Hangover 2013  October 10-14

(frank, I'm leaning towards the panasonic lumix, bro)    These shadows begged for the panoramic setting and I wasn't disappointed.

It is our annual pilgrimage to our annual holy site.  And this year it was exceptional.

I choose the Lead trail because of tradition.  Alone and chasing darkness, fresh off the plane from the West Coast, I retraced steps into the splendor of early Fall and fantastic angles of light.

It is a mountaineering axiom: you can never climb the same mountain twice.  I've been up this trail more than any in the world.  And each experience is unique and ripe with some form of discovery or unnoticed natural wonder.  It could be as subtle as a sourwood tree ceding to Autumn's chill or a fallen log in a different spot creating a diversion for my feet in an unusual and new path.  The Hangover Lead South trail is a journey of memory and ritual.  But most of all, it is a time of magic.  The mountains, our mountains, in their best light,in the best time of year.

Even the sunlight on my receding hairline is a reflection of the ways in which we all adapt to this spinning orb.  Long gone are the days of our youth when we carried  monstrous loads up this path with springy joints and non compressed vertebrae.

But then again, my pack did weigh 50 plus pounds.  I honestly couldn't tell you why.

I made it as far as the heath bald before the sun dropped for good.

And there was Ab, Sally D, John the Red and the camp slave, our 2013 initiate.

Will Howe, complete with his cowbell.

Even CJ, the Indian Outlaw made the trip up.

Abner is excited about the upcoming rituals.  Here on the rock, he devises schemes.

And we take in the view.

Of course there are going to be feats of strength.

Breathtaking sunsets

Cotton filled sunrises

And danger, always danger.

There was an afternoon seminar given by Beef Jerky Mike on the importance of Highlander etiquette that was mandatory for our new Highlander camp servant.  You see, Mike had sponsored Will and it was discovered that there was a serious infraction in that Will was found out of dress code.  Mike explains to Will, in the presence of a cadre of Highlander Elders, that this is embarrassing to him and his co sponsor, Sally D and there must be a sanction.  The counsel made a hasty, but appropriate decision to send Will back down the mountain to reflect upon his disobedience where he was banished for the afternoon to reflect upon his errant act of insubordination.  He was told to remain there until he had driven off the mtn to Robbinsville where he would bring gifts and bribes to the counsel in order to convince the group to reconsider his banishment.

Meanwhile, we suffered right through atop the Hangover with a cheese board.  We also toasted our brothers in arms in Chapter 3, the Muir Faction, for contributing this very important ritual to the Highlander Code.  They were unable to attend but we had them with us in spirit.  For the Ohio Muir Faction, Southernhighlander Chapter 3, this is your shout out!  We also missed Martin and others who were unable to attend due to geographic restrictions.

Friday was, for me anyway, a time to do some dayhiking.  I planned to meet Larry at the trailhead to Wolf Laurel and knock off some miles on a new trail.  He had car trouble and was late which meant he didn't get to enjoy any assistance in the form of Sherpa duties from yours truly.  I did get to walk out to Bob's Bald and down to the trailhead where I missed UL and Grady, and three others by fifteen minutes.

When Gobbie arrived and the camp slave was in banishment, he did the only thing a true elder could.  Occupy his tent.  Because Gobbie forgot his tent.

We now had a full contingent of Highlanders and it was time to start looking for Will to return to the Hill.

Saturday sunsets were the best.

We basked in the glory of the rock.  Bill takes it very seriously, though, that our camp newbie has not returned as yet.

Uncle Larry does his imitation of the sun dance, since he looks like the sun in that  yellow jacket.

We return to the fire when we begin to hear the cowbell descending into the clear cut.  It is Will, Dr. Trail Bailer with a much heavier backpack than when he departed.  57 lbs heavier, to be exact.  He intended to buy votes.

These two were not amused.  Impressed with his feat of strength and stamina, but not amused.  They were happy with each other, though.

But back to our Southern Highlander in Training.  It was time for his rituals and we NEEDED MORE COWBELL.

Our rituals commence when the last rays of sun disappear from the rock.

And within ten minutes of commencement, we have a full scale gobbling, as usual.

We all bow for a moment of silent reflection before the secret ceremonies begin.  Dr. Trail Bailer, who did recently complete the entire Appalachian Trail, is in for an unforgettable evening.  There was talk that he may have bailed on the event.  But his bribery and banishment had a desired effect.

Salty snacks and refreshments curry great favor with the Highlander counsel.  We hadn't enjoyed a soft drink on the hill in many years.

There were many rounds of discussion and rituals.  It lasted for hours.

There was a great deal of caucusing.

Then the ultimate Shrader milk run.  By the light of the moon comes the stealth of a coon.

He had a score to settle.  Feats of strength continued.

In the end, after much debate and discussion, Dr. Trail Bailer was approved for membership into the Highlander fold.   Congratulations, Skip Howe, the Trail Bailer.  You are a fully inducted Highlander of the dumplin valley variety.

Congratulations Will.  We have a Newfound respect for you. 

As for Ab's leggings, I thought they discontinued those after world war one.  Grady fancies them, though.

Coming soon is part 2 of this Hangover Story.   Grady, Ricky Bobby and I continued down Slickrock creek for an extra day or two of backpacking on the most rugged and strenuous trail in the Southeast named by Backpacker magazine as one of the toughest in the country.   There is a reason it is referred to as the ball buster.   I will post a separate report later.

Congrats to the Trail Bailer.  Glad he didn't bail or FAIL!