Highlanders and Hell Guys Weekend April 27-29, 2012

When Myers and Rob invited us to join them at one of our favorite spots, it required little deliberation.  Laurel Gap is the terminus, almost, of my favorite trail in the park, Balsam mountain.  The story of how the Hell Guys formed is similar to our SouthernHighlander story.  But you will have to let them tell you its origin, over a fire, in the backcountry.

Dr. Dan came down from Cincinnati and got a real 2000 feet hump to remind him why he loves the Smokies.

By the time we reached Balsam Mountain trail, it was getting towards dusk.  Bill was inking new miles. 

I pushed on the remaining two miles towards the shelter in the fading light.  About a mile from my destination, I came face to face with a huge boar and piglet.  Of course the whole thing happened so fast I couldn't snap a picture.  Anyway, that boar bluff charged me, a little.  She snorted, scratched her hooves and did a fake lunge in my direction.  I backed up and let her have the trail.  There was a suck muck section that she was digging around in.  After a few minutes, having determined it safe to proceed, I dropped further down the trail when I encountered a bear scratching on a tree right off to the right of the trail.  Again, too quick for photography, he gruffed on out of my way.  Bears are much more predictable than boar, especially when piglets are involved.

And who do I find at the shelter?  I hadn't seen this guy on the trail so long I forgot his name.  When I remembered it was BC George he tried to tell me that he had come up from Cataloochee and was inking a 20 mile weekend.  He asked me to be sure and post that.  George did a 20 mile weekend.  Anyway, it was good to see this stranger in the backcountry.  If George looks like he is turning his nose it is because the stench in the shelter was overwhelming.  You see, some horse folks thought it prudent to use this newly constructed shelter as their own stall.  The feces and urine smell was simply unbearable.  I had to resort to other means of lodging, if you catch my drift.  I definitely didn't have to catch that drift.

Sally Dumplin, Myers and Rob at an undisclosed location.  Laurel Gap has been the scene of many great Highlander events.  We first met our brothers in the Muir Faction there several years ago.  It was also the sight of a great multi day trip.

This is the Big Creek drainage from about three miles out on Balsam Mountain trail.  This was our dayhiking destination on Saturday and the views were outstanding.  We encountered zero folks on this particular trail.  These interior trails are hard to reach and get little use.

Recognize that mountain?  You should.  See the little tower?

I finally caught up with Myers and Rob at tricorner knob.  It was a 4.9 mile one way trip from Laurel Gap.  This crowd is all Appalachian Trail thru hikers.  They have overwhelmed the Smokies right now.  I heard that Ice water was an absolute circus.

We chilled with the stinky younguns for a while and spread the good news about Fee freedom.  Myer's proselytizing gifts were utilized along the Appalachian Trail.

Tree beard spoke to me.  I can't tell you what he said.  We had a great chat.

Good smelling stuff.

Dan forgot his headlamp.  We improvised a solution with duct tape.  Worked like a charm.

Spring is reaching its apex in the upper elevations of the Smokies too.  These trillium are on their last legs.

Bill departed the second day to meet Jerky Mike down at Walnut Bottoms.  He had a big mile weekend along with Jerky Mike.  They inked in Camel Gap and several others.  We did 20 miles including the out and back to TriCorner Knob.

The Hell Guys were a great fit for us Highlander ilk.  They understand our sense of humor and share a common love of the Smokies and disgust for the bureaucrats running it.  Both Rob and Myers work diligently to help fight this backcountry fee because they realize it will restrict access to the park for future generations.  If you haven't joined the Southern Forest Watch Coalition, consider casting your lot with us Fee Fighters.  Last week, Ditmanson announced his plan to charge folks to see the fireflies.  The backcountry fee is just the beginning of a cascading waterfall of fees in the Smokies future.  If you don't help us now, your children and their children will be priced out of public lands donated by US to THEM!  If you think dishonesty and obfuscation are acceptable then please ignore our fight.  If you , however, are old fashioned like us, and believe that these people entrusted to manage our public lands should be held to the same standard as we do in the private sector, join the movement and stop these fees dead in their tracks.   www.southernforestwatch.org       

And finally,  It always happens to me on a multi day trip.  During those times when I am so happily devoid of electronic stimulations, that one song will be in your head for twenty miles.  I'm also blaming it on Dr. Dan.   Now you get to have it too.