Kephart Shelter,   in the rain   Sept 6, 2014

It was Trail Bailer's idea.  And I thought it a good one considering the forecast.  Wish I had the sense to take my car instead of ride my motorcycle but alas, such is the life of the storm crow.  I got my soaking in well before the grueling two mile ascent.

  This log footbridge has seen better days.   Several dayhikers had bailed on the prospect.  Some folks wade the creek.  It reminded me of some crossings in the Himalaya and Pamir.  At least here you could see the bottom.

There is relief in the works, though.

We were ready for a Will Howe dinner and he did not disappoint.  That is a Highlander fire and feast.

Our shelter buddies were incredibly cool dudes from up North.  Jeff and Jason spend 13 weeks a year backpacking in the Smokies.  Which is about 13 more than that loudmouth Gary Wilson with the GSMA who cries so frequently about how the Southern Forest Watch is a bunch of backpacking bullies.  I suppose he is right.  We tend to backpack so I guess that makes us bullies. I started receiving unsolicited text messages from Gary a couple of weeks ago. He was making antagonistic comments and calling the SFW "ambulance chasers".   So I invited him to a fundraising challenge.  You see, Wilson is a carpetbagging park service employee who has never done anything for the Smokies for which he isn't paid.  Sound familiar?  Yeah, like other itinerant Smokies profiteers who get paid by our tax dollars to sit on computers and blog all day about the park and all they claim to do for it.  He takes every opportunity to degrade our efforts to hold the NPS accountable.  His latest rant is to vehemently deny the Blackberry Farms trail system.  Of course he refused to go up there and check it out and refused to debate us openly about it.  He just snipes from the safety of his home.

So I decided it was a golden opportunity to raise funds for the SFW or GSMA, of which he is a proud employee.  Since he didn't have the courage to debate us on the issues, and declined offers to walk to the Blackberry Farm Trail system and freely threw around the word cowards, with regard to our lawsuit against the park, I decided he could bring his mouth to town for a cause.  I invited him to a no holds barred any style fighting cage match.  It would be duly licensed by the appropriate entities and I even offered to foot the initial costs.  We would charge $20 per head and last man standing could designate which Smokies charity would receive the funds.  I offered to let him choose any style fighting and we could include a debate plus any other contest he wished.   Gary Wilson declined the offer and again called us bullies.  But we are coward bullies.   Oh well, such is the nature of itinerant park employees.   I then offered to have him join me as a park volunteer.  His response was classic.  He said, "'I do other things for the park".  Translation, if he isn't getting paid, he has no interest.

Which is pretty much what we have been fighting from day one.  Out of town know it all's who are here to educate us stupid, barefoot locals.  Thank God the SFW is comprised of people from all over the country.  Like Jason and Jeff, they realize the backcountry isn't overcrowded, that a reservation system isn't needed and the NPS is corrupt at the high levels.  And I wish to differentiate.  The NPS is corrupt at the Ditmanson and Fitzgerald level.  I work with two great folks in the bureau.   Jamie Sanders and  Christine Hoyer are volunteer coordinators.  Christine is now the Backcountry specialist.  So a park profiteer like Wilson will never meet them, unless they pay him to do something.   I appreciate the good folks in the NPS.  And they know we have no bone to pick with them.  The Great Smoky Mtns Association, however, seems to have no problem with Wilson's Blackberry Farm Holocaust denials.  For those of you who are involved with the GSMA, it may be of interest to note.

But again, Wilson slunk away and decided that he couldn't face someone and call them a coward so now I am apparently a bully.  I'm sorry for bullying you, Gary.   It must be dredging up horrible memories from middle school.  I apologize.   I just thought it would be a great way to have fun and raise awareness for a cause and help cure you of yellow bellyitis.   If you ever prevail in your battle with fear, just let me know and I will give you a hug then we can fund raise for a good cause, in the ring.   Then you can hold your head high and face your family with dignity once again.  Heck, I will even offer to take you into the backcountry for an introduction to backpacking trip.  I know you have dayhiked but getting into the backcountry would be a great way to truly experience the Smokies.   I mean that Gary.  I would do that for you.

The next day I busted up to Grassy Fork.  I needed those second miles and this way a perfect way to get them.  2.5 to Dry Sluice and it was a sweat inducing pull.  I loved every solitary minute of it.

What a glorious day to be in the Smokies! 

When I returned to Kephart, the walk out was magnificent.  Then when I got on the bike, guess what?  Rain again!  Oh well.  You will have that.

By the way, speaking of good old Horace Kephart, check out this article about Ditmanson's going away party.  The picture of Ditmanson and Kephart is priceless! It proves to me that our comments about the moustache club must have hurt some feelings at the  Sugarlands too.   If you notice, the author of the article mentions that the ATC director, Morgan Summerfield, made a comment about the backcountry fee in his speech.  Because Morgan opposed the fee, but the NPS rammed it down their throats as well.   Speaking of the ATC, Martin Hunley has lobbied the ATC to take a position in opposition to the fee.  Here is what was published in the ATC register as a result of Martin's tireless efforts.



Regarding park mileage, next weekend is Jerky Mike's finish party.  Speaking of bullies, I feel like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas when he was preparing for his friend to "get made".  Completing backpacking miles in the Smokies is a true way to be out there.  And Mike is finishing where he started.  We will be out Friday and ending up in Bryson City.  It will be a large shindig, so come join us.  Friday is a backcountry experience, then Sat it is on!  And I am excited.  Picking up Grassy Fork gives me a new second trail which has been my goal for a year now.  I have about 20 miles of second trails before I can check box my second map.  Most of what I need is on Lakeshore and Cold Spring.  I hope to be done by Christmas.  Hope everyone is having a great late summer!



p.s.  Here is an interesting news story that underscores what the federal government does without the oversight of a citizens' group.  Take note that it was Judicial Watch that forced their hand on this.