Yes those are stars and it was cold.
But we spent a good part of the day getting ready for that evening.
The flying sausage is resting after his 15 mi over from Trillium Gap.
We had to, of course, make sure the wood was wrist sized. In accordance with great Smoky Mountains National Park policies and procedures.
We started on this frosty Saturday morning with our friend Sara. She was just along for the hike and did a loop back out and around to her car. I escorted thesetthese ladies up themthe from the back of the old ranger station in Greenbrier.
We made the side trip up to an old cemetery about a quarter mile off trail. Uphill, mostly.
And Kelsie thought she had been on all the trails in the park. Hmmph.
We bid farewell to Sara and began setting up a proper Highlander encampment. It was time for Kelsie to work.
I enjoy my Six Moons Design Skyscape Trekker tent. More so because it was a gift from my good friends, Seth and Heather Dortch. So far I have probably put about 30 nights in it this year alone and I have no complaints. It weighs in at 26 ounces and packs up super small. You need to learn how to vent it properly as there is a bit of condensation if not.
They say swinging a hatchet is mountaineering training. You may not know this, but Kelsie is on a program that I am tailoring for her. It will begin in May with her first ascent of Mount Rainier. So splitting wood is important training for the upper body. I would say that she definitely has gotten the swing of it.
Painting this fence is fun.
Since we had all day quite a woodpile was amassed.
Soon the Flying Sausage arrived ,tuckered following his 15 mile day. He was spared wood duty.
A reprieve was granted for sedentary rehydration.
After bathing in the forest full of stars and warmth of hearth, it was time to retire. Little did we know that slumber would elude us.
As has happened before in the Southern Highlander fold, a Buick came driving through in the night. Jimmy Dean was wretching into the early morning hours. I felt badly for him but there wasn’t much to be done. He heaved until there was no more hoe to heave.
Sunday found us escorting him to his car in Gatlinburg instead of finishing his loop. Our sausage was not looking well. You’ll have that from time to time.
So ended another glorious weekend in the Smokies back country. I would like to add something on the Southern Forest Watch front. it was brought to my attention by my friend Adam that the Big South fork was about to institute some whopping fee increases.
You can read what I had to say about that here.
There’s really no way that I could not lead with his photograph. I’m not going to mention the names of the individuals involved at their request.
Though the weather was quite terrible in the valley we found and cracked open a window up in the mountains. Richard and Kelsie dropped down from newfound Gap. They got their sweat heifer on. I graciously offeredto drive her vehicle into Carolina and come up from the bottom.
I met the flying sausage and Robert who were already there.
Lots of water had come through Luftee.
Our numbers were small but our fun was large.
And our fire so delightful.
I’ve spent quite a few nights in Kephart shelter.
Feels like a Carolina winter home.
These Young un’s are always happy to be out in the snow in the Smokies.
So in the spirit of buck dancing and merry making let’s go to Andy Griffith and The Darlins. you true bluegrass people out there know that they are actually the Dillard’s from Missouri. They’re all dead now. But they certainly left a great legacy here with this one.
In a change of venue, we accepted invitation by John and AJ to join them on Norris lake.
This was Kelsies kayak’s Maiden backpacking voyage. so we took off on a blustery Saturday morning with snow in the forecast.
it took a bit of cipherin for us to ascertain exactly their location, having never been there.
We put in at big ridge State Park and followed the tributary up into the main channel.
We were greeted by John Dempsey and our new friend Al who also paddled over.
I felt like contestants on the next episode of survivor. And finding them was the first test.
You may never see another gathering with this amount of wood, stacked and split. Of course AJ had been there with John a day earlier.
It was a good look for this kayaker to find the roaring blaze.
We enjoyed the singing competition. Jon stole the show.
Prior to sunset, after setting up camp, Kelsie and I decided to walk the perimeter of the island. I think the entire loop was about a mile.
It snowed through the night and the heavy snow was hitting the tent mocking rain.
It was cold that morning. Reluctantly, we packed up and started our journey into Big Rdge.
And so the sun sets on another, splendid Southern Highlander adventure. It was great to see AJ and John again. Meeting our new friend Al was a pleasure and it’s always nice to spend time with Kelsie.
Let’s end with one of the greatest, most masterful guitar solos of all time.
The last time I climbed this hill was to meet the Flying Sausage for the first time. And I distinctly remember struggling to make the ascent. I was having those thoughts like, “Well, I guess I have reached that point in my life,” etc. When I arrived, my energy was zapped. We later found out that I was in the initial stages of Covid. The following week saw me in full blown disease mode and the remainder of December was a wash. Fortunately for me, I recovered. Some of the lingering symptoms I experience are the occasional shortness of breath and some unusual memory issues like a mini-alzheimers. These are apparently common with recovery. If you are someone who hasn’t been impacted by this virus, I would urge caution. Recent scans of lungs show clear holes for folks who have the misfortune of finding it down into your chest. Don’t risk it. Wear a mask and get vaccinated.
Kelsie is no stranger to the snow walks. Our ascent time to the shelter was four miles in under two hours. Not bad for 2400 feet elevation.
We met the flying sausage, Ed and Robert. But no fire was to be seen.
That is what Richard is for. We were joined by new friends, Ryan and Joe from Athens, TN.
That’s Jimmy Deane and Ed Dodgen. Just having some shelter fun.
Kelsie and Ed. Staying warm with the fire we all shared. I’m sure by now, Kelsie is wishing some more women would join our weekend cabals.
My best side going up.
I stole this one from Robert Carver’s insta feed. We had a splendid time atop the Nob. Hob Nobbing and what not. Let’s end this week with some music from my favorite female guitarist. Since we are in a “Chain” of great weekend backpacking trips to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
What a beautiful weekend to ascend Curry Mountain into the beautiful campsite number 20.
Kelsie and I follow Jimmy Dean up the 5.8 miles into camp. The flying sausage really was flying on Saturday morning.
he had so much energy we needed to put him to work immediately upon entering the campsite.
Of course everyone is expected to pull their load and she was no exception. Don’t know that I’ve seen such a luxurious pose for sawing.
Yep that’s Martin, scooter, The edge Hunley. Martin and I ascended Rainier and Whitney together once upon a time. Jimmy and Kelsie are beginning their respective mountain journeys. So I am including links to those outings here for their amusement. Not surprisingly, Rainier guided trips are full for the upcoming season.
It’s been a couple of years since I’ve shared a trail and campsite with him.
Before long we had another visitor.
That is the infamous Grady. And now we had a quorum.
Much to the chagrin of Kelsey and the Flying sausage. They were forced to endure years of Highlander tales.
We had a very nice and unusually well behaved fire.
We hiked back out the same way and got in some decent mileage for the weekend.
It was really great to be out on the one good weather day in the past week. I would like to thank Martin and Grady for dusting off their boots. Of course we were the guests of Jimmy Dean and Kelsie is always good company.
I would also like to thank everyone who took the time to make a comment on last week’s post. Particularly Dana and KT. I don’t know about you but I’ve slept a lot better knowing that competency and not treason occupies the Oval Office. I don’t have to worry about how someone is selling us out to Russia or some other corporate entity. I would also like to mention something about the acts of sedition that occurred at the Capitol. And I’m going to make another prediction. You’re going to find out that Russia was involved in this as with many other of our former Commander’s misdeeds. In 4 years of White House occupancy, Donald Trump never once criticized Vladimir Putin. There’s going to be an impeachment trial. And he will be exonerated by Senate Republicans. Because they’re afraid of his base. Which is, by definition, cowardice.
But remember that the president of the United States incited a mob to charge the capital which resulted in the deaths of policemen and others. They were trying to kidnap and hang elected officials, one of which was their own vice president. A lot of people are okay with that because they’re Trump supporters. Could you imagine if Obama had done anything remotely similar? The stunning hypocrisy is on full display here. I don’t care what your political stripes are, everyone should stand against sedition. And that’s what I’m doing. Because it is our duty. If my political views offend you, please accept my apology. But you have a choice whether or not to read my words. The capital policeman did not have a choice. And if Trump had his way in overthrowing a fair election like the tin pot dictator he is, then we wouldn’t have a choice right now. It almost happened right here in the United States. Liberty is fragile and takes fighting. People gave their lives so we could have fair elections and I will not stand idly by while a bunch of traitors steal that from us. Email your senators and let them know what you think.
Lower Mount Cammerer seemed to be the right place.
It was a blustery Saturday morning. I wasn’t feeling very well due to some bad sushi and seaweed the night before.
And it was cold. But Kelsie wanted to get out and I was eager to get some more woods time. She’s still rehabbing her ankle from surgery in October.
I probably couldn’t keep up with her in normal time when she’s doing her 20 plus mile days in the Smokies. She finished all the trails in the park in like nine months.
We got there pretty early so we had time to do a lot of collecting of wood. Remember this is the Woodford Hayes Backcountry campsite.
How about this epic three for one split? Our fire was so hot it melted my socks.
I was having Khumbu ice fall flashbacks.
But it was a fantastic outing in a wonderful, peaceful place. Kelsie is definitely on the mend and will be back to 15-mile days again so I’ll never see her.
We made a detour on the way out up to the Sutton overlook.
We were out in time to enjoy lunch at Lois’s in Newport. Of course it was packed and no one was wearing a mask. Both of us have already experienced covid in all its glory so we know it’s not a democratic hoax. And everyone was there after church.
Now I like a good conspiracy theory as much as anyone. I’ve gone down a few rabbit holes in my time. In the end there’s only one conspiracy theory that I think actually has some merit. But I will talk about that at a later time. However I’ve never let some conspiracy theory drive me to kill someone or create an insurrection. I’ve never gone to a great length to put a hat on Jesus Christ and say he’s a member of some organization. I’ve never let a human being convince me to attack a building or another human. And I’ve never worshiped any man like he’s a deity.
If any of this sounds like you, then take note. I’m going to tell you a little story. Back in the run-up to the gulf war when Colin Powell was telling everyone about weapons of mass destruction I cried foul. I was as assiduous a student of the news then as now. Something smelled rotten in Denmark . When I protested, many people called me names and one of those was unpatriotic. I lost some friends over that situation. It turns out that the whole Iraq invasion was a sham. There were no weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. But it got us into the oilfields, didn’t it?
These same people who believe that then are believing this stuff now. I guess because Biden wasn’t born in Africa. If I watched one news station all day long I would probably be spouting that propaganda too. I have been railing against the dangers of this fascism that has come to America for the past four years. Not because I’m some kind of psychic. But because I’m able to think for myself and research things from multiple viewpoints.
Since I have friends from all over the world who constantly email me and ask me what the hell is going on in my country, I honestly have to respond that there is no good answer. Someone once said when fascism comes to America it will be cloaked in the flag and carrying a Bible.
Well folks that day came. If you will notice, no one ever said oops I was wrong about the Iraq war thing. That’s because these same people still believe that Hillary Clinton is running a child sex ring out of a pizza parlor in New York.
If any of this sounds like you, then take note. What happened in our capital is in part, your doing. And you have a choice to make. Alexis de Tocqueville in the 1800s said of the United States, ..”democracy is the worst form of government there is but it is the best that we’ve got.” He also said that good men would never run for public office. I sincerely hope that in my lifetime we’ve seen the worst of it but when I read that 78% of Republicans think Trump actually won the election, I know more is on the way. If that is true, then why did Republican officials refute his claims and his own hand-picked judges laugh this stuff out of court?
Another Patriot once said now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country. There needs to be Justice and punishment for those who led this insurrection against our country. And I’m going to make another prediction. When the truth comes out we’re going to find out that this was an inside job. This thing followed the playbook that Paul Manafort wrote for the Ukraine and other tin pot dictators throughout his history. (You will note that Manafort was pardoned recently by Trump after admitting he had lied to federal investigators about, you guessed it, Russia)
Iff you’re unfamiliar with Paul Manafort then you may want to go back and educate yourself and read the Senate intelligence committee report. I’m the only person you know who did that. I’m also probably the only person you know who read the entire Mueller report. Color me crazy but I somehow feel as if that is our civic duty as Americans. But if you choose to let people like Ted Cruz and Newt Gingrich synthesize information for you, then you definitely get the government you deserve. I’ll bet neither of them read those documents either.
Donald Trump is an agent of Russia. not in the spy sense but in the useful idiot sense. In a man’s wallet there is heart will also be. Trump’s heart is with Deutsche Bank because no American Bank would ever lend him money anymore because he was such a bad risk. So why would this German bank would be interested in him? Well the answer is quite obvious to anyone with any sense. They were laundering rubles.
So if you’re unable to play connect the dots, I suggest you start with the Senate intelligence committee report. That’s a Republican-led committee, by the way.
It’s time for everybody in this country to be a part of the solution instead of the problem. We have the worst covid statistics in the world because of the ineptitude of this moron who led us for the past 4 years. I got covid because people I was around don’t believe in masks and trusted a real estate guy more than scientists.
So if this post offends you, I’m sorry. But I’m offended by what happened at the capital last week. And I’m offended at what happened at Lois’s restaurant the other day. I’m offended at the selfishness of people in this country.
You either stand for justice and unity or you don’t. And if you believe any of the lies that come out of Donald Trump’s mouth, then you owe your nation some soul searching. And I don’t just feel sorry for you I feel sorry for this country. Donald Trump is not Jesus Christ, he is not Cyrus and he is not a martyr. He is a lying, grifting, real estate hustler. And always has been. Jesus called Satan, the father of the lie. It was a lie that caused original sin. Most people in this country see the truth. Maybe you have been fooled.
Peace in the future, I hope.
When there’s snow on the ground they will close the park. Which is why we set out to sneak into the old settlers Trail.
Myers and Nick preceded us. Friday they had all the wood gathered. So Saturday it was time for us to bust in.
That’s Kelsie on the left and Jimmy “the flying sausage” Dean on the right. We embarked in the spitting snow.
We were looking forward to seeing Frank and AJ but due to family issues neither them were able to attend.
Ballerina Britches earned his totenship badge.
Laundry got done.
She was warm-ish; a real trooper for being the only female in a group of alpha males. It dropped into the low twenties. But our fire was more than sufficient.
Myers woke up Saturday morning to a coyote in camp. We followed it out back to the car.
David Snider and his son came in along with Robert Carver. Even Curt made a cameo. just a fantastic winter outing on the old settlers Trail.
New year’s Eve was Jimmy the flying sausage Dean’s birthday. he had invited me up to join him in several others at Mount Collins shelter on Thursday. I followed the Appalachian Trail in 1600 ft of elevation and it was like an ice skating rink.
I arrived in advance of predicted bad weather. And who was there to greet me in the shelter but good old wildcat AKA, Bert Emerson. With the flying sausage were several other guys. Robert carver, Ed Fleming, and another guy named Nick. Ed Robert, and I had crossed many of the same paths and hiked with a lot of the same people over the years. it was amazing the connections we figured out while sitting inside the nice warm shelter with firewood they had hauled up.
In the midst of the festivities, we were joined by three boys from Michigan. These young gentlemen were also interested in mountaineering along with the flying sausage. So we had a lot to discuss. Wildcat bedded down early while we rang in the new year with the flying sausage. He obviously had a good time. Ed and Robert had made the same Smokies journey in parallel universe. I believe we all come from the same generation of Smokies backpackers. I had recalled their names from the Southern Forest watch days as they had supported our efforts by signing petitions and so forth. I would consider them sons of the Smokies for certain.
I departed on New year’s day and started 2021 in the piss pouring rain. My fear was that they would close Newfound Gap road and leave me at the top. Almost five soaking miles later I found that to be the case. By the time I dropped down within sight of the sugarland’s visitor center I phoned the park dispatch office as directed by the sign on the locked gate. The lazy guy who answered the phone gave me the combination to the lock. He could not be bothered to get out in the pouring rain like I had been. Having changed into the only set of dry clothes I had,his instructions were specific. I was to go through the motions of locking the gate back. Now I can tell you having driven down newfound Gap road by myself I saw no obstructions whatsoever. that there were no trees, no rock fall, nothing to suggest that the road need to be closed. And the rangers refusal to come out and unlock the gate put icing on the cake.
I did not lock the gate back as instructed. He could get out and do that himself , that Sargent Schultz. NF Gap road should not have been closed on the first place. As we speak they’ve closed newfound Gap road again today. This is an anticipation of another storm. Sargent Schultz probably needs another nap.
I wanted to return and prepare to head back into the woods again on Saturday. My friend Kelsie had asked me to take her somewhere for her first post surgery backpacking trip.
This girl used to go out and do like 50 mi in a weekend. No wonder she ended up having to have ankle surgery. I couldn’t imagine if I was out of the game for a couple of months though and she was itching to get back out. So we booked reservations for campsite one. Saturday morning when we got there, cars were parked all up through the road. It was obvious there was some blow Downs on the road that headed down into the backside of Abrams Creek. So we followed suit pulled off the side of the road began to unpack. That’s when we were confronted by an angry landowner. he proceeded to take photographs of everyone’s license plates and threatened to have us towed. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have given a crap. but since I know he had personally told us I saw my car as a potential object of vandalism. That is one way decided to go to plan b which was to drive up and go down into Cane Creek.
You can see that Kelsie seems to be navigating the waters of recovery quite well. Cane Creek was as I left it peaceful and just the right medicine.
She heard a lot of stories from me. like the ones about how the bowhannons get out of their grave in the middle of the night and come walk into camp with hatchets. she did seriously hear about the whole Cane Creek adventure with blackberry farms and the four wheeler trip referenced here. And all the southern Forest watch stuff and a lot of other of my Mountain tails. I think she believes I have a lot of stories to tell. But she indulged them with grace. Here is the great story Alexis Zotos completed as a result.
Light rain forced us to retire peacefully.
It was a fitful night’s rest for me. She seemed to do pretty well. I was very happy to get a couple of nights in different places in the backcountry with different groups. Our original plan had been to section hike the AT Georgia but I got covid and then Brian’s wife got covid and that derailed the whole project. Obviously, my recovery is apparently complete.
I’m pretty happy with the start to 2021. Two separate backpacking trips is a good way to start any year. And great company on both.
Many thanks to Jimmy Dean and Kelsie for their company over the course of an active New Year. Best wishes to all. Let’s have a great 2021.
Yep, you guessed it. I was diagnosed with COVID two days ago.
It all began one week ago with a serious sore throat. That persisted for a couple of days. I went out to meet two friends, socially distant and outside, on Thursday. Then I did my last day at our school on Friday. I was fatigued and upon return home just laid down that afternoon. I bailed on a backpaking trip with Jimmy Deane citing low energy and the feeling of fatigue.
Saturday was a complete wash. I barely had the energy to walk around the house. I did leave in hopes of finding a COVID test but you can’t access those on the weekends here in TN apparently. On Sunday, I started feeling a little better and went outside for a walk. First thing Monday morning, I had a couple of clients in my office. Straightforward went I to the Blount County Health Dept and tried to be one of the first in line, failing miserably as it wrapped around the block that morn. Returning at lunch, was soon met with the news they had closed the line for the day. I wondered about how many people were in my situation and said to heck with it. However, determined, I proceeded to the knox County Health Dept the following morning and waited in the cold weather outside. 45 minutes is what it required to finally receive a swab.
Celebrating my success, I returned home and suited up for a run over in the Urban Wilderness. It was a four mile saunter, and no record was set. (I am blessed to have this resource in my front yard and was delighted to share my training routine there with John Becker a while back if you didn’t get a chance to hear it.) But the sunshine raised my spirits. I hadn’t done much cardio at all for the past seven days. Dripping sweat I received a notification on my phone. Morning lab results were in from Memphis, already. The result was quite a surprise, POSITIVE for COVID.
Two days hence, I am feeling much better but on quarantine until Dec 21. AJ, Jon and Becca had been organizing a trip up to Cumberland Gap that I was anticipating eagerly. We were planning to do two days up there at Chadwell Gap but alas, my wings are clipped. So, in summary, if you get a sore throat, get tested so you don’t infect anyone else. I am a diligent mask wearer and try to exercise social distance. But, anyone who knows me is aware of my low immunity to virus. It was just a matter of time. For reference, my friend Wendi is on her second go around with COVID. The health dept told me that I would have immunity for three months. And that is precisely when Wendi acquired her second infection. She also works in the school system.
Be careful. Don’t infect your parents and friends. I wish everyone a Merry Christmas. If I can get better, Bugsy and I are looking to do the AT from Springer to Dicks Creek after Dec 27. Now, let’s break it all down with some bluegrass. And who better to lead us than the father of Bluegrass music. A little trivia about this selection below. You may notice the guitar picker as Peter Rowan, but do you now who is playing the banjo? (I’ll bet Greg Hawkins does)
Stars dominate the night on a cold mountaintop evening..
A new friend, Jimmy Dean invited me up to join him. Jimmy hit me up a while back and wanted some beta about getting into mountaineering. He backpacks the Smokies almost weekly.
I relished the notion of the years first snow hike. And getting to make a new acquaintance.
It was more than a little bit cold. In fact, my water bottle froze solid sitting outside the shelter. Jimmy and I were eventually joined by a southbound through hiker named Cowboy from Atlanta.
My water bottle froze then grew a nose.
It was a typical Highlander fire and we worked hard for it.
Jimmy showed some outdoor acumen with his fire building abilities.
Yes, it’s hatchet totin time.
We had an incredible evening atop Cosby knob. I outline my thoughts for Jimmy’s mountain ambitions, and for anyone reading this I always suggest starting on Mount Rainier. (click for a link to our trip there in 2004)
I leave Jimmy Dean to return back out across Mount Cammerer and back down the AT.
Plenty of traffic was heading up to the AT for views from the tower. And I saw hikers wearing a mask or scarf and exercising social distancing. That is encouraging.