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.
We had the place all to ourselves. Dropping down from Thomas Divide, we sauntered and undulated along the spine.
Fall is quite elusive in Early October in the Smokies, it seems. 90 plus degree days haven’t triggered our friends to start leaving.
But the walking was nice and it had been a while since we experienced trail time.
Some nice alpenglow hung over out shoulders.
We had an alpaca sighting.
Laurel had work to do. She had driven up from Athens and my car was acting like it wasn’t going to make the top of Newfound Gap.
Didn’t take long to create a flame worthy of Highlander standards.
It rained gently through the night, just enough to ensure an enchanted sleep, for me, anyway.
The decision was unanimous on Sunday morning. We would drop down Newton Bald trail and hitchike back up to the dome.
It took an hour before a nice guy turned around to pick us up. Great weekend outing in the Smokies, no leaves yet but plenty of gentians.
I hope you are marking your calendars for the party at Little River, October 18. I look forward to seeing you there at our SFW fundraiser where I will be doing a presentation on Everest. Click the link below for details.
I’ve recently compiled a short list of videos of our hike into EBC. At some point after my next speaking engagement at Little River Trading Company in Maryville on October 18, I will be posting a recap of my summit day experience. One of the great benefits of sharing Everest with others is that I relive an incredible experience over and over again. The hike in included Laurel and it was a freestanding experience prior to the climb. Enjoy a few of these short clips and appreciate the scenery therein. I would love for each of you reading this to someday plan your hike into EBC. It is very doable and life changing. (Last weekend was a climbing day at Knoxville Crag, formerly Ijams Crag. Excellent time with Flasher.)
Here is a link to my talk at LRTC. Come join the party and say hello.
It was an incredible evening with my hometown and the WSCC Adventurers club last Thursday.
We had a standing room crowd with lots of enthusiasm and good questions about mountains and mountaineering. I was able to share the genesis of my journey from Rainier to Everest with the Adventurers club, of which I am now a proud honorary member. Excellent venue at Walters State. Thanks to Dr. Miksa, JB Pectol and David Quillen for making this event so successful.
I will be speaking again on Oct. 18 at Little River Trading Company if you weren’t able to catch this gig. Attached is information about that upcoming fundraiser for Southern Forest Watch. In case you are wondering if I have abandoned outdoor activities, rest assured. I have not. Last weekend was trail days at the Obed. We hiked in to the Tieranny trail and spent a very hot, snaky day rebuilding water bars to prevent trail erosion. I found it to be a better workout than most of my Everest training.
So all is great here on my end, looking forward to Fall eventually getting out of bed and putting some of this heat to rest so we can hit the trail in earnest.
I would love to have you join me at Walters State on Thursday, Sept 13. (not the 17th as I erroneously reported, thanks Adam!) I will be sharing my journey through all mountains to the top of the world with photos and narrative. I will have books available as well. Great Christmas presents! Look forward to seeing you next week.
I’ve had a very active few weeks since May 23. Work resumed with a fevered pitch and to date I have made several engagements speaking of our time on earth’s highest peak. This past week found me speaking at Kiwanis Alcoa with old and new friends. Everyone had great questions and uncanny insight as to the process of acclimatizing and preparation for Everest.
Laurel, Longstreet and I spent this weekend getting back to our roots at the Obed. It was a great weather window that allowed us to pull on this magnificent sandstone. It was somewhat crowded and I didn’t realize that one of my favorite areas over there, Little Clear, has been closed as it crosses public lands and the landowner was fearful of being sued should someone get hurt. That’s a shame because it isn’t true. Tennessee has a statute entitled the Tennessee Recreational Use act that protects landholders against this type of liability but folks often are fearful in our litigious society. It happened at Craghead in Knoxville several years ago.
I did laps on one route all afternoon Saturday. Laurel made a few herself. Longstreet?
He is leading a 5.6 here
Laurel was quite proud of her four pawed free climber. We camped out at Del and Martee’s and enjoyed a wonderful, star lit evening.
Great weekend all around.