘Snowbird Mountain’ last year, and was headed toward Max Patch when my camp-stove inexplicably quit working, and I was forced to retreat back over Snowbird Mountain without food in the pouring rain. I had already planned on going back sometime to make up for that failure.
Has it been hot? Oh, yeah…
Way back, when I was still in High School, I had a job delivering newspapers. There was this one ol’ fellow on my route that I would see almost every day, as he and his be-sweatered Chihuahua awaited my inevitable arrival so he could impart some important new wisdom upon me. He and his wife were good people, but the funny thing is, what I remember most about him, is how he was always grumbling about the weather. It was always either too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too something—always. As a friend of mine recently pointed out, a positive attitude is a valuable asset; just once I would have like to have heard him say, “Wow, what a great day!’ I learned that it was best to just agree with his dissatisfaction, but I suppose that through it all, despite his atmospheric discontent, I also learned to appreciate the subtle variations of weather, and have tried to refrain from making any negative remarks in that regard, and instead will leave that sort of business to the weather prognosticators and aficionados (aka,‘weather orcs’), after all, this is a hiker-blog, and not a weather-blog. In other words, I have decided to spare you my essay on ‘global warming’, Al Gore, and the price of tea in China, and will now get on with the recent trail adventures, instead…
Jones Branch Overlook…
I suppose the most ambitious trail escapade of the summer (so far) was the hike to the Jones Branch Overlook, a quite scenic cliff-boulder overlooking the peaceful Jones Branch, where the Appalachian Trail ascends/descends the southernmost ridges of Unaka Mountain near the Nolichucky River. From the secluded overlook, there are also some very good views beyond the river gorge, out to the Bald Mountain Chain of the Appalachians. I accidentally found the overlook a few years ago, perhaps after a Jones Branch Waterfall adventure, and have been going back every year since. My hiking buddy, ‘Rat Patrol’ had had never been there, however, and despite some sore ribs from a recent motorbike accident, decided to brave the elements (mostly heat and ‘bugs’) and check out the overlook.
Perhaps I have been affected by the post Trail Days ‘Summertime Blues’, but sometimes it is difficult to know what to write about for these trail-blogs; I get a bit tired sometimes of saying ‘I did this’ or ‘I did that’, ‘I went here’, or ‘I went there’. It is easy to become uninspired and apathetic—I get bored talking about myself, the things that I do, and places that I go. However, there are a few people who do read this stuff (for which I am grateful, and I thank you all), and if this trail-blog helps to inspire someone to greater awareness, increased appreciation, or become a better Steward of Nature, then I suppose it is well worth the effort. So, are there any trail adventures to write about? You betcha…