I’ve been on a climbing spate of late.
Thanks to Seth and his photography. He’s gotten the bug.
If we get out this afternoon after work it will be 4 days in a row. Two at the obed and two at Ijams crag. It is after all climbing weather.
When you’ve got views like this in the middle of the week that heat is really not much of an issue.
That’s Micah finishing my lead for me on a 10a at Lily Bluff.
Seth goes the extra mile to make us look good on the rock.
Then you get to take a dunk in the wild and scenic river. Do you people know that world-class climbing is in our backyard?
Of course it helps to have the guy who wrote the guidebook with you.
Summertime, and the living is easy!
When Mark graciously invited me to join him on this rail-to-trail adventure, I was hesitant primarily because I didn’t have the right bicycle. But when his son, Andrew, offered to loan me a bike and Mark’s girlfriend, Stephanie, provided pannier bags, the ride was on.
We drove from Knoxville to St. Charles Missouri early in the morning. That afternoon we started our first ride which was to do an out and back from St-Charles to Machen . It was good to stretch our legs after eight and a half hours in the car. This provided a snapshot of what to expect in our next 260 +miles of Trail.
Bikepacking is much like backpacking in that you need to be light to be happy. My gear was weighing in at 30 + pounds. Our intention was to camp most of the time. So the next morning we rose early to mill about town, visit the Lewis and Clark museum and catch a 1 pm shuttle west.. We were taken to the other side of the state where we set up camp in the town of Clinton, MO. The folks of this kind hamlet were gracious enough to allow us to camp out in the community center grass sans fee. Fortunately we had the sense to put up under the aluminum awning with the picnic tables because it came one heck of a storm. There’s nothing like the sound of rain on aluminum when you’re underneath it until the lightning cracks.
Little did we know that would be the last rain we would see for the entire trip. This was not what the radar indicated, however. And thanks to the assistance of our global Myers Morton positioning system, we had accurate weather updates every day due to his text alerts. It really was helpful because there were days when I could not get internet service and barely had cell service.
39 miles was a pretty good chunk to me but nothing for good old Mark Jones. He was my mentor and a veteran of several of these type of junkets. Every detail was meticulously plotted by him in advance. Having that much gear on a bicycle makes for some interesting uphill travel as we experienced those first two days.
The second night, in conjunction with the Myers meterological updates saw a change in plans. As I mentioned the weather seemed to be following us. Radar showed a big storm advancing. We initially pulled into the Sedalia fairgrounds where we intended to camp. But realizing the severity of the storm the night before we opted to check on hotel prices. After a conversation with the front desk at the hotel Bothwell, an historic property which President Truman had visited, the negotiations resulted in a room for the both of us in this luxurious hotel.
We became engulfed in a wedding party that absorbed the entire area. Both of us slept very peacefully in anticipation of another 41 mile day. Or what mark would describe as a 30-mile day.
Sometimes we would have to weave through towns to get back on the trail. Mark was easy to follow in his yellow gear.
This third day was easier riding even though it felt like we had the entiretrail to ourselves because essentially we did. The absence of end-to-end riders was curious to me. In fact we were the only two people who were riding the entire length of the Katy Trail, save for a couple who was doing it on e-bikes. (Battery assisted). Maybe it was a function of COVID or the time of year or a little of both.
We rode on past Booneville in to Franklin which was across the river and in the middle of nowhere. I will heretofore refer to this as mosquito camp. Which we curiously shared with no one, despite what Mark says.
This is definitely a quaint little campground and I probably enjoyed it as much as any from the safety of bug netting thanks to Frank Whitehead and the MSR hubba hubba tent body he donated to me. As I settled in for the evening, having secured all of my biking essentials to a pole, the shadow of some familiar creature crossed my periphery, necessitating a near-naked run back to my bicycle for the food stash. Raccoons leave an unmistakable profile.
( Skeeter/coon camp)
Mark and I were very much social distancing.
There’s no shortage of interesting sites along the Katy Trail. Mark informed me that all of these boats were belonging to one individual who rode them up and down the Missouri River. Much of the time you would be riding in the canopy of trees and sometimes along the shoulder of the river. Other times you would be out in the middle of endless corn fields and pastures.
Among the wildlife we ran into and nearly over was snakes, snapping turtles, 1 million rabbits, 10 billion squirrels, hawks, lizards and an injured deer.
Not that didn’t we didn’t encounter some reroutes. These are what make for adventure.
June 22nd was our most intense day. 63 miles worth. You can see from my Strava profile that we earned any type of food or beverage of which there was none in this tiny hamlet that reminds me of Bulls Gap, TN. We came rolling through the capital, or outskirts thereof the following day. We did not even eat dinner that night, which didn’t matter because everyone was so knackered that we crashed early after our tour of the town.
Unbeknownst to me Mark had encountered a flat tire. This would dog him later on in the trip. I settled into our bunkhouse stay at Tebbetts station. When Mark finally came rolling in he had been offered assistance from our bunk mates for the night.
We met a group who was doing a large section of the Katy Trail and would be joined by them for the rest of our sojourn. As it turns out one of the men from Alaska was named Tom Wickwire. If that last name rings a bell it should. Jim Wickwire is a famous mountaineer and the first American to summit mighty K2. Tom is his cousin.
We also met a man named Jim who owned what used to be the only bar in town. He took us on a tour of what used to be the bank and his storage building that contains two or three model A and model T cars. My Dad is a car collector so I was eager to photograph these.
These are the kind of experiences that make a journey like this a real adventure.
It was important to get a good night’s sleep though because we had another long day coming up. We were headed to Marthasville. This was one of my more enjoyable days as the weather seemed to have cooled off a bit from 90 down into the low 80s or upper 70s.
On this day Mark and I managed to ride together when he had his next flat. We spent some time that morning doing some what I call forensic flat- ology. There was a small barb that penetrated his tire into the tube. We managed to get him patched up and on into Marthasville. I was really starting to feel my stride now. Previously some of the miles had felt a little taxing. But I was getting in what we call “Trail shape”. Just trying to keep up with Mark who was there already.
We passed our friends from the previous night who were going assisted on their sections of the Katy Trail. They were gracious enough to provide cool drinks for us upon arrival in their support RV. Very nice folks from the St Louis area, I hope we can ride with them again.
That’s my tent there along the baseball field, we had to wait for them to finish playing a game to set up. It cost $5 to camp here.
On June 24th we did a shorter day, only 41.3 miles.
Mark and I took off and left our friends and ended up having a hotdog for lunch in some little way station. It was more of a biker bar really.
These photos were obviously taken by Mark because he beat me back to the car. It had gotten hot again on our final day.
After celebrating with our friends that afternoon we retired to a hotel and rose early the next morning to visit Daniel Boone’s home.
Highlights for me on this trip was spending time with Mark, who shares my political values and otherwise, channeling Lewis and Clark and visiting their museum, meandering along the Missouri River, and generally feeling the flow of Missouri in my veins. The journey exceeded my expectations and I’m very grateful to Mark and to his son Andrew for allowing me to borrow their vehicles to get there. Special thanks to Stephanie Welch for donating the pannier bags temporarily. I highly recommend this journey. I will end with a video Mark shot along the way.
On Thursday I will embark for the Katy Trail under the tutelage of Mark Jones. (ignore the dates on this map, I snatched it from the web) We will attempt to ride from Clinton Missouri to St. Charles on road bikes, camping along the way. I am excited about this new adventure and will be posting updates to my instagram feed which can be found here. https://www.instagram.com/johnwquillen/
The Katy Trail is a rail to trail which parallels the path of Lewis and Clark. In that vein, I am posting my favorite guitar solo by the same name by the greatest guitarist alive, Mr. Tommy Emmanuel. Please close your eyes and enjoy this musical journey.
Frank enjoys our morning visitor at the undisclosed location campsite.
So many times I have heard about the existence of the synchronized lightning bugs at this spot. So we decided to explore this mythology and confirm or break it.
Frank spearheaded this effort, we had not been on the trail together in some time. Brian MFN Tankersly also was in tow.
In order to see the lightning bugs you must be by a creek. And the temperature has to be correct. This particular evening we were almost alone in this Backcountry campsite save for two folks. We set up our tents, including my sad sack.
You may recall this tent from years ago. I’ve hauled it on many a multi-day excursion. It’s very light and uses my trekking poles. But I would be better off sleeping out in the open. The design flaw is the distance spanned between the tent poles. This causes sad sacking.
Anyway, the two people who were already in camp informed us that a bear had come to visit them prior to our arrival. We did not see him, however.
I’m jumping to our second night because I have no photos of the lightning bugs. I lack the photographic ability to capture them like Seth did so successfully last week. But they were fantastic, magnificent and continuous. And it was just us and our two neighbors.
The next morning we proceeded to our second campsite where we were joined by Seth and surprise visitors Richard and Linda. Linda entered camp with a practical joke. She appeared solo and asked who is Brian? Brian perked up and acknowledged that he was indeed the one. Linda then proceeded to say that the backcountry office told her she could share a tent with him since the permits were limited. Brian’s response was that he is in a hammock and that he is married. His wife would be proud. Linda is a good actress.
Seth was able to do some fishing on his way into camp.
And talk about perfect weather.
We got in about 16 miles of hiking this weekend. We’re not disclosing the location because I don’t want to popularize this new secret spot.
Stay tuned because I’m getting ready to embark upon a big adventure on Thursday. I will be posting a lot of stuff on Instagram.
After missing it last week we nailed it this time.
The lightning bugs were there in full spect glory and we were able to bask fully in it.
Jesse The body even made an appearance.
We had a super large turnout and we’re joined by Heather this time. Many of the same folks that were with us last week returned for the splendor of this incredible event.
That includes Brian mfn Tankersley. We had two birthdays AJ and Curt. Andrew drove back up from Chattanooga, Mark Jones, Micah who received a new trail name as well. That name is Hurl. We were also joined by Suzanne, who had little choice but to loan her camp for our presence.
All the pictures I’m going to share with you are either from Seth or Myers.
Obviously Seth is responsible for these. He spent the entire evening orchestrating this artwork.
The lightning bugs put on a show for us all. It was Heather’s first backpacking trip and she nailed the landing.
Micah received a new trail name. Brian Tankersley lost one.
Seth works his way up this beautiful wall on Knox County’s finest crag. We paddled to get there. Multi-pitch under responsible lead, who can beat that? It is what we would call an undisclosed location. But if you join the East Tennessee climbers coalition will let you know where it is.
But one heck of a fun time. Very happy to be among this group. We had great camaraderie a wonderful fire, perfect weather.
What else could you ask for?
Maybe you could ask for a beautiful rendetion of an aptly named song. I present, Timberland for your enjoyment.
Some things will remain forever etched in your soul. This was yesterday to me. What you may not know, however, is that for his part in this rescue, my friend, Neal Kushwaha, was awarded the Canadian Humane Society Medal of Bravery. And it was fully deserved.
Saturday was one of those glorious nights you will always remember. Record cold had caused the thermometer to bottom out and register an historic low temperature. AJ and Jon Dempsey had gone up to our secret spot because it is so full of goodness. I was accompanied by Seth who grabbed this beatiful shot.
That cresting wave isHangover and this is one of the best views of it I’ve ever seen.
Seth settles into this beautiful beautiful area.
AJ and Jon had been on a bit of a walkabout.
They had some rain the tonight before.
Fireside we regaled Seth with old men tales of mountains and beyond. I can’t believe the number of crisp days we’ve had to enjoy this Wilderness. It is truly a blessing to be in this place with such good company and perfect weather.
Seth definitely has an eye. He knows about product placement.
I promised you something on Jeffrey’s Hell from a couple of weeks ago and haven’t forgotten. I have been working diligently on something that is being edited. In the mean time, let’s get back to some tunes. How about a lot of guitar work by the amazing Billy Strings.
It’s really nice when you have a professional photographer in tow.This weekend we were fortunate to be accompanied by my friend, Seth Dortch
That’s him on the right with the thumbs up.
We climbed 1400 feet up Mill branch and 2.3 miles to meet Curt. It’s a nice pull in sections.Curt began his journey the day before leaving from Beech Gap. He traveled along the spine of the Fodderstack trail and camped at Crowder branch on Friday. The next morning he got up and did a gargantuan loop which brought him back up Mill Branch and into our company.
We set about with the requisite camp chores.
He’s definitely got the minimalist thing going.
This was one of his first East Tennessee Appalachian backpacks, I’d say he does get a thumbs up for that.
He may have the bug and is shopping for some lightweight gear.
I’m about to overdose on Citico goodness. It has been many years since I had stayed at Mill branch. This trip was very reminiscent of the time we ran into Tipi here. I am still recovering from the 3-day epic Mark and I just completed. Expect a full report within the next week.
Excellent outing, excellent company, excellent weather.
Let’s end with a little concert action from two of the greatest guitar pickers of all time.