It was a another in a string of quick hit backcountry trips and Friday afternoon saw me hitting the trail from top of the world down into Cane Creek.
I went at the invitation of Curt and Brian who were doing two days out in their quest to join the 900 miler club.
The temperature had dropped significantly from the day before and dipped into the lower 30s by bedtime. We enjoyed a relaxing and solo night at yet another campsite showing all but two spaces full. This is a familiar pattern for those of us who had suspicions the NPS was cooking the books on backcountry visitation after implementing the backcountry tax. In fact, Mark Cooke of the Southern Forest Watch exposed this chicanery in a well researched article that I am linking here for your enjoyment. https://www.smokymountainnews.com/outdoors/item/17708-a-strained-relationship-suspicion-of-nps-lingers-among-some-backcountry-users-parkside-communities
It was a quick hit Saturday morning run up a newly-opened trail. The results of the fire are still visible. But the weather was ideal for this kind of exercise.
There’s been a lot in the news lately about the wildfire and the national Park service negligence in face of it.
But I wasn’t focused on that Saturday morning; it was just good to be out breathing clean air and walking uphill.
JD had been organizing this big event for a while. But the pending weather sort of changed our plan to go to Bob’s bald with a large group. Instead we decided to do a quick hit Backcountry trip to Davenport Gap and it didn’t disappoint.
This whole thing didn’t even come together until Thursday evening. I texted Myers in the morning and he and Nick were totally up for it so at 8 p.m. we hit the trail Friday night.
When we arrived, Richard, JD, the girls and Brian had this wonderful buffet of culinary senses involving venison and other exotic game.
They had all been there since well before the sun went down and had a beautiful fire raging but we had to add another one outside.
The weather has moderated considerably, so we were able to go in and out of the shelter at our leisure.
Yes that’s a legendary Bert Emerson AKA wildcat a triple crowner. He was the official chaplain on the Appalachian trail a couple of years ago on his second lap. Many of JDs crew are multiple map completers in the Smokies; JD having done at least six of them.
- We stayed up until the wee hours of the morning spinning tales around the fire and getting to know everyone. Quite the congenial group we all agreed.
- Early the next morning Richard and Lauren cooked breakfast for us and it was equally phenomenal as the feast the night before.
- These folks know how to live.
- My only problem I had the whole night aside from working late and getting in late was not properly closing the valve on my sleeping pad. So I wakened with some sore hippage.
- We beat the weather and had a fantastic experience with JD and his crew thank you to Richard and all of their hard efforts to host us feed us and entertain us.
- These quick-hit Friday night trips are excellent in that it gives us the rest of the weekend to have normal weekend activities and to beat the impending weather.
So I started getting that chest crud my last few days in Val Thorens. It was so bad I didn’t even ski that last day and waited on Laurel while she did. (Yesterday three chest x-rays confirmed my first official diagnosis of pneumonia, apparently skiing with a chest cold was bad practice)I will say that Laurel has taken to skiing pretty well. It was bluebird weather and I sat inside watching people rush down these beautifully groomed slopes.
We departed that afternoon on a bus down to a little town called Moutiers, where we overnighted in a hotel there and caught the tgv back to Paris early the next morning.
Moutiers is your typical French mountain village. One of the many things I love about France in French culture is just the accessibility and congeniality of the French people. In the small villages folks are very receptive. We make it a point to eat local food and search out traditional fare. In this particular region it is called Savoyade. French take great pride in their cuisine and source local vegetables fruits and meats. There was an unforgettable experience in a restaurant which involved some pate mistaken for meatloaf. The owner of this restaurant had to remove the pan from us before we killed it off in a sandwich.
Early the next morning we embarked upon another High-Speed Rail excursion back into Paris gare du Nord. I was coughing and wheezing the whole way, as a matter of fact, my bronchial illness seemed to increase by the minute. My malady was offset by our first class accomodation on the tgv since Laurel purchased our tickets and the price difference was only $10. There’s something about going at 200 miles an hour along railway track. It’s quite thrilling.
Ah, to stroll the Seine again, although bronchially challenged in typical Paris weather. I believe this was our fourth trip together to Paris. I’ve long since lost count of how many times I’ve been to this remarkable City of lights. Like Sithenge and Hangover and our southern Appalachians, something about France draws me continuously.
Maximizing a bad situation, Laurel stayed healthy and picked out some very nice restaurants for us which is one of the greatest reasons to visit France. I’ve been to every museum, climbed the Eiffel tower a dozen times, hit the Louvre plenty. But every time I return there’s another place I have found it yet to be explored. Laurel is pictured above at Montmartre. She was sick last time we visited that area so we returned to refresh her memory. And a nice shot of her in front of the beatiful Sacre Couer. Neither of us had been to the museum of modern art. It is one of the few free ones in Paris and we thoroughly enjoyed that.
Many of you may have been aware from new stories that there is some political unrest in Paris with the yellow shirts. They’re protesting great tax cuts for the rich, sound familiar? We ran into a couple of those yellow shirt folks and they were quite congenial. If only Americans would take to the streets whenever some politician decides to give wealthy people another tax cut but we are far too lazy. Too many folks would rather let Foxnews make decisions for them than actually research issues and believe what the president of the United States is lying to you about that particular moment.
One year after these infamous tax cuts for the wealthy and look at what our economy has done. I’ve been saying ever since his appointment that Trump is unfit for the office of president. I’ve also been a lone, local voice in saying that he did collude with Russia. When you go out publicly and ask Russia to hack into the emails of your political opponent that is the definition of collusion. But far worse than that he is the most ammoral person to ever hold the office.
He has denigrated the United States across the world and made us a laughing stock. There is not an educated, living human being that can make a concise argument that the United States is any better off since the election of our moron in chief. This was obviously done,by the way,with the assistance of a hostile foreign power AKA Russia, through corrupt politicians who took Russian money through the NRA.
What he has done to the environment, the national parks and public lands alone is justification for impeachment in my mind. But still people turn a blind eye and think and believe his bull crap. Our public lands have gone up for sale to the highest bidder, oil and gas timber or whatever under Trump. The damage he has done to our environment will take decades to repair if ever. And just look at what he’s done by releasing EPA requirements on coal fired steam plants. That is air you and I are breathing every day. (speaking of breathing, I have been writing a good portion of this blog post in the Dr. office. Looks like this chest crud has morphed into potential bronchitis)
Sadly most people don’t care. Like the French I look forward to the day that we take to the streets and let these corrupt Trump types know that we will not tolerate their corporate rape of America. We can regain our position as the greatest country in the world. But, I understand, and this comes from someone who’s traveled the world, that we have to get rid of Trump in order re-establish our pre eminence and send a message to our vital allies (hint, they are not North Korea, Russia and Saudi Arabia, btw) that Trump was a fluke. Everyone gets a divot.
For the new year 2019 I wish everyone a socially conscious,environmentally aware presence. May you take actions that are in the best interest of this Earth that God has given us, your family which is the greatest gift of all, and endorse the truth above all else. 2018 was one of the greatest years of my life. I enjoyed the support of everyone in my great quest and eventual success on Mt. Everest. Remarkably, at this time last year, Everest was still just a rogue idea. If you learn anything from my experiences, know that you can do and pursue your dreams if you follow God’s plan and listen to what the mountain is telling you. For everyone here who supported me this past year I extend a sincere THANK YOU from the top of the world. I wish you and your families a happy, prosperous and healthy 2019. I leave you with a quote from John Muir, forwarded to me in form of a Christmas card by Chuck Adams of Muir Faction fame,
I only went out for a walk,
and finally concluded to stay out till sundown,
for going out, I found, was really going in. John Muir 1913
Les Trois Vallees- France
I travel cheaply. By now most of you are fully aware. How else could a lowly drug counselor traverse this planet? I’ve always believed that a penny saved…..
Anyway, this trip’s genesis was borne from $650 round trip Paris tickets in October. From there we established plan A and B. A was to catch a flight to Lisbon and knock off another country or two. Riots in Paris makes for cheap accommodation. Soon it became apparent that plan B was gaining traction with discovery of a $75 per night slopeside condo at Val Thorens, France.
We landed at Charles de Gaulle early on December 20 and grabbed train tickets to the Alps. I am particularly fond of French rail travel and use them frequently. Laurel assisted with securing the right connections, there were 3 different trains and a 1 hour taxi to negotiate. After two days of no sleep it was great to be in Val Thorens. We set about securing rental equipment and soon were out in fresh powder that dumped our first two nights.
Compared to Breckenridge, for example where lift tickets have approached $150 per day, France keeps theirs at a third of that outrageous economic raping. I’m disgusted with resorts who operate on national Forest lands and seem to have no constraints about inflicting these prices on taxpayers in the US.
So right there is almost one hundred dollars per day saved. I challenge you to find a slopeside rental anywhere in America for less than $200. We had a full kitchen and prepare all meals ourselves. By now you may have some idea of how this slumdog rolls.
Next stop Paris. I have a chest cold,of course. Hoping that clears soon.
Leaving Maryville at 3.30 pm, we arrived at the trailhead aroun 4 pm. How about that? And the reservation system was showing half full for good ole Little Bottoms. However, that was false. And it has been false since the NPS has been cooking the books on these campsites and we proved it hands down.
Very fortunate I was to have my buddies throw in and leave work early on a Friday. The rain and weather was moving in and a quick hit was just what the doctor ordered.
We had camp settled before dark, even. Nick is an outstanding fire creator.
An always peaceful Abram’s creek and a wonderful evening with friends around a blazing campfire.
The Highlanders have migrated upstream again to spawn a new year of adventures in one of the most remote spots in the Smokies.
Friday, post Thanksgiving, has been a tradition for the Highlander crew since early 2000s. This year, AJ, Curt and I made the first foray across Fontana into the headwaters of famed Eagle Creek. The paddle takes about an hour and a half in kayaks or canoe.
Then there is the shuttle boat option, exercised here by none other than Mtn. Laurel who passed us right at the mouth of Eagle Creek proper. She got the infamous Highlander discount. In fact, we have been coming over here so long on the Thanksgiving weekend, our presence is expected at the marina and elsewhere.
Styling and profiling, not a bit of mud or water on this diva. Glad she was able to make an evening out with us.
The story of Sithenge is by now oft told. Suffice it to say, Highlanders made this wonder of the universe way back in ages past. I did find this link while trying to determine when the Sithenge was christened.
No more had we gathered a nice rack of wood when none other than this guy makes an appearance.
Martin hiked in from the dam but drove down from New York. Always great to see him and AJ in the backcountry driving from such distance, as did Laurel who came up from Athens.
Our evening was pleasant until midnight when the rain torrents chased me into the tent. And it persisted throughout the evening, abating around 9.30 am. Perfect sleeping weather for me, anyway. Sadly, we said goodbye to Mtn. Laurel and hello to Kevin Flint.
Kevin receives the intrepid adventurer award for this one. With no knowledge of the area outside of a print screen map I forwarded, this guy shows up at dusk having paddled in a whitewater boat with a full blown cold. Now there is a hiking cameo!
We spent the afternoon strolling about the Lakeshore trail over towards the upper waters of Eagle Creek. I usually climb Lost Cove up to Shuckstack but it was rather overcast so the views were likely muted. That was my excuse this weekend anyway.
Sadly, Curt’s fishing plans were dashed by an errant fly rod mishap. He was sad and shaken but not stirred. Mostly he was sad that he had carried 25 lbs of fly fishing gear that were unusable that could have been utilized for what he described as “comfort items”.
A rip roaring Highlander fire helped raise his spirits, along with a crystal clear evening and hopes of meteors were promised by Myers, the local astronomer. Sadly, Myers lost his battle with the yard pass and was unable to fulfill his promise of viewing them with us. I believe meteors were seen by some in the group, I’m just not sure if they were of the celestial sort.
(Curt teaches that kindling a lesson by taking out his flyrod frustrations)
Sunday morning found us running into this guy! Yep, it’s Randy Redwood. And he typically tracks us at Eagle Creek and Hangover. I’m always excited to see Randy in the backcountry. He reminds me of the days when I used to spend every weekend in the Smokies. He spends 100 nights in the backcountry per year and much of it is solo. He is a true outdoorsman, a sort of Tipi Walter of the Smokies. Edward Abbey and John Muir woul be proud of this spirit of Randy. We spent some time Sunday with him before he departed for the dam on foot. We had a bit of paddling to do back across the channel.
Saying goodbye to Martin, who exercised his inner Muir by electing to remain solo for another night, we cast off and the Highlander Navy set sail having successfully occupied Sithenge another year.
Kayaking is a great way to enjoy this part of the Smokies.
We detoured across to the abandoned Copper mine.
Kurt and I eye a line on this slab, which probably needs a first ascent by me. Kevin is a climber and agreed with my estimation. We shall bring a load of cams and ascend this rock via trad methods soon! Kevin is an excellent rock man.
The channel was sporting some chop as we battled across on Sunday. But the overall experience was one for the books. Eagle Creek never disappoints and the company was superb. I hope everyone enjoyed as wonderful a Thanksgiving as did the Highlander crew.
My little suzuki was maxed.
By this time, if you haven’t caught one of my presentations about Everest, you probably haven’t tried or live out of town as do many friends. I’ve been privileged to share the story with two Rotary Clubs, two Kiwanis Clubs, Walters State College, Second Presbyterian Church, Sam Houston Elementary and Little River Trading Company’s Trails and Ales series through Outdoor Knoxville.
The “Rotary Version” is abbreviated given time constraints but I am sharing it publicly here thanks to Alan Smelser and the Bearden Rotary who were kind enough to film it. The “Rotary Versions” focus primarily on the Everest portion where the longer talks include a lead up and history of my experiences prior to Mt. Everest.
If you are interested in having me share this experience with your group, I will gladly consider it, however, the middle of the day talks are quite difficult as I do work in Maryville and have to take time off. I have found that many people have questions and I enjoy trying to answer them all.
I certainly have an abundance for which to be thankful this year. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and especially my family, girlfriend Laurel and all good friends who have supported the endeavor.
I figured it has been at least seven years since standing atop this spot. We did a “quick hit” run up to the Angel Falls overlook.
The leaves and views did not disappoint. We had intended to backpack but a sick dog prohibited that plan. I rather enjoyed dayhiking in the brisk, 30 degree temperatures. Plenty of sun kept me warm as I ascended the final thousand feet up to the overlook
I needed some fall forest bathing time and BSF didn’t disappoint.
I will be doing my final public presentation of Everest 2018 this Wednesday, Nov 14 at Second Presbyterian Church in Knoxville. The event is open to the public and begins at 6 pm. It will be the same presentation I did at Little River, so come join me for pictures, video and details of the ascent this past May.
I’m still sorting through photos, so enjoy this montage of the cloudscape we encountered. It was as if we were breathing with the mountain. The Hangover was well attended and it was one for the books. Myers did the heavy lifting on the photography so I am sorting through that in addition to mine.
Pictured are from left to right: Mark, Laurel, JQ, Jon Chambers, Kurt, Nick and Stephanie. Not pictured is Myers and the mystery guest hiking cameo person to be named later.
We braved the elements on this one but that was expected as I changed the week due to knowledge that the leaves hadn’t even started changing on the traditional weekend. Fortunately, we had some color.
That color was absent from the week before as I ran into Randy Redwood who was there the previous week. He came to the Everest presentation at Little River on Thursday. It was a great event and I really enjoyed meeting the overflow crowd of 120 outdoor folks, old and new. They even set up my climbing gear as you can see on the left which the kids seemed to enjoy. I really appreciated seeing my friends there and meeting some new ones. Great potential collaborations have arisen as a result. I will expound upon that later. Many thanks to Bert Emerson and Erika Gilbert at LRTC for promoting the event.
So Chambers and I departed from Maryville at 3.30 pm the following afternoon, hit the traditional Lead South trail at 5.15 and I made it in time for what remained of the sunset. Chambers, however, missed the turn at the gap and headed up the Haoe. He was setting up a tent when I found him but his pack had to weigh about 75 lbs. He is a cross fitter so I just allowed him a little extra workout for his money. Soon we joined Myers and Nick for an incredible, and record setting Highlander fire that first night. We braved the shifting winds and prepared for the impending rain.
The rain was well timed as we hit the bed at midnight, about the time it started. I would say it made for great sleeping weather.
BTW, all these pics are Myers unless otherwise noted.
Coming up, Day 2 and the new arrivals plus an unexpected old friend. (If you can’t tell, I’m doing this between clients at my office) ……………….Stay tuned!
Chambers and I set out to fetch wood and water, that was after the night of rain.
We ran out to the rock in between clouds and it was amazing with the mountain breath engulfing us.
Newbies get wood duty in the Highlander fold.
Can’t remember having a fire this huge up on the hill. We needed it with 20 degree temps.
Myers doesn’t mind that the sun is making a cameo and Jon is sawing.
Before long, Mark and Stephanie and Laurel and Longstreet arrive Saturday afternoon. Right off the bat, Longstreet makes a scene and rolls in excrement, thus rendering himself untouchable for the weekend. Curt showed up to give us a total of, I’m not sure because Patman was also there. You will remember him from prior outings in the olden days.
Then we were joined by a group of coeds from Clemson who marvelled at our tales of outdoor activities including the infamous Hook Man and Jonathan Swift analogies.
Doing laundry is a decidedly Hell Guy tradition.
Doing stupid things gets you the pink fleece in the Southernhighlander fold.
A good coating of hoar frost along the Hangover spine was the breakfast view on Sunday.
It was 20 degrees, thereabouts on Saturday night. Cold enough to remind me that my toes are still partially frostbitten. It was water bottle freezing cold. But the morning gave us a clear view and some nice leaf action.
It was a great weekend. Total count was, Me, Laurel, Myers, Nick, Stephanie, Curt, Chambers and Patman plus the Clemson crew. Great fellowship, no pot luck, which is good luck.