Friday, April 30, 2010

Into the Groove

No hiking today.  In trail-speak, that would be a zero day.  We are shooting for a schedule of hiking 2 days then take a day off.

Taking a “day off” is only a day off from hiking, not from work. Today was chore day.  Gene rubbed on the trailer some; even put on some wax.  He emptied all of our holding tanks.  Even the fresh water tank needed to be refreshed.

He also helped me with the laundry.  I fully intended to do laundry at the campground facility, but all the washers were being used when I got there just after 9 am.  Of course, that’s because there are only 3 washers for a campground of over 200 sites.  How crazy is that?  We loaded up and went downtown.

While out to do the laundry, we also stopped by the post office, bank, and grocery.  Didn’t get home until 1 PM.  Besides laundry and grocery shopping, my chores consisted of the routine housekeeping things--cleaning bath and kitchen, vacuuming.

We have both been busy all day--not much of a rest day.  However, I think we are getting a routine established.  If the schedule of hiking 2 days then taking a day off, works well for our bodies (and I think it will), then I can separate laundry and grocery shopping to different off days.  That should give us some real rest time on the days off.

I am getting a little better organized with my cooking, as well.  I normally like to prepare food from scratch.  Since we have been hiking so much, I have kept a couple Stouffer’s meals in the freezer.  It’s easy to just throw one in the oven to bake while we shower after a day on the trail.  Tonight, I made extra salad to go with the lasagna I’ll bake tomorrow.  Other meals consists of a piece of meat (chicken, steak, or pork chop) which Gene grills and I add a baked potato or Lipton noodles and a salad.  That’s pretty fast to prepare, but makes a mess to clean up

We still have about an 80 mile drive to the trailhead.  That long driving distance makes for a very long day.  However, each day the distance will be reduced and by the end of next week, we should be able to get to the trail in less than an hour.

On a more personal note, we have had a new addition to our extended family this week.  My nephew and his wife have a new son, born Monday evening.  The whole family is doing well, and my great nephew, Brayden, is happy being the big brother.

That’s all for today.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Walking Through The Creation

Another early start for another day on the trail.  Today, I was overwhelmed with the beauty of nature.

I dropped Gene off at Blue Ridge Parkway mile 71 at Petites Gap then drove another 7 miles to the trail where I started yesterday.  I walked north today while Gene walked south.  He saw nearly 30 other hikes while I only saw 5.  Everybody I thought I would see from yesterday had already passed my starting point before I got there.  Since they were ahead of me, I never saw them.

We each had a big climb at the beginning of our hikes.  Mine was up Apple Orchard Mountain.  There is no apple orchard there and apparently never has been.  Historians speculate it got its name because of the gnarled red oaks near the top.  These old distressed trees give the appearance of old orchard trees.  The summit is mostly an open bald with fantastic views to Arnold Valley below.  Somewhat of an eyesore in this otherwise pristine natural environment is a large white sphere which was originally an Air Force radar station between 1954 and 1975.  It’s still open.  There were trucks there when I went by, but I don’t know who owns it nor what purpose it serves today.

There are many features up and down the trail which get names attached to them and are then included in the hiking guidebooks.  We came to one such feature today.  Just below the summit of Apple Orchard Mountain is the Guillotine--a suspended rock between two boulders.

I stopped for a break at Thunder Hill Shelter and signed the shelter register.  Registers are at all shelters along the AT as well as at several other locations.  These registers, usually a spiral notebook, are a primary means of communications along the trail.  Hikers passing by or staying the night will usually sign in and leave a short message.  By reading the registers, the hikers know any important trail information, weather reports, and all the gossip among other hikers.  Who needs a telephone or email when there are shelter registers.

Not five minutes after my break at the shelter I met Gene.  We sat on a log by the trail for our lunch today and swapped stories of our hikes to that point.

View from Thunder Ridge Overlook

The beauty of the creation was all about me today.   Apple Orchard Mountain was pretty special, but it couldn’t compare to the huge patches of trillium I walked through after lunch.  It was breathtaking.

That’s it for today.  Tomorrow will be a zero mile day.  Gotta stay home sometime and get the work done around here.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

On The Trail Again

Today was our first day back on the AT, doing the eleven miles between VA 614 and Blue Ridge Parkway mile 78.5.  I guess I should explain how we are running our shuttle.

Even though the AT is a footpath through the woods, it often crosses roads.  At those road crossings, there are often small parking areas where hikers can leave a car.  We are using a website which lists all these parking areas to locate a place to park the truck while we hike a section of trail.  We select two parking areas, one on the north end and the other on the south end.  One of us will get out at the north end parking area and walk south on the trail.  The other will drive the truck to the south end and park then walk north on the trail.  We meet somewhere in the middle, have lunch, and then continue to our respective parking areas.  The one hiking to the truck will drive north to pick up the other.  It is a self-supported shuttle.  It’s not ideal and we don’t get to hike together, but it allows us to cover many more miles that we would be able to otherwise.

So, today we got up and hustled to get out the door before 7 AM.  We had almost a hundred mile drive to the south end at VA 614.  It is only about 70 miles via I-84, but since we were dropping me off at Blue Ridge Parkway mile 78.5, we had to take the parkway route.  The speed limit is only 45 mph so we didn’t get to the drop-off point until after 9 o’clock.  I started south in a strong wind and 38 degree temperature.  Gene went down to VA 614 and started north.  We met for lunch at Bryant Ridge Shelter.

Since Gene has already hiked this section, he didn’t have to do the entire 11 miles.  After lunch at the shelter, he turned around and walked back to VA 614 with me.  This shuttle arrangement allows us to decide which direction we want to hike.  Since this was all new trail for me, I opted to hike south--downhill.  I’m a real fan of downhill.  It makes my feet and knees hurt, but I can hike so much faster.  I’d much rather feel the pain in my knees than trudge uphill.  When we get up closer to Waynesboro and in Shenandoah National Park where I have already hiked, Gene will get to selected which direction he wants to hike as that will be new trail for him.

We each saw several hikers out today.  There were about 8 thru-hikers.  I was surprised to see that many this far north.  They must have started in early February from Springer Mountain in Georgia and hiked through all that snow in Tennessee and North Carolina.  One hiker we spoke to, Bloodhound, said the snow was waist deep in places.  We saw several section hikers.  There was one group of 4 older ladies (seemed to be in their 60s) who were out for a week.  They were coming up, very slowly with those heavy backpacks, as I was going down Floyd Mountain.  I felt sorry for them, but they seemed to be in high spirits.  We’ll probably see several of these hikers again tomorrow as we do the next section.

As for wildlife--we didn’t see much.  We saw several deer and a couple turkey as we drove along the parkway this morning.  Along the trail, we saw a lizard, a toad, and a portion of a rattlesnake.  The snake was sunning himself on an old blowdown.  I was in front at that point and just saw him as I walked by.  His head portion was hidden from view behind a piece of bark.  He may not have seen me at all.  I was practically running after I realized what it was, and yelled to Gene to hurry on along.  Gene never saw the snake at all.  As for wildflowers, they are included in the photos.  I tried not to stop to take a lot of flower pictures.  I had too many miles to cover.  There were a few I couldn’t resist.

That’s it for today.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Settled In Waynesboro, Virginia

I think we are finally settled in at 340 North Campground.  Our drive this morning was pleasant, for the most part.  There was only one stressful moment.  The worst stretch of I-81 from just north of Knoxville to Waynesboro was through Roanoke.  Of course, the heaviest traffic we encountered was at the same area.  We have always been impressed with the number of tractor trailer rigs on I-81 in Virginia.  I’m not sure where they come from, but this morning they were all gathered in that one very rough spot at Roanoke.  That just happened to be the same place where four, that’s right, four state troopers had someone pulled over.  All those big rigs were trying to move over a lane; us too, but we had no place to go.  Fortunately, we were all going pretty slow, about 50 mph, and it would have been fine except one of the state trooper cars was not completely out of our lane.  Everybody scooted over as much as possible and we slid by with a few inches to spare.  I just knew we were going to crash.  Gene was much calmer than I was.  Thank goodness he was driving.

The campground, as the name implies, is located on US 340 North about 4 miles out of Waynesboro.  We’ve stayed here before.  It’s an old established campground with big trees and camping loops going in every direction.  Because it is laid out in loops and not straight lines, RVs are sitting in every direction, also.  Papa, who started the campground many years ago has since gone to his reward and his children are now running the place.  They don’t seem too enthusiastic about continuing the business and are somewhat less than helpful.  There is no cable, no Wi-Fi, no park maps or rules for that matter.

Since we are staying for a month, we were assigned a site in the long term area--the loop called “Friendship Circle”.  The young lady checking us in (probably a granddaughter of Papa) failed to mention we should drive down the farthest road to the right.  We came around the loop in wrong direction.  We were able to get into the site and with a little juggling were satisfied with our position.  We measured everything to be sure it would fit or reach.  Our kitchen slide was a little close to the neighbors wood pile, so we decided to back up a few feet to give ourselves more room to maneuver.  By backing up, it gave us more room on the side and also more room to park in front.  We were happy.  We unhitched, hooked up the sewer, water, and put out the slides.  Then we discovered we were a few feet short on the electrical cord.  You will be surprised to know we didn’t say any bad words.  It was more like a moan of disbelief.

We are here for the Appalachian Trail.  Two years ago I hiked several miles of the trail around here, some with my hiking buddy, Diane, aka DTour.  Gene and I will be doing day hikes on the trail, beginning about 90 miles south of here at VA 614 and continuing north to the Pennsylvania state line.

This campground is not very special, but it is quiet, cheap ($400/month including electricity), and close to the trail.  We’ll be too tired to notice it’s not a “resort” anyway.
I think that’s it for today.  Tomorrow, we’ll be on the trail.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Back in Virginia

Well, we are about halfway to our destination of Waynesboro and have stopped for the night in the small community of Max Meadows.  We had a pleasant drive from Townsend.  Departed just late enough to miss the morning rush through Knoxville.  Weather could have been a bit better, but we’re not complaining.  We had light showers off and on all day.

We can definitely tell we are 200 miles north of where we have been.  The temperature is noticeably cooler and there are still redbuds blooming and the leaves on the trees are still tiny.  It is much earlier in spring here.

We are parked at Fort Chiswell RV Campground (exit 80 off I-81).  Gene selected it after researching what was available in the area.  We have a 50 amp, full hook-up, pull-thru site.  The interior roads and parking pads are gravel, but well maintained.  Most sites have a nice shade tree and are separated from the neighbors by a large grassy area.  We also have what appears to be a brand new picnic table which sits on a concrete slab.  We are surrounded by rolling green pastures complete with a fairly large herd of black cows.  Definitely picturesque.  Being an old farm girl at heart, I love it.

We have free wi-fi and cable TV, including HBO.  All this didn’t come cheap--with Good Sam discount it is $31/night.  That’s more than we like to pay and wouldn’t if we were staying more than one night.  It is located just a half mile off the interstate (noise is blocked by the hill between us and it) and there is a Flying J at the exit.  It is convenient for a one night stay and that is worth something to us.

So, I have cookies baking in the oven, we’ll enjoy a little TV this evening, and we’ll be on our way in the morning.  Next stop--Waynesboro, VA at the south end of Shenandoah National Park.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Last Day in the Smokies

We survived the storms of yesterday.  Heavy rain woke me up in the dark hours of the morning, but there didn’t seem to be any wind associated with it and we did not loose our electricity again.

Jack in the Pulpit

This is our last day in East Tennessee and the last opportunity to soak up the goodness of the Smokies.  We each had a couple chores to take care of this morning, so we got a late start.  We took a quick look at the map to find something close and easy.

Middle Prong

I wanted to take one more walk up Middle Prong trail.  This is the trail we did in the rain several days ago.  I was hoping to get a few photos of the late blooming spring wildflowers.  That trail follows along the Middle Prong of the Little River and with all the rain yesterday, I felt it would be something special to see for our last hike here.

We were not disappointed in the wildflowers.  The trillium is pretty much gone as is the blood root, but in their place was showy orchis, foamflower, and Jack-in-the-Pulpit.  Not surprising, the water was rushing down the mountain and the creek was full.

Showy Orchis

We came here to get in better shape for hiking along the AT in Virginia.  The steep trails in these mountains have helped us reach our goal.  We’re going to miss hiking in this marvelous place, but we’ll look forward to the time when we can come back.

Now it is time to move on to Virginia.  Our destination is Waynesboro, at the south end of Shenandoah National Park.  That is a little farther than we like to drive in one day, so will make it a two-day trip.

We are ready to roll.  In the morning we’ll hitch up and get on our way.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Stormy Day in Tennessee

Like so many in this part of the country, we are getting a lot of rain along with a few thunderstorms today.  We have been lucky compared to some--mostly rain with mild storms.

This morning was intermittent sprinkles, so Gene was able to get all of his outdoor chores done in preparation for leaving on Monday.  Well, I say “all”; what I really mean is all that he could do this early.  The hitch is cleaned and lubricated, the inside of the truck is clean, all the outdoor stuff (welcome mat, flags, flag stand, ladder) are put away.

I did one last load of laundry this morning and was able to get back and forth from the laundry building without getting wet.  I’m going to miss the laundry facility here.  I think I said earlier this is a new campground and therefore all the facilities are new.  They have  front-loading washers which I really like.  The dryers are also new, of course, and haven’t gotten to the stage of not heating well.  The price is not too bad, either, at $3 per load.

The afternoon has been pretty wet, so we’ve stayed inside.  We had a few waves of thunder and lightning, even knocked out the electricity one time.  I got my vacuuming done and the floors mopped.  There was plenty of time left over for internet/computer stuff, reading, knitting, and napping.  Sounds like we had a pretty lazy day.

According to the weather forecast (if you can believe that) the storms will continue overnight and clear out in the morning.  I’m going to be bored sitting inside all day again tomorrow, so if the skies clear by the afternoon, we’ll probably go out for a short hike.

That’s it from East Tennessee for today.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Visit With Friends

This morning we drove to Jonesborough, TN to see our dear friends, Charlie and Jennifer.  Charlie recently had surgery and was needing a little excitement in his otherwise boring recovery routine.  We felt like we could provide that diversion; plus we really were anxious to see them and catch up on what is happening in their lives.  We had a wonderful visit; however, I’m afraid we may have kept Charlie from his needed rest today.

One of Jennifer’s hobbies is her flower gardens.  Their yard is just gorgeous--certainly a testament to her long hours tending her plants.

We were quite surprised to find them nursing a newborn raccoon.  Apparently, one of the dogs found it and brought it home.  They are feeding it and trying to keep it warm during the day.  Then it goes outside at night in the hopes the mother will find it.  They have a call into the local wildlife rescue association.  I’ll have to admit--it’s cute.

It was great to see these friends again and glad Charlie is recovering nicely.

That’s it for today.  I’m not sure what’s on the agenda for tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Appalachian Trail to Charlies Bunion

With our time running out here in the Smokies, we decided to hike in the higher elevations today.  Until recently, the Appalachian Trail through the Smokies has been covered by snow, snow that we didn’t want to hike through.  Although there is still some small patches of snow, the trail is now clear of this hazard.

View from Charlies Bunion

We drove up to Newfound Gap and headed north on the AT.  The trail through the Smokies is roughly along the TN/NC state line with North Carolina to our right and Tennessee to our left as we made our way to Charlies Bunion.  We started out at just over 5000 feet elevation at Newfound Gap.  The clouds were thick which made for poor visibility.  Occasionally, the sun would break through and we would get a nice view of the mountains to our right as we made the climb to 6000 feet.  It was cold up there this morning, as well.

Icewater Springs Shelter almost lost in the fog.

We stopped for a break at Icewater Springs shelter.  These 3-sided lean-to type structures are the overnight home to backpackers along the AT as they pass through the Smokies.  Icewater Springs shelter was shrouded in clouds this morning.  This shelter ties for second of the highest shelters in the Park at 5920 feet.

Hikers leave behind the strangest things

From the shelter, we pressed on to Charlies Bunion.  This large pile of rock was named by local writer, Horace Kephart.  He apparently saw the shape of his friend’s bunion in the shape of the rock.  Mountaineer, Charlie Conner, claims not to remember the incident.  In any case, Charlies Bunion offers a fantastic view of the surrounding mountains.  Because of the relatively short distance (4 miles) from the Newfound Gap parking lot, this is a very popular day hike.  We saw several hikers along the trail today.

Besides those out, like us, just for the day, we saw about a dozen backpackers.  We weren’t surprised to see this many since this is just about peak time for the AT thru-hikers to reach the Smokies.  Gene spread around lots of trail magic until his food ran out.  I guess it was a good thing he had eaten his lunch before we started to see so many backpackers.

Charlies Bunion

Of all the places in the Smokies, the high elevations are my favorite.  I love the smell and the feel of the red spruce, Fraser fir, and birch forest.  Due to the large amount of rainfall at these high elevations, it is actually a rain forest.  Everything is wet and dripping and covered in moss.  A very special place.

We didn’t see a bear or deer today, but we saw several slate-colored juncos.  This small bird migrates up and down the mountain rather than a more common north-south migratory path.

The edge of Charlies Bunion

Well, that’s about it for today.  Tomorrow looks like a chore day.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Rain Day

The day dawned cloudy and the rain started almost before we had finished breakfast.  I got hiking in the rain out of my system last week and had no intention of getting out there in it today.  To tell the truth, I was a little excited to see the rain this morning.  I had not sufficiently recovered from our hike yesterday to be too enthusiastic about going out again today.

Consequently, today has been a very relaxing day.  I suppose I could have run the vacuum and done a load of laundry, but I didn’t.  So as not to appear entirely useless, I did wipe out the microwave and wash the grease filters over the stove.

Gene was finally able to secure a reservation for our month-long stay near Harper’s Ferry, WV.  He had hoped to find a campground in Harper’s Ferry, but there were none that met our standards for ratings and price range.  It appears that anything remotely close to Washington, DC is very expensive.  He finally found a campground in Winchester, VA that could accommodate us for the month of June plus the 4th of July weekend, had fairly decent ratings, and won’t break the bank.  I should say that the KOA in Harper’s Ferry was cheaper by a couple hundred bucks, but they don’t do reservations.  Given the proximity to DC and the Memorial Day and July 4th holidays, we didn’t want to take a chance on not having a reservation.  However, if we find they have a space for us, we may forfeit our $100 deposit in Winchester.

Otherwise, we have occupied our time reading, knitting, surfing the internet, and napping.  And the rain has continued all day.

It’s not much, but it’s all there is for today.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Beard Cane Trail

There is a crazy group of folks out there who have it in mind to hike all 900 miles of trail in the Smokies.  I’m among that group of crazies.  Gene is, too, but he has already hiked all the trails and is now out with me.  Does that make him doubly crazy?

I have almost all the trails done on the Tennessee side and was hoping to get several trails on the North Carolina side during this month in the Smokies.  However, since so many of the roads going over to that side of the mountain were closed and we were unable to get to a campground over there, I have been unable to hike much new trail this month.


Today, however, we finished Beard Cane Trail.  This trail lies in the far western corner of the park with no access directly to the trail by any roads.  All I needed was the first 3.5 miles of that trail, having done the far end a couple years ago.  The closest we could get to the trail was at the Goldmine trailhead.  In order to get that 3.5 miles, we had to hike a total of 13 miles today--6.5 miles each way.  Thank goodness, it was mostly flat.

However, we did have a few creek crossings and blowdowns to climb over.  Actually, there was more than a few.  In the 2.5 mile stretch between campsite 11 and campsite 3 there were 26 creek crossings and 13 blowdowns.  Since we had to do it all again on the way back, that made for a fairly difficult hike.

We stopped for lunch at backcountry campsite 3.  This was our turn around point.  It is a nice campsite on Hesse Creek--a great spot for lunch.  It would have been a nice spot to pitch the tent and spend the night.  Would have hated to cross all those creeks and crawl through all those blowdowns with a full backpack on.

Lunch at Campsite 13

We went down Goldmine trail which is a rutted horse trail at the edge of the park.  We connected with Cooper Road trail which took us over to Beard Cane.  Cooper Road was the primary road into Cades Cove back in the early 1800s.  Before that it had been an Indian trail.  Beard Cane trail is a horse and hiking trail.  With so much water around, the edge of the trail was a carpet of spring wildflowers.  Huge patches of crested dwarf iris were my favorite.

Crested Dwarf Iris

Well, you can guess what I’m doing this evening.  After I put dinner in the microwave, I’m heading over to the recliner.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Catching Up On Our Rest

We are having some absolutely gorgeous spring weather this weekend.  A cold front pushed through and left clear blue skies with temperatures in the low 70s.  Can I say PERFECT?!!  It has been great to have the windows open instead of the AC running for a change.

We have spent our weekend relaxing.  We get up and do a chore occasionally so as not to feel too guilty about doing nothing.  Gene hosed down the Everest and the truck to get the pollen off.  He also changed the anode rod in the hot water heater.  I did a few light housekeeping chores.

Saturday morning we spent some time at Starbucks.  Haven’t done that in a while and really enjoyed it.  While in Maryville, we stopped by Hobby Lobby so I could pick up some yarn for the next baby afghan and then we went to Belks for a mini food processor.  I have been wanting one for a long time, but just didn’t feel like I had the space for a large kitchen appliance.  The little 3-cup Cuisinart was on sale so I managed to find enough room in the cabinet.  Wonder if I can find the space for a Kitchen-Aid Mixer.

We met our friends, Rich and Patti, for dinner and that made a perfect ending to a perfect day.

Today has been basically a repeat of yesterday--a lot of resting interspersed with a few chores.  We also had a SKYPE call with Ansley and Kayley.  That’s always fun.  Kayley is cutting teeth, so she had her mouth stuffed full of toy to chew on.  She is 6 months old today--getting to be a big girl.

We made a fantastic discovery Friday evening.  One of the reasons we are trying to hike so hard here in the Smokies is to prepare ourselves for a couple of really long hiking days on the AT in northern Virginia.  I think I mentioned a few months ago that we found a website which lists all the parking areas along the AT.  That was a great find for us, especially since we discovered that there are parking areas about every 12 miles in northern Virginia--the section we want to hike next--making it possible to day hike instead of backpack.  When we found that website, I immediately got out paper and pencil to make a tentative hiking plan.  It worked out well, with 8-12 mile hiking days, but there were 2 stretches that were longer--both over 15 miles.  So, we’ve been here in the Smokies working hard at climbing these mountains and hiking more and more miles to build up our strength and endurance for those couple of big days on the AT.  Friday, I got out the list of parking areas again to refresh my memory.  You can imagine my surprise (and excitement) when I realized I had missed a parking area on both of those long days.  Boy, what a relief.  Now we think we’re ready to head to Virginia.

We actually have a 15 mile day planned for tomorrow.  We’ll go ahead and do it just to be reminded of what it is like.  Besides, it is one of the trails I need to hike to color in on my “all of the trails in the Smokies” map.

That’s it for today.  Better get back to my resting.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Hiking Continues

We have had two more days of good weather and two more good hikes bringing our total miles hiked for the month to just over 68. The wildflowers continue to amaze and thrill.
Cateby's Trillium

Yesterday, we hiked over 10 miles, but the hike was on a well-graded foot path with alternating ups and downs.  Although the distance was farther, it was not as difficult as that big climb up Bote Mountain.  We saw three deer, but no other wildlife yesterday as we made our way from Fighting Gap along Sugarland Mountain Trail then down Husky Gap to the Little River.

Nice spot for a break

We had to crawl over several significant blow-downs.  Gene was a little sorry he hadn’t brought along the saw. These trees were far too large for his little saw, but at least he could have cut off some of the smaller branches to make the crawl over, under, or through a little easier.  About halfway down Husky Gap trail we ran into the trail crew.  They were hard at work cutting blow-downs and cleaning out water bars.  We met them again on our return trip.  They had their work cut out for them on Sugarland Mountain trail.  Big hugs all around for those guys.  They did some work yesterday.

One of the old vacation homes
We wanted to hike today, but we wanted something slow and easy.  We selected the Little River/Cucumber Gap loop which is located at the back of the Elkmont Campground.  We started out on Little River for the very gentle climb up to Cucumber Gap trail.  I always enjoy this hike because I love to see the river as it tumbles downhill.  It was certainly gorgeous today.

Painted Trillium

We stopped for a break and a group of fishermen caught up with us.  They were struggling under the weight of very heavy packs heading up to a campsite where they’ll spend the weekend.  They’re hoping to catch a few trout.   There were about 7 of them and their packs were huge.  One gentleman kept inviting us to go along and help carry some of the weight.  Another said his pack weighed 75 lbs.  We could tell from what gear we could see they were not light weight backpackers.  We also suspect that plenty of Johnny, Jim, and Jack will also be around the campfire tonight.

view from our lunch spot
On both trails today, the wildflowers were fabulous.  Part of the reason we chose this hike was so I could get a few photos.  The camera was heavy to carry, but I was glad I took it along.

Trout lily

Elkmont is one of those historic districts inside the Park, but unlike Cade’s Cove it has not been restored.  In fact, the old vacation homes of wealthy Knoxvillians are falling down upon themselves.  The last we heard about this project is that the park service will select a few homes to be restored and destroy the remainder.  I wish they would get on with it.  As it is now, it is very unsightly.
That’s it for today.  No more hiking until Monday.  We’ll find something else to do over the weekend.  Starbucks comes to mind.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Rest of Yesterday's Story

Well, it’s amazing what a good night’s sleep will do for the old human body.  We both seem to have recovered from yesterday’s abuse.

In retrospect, we enjoyed a great hike.  The first couple of miles was UP Lead Cove trail.  Although this is a horse trail which gets a fair amount of use, the trail bed was not beat up and was a very pleasant walk.  The first mile was along Sugar Cove Prong, with one easy crossing.  There is still plenty of water in this typical mountain stream.  Lining the trail were many of the spring wildflowers we have been seeing.  The trail gets its name from the very small amount of lead ore found here in days gone by.

Spring beauty

We pushed our way upwards and finally popped out on Bote Mountain Trail.  This trail is an old roadbed; it is actually the continuation of the old road we walked on Schoolhouse Gap trail--the road that went up to North Carolina.  That’s what we did yesterday.  We took a left on Bote Mountain Trail (after a short break) and headed UP and UP and UP.  Being an old road, the trail was very wide.  The last mile, however, was little more than a deep ditch through rhododendron.  The loose rock which covered the trail made this last mile very difficult.

The end of Bote Mountain Trail intersects with the Appalachian Trail on the TN/NC border.  This particular spot is just north of Spence Field, a popular place used by settlers to bring their cattle for grazing during summer months.  The area is still pretty open making it a great place for our lunch break.

The worst part about these long climbs is the going down afterward.  We ate our lunch, rested, and enjoyed the solitude of this spot before heading DOWN.  At least, the worst part was in the beginning--getting over that first steep mile of loose rock.  Once past that point, it was still steep but much easier on the feet and legs not to be twisting and rolling on the rocks.

A quick nap after lunch

Needless to say, we were exhausted by the time we got back to the truck.  This was the most difficult hike we’ve done since getting here.  However, we are both feeling pretty good today.  Recovery has been much quicker than our previous 9 miler.

Today has been devoted to chores.  First thing this morning (well, after coffee) was to take the Peanut for his annual shots.  This is always a difficult endeavor.  He never goes to the same vet twice--we’re never in the same city when it’s his time.  We struggle with who to call for an appointment.  Of course, Peanut turns into some kind of a monster cat when he gets in the examining room.  Today, we were very pleased with the vet and it was one of our better visits.  Plus, the bill was less than $100.  That may be a first.

I think that about covers anything of any importance for today.