May is here and there are quite a few ‘thru-hikers‘ passing through the area. I haven’t met very many, however, like I used to when I was hiking and maintaining trails all the time, but the ones that I have talked to have inspired me with their positive attitude, for surely one must be an optimist to tell someone they are walking to Maine. I have to admit, I am a bit jealous, and would love to be out on the trail right now, going to Maine, or wherever. I suppose a good many of this year’s crop of thru-hikers will be at ‘Trail Days‘ next weekend for the big hiker festival in Damascus, Virginia.
Many of my ‘hiker-trash’ friends from all over the country will be there also–some of them are already there, I am sure. I can remember back 19 years ago to 1990 when the festival was a fairly new, low-key affair–but now ‘Trail Days’ is (and has been for several years) a massive gathering. The whole town turns out for live music, food, and of course, the parade. Then there will be swarms of hikers, from this year and years past, making new friends, or re-newing old ones. Also, there is the tradition of the drum circle jamming around a large fire–it is entertaining. I try to go every year, although I have inadvertently skipped a few. Never-the-less, I have many a ‘camping on the riverside’ memories there. Although my plans are rather tenuous at the moment, I plan on driving over the mountain and stopping in at Hoppy and Birdie’s place to say hello.
Since the last blog, and the Sill Branch ‘stealth pack incident‘, I haven’t been in any hurry; in fact I have been content just setting my boot down in the woods, not caring if I walked 10 miles, or only one. Even so, I did happen to find a couple of interesting places to hike to. There were actually three excursions into the Buffalo/Cherokee Mountain chain. The first was an afternoon hike in the rain to the top of the Cherokee Knob. I had lived in the shadow of this ridge for 9 years, and it seemed odd that I had never been there before. Then there was the day I hiked to the top of Buffalo Mountain, looping around past the towers to the White Rock Cliffs. The view of the landscape was very nice. There was one other hike into Cherokee Mountain, where I followed a stream and found the remnants of an old moonshine still.
I also did a couple of scouting hikes around in the Sampson Wilderness, my home away from home, it would seem. The first hike took me beyond the ‘Lower Devil’s Fork Falls‘ (I have also heard people refer to this waterfall as the ‘Pine Ridge Falls’) to a ‘half-pipe’-like hollow that led straight to the ridge just below the large ‘Volcano‘ that also overlooks into Sill Branch. The hollow itself was fairly easy to navigate, at least until I got near the ridge-top, where the pine tree devastation and briars were at their worst. There were a couple of large vista boulders at the top of the hollow, which provided me with an interesting view of Sampson Mountain, Big Pine Ridge, and Longarm Ridge. Further up on the ridge-top, the views of Devil’s Fork and Sill Branch were incredible. Of course I was looking straight over and down upon the scenic Sill Branch Overlook (the ‘Monkey Head Rocks’) that you read so much about in the previous blog. My camera was acting funny that day…perhaps the batteries were weak…but I am hoping to get a few nice photos of the view from the ‘Volcano’.
The other ‘Sampson’ hike wasn’t much to write about, just a pleasant scouting trek into the un-named cloverleaf of creeks and hollows that are hidden behind the tall ridges where Embreeville and Rich Mountain butte together. It had rained quite a bit there, apparently, and the ‘swimming hole‘ on Clarks Creek looked like a jacuzzi.
The only Appalachian Trail hike that I went on was a lazy romp up to ‘High Rocks‘ and back before the rain. I just can’t seem to stay away from that place. Although I have been there a million times, I am still looking forward to the one-million-and-oneth time; I never get tired of those trails. I couldn’t help but notice that the big ‘double-logged’ water-bar on the top of the ridge, about a quarter mile below the ‘High Rocks’, had been recently replaced by one of the Carolina Mountain Club trail crews with a single log and rock water-bar. They did a fine job, and it looked real nice, but never-the-less it was a bit bittersweet seeing it, since I had helped ‘Rat Patrol‘ construct the original double-logged water-bar in that place (and several others on that hillside, including the cool rock one just up the ridge) nearly 20 years ago. Seeing that old locust log kicked out of the hole and laying in the remnants of the ‘old trail’ made me a bit sad, I suppose–it still worked turning rain water off the trail just fine. But, I think I was more upset that the trail crews never let maintainers know ahead of time when they are going to be working on their trail sections anymore (that is Rat’s trail section). Anyway, I would have liked to have been there helping construct the new water-bar.