Happy New Year !

It was a cloudy and warm day last Saturday, so I decided to go out to ‘Sill Branch Falls’ in the Sampson Wilderness for the first hike of the new year.  Intermittent rain followed me up the wet trail toward the upper falls.  I had noticed before that the ridge that the side-trail to the falls is on had been burned a while back (presumably by the Forest Service), and now almost every evergreen tree that used to be there is now lying dead on the ground, or on top of other fallen logs.  Because of that, it was a bit difficult to navigate through there, especially since I decided to walk up the ridge to get a better view of the surrounding mountain ridges.  There are times when I like to get a different perspective on the world, I suppose, and travel off-trail, exploring new places.   I had forgotten just how tall the ridge I was climbing actually was, and surprised to discover that it is quite a bit higher in elevation than the parallel ridge that followed the ‘south fork’ of Sill Branch up onto Rich Mountain.

Although it was a bit tough getting up there to the top of the ridge, having to step over so many logs while ascending, the view was very good, despite the clouds.   I was able to get a panoramic visual of the surrounding landscape, including views of ‘Big Pine Ridge‘, ‘Longarm Ridge‘, A good portion of Sampson Mountain (including the cliffs above ‘Hell Hollow‘, ‘Flattop‘, and the white-topped summit of the knob just beyond ‘Flattop’), and the large knob that looms over the ‘lower Sill Branch Falls‘, and creates the border between Embreeville Mountain and Rich Mountain.

I had my binoculars with me for once, so I studied the landforms for awhile.  It has become a habit to name places that previously didn’t have names on the map (we had to call them something), and the rocky cliffs on the Sill Branch side have become affectionately known to me as the ‘Oomba Ba-Goomba Rocks‘…perhaps I will explain why someday in the ‘trail stories’.  Anyway, while I was there, I named the cliff nearest to the top as ‘the monkey-head rock’‘ for future reference.   All of the places looked steep and rocky from my vantage point. It also occurred to me that whoever named ‘Flattop‘–the Summit of Sampson Mountain–for the mapmakers was either a sick bastard, or had a strange sense of humor.   Having had climbed that knob 2 or 3 times, I knew it was anything but ‘flat’.

Moving on, I had a bit of trouble descending the opposite side of the ridge (which wasn’t charred) into the ‘north fork’ of Sill Branch.   I slipped a couple of times on the wet leaves on the steep side hill.   One time, I managed to get my leg stuck and twisted around the trunk of a small tree that caught me before I could catch myself.   I could feel the abrasion on my shinbone just below the right knee.   I have gotten into the habit of not looking at my cuts, bruises, and assorted injuries until I get back home, maybe because I really don’t want to know how bad it is, and can therefore fool myself into thinking it is ‘just fine’.  It was painful, nevertheless, so I spent a few seconds sitting on the wet ground reminding myself that it could have been a lot worse.  The words ‘rub a little dirt on it‘ came to mind for some reason, and I got up and returned to descending the ridge before the leg had time to stiffen up.

By the time I returned to the trail beside the ‘north fork’ of Sill Branch Creek, my ‘whoa nellie’ gears were smokin’, and I was quite dirty.  The good news was I was only about a quarter mile away from the ‘upper’ falls, so I hiked on up to the top of them and ate a snack.   It is always nice being at the falls.

It rained some more on the way back, but I didn’t mind.  I stayed on the trail, for the most part, but it wasn’t much easier than walking the pathless ridge because of the many fallen trees in the trail.   I nearly forget all about the abrasion on my leg after attempting to navigate my way through one of these particularly large blow-downs that was blocking the pathway.   I was crawling under the large log next to the creek, but didn’t see the branch on the other side, and raised up too soon and ‘bonked’ my head.  That is the actual sound that it made.  The result was a ‘Fred Flintstone lump’ on my head.   I could feel the rain pummel it all the way back to the trail head.

I found a couple of interesting nests laying in the trail; one was a small nest that could fit in the palm of my hand, well-woven out of pine needles.   The other nest was larger than a basketball, but also constructed out of pine straw–perhaps it was a squirrel’s nest.

X-mas Hike

I also went out for a hike on Christmas day.   Again, it was cloudy, and a bit cooler.   Parking the car at Chestoa Pike beside the Nolichucky River, I decided to hike up the ‘Cliff Ridge‘ on the Appalachian Trail to where the ridges meet on the way to ‘Temple Hill‘.  It was awesome walking along the top of the cliff, viewing the river valley and all the mountains around.   The evergreen trees and the incredible moss that grows there seemed to glow in the fog.

I stayed and studied Unaka Mountain for quite awhile, possibly longer than I should have, trying to squeeze all the gray sunlight I could from the day before returning back to the river valley in the fading twilight.   I had a good time, and had no injuries to report.

—————–boulderman (1/6/09)

Written by in: Trailstealth |

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