Old Settlers

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Headlamp Hiking means a late friday into a familiar spot. This is where I finished my last Smokies mile in 2007. It began a tradition for others to finish there. I spent many a night at this place in support of others who were completing their miles and this weekend was time to support Laurel and AJ who needed all of it.  At the very least, I was definitely improving my immune system through forest bathing.


It didn’t take long to set up camp before we were presented with a night time adventure that I will have to share around a campfire. It involved a couple of hours of extra night hiking. Fortunately for me, the night was warm and pleasant, perfect for roaming the Old Settlers trail with a headlamp.


Because of that journey, Laurel was left to tend the fire and when I returned from about 4 miles of meandering, we retired for the evening.

I know this area well.  Many years ago, while sitting around camp waiting for some guys to come in and do their miles in different directions, I decided to explore some of the trails that branched off.  It was then I stumbled upon the “secret corridor” so oft used my my former associates today.  It is ironic that I should hand something so easy to a group that would never dare go offtrail previously.  Sometimes there is a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow for those who dare to explore.


Next morning, AJ comes strolling into camp after doing the long section of the Old Settlers. It is about 11 miles from Maddron Trailhead. He was sweating like a wild boar but glad to be home. We soon said goodbye to Laurel who would retrace his steps in the other direction.


My plan was to do some more exploring. There was an old logging road that needed some attention, so I devoted my afternoon to walking up it while AJ recuperated from his journey.

We hiked back out later in the afternoon, grabbed the car and shuttled back around to Maddron to pick up Laurel who knocked out the 11 miles in 3 hours. Amazing, huh? We also dropped AJ’s car off at the other end in Greenbrier.

We had perfect weather for a fall outing with leaves and solitude. One of the things I like about Tennessee football is it keeps my mountains empty. Laurel and AJ hiked out and I picked her up at the Greenbrier entrance on Sunday. She clicked big miles along with AJ and they can check a box on the OST. I actually needed the miles back to Maddron but did not tackle it this weekend because my leg was infected from a whipper I took on Geebees at the Obed last weekend. In retrospect, I could have easily done so but messed around those logging roads and popping in and out of the campsite. It still was a glorious two days. Very restful time and with great company.

The Obed

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I was just “hanging out” at the Obed following an invitation from the old crag crew. That is where the mountains and forests led us this weekend.


Good looking folks.  Having fun on a beautiful weekend for camping and climbing.  That’s Laurel, Asher and Rebecca.


Your’s truly and the pound hound who wasn’t quite a model of good behavior. One thing about climbing and dogs is, there are plenty of both.  We camped under a star filled sky after doing laps at South Clear on saturday.  A delightful party and campout followed at Del and Marti’s.  They have turned their camping area into quite a festive weekend event with climbers from all over spread throughout their woods.  Apparently they opened a new brewery there as well.  We walked up to check out the scene and found a band, campfires and plenty of merriment.


Laurel and I got some hiking in. The walk down to south Clear weaves through the river gorge with beautiful scenic vistas.

tn_img_20161022_173141784I took a whipper leading Geebees, a 5.11a.  Below is a pic of a ground view with Asher topping.


That is Trey actually “cleaning” Tarantella at the Lily Bluff on Sunday morning.   It was just what I needed.  Our local crag is still closed.  We hope to have that reversed with a few weeks.

Stay tuned.



Hangover 2016–Barking at the Super Moon

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How were the colors, you ask?  Well, they were peak, in my opinion.  Oct 15 usually is the sweet spot.  That’s what the news outlets think as well.


photo courtesy Myers Morton

I’ve had about the best Fall break one can create.  Beginning last Friday, when Laurel and I camped at Deep Creek and she took me to meet Frank on our epic 67 miles North on the AT ending Wednesday.  Then to be standing on Hangover watching the sun crest Robbinsville after an evening of classic sunset bathing on the rock.  I’ve had perfect weather and perfect company.

left to right: Gary, Kirby , Tom and Sarah, Laurel, Buff, Mark and Myers.

I was proud to escort this group of newbies to the most special place on earth on the Super Moon and traditional Hangover weekend.  I have been to Hangover on the October 15 weekend for about 30 years or so.  I missed one year for my brother’s wedding in 96.  Every time someone has changed the date, the weather has been bad.  I explained that on Everest, for example, most summit windows occur around May 21.  I believe that weather patterns tend to trend on particular dates.  And this weekend bore that observation true.


This is the super moon that got pulled up when the sun set.  I have never witnessed anything of this nature on the Hangover.


As the sun set to the West, the Super Moon appeared in the East. I knew we were in for a blessing when, upon arriving on the rock, Laurel and I were buzzed by a bald eagle.  At about the same time, Sarah and Tom popped out on the heath bald as we were standing to the familiar rock looking eastward.  We all saw the same bird as he swooped up from them to us as if to say, “Welcome home, my friends, we have missed you.”


The Eagle is in this picture, I just couldn’t zoom sufficiently.  Perhaps he smelled me.



Having just completed  AT miles,  I knew Hangover would be dry as a bone, so we all toted up sufficient water for the night.  My pack was about 60 lbs.  It was a great workout.  Tom and Sarah were feeling the burn of the traditional Hangover Lead South trail.  It is remarkable how dry the entire area had become.  Bob’s Bald spring is completely dry.  Hangover spring is completely dry and Naked ground is such a small trickle it took our friends about an hour to drip a couple of quarts.


This is the old spring from which we traditionally get water on the hill.  I had to walk down just to make sure.


Tom and Sarah were blown away.  As was Myers.



We were treated to a traditional Hangover sunset.


Mark brought a crew down from Kentucky to experience the Hangover.


It required them dropping down to the Holiest of Holies.


All these pics below are from Myers, enjoy the ride for a minute.  It was beyond description.





That’s Gabby to the right.



Are you starting to get a sense of the forest bathing that cleansed our souls of any nastiness from the previous year? That is the magic of Hangover.






What little bit of wood was to be found, we burned with a vengeance.  Like water, it is scarce on the Hang.  But who should come walking up into the night but a friend from the previous year,  Remember Randy from last year’s event?


Randy Redwood has followed Highlander events for a while via the webpage and knows more about our doings that anyone.  Well, Sunday was his birthday and we wished him a good one.  What a great place to spend it.  Happy birthday, Randy Redwood.



Above is an archived photo of Hangover prior to 2007,  most likely around 2005 taken by Neighbor Randy.  I am producing it to show the campfire area prior to being clear cut by the forest service in their infinite wisdom.  Here is an article I wrote describing the rape of the clear cut and outlining the type of thinking SFW fights daily.


(Myers pics turned out much better than mine.  I need a new camera.)


Mark and I are having a serious discussion.  If you are not familiar with Mark, then allow me to introduce him through his work with Southern Forest Watch.  I believe this article speaks for itself.


It was not the intention to hold a SFW outing atop Hangover this year, it just turned out that way.  In fact, everyone is familiar with Myers diligence on the lawsuit and many other matters.  Mark Cooke typifies the type of patriot that not only speaks of effecting change with regard to public lands managers but actually works to make it happen.  For over one year, Mark collected the data in the article above.  It is your duty as a user of public lands to read this article.  We are all very proud of his labors.


Including Kevin and Gabby and Tom and Sarah.  They have received quite an enlightening about the misdeeds of the National Park Service and are happy to assist the SFW in its advancing advocacy.


There were many magic moments on the Hang this year.  Too many to describe.  My personal highlights were the Eagle, Myers and SFW presence, Laurel and the Ky Faction and Tom and Sarah’s presence.  Heck, there were no problems, even with the lack of water and wood.  We had lively political discussions, great social banter, incredible comparisons of gear (Mark has a cuben fiber tent that is the envy of all at 23 ounces. The $700 price tag is a bit of deterrent for me at this time)

I heard more oohs and aahs than ever on the rock and we had not a drop of rain.  I am very thankful for all the blessings I have had just in the past ten days of Fall Break.  Most of which I spent sleeping in a tent on the ground.  And that is Heaven.


Just having Myers outdoors is a blessing!


On the trail with Yo-YO aka Frank

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67 Miles North on the Appalachain Trail with Frank, aka Yo-Yo

Oct 8-12 2016


A snapshot of the miles we completed and elevation is above. All but a few of the Georgia miles are included.


This is where we began after leaving cars and my girlfriend at the NOC. We were shuttled to Dick’s Creek where Frank left off from his last jaunt.


We began our ascent and first day climbing up the infamous Bly Gap making for 12 plus and lots of cardio.


8 miles in, we began the NC section. These were new miles for me as well. I have completed all the AT in TN. Section hikers is what they call us.


Views abound in this time of autumn.


Along with Ents.


The wind was gale force due to the hurricane but I set up outside Muskrat shelter for our first night of falling limbs. We felt as if our limbs would fall after the ascent of Bly Gap.

Part 2 of the Carolina AT walk    October 8-12 2017


I rather like this one.


= We enjoyed a beautiful sunset outside of Muskrat shelter.


Standing Indian mountain.


tn_p1060277 Carter Gap was busy and cold.  The wind had subsided and we put in about 13 miles this day.


Our newest best friends were Dave and his son, whose name escapes me presently.  Their fire was the antidote to my lack of down.  It got into the 30s in Franklin this night, I felt it through my sleeping pag.


The next day would find us making our way to the summit of Albert Mtn and the firetower with exceptional views.



It was a knee raiser to get here but the payoff was we got to drop for several miles down to Winding Stair Gap where we hitched a ride into Franklin for a motel night and visit to Outdoor 76.  Franklin is a trail town and we wanted to experience it.  We hit the trail next morning at a not so early time of 10.30 because our shuttle, Ron Haven, was unable to depart any earlier.  But he is a character.



There are a lot of dick creek and lick creek gaps etc along the Carolina section.

This day would find us ascending another  big hill towards Wayah Bald.

tn_p1060317 The stone tower is reminiscent of Camerer


But the view is unparalleled.  I could see hangover, the Smokies and and all the way into Franklin.


tn_p1060329 Now we were looking back towards Albert Mtn from the day before.  And what a haul it was.  We would end up doing over 16 miles this day on account of a drought situation that necessitated pushing on to a campsite past Wayah.  And our legs and blisters were feeling the love.


Because of the  unexpected 16 mile days my toes were casualties.

tn_p1060345 How is this for a sunrise view?  From our campsite the final morning, I coffeed up as clouds engulfed the valley floor.




Somewhere along this point, Frank realized he left his camera high atop the firetower at Wesser Bald.  So Yo Yo got to Yo Yo back up the hill a mile.  And I truly felt sorry for him.  I had to descend to meet Laurel at the NOC.


Wesser Bald Tower is a nice side trip.  Just don’t leave your camera there.


I will add that the drop down to NOC was knee jarring.  I feel sorry for anyone having to ascend that beast.  Frank caught up an hour after I hit the ground and put my feet in the water at NOC.  It corresponded with a great fish kill of unknown origin and the water temperature rose 10 degrees.

Frank, thanks for inviting me on this wonderful journey and congratulations on your section hike.  It was a grand, and problem free adventure.  There is a drought, so be prepared.  I fully expect Hangover to be dry as a bone.