I’ve walked by this place so many times I couldn’t remember the last time I actually spent the night there. This one falls in the category of the Friday night quick hits.
Oh ballerina britches and Mark joined us this time.
Myers was not able to attend for some unknown reason.
The weather was perfect for a short shot out of Maryville and a two and a half mile climb. The chill night made a warming fire that much more important.
This site doesn’t see a lot of use apparently. There’s plenty of wood and water to be found.
for the second week in a row I was awakened at 2:00 a.m. by the shrill screaming of a neighbor. It was Nick who said something had come up under his tarp. I believe it likely was the deer. Either that or were hainted.
Just a short jaunt with friends and company in the out of doors. A back country reset I call it.
Instead of music this week, I am sharing a bit of comedy. See if you recognize anyone’s acting talents here. It tickles me every time I watch it.
We planned to go toward the remote part of the world where the crowds would not ford. For some reason Flint Gap and this little low sideling campsite came to mind.
Bugsy was in town. He drove up Friday afternoon and we had time to get in a good mountain bike ride .
The splendor of a Smokies Autumn is unequaled.
Mark assumed fire duty this trip. Outstanding job he performed all around.
We shared fireside tales with our new friends, John Koehler and his grandson. Flint Gap is not a nice campsite, barely room for two tents. John and his son got the good area..
We had some dinner and celebrated news from John’s grandson via his inreach satellite connection. Biden defeated Trump.
This was met with skepticism. But ended up being true. Huzzahs all round because the environment was under assault under that regime. Not to mention all the other damage inflicted. But I digress.
2:45 am. I am awakened to shrill screaming down at the flat spot. There was a bear curiously sniffing a tent and our neighbors were startled. So ended my sleep for the evening. Mark was unaffected.
This little stream crossing is all it takes to keep people off of that side of the world. And I’m very thankful. Other than not sleeping after the purported bear incursion, it was an entirely successful journey with Mark and Bugsy.
Brian reminded me that he had camped over here about 5 years ago. I put him on this spot and two others during a journey at that time. Oops! So much for a new Smoky’s experience but Mark did get some new miles. Hannah mountain is undoubtedly one of my favorite trails in the Smokies. Tis but a 6.1 mi one way ticket from the back side of Abrams Creek.
Just understand that the water source at Flint Gap is low. And it tends to be that way most times I’ve camped there. Here are your Trail stats compliments of Strava.
Wilson, Mikayla, Sarah and I went up to the greatest rock in the south.
Sarah makes a descent from one of these beautiful sandstone Cliff faces.
Mikayla was our lead though. She gets better every time we climb together. There’s a lot of stuff down there in Muir valley. Here we are on the Animal Crackers wall.
We camped out at Miguel’s and started a fire there.
This is a 5.10 +. And if you think it looks hard you have no idea.
Getting into the pmrc took some four-wheel driving. Thank goodness Mikayla captained the diesel Ford. We decided that the acronym for pmrc is Putin makes Republicans commies.
We got on the aptly named volunteer wall.
The weather was quite chilly up in Slade, Kentucky this past weekend. And on Sunday we dealt with a lot of wind. But overall we couldn’t have asked for better. We set up about four routes each day. And all of us gave it our best shots. Fun stuff always at the Red River Gorge
(Seth Dortch makes this photographic magic happen)
But Myers captured the one above. In fact, Jon, Seth and I only made it up to here before the sun set on us Friday.
(Myers was on the rock and captured this photo of us actually emerging from the heath bald)
We made good time with full, heavily laden packs.
(another of Myer’s shots above)
This photo is but a small fraction of the near record-breaking group in attendance at the annual SouthernHighlander Hangover event. The last big number was during THIS event.
Hangover 2020 was one for the ages. It beckons back to the days of John Muir and Ronrico.
We began late Friday afternoon. The weather was fine and we wished to hit the rock before sunset. We only made it to the heath bald because I ran into this guy.
(Not Bert, but Tipi. Bert came up with us.) Tipi was camped at Grassy Gap as our team scrambled up to the Hangover. We briefly visited before departing into the sunset. Tipi promised to come up the next morning. Tipi and I have been friends since 2008 when we worked on trying to reverse the damage done up at the Hangover when the forest service clear cut all those trees. But that is a story for another campfire. I always enjoy running into him, he is a kindred soul and sage of the Citico. If you run into Tipi, it is a blessing and we enjoyed catching up since it has been a few years since we crossed paths back down on the lower Big Fat Trail shown here.
We met Myers and AJ and Jon Dempsey and David Snyder who had established camp. We had the Hangover to ourselves and what would end up being 18 of our closest friends.
(yours truly Sat. morn) If that face looks familiar, it should. It’s Jon Dempsey. In the background is Jacqui who didn’t quite summit Friday night, despite their best efforts. She did make it to the Grassy Gap spot and camped alongside Tipi with her daughter, Marguerite and Andrew.
Myers was missing something on this trip. Ballerina Britches opted out after hefting his pack and deciding in was too much to bear. That never stopped 71 year old Tipi, though. At 75 lbs, his pack was the prize winner. You can say, he was definitely humping a heavy pack.
Richard’s kite of diversity. And somehow it now has my name on it. He has flown it from all the high peaks of the South, or a lot of them. Ok, maybe three or four.
This was a Saturday group photo. Because everyone else was tent bound. Why? because it was piss pouring the rain. Buckets. We had a lot of rain through the nights and a good hour torrent at sunset Saturday. But here we were, minus Curt, who had hiked up all the way from Slickrock via the Nutbuster. Backpacker Magazine rated it as the toughest backpacking trip in the South several years ago. Tipi would agree, and so do I. It is a hefty pull. So Curt ended up in his tent for the evening. It was great to have David, Jon and AJ come all the way out with us. Myers did a great job establishing camp and taking photos, even though he looks like Kilroy here.
Mikayla and Summer arrived Saturday, along with Robbie and Marley. It was nice to have some of the climbing crew along for this special place and time.
There was a Russian in the midst wearing a MAGA hat. I have always said there is a correlation between the two. Now you have proof. We had to do some engineering on the water source. The main one was but a drip. Years ago, Danno and I excavated this one , so I brought alone some flexible tubing to make it flow like a river. Richard and Jon assisted in this engineering feat. Too bad Robbie B is a water engineer and arrived too late for any input.
AJ, David Snyder and Myers relax after a hard earned ascent.
Seth made it up and provided those great initial shots. In fact, there were so may great shots, I couldn’t possibly upload them all here. But man, the clouds made for some good refraction.
Somehow, the skull and crossbones has been replaced by Dixie colors. Again, that is a Richard thing.
Marguerite set a record for youngest ascent of Hangover. At five years old, she and Tipi whipped me up pretty good. But, I am used to taking beatings from young girls, and have the scars to prove it.
Myers really gets some good ones.
It was a festive crowd, undeterred by a little rain, unlike others in the past. I don’t know anyone who bailed because of a frightful forecast,,including a 5 year old child. It was great to catch up with old friends and GET DEM DISHES! When I look at the people that were together on this trip, it represents diversity and optimism. I hope you plan to vote or already have on Tuesday. This is the most important election of our lifetime and what happens to places like Hangover, hangs in the balance. I would say, if you are happy with the daily drama gushing from Washington, then by all means reject any efforts to restore America to its rightful place on the world’s stage. I am looking forward to a time when we can be proud to travel overseas again instead of having to explain why our leader is doing the bidding of Putin.
Now let’s end on a musical note with a little Stevie Ray in hopes his Texas vibe will carry the state into the BLUE.
It is not often that we get to join forces again with the mighty Muir faction. The story about how we all came together is the stuff of Smoky’s legend.
When Chuck, Ledge and bunion told me they were coming down this weekend, I needed to clear the schedule. Although they are aging and suffering from some physical issues, the Faction was undeterred in their hiking goals. Ledge and Chuck made the ascent up to Ramsay’s Cascades with about a thousand of their closest friends.
Even though it was car camping we still had a blazing fire and a most excellent meal was prepared by Bunyan. These guys are incredible, stalwart outdoor men. but one thing I really appreciated was two years ago before leaving for Nepal, Bunyan drove all the way down to hang out with me. He wanted to wish me good tidings for my trip to Everest. What he did was bring the Muir faction luck which carried me to the top of the world. I was very happy to carry them and Muir along.
Upon my return, we had a welcome home party and all three of these guys drove down to share this moment with me. That the the sign of true friendship. Looking back over the people that are important in my life I have realized that some of them haven’t been around forever. And some of the folks who have been around forever, ended up not being there when you need them. They say that integrity is defined by doing the right thing when no one is watching. I’m happy to be surrounded today with friends who do have personal integrity. These things are blessings from above.
I left them that morning after a leisurely breakfast in hopes of doing the offtrail to Injun Creek. It was another glorious Smokies Fall morn, with steam rising from the river as I rounded the corner into Greenbrier. I jogged into campsite 32 and passed more people than you could imagine. Three of them were my neighbors and Highlander pal, Andrew, Jacqui and Marguerite, their daughter. You can imagine their surprise as I came emerging from the woods all sweaty from jogging uphill for three miles.
There are so many people out and about in the Smokies right now it’s ridiculous. It’s almost as if people didn’t know the outside world existed pre Covid.
Anyway, I had to get back home and rest a little before part three of my weekend started Sunday morning.
This is one place you don’t have to worry about crowds. Michaela, Scotty, Micah, Davey and I embarked for what I think is the best rock in town. But it is a secret, undisclosed location.
We did have it to ourselves. Multi-pitch climbing in Knoxville is a little known venue. You can see the weather was perfect. We spent about 4 hours to climb this one route. That’s with three of us on one rope. The way multi-pitch works is you have a leader, which in our case was Mikayla. She led us up to the first anchor point. Then we set up another lead to the next anchor point. There were three pitches on this route and a bees nest in the middle. Again, our group was alone on this rock and my reluctance to publicize the whereabouts are understandable.
A fair amount of rigging is required at the anchor point. Along with a bit of a blood sacrifice. This limestone is sharp and rarely used. So I had to deposit some skin.
That’s where Michaela comes in. She breezed right through that 5.10 crux like it was nothing.
It was such a fantastic and glorious weekend of activity in Knoxville and the surrounding area. Sometimes you got to take a break where you can find one.
I would say that was the end of our weekend but we found time to go commune together afterwards. Many thanks to Micah and Robbie for the beta and shuttling.
Now, let’s end with a musical note, shall we? It’s Del’s version, but since he was one of the Bluegrass Boys, I don’t think Uncle Penn or Bill would mind.
It was that time of year when Frank and I embark where I left off, good old downtown Damascus, Virginia. Notice the elevation we were facing on this leg.
We overnighted at the Dancing Bear Lodge and left early the following morning after completing a car shuttle. It is roughly 80 miles via Trail to Atkins Virginia. Our first morning saw some pretty good climbing.
The views climbing up out of Damascus along the creeper Trail are, well you can see.
I was weighing in at 37 lbs. Approximately 10 lbs. of which was my food weight. Of course Frank was at 25.
Our first night was by a clear mountain stream. The temperatures dropped into the lower 40s. I was carrying a warm bag and appreciated it that particular evening and the next. But not so much later in the trip when my sticky legs were welded together like velcro.
That’s me hiking with the livestock prior to the big climb up to Buzzard Roost.
That’s Frank emerging from the heath toward the summit of buzzard roost.
Tuesday would end up being our monster pull. I would say it’s one of the toughest sections of the Appalachian Trail I can remember. We ascended to a place called Buzzard Rock. It was over 2,200 ft of climbing. With full packs this was quite the chore but our weather was ideal. Here is a look at the elevation profile of that particular climb.
The work was hard but the pay is good as you will see from these views.
After a short rest it was time to get back after it.
We had miles to go before we slept that day. It was going to be another 14 miler.
Our original plan was to camp at elk garden until we learned there was no water in the vicinity. We found a suitable spot a couple of miles on up the trail towards Grayson Highlands. this cowboy spot would have been perfect had it not been for the water hole being six tenths of a mile down the hill. he was getting dark and by the time we made the second run down to the bottom of the hill to fetch water after 14 miles we were joined by JB. He was out for one night and started a beautiful fire on another crisp and cool evening. We enjoyed his company and conversation.
JB has traveled the world trekking and exploring so we had a lot to talk about. He owns a river guide service called oars.
We Rose the next morning to make the acsent to Mount Rogers, the highest point in Virginia. I’ve been to Mount Rogers several times and the Grayson Highlands area. It is a high Alpine environment, reminiscent of somewhere out west.
Ponies are an iconic part of the Grayson Highlands landscape. Unfortunately, they had rounded up most of them the day before our arrival.
On this, our third day, we missed a turn somewhere. It added to our mileage. We overshot the trail to the tune of a mile, which is aggravating to say the least. This night found us dragging into the Old Orchard shelter. Great camping was to be found here and we knew of this thanks to the ranger who apprised us the previous day. The stars and moon were blazing. The old Orchard campsite was one of the highlights of this trip. Sadly, we were never too far from the sound of traffic noise. Modified muffler cars and Harley-Davidsons sometimes ruin the wilderness experience.
I’m getting older and it’s a point that is driven home on some of these treks. We ended up hiking with a bunch of young guys who were 29 and 30 years old. Granted, I hike most of the time by myself and so did Frank, but we would always end up in camps together. There are things that I forget sometimes. They say that successful mountaineers must have short memories. I’m not that successful but I certainly forget how much pain each previous expedition was. And so it is with these A.T. backpacking journeys. This was one of the more difficult sections I could remember. If you look at the elevation profile it’s self-explanatory. There were many 15 Mile days if you count the backtracks, turnarounds and water fetchings. But our weather was splendid and I watched Fall happen every night before my eyes.
That’s me and Senator Tim Kaine, the Man who would have been vice President of the United States. Not really but it could have been. He does look like him. And I had Frank convinced that’s who it was. Then he tried to convince us that he was. We camped with these guys three out of five nights.
Such variety of scenery and topography. And to see fall emerge before our eyes. This is what I call the good good.
Our fourth night was at the Trinity shelter and it was kind of crowded. We were sharing it with an outdoor wilderness School of teenage girls. So this made for some cramped camping conditions. As you know I’m generally averse to shelter staying anyway. But it is fairly safe to assume that none of us slept well that night due to the snoring of an unnamed man we will just call Larry.
Our final push was into the last shelter called partnership shelter. this is without a doubt one of the nicest shelters I have ever seen. this night we opted to actually sleep in the shelter given its amenities. That in the impending threat of huge rain. To this point we had unparalleled weather. But a hurricane in the gulf was stirring some things up. partnership shelter is also known as a place for being able to receive pizza delivery. So we all were anticipating this luxury after 5 days on the trail. And of course our eyes were bigger than our stomach.
When they said 28-in Pizza they really meant it. I scarf down eight pieces in one quick swell. Frank ate about six. We were able to give some away to a through hiker, and the rest was donated to the girls outdoor wilderness group when they came rolling in later. Those young ladies were very appreciative. We also hung with two guys who were hucking old school rucksacks. Mark and Zulu were doing a section to Harper’s Ferry. They are intrepid adventurers taking off with old school, heavy gear. But I didn’t hear a single complaint from them. Glad to have shared camps with these fellers. It is a grand section so let’s end with a bit of Gabriella doing what she does best.
That’s legendary triple crowner Bert Emerson there. I was joined by him and Richard for a quick hit overnight on Friday. We left Maryville and headed in for our most used spot.
At 71 years of age this guy has not slowed down a bit. Three times on the Appalachian Trail, three times on the Continental divide, and three times on the PCT. Them’s impressive stats in anyone’s book.
When Rambo is in camp you will not go hungry.
The temperatures have cooled off perfectly. I slept like a log in my new tent. We rose early to get out and back into town so I could begin the second part of my weekend.
There was some homemade Tabasco sauce to be dealt with. I grew a variety of super hot peppers this summer. Ghost, Tabasco, and Scorpion.
This set me up perfectly for Sunday morning’s activities.
Scotty Bower is making his first lap at the Obed. I was delighted to escort him on his first trip to the area. We had the place to ourselves for a good hour and a half before the mongrel hordes invaded.
Soon we were joined by Micah, Catherine and Mikayla. Scotty had to be back in Knoxville so we drifted on over to the North Clear area of the Obed. Here can be found some great traditional climbing lines along with little used pieces of sandstone.
That’s Micah putting up a trad line on a route named “Beer 30”.
Getting into North clear means negotiating an obstacle known as The squeeze ledge.
We are so blessed to have this amount of outdoor activity in our region. The Obed is world-class climbing.
I hope that everyone is enjoying this beautiful weather. Backpacking season is on.√
Myers organized this outing. He has a group of friends that were in grammar school together. And all these guys are still reuniting annually. Pretty impressive giving their advanced ages. One of them, Joe owns land on the Holston River. That is where we embarked this beautiful and hot Saturday afternoon.
(I know, it looks like a casting call for Deliverance.)
I am ever eyeing potential climbing spots. There’s some really good bluff line down along that section.
When Seth is in tow you know the photography is going to be exceptional.
This was undoubtedly the highlight of our trip. the largest bald eagle I have ever encountered swooped down over us and landed in a tree hanging over the river. He posed for us for a good while. We floated five and a half miles down to the Indian cave. Like Tom and Huck we were on our Mississippis. This summer has been a river for me. From my bike ride along the Missouri, to my home along the Tennessee. The Holston and French broad feed this water. I’m reminded of a poem by Langston Hughes. I will include it at the end.
Although it was a short outing I very much needed some time along the waterway. It was good to hang out with Myers and Seth again. Myers friends are very interesting characters. You can feel the history between them.
The Negro Speaks of Rivers
Old Brian Moran learned quickly that people here in Knoxville know him as Broad Peak Brian.( I just call him Bugsy.)
And most everyone who knows me knows why. But for those of you who don’t, here is a brief explanation. It was Brian who was with me on that ill-fated trip to Broad Peak Pakistan in 2013. Just about anything that could go wrong did go wrong on that expedition,. not the least of which was Brian taking a hundred foot spill at 20000 feet. The result was his leg shattered. The rest of the story would take too long for me to tell you right now. Which is why I put it in book form and you may purchase a copy at this link. https://www.amazon.com/Tempting-Throne-Room-Surviving-Pakistans/dp/1494845849
Brian and I have traveled the world chasing mountains. Sadly, Broad Peak was Brian’s last mountain. The results of his injury have relegated him to road biking and low-impact activities. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t still hard-charging. For instance last week he rode 300 miles on his bike in 2 days. Brian lives in Griffin Georgia. along with his beautiful wife Ashley and their wonderful daughter Jhola. Jhola is named after the second campsite we stayed in route to Broad Peak / K2.
It has been several years since he and I were able to hang out. And we made up for lost time this beautiful weekend
. But first there was some business to attend. Kelly Brown organized this River Bluff clean up. it’s a new climbing area we’re trying to develop for the city. (That’s Kelly to my right). we hauled out about 1200 lb of trash early Saturday morning. Mostly beer and liquor detritus. It was a great turnout and I appreciate everyone’s help. That place has been so dirty for so long that it felt really good to give it some breathing room.
When I returned, Brian and I took off on the dirty South loop mountain biking. As Brian would later concede, mountain biking and road biking are very different animals. There’s about 1,700 feet of elevation on that loop. And in the middle you have the opportunity to swim at Meade’s Quarry.
Sunday we got up and headed to Loyston where I introduced him to the flow of that Norris goodness. I suppose we’d done about 28 miles of mountain biking by that time in our weekend. Sustenance was in order and Brian brought up steaks and okra. Living like kings we were on this gorgeous low-humidity weekend. Brian was impressed with Knoxville and it’s burgeoning outdoor scene. As a biker he appreciates the activity at Baker Creek. Waterways, climbing, hiking, our great city really has it all.
Ijams crag is home climbing. And Brian killed!
Really was great to have him up this weekend so we could reconnect and share old mountain stories. Brian and I have climbed Elbrus in Russia, multiple peaks in Peru ,Muztagh Ata in China and Broad Peak in Pakistan. We met in Alaska while climbing the most beautiful mountain on earth, Denali. An interesting story there is that Brian summited a day after my team and got stuck on the mountain a full week longer in the storm we were racing out. Even though on different expeditions, we passed each other up that mountain and bonded in the beauty of the Alaska range. I’m very thankful for his friendship these many years. I would like to conclude by congratulating some other folks who celebrated a tremendous milestone last week.
My parents have been together for 57 years. Unbelievable in modern times. I am fortunate to have them in such good health. Last week our family celebrated their time together in Morristown over a meal at the infamous Little Dutch Restaurant. I wish everyone a happy and prosperous week. Fall is in the air!
Frank has been trying to get Myers out for over a year. Last weekend was a rattlesnake epic with my brother, Todd. I will tell you about that at the end of this post.
This time, he succeeded. We were joined by Nick, Houston, Curt who came up from Pretty Hollow Gap and Richard.
There is no shortage of shared camp duties when Nick and Richard are in tow.
These are Myer’s photos.
Houston’s friend, Mark replaced our friend Mark, who lost his battle with fear and the rain.
This is probably where I am telling the story about how my rear end was hanging out of my down suit.
This is Myers abode. It has lights so he can find it in the dark. But sometimes, that doesn’t matter. They won’t keep you from flipping out of it in the middle of the night and dislocating your shoulder.
That’s why we had a laser. And Richard took it atop the tower for some evening fun.
These last two pictures are mine.
The weather was favorable to us. a grand time we had on the highest campsite in the great Smoky mountains national Park.
Laundry was done!
Thanks Myers for your photographic contributions.
Black MTN. Aug 8-9 (below my brother, Todd, looks on as Heather and Micah discuss the beauty of this place)
The weekend before was a rattlesnake epic. I was accompanied by my brother and his friend from Los Angeles, David Park. As we backpacked in past this gorgeous sandstone which is quickly becoming my favorite, we established camp along the Cumberland Trail. A water run was in order, so we set off back down the loop toward the Springhouse. Todd and David turned around halfway when we realized it was getting dark and they could work on firewood while I collected water. As I approached the springhouse, the familiar voices of Seth and Heather Dortch approached and we all filled our satchels to the brim with gurgling goodness from the top of the mountain. Sloshing back toward the trail and camp, I was greeted with hollering from my brother and David. They had been stopped by one of the biggest timber rattlers I have ever seen. They almost stepped on him. This yellow feller had thirteen rattles and the picture does not do him justice.
This is the second rattlesnake we encountered the following day. It was smaller than the first. The markings are nearly identical. There must be a den somewhere near the springhouse.
These climbing shots are the product of Seth Dortch photography.
Back to back backpacking weekends. This has been a great summer.