AT – NC Fontana Dam to NOC (part 1)

7/15/2018 – 7/17/2018 Stecoah Gap to Fontana Dam

Trail Dame Summit is history! So I rushed to Sylva, North Carolina to meet up with everyone at City Lights Cafe for lunch, then off to the mountains!  Highly recommend City Lights Cafe and may need to go back to check out the book store upstairs.  They had a few wonderful vegan options…which gives them 5 stars in my book! 😀

The weather forecast indicated possible thunderstorms that evening but we stayed dry until we hit Jacobs Ladder after Sweetwater Gap.

“Oh, hello, North Carolina, I see you waited up for me.”

Sweat soaked us as we laboriously lifted one foot over the other to make slow forward progress.  It was up, straight up, and boy, was I glad the rain held off as this was one of THOSE hills! Rain would have felt amazing, but it would have resulted in each step forward being followed by two steps sliding back.  Thankfully, it was a short hill, and we quickly finished our big 2.4 mile day to Brown Fork Shelter.

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Yes! Made it and no rain yet!

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Brown Fork Shelter…The site of the Mice Massacre

Brown Fork Shelter is a nice shelter. It is up off the ground, seems clean enough, sturdy.  In the early morning, I got up and walked toward the privy in the deep fog that had descended on the mountain, beautiful until I almost stepped on a mouse.  Then, *quick inhale*, I saw that it was dead. “Oh my gawd” I had glanced around and could not unsee the littering of dead mice as I arrived back at the shelter.  Creepier still was the trash bugs were crawling under them to make it appear they were still moving and a huge bullfrog sitting on the side of the shelter looking down on the massacre as if he had ordered it.  UGH.

So, I have a question.  Do trail maintainers ever put out mouse poison to cull the herd, so to speak?  We found the powdered stuff under the back of the shelter.  I was livid.  Mice eat the poison, bugs eat the mice, birds eat the bugs…you get it.  Yes, the mice are sometimes the most annoying opportunists, but humans made this problem.  Sloppy humans who left food around.  😦

I took my irritation down the trail with me that day and had to hike it out.

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Tallahassee Tom … did you kill those mice?

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Bully Bullfrog…did you order those mice killed? (oh, and please don’t eat the bugs)

The hike was pleasant as we rolled along the AT to Cable Gap Shelter.   Wildflowers lined the trail in places and after getting to the top of one hill we were blessed with a view of the peaks of distant mountains rising above a sea of valley fog.  With each breeze, spanish moss lifted and swayed, floating with the wind for just a few seconds before falling back to cling to the bark of its tree. And it was quiet, so quiet.  You can hear yourself think up here.

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There were some rocky spots 🙂

 

I was apparently fully recovered from the mice massacre when we arrived at Cable Gap since I decided to again sleep in the shelter.  The threat of rain was imminent…and I wanted to keep my tent dry for at least one more day.  I could feel the stillness, the humidity.  I could see the leaves tipping over.  Yes, it was only matter time.  I got my pad set up just in time to watch the skies open up and dump.  Time for a relaxing afternoon in the shelter!

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Uncle Charlie, brother of Uncle Charlie, and son of brother of Uncle Charlie came trooping into the shelter area from Fontana Dam about then.  These three were a comedy of errors and had us both shaking our heads and laughing.  Uncle Charlie had injured his leg early in the day leaving his nephew, son of brother of Uncle Charlie to carry two packs…his own and Uncle Charlie’s.  The son wore one on his back and one on his front…

Leave no trace was not part of their dinner plans, apparently.  Uncle Charlie dumped his left over stuff on his plate right in front of the shelter… I totally called them out on that!  OMG, dead mice and now this!  As they headed up the hill to their hammocks, the son asked if he could leave his pack at the shelter (he left it outside on the ground).  No problem as long as there is NO FOOD IN IT.  He came back in about 15 minutes, sheepishly, and took out a couple of trail bars to hike down to their “bear bag”.  Good Lord, still shaking my head!

During the night, something…maybe a possum, maybe a raccoon, or maybe an army of mice turned his pack over scaring the living bejeezus out of me.  I turned on my headlamp and shot it out to his pack.  The light met with a wall of fog…I saw nothing, but did not sleep particularly well the rest of the night!

I was one sleepy hiker the next morning! No matter, we were headed to Fontana Dam, then to the Hike Inn for a shower and real bed for tonight…I vowed to pop a benedryl.

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All the things that go bump in the night show in our eyes! *yawn*

It was a gorgeous hike into Fontana, but a little demoralizing after we got to the Marina and found we still had about a mile and a half to go.  It was hot as Hades down around Fontana Dam and that last mile *whew* the cool waters of Fontana Lake mocked me. I just wanted to jump in, but it was so far downhill!

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Lucky for me I had gotten a second wind at the Marina and was charging … well okay, I am not really capable of charging, but anyway, keeping a swift pace to Fontana Dam.  Then came the stairs, and the road walk, and it was hot…I got to the Dam and literally sunk to the ground to feel the cool grass.  I tore my boots off and let my feet go “ahhhhhh”!!!

I wanted to get a good look at the Smoky Mountains just on the other side of the dam.  They were intoxicating and pulled me in.  I got up from my shady spot and with my bare feet started across the parking lot.  In the middle of the sun blasted lot I broke out into a slight jog, then, dang it! a run for the grass on the other side as I felt the asphalt burning into the underside of my feet, hahaha, flashbacks to my wonder years growing up in Texas!

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Fontana Dam

Yeah, and after I gazed at those lovely Smoky Mountains I had to run back to the other side… 😀 ouch, ouch, ouch…Hike on!

 

A Place for the Gals – Trail Dame Summit 2018

Western Carolina University – July 13 – 15, 2018

My first Trail Dame Summit!

It was a great weekend of meeting new women, making plans for more hiking adventures, and participating in several interesting sessions.  I arrived on Friday afternoon.  After checking into the dorm and leafing through the schedule, I saw there was a session starting in 10 minutes on “organic camping”.

The session was being given by Lucky Sheep‘s Patrick Clark who had multiple chemical sensitivities and had no choice but to find another way.  While I could not get into some of what he and his co-presenter were stating as truth, it was definitely a conversation starter.  I was especially amused watching my fellow dame, Lola, a bonified Ph.D. scientist, over in the corner watching this guy dish it out.  😀 😀  I mean he was advocating not filtering water from creeks/springs for god’s sake. When challenged on that one, he backed off saying, “well, North Carolina, has good water sources” …um, okay…I thought, wait until the fracked water comes your way…  HYOH, but I will still be filtering!

The next day’s sessions were better suited to me. My favorite was a session given by Lightheart Gear‘s Judy Gross (who was also my roomie).  This was a session on how to make your own stuff sack or rain skirt.  I chose to make a stuff sack, as did my hiking pal, Google.  Quite successful! And Judy gave away scrap fabric from her stash, so I now have some techie fabric to with which to practice!

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BoobOnARock and Google with the “memade” stuff sacks!  Judy Gross in the background…a wonderful teacher!

On Sunday, I was a little discombobulated as I was giving a session and in the afternoon heading to the mountains to start my section hike in North Carolina…summary & pics to come to the blog soon! Anyway, I decided to attend a super fun session on painting a mandala-like design on canvas.  I am seriously impressed with myself!

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Gave this to sweetie when I got home 🙂

The weekend highlight and big, big surprise was winning an award for my leadership with the Maryland Chapter of Trail Dames.  I was slightly embarrassed by the attention. 🙂  Heading up the Maryland Chapter is a labor of love, I assure you.  I love to hike and I love to create opportunities for other women to get out in the woods!

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Such a cheezy gal!

Post-Summit, my dames and I headed to North Carolina’s Applachian Trail! Hike On!

 

 

Lovely Morning at Antietam

Well, this has been a winner of a morning in western Maryland! Crisp, I kid you not, CRISP air greeted me as I followed Sidekick Pauli out into the yard this morning. Like Autumn…what an absolute blessing after the pea souper of a week we have had!

Sweetie and I headed over South Mountain for a walk at Antietam National Cemetery. I have been to the battlefield many times, but never the cemetery. It did not disappoint.

I sought out the graves for Indiana soldiers killed in battle and perused for last names that I knew from home. The only one I found was ‘Evans’. I moved on through the pines and circled around to the other side of the cemetery. Here I found a grave that seemed oddly out of place.

This grave belongs to Goodloe Byron, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1971-1978. His term ended when he died of a heart attack while running on the nearby C&O canal. He was an avid runner having completed several marathons…and seemed to believe he could eat whatever he wanted. Unfortunately, not so.

He ignored warnings from his physician who told him that treadmill tests from 1974 to 1978 indicated his coronary arteries were gradually closing. The last treadmill test in January 1978 indicated severe abnormality and was positive for heart disease. The physician advised Byron to stop running until further tests could be done.

Hmm, okay…let that be a lesson to us all!

Anyway, interesting story, but still not sure why he is buried with civil war soldiers.

Exiting the cemetery, we drove down to Burnside Bridge and stolled down the Final Attack trail and Union Advance trail.

Refreshing cool breezes kept us perfectly content with life as we rounded through sunny fields and then into cool dark woods. We found plump ripe rasberries, a variety of wildflowers, and blue birds.

Ahh, this is the kind of morning that makes me want to live forever! Heed that lesson from G. Byron’s premature death and Hike on!

Alone time, About time!

Don’t get me the wrong way, I love being a volunteer organizer and a hike leader for the Maryland Trail Dames.  As part of that commitment, I spend hours scouring maps, reading about trails, researching everything from water sources to nearest hospitals.  In addition, I recruit and train new hike leaders for our group.  I throw myself into it and occasionally forget that I also need to hike for me!

Today was my day.  I had a few hours so I headed to Catoctin Mountain Park near Thurmont, Maryland.  This being an impromptu sojourn, I threw a box of saltines, tub of hummus, and a bag of skittles in my bag and called it lunch.  I also doused myself with bug spray.  Ticks, bugs, just steer clear, okay?

Due to limited time, I decided to start at the visitor center, then hike to the falls and back, about 3.2 rolling miles.  The woods welcomed me with shady coolness, spongy moist trail, and a lively bubbling brook. Ahhh yeah, this was gonna be awesome!

Deep breath, yes, that mulchy goodness smell! This is where it’s at.  I love all you Dames, but this is the bomb! No prepping, no checking, no being a leader.  Just me and the trail…and JEEEEEEEEZUSSSS, WTF IS THAT?

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This is NOT what you want to see when you are alone in the forest…ha…haha…*gulp*

*furtive look around to make sure the guilty party is not lurking around*

I continued on, trying to un-see what I saw, just as you are trying to do right now.  But you keep looking back at it don’t you?…DON’T YOU???  I mean, you just don’t see that everyday.  Thankfully.

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The rest of the hike was beautiful.  Birdsong filled the air… possibly extra happy to be alive today. 😀 Oh, and I got to the falls before anyone else was there! I had them to myself for a whole 10 minutes before the throng of dogs, kids, moms, dads, young loves, and tourists got there.

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I sat down and broke open my crackers and hummus, by myself, in the woods.  So good.  Hike on!

 

 

Hoosier Hikes: Indiana’s First State Park

Semester over, I jumped on my escape vector … I70 West to Indiana!

Most of my week was spent visiting with my sister, Rowena, in Bedford, and my Mom’s house on the farm in Springville. Tuesday, however, was reserved for hanging out with my son, Logan, who had the day off of work!

Logan met me at the Bloomington transit center after taking the bus down from Indianapolis. On the way up to the transit center, I had stopped off at Kroger for a few snacks…a tub of hummus and loaf of pita. We were set!

Off to McCormick’s Creek State Park! This is Indiana’s first state park established in 1916 and lies just off of Highway 46 between Bloomington and Spencer. I must also add that this is the first state park I ever remember visiting. I remember a family reunion at which I was allowed to drink whole bottles of pop WITHOUT sharing with anyone and a playground that included a “tornado” slide. 🙂

My son had never visited this park and I had never done any hiking here, so this was a great opportunity for both of us!

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We pulled into the gate, paid our $7 entrance fee, and found the trail head for Trail 5 to Wolf Cave. I believe I have mentioned the pragmatic trail naming in another post about a visit to Indiana State Parks… 😀

This trail is wide, flat, and impeccably maintained. I heard that one can rent an all terrain wheel chair at this park and go out on the trails in it. Impressive! Now, that I see the condition of the trails, it makes a lot of sense! Although, there are a few places along this trail that could be challenging regardless.

We started down the trail, admiring the sinkholes on either side of the path. Significant dips, honestly, it makes you wonder about the ground you are on! Sinkholes are typical for the southern Indiana karst landscape. This is limestone country and this park contains a limestone canyon, complete with waterfalls and interesting rock formations.

Reaching Wolf Cave, it looked unimpressive to me. A slit of an opening down low on the hillside. We crouched down and entered the cave. Ahhhh, a small puff of cool air hit my face, nice! We pushed a little further into the cave but did not go through to the other side because the opening requires a bit of wiggling…yeah, not really into the claustrophobic squeezing through small openings things. So we backed out crouching, into the sunlight, saying goodbye to middle earth for the moment.

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The trail took us around the hill and descended down to a creek on one side. Then, oh wow, the back of the cave loomed on the hillside! A natural bridge opening with chambers that jutted off to either side. This is beautiful! I would love to see it after a hard rain as it looks as if the water runs right out of the cave into the creek. Absolutely gorgeous area!

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We spent some time exploring before trudging back up the hill to the car. It was now getting muggy, so we took a short break before heading across the road to Trail 7 that would take us down the hill to the White River.

Trail 7, another beautifully kept trail, follows the edge of the canyon on its way down. There is one steep, rooty part of the trail, just before the river, but it is short and at the bottom, one can take a left to take Trail 10 across the creek and beyond. Of course on the way down, I managed to start choking on a bug that had made the unfortunate decision to plunge itself into my throat. That was seriously unpleasant and no amount of drinking water was washing that bastard down! I was tearing up, choking up, practically throwing up, and still…ugh. I finally shook the coughing after I found a place to sit and eat a snack of hummus & pita.

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My son was still standing and I asked if he wanted to sit on the bench to which he replied, “I don’t sit in the woods in Indiana.” I should have heeded that advice…chiggers got me on my foot and around my waist. Yes, I had on bug spray that specifically indicated that it repelled chiggers, in addition to ticks, mosquitoes, … WHY DO I GET CHIGGERS EVERY TIME I HIKE IN INDIANA??? WHYYYYYYYYYYYYY?

Putting aside my issues with bugs on this hike, it was lovely. It is obvious that a lot of pride goes into the maintaining of the trails at this park. Very much looking forward to a return visit! Hike On!

AT-VA Loft Mountain to Turk Gap…completing Shenandoah!

I ended the AT through Shenandoah where I began it long ago. Several years back my sweetie and I backpacked the Moorman River Loop which traversed the AT from Turk Gap to Blackrock Gap…loved that trip!

Anyway, here I was with the Dames at Loft Mountain pulling out my gear for a quick overnight on the AT. It was going to be a hot one!

Shorts? Check!

Prehydrate with Gatorade? Check!

Backpack packed light? OMG OMG OMG OMG 21 POUNDS!!!!! WHAAAAAT?

That has never happened…are you kidding me? 21 pounds?!! I’m so proud of myself 😂

Okay, let me collect myself, whew…

The first day was sweet! Gorgeous trail, interesting rocks, and tremendous views from Blackrock Summit.

Pulling down into Blackrock Hut, we got set up quickly. I decided that I was going to have a lazy weekend and took advantage of a mostly empty shelter! The ridgerunner, Papa Bear, showed up, in addition to a slew of thruhikers and weekend warriors.

Papa Bear was a great conversationalist and I soon found out we knew some of the same trail folk. This type of encounter is what I truly love about the AT. The trail connects us in ways we cannot possibly understand or anticipate; it is almost magical. 😊

A few of the guys tenting down the hill spotted a mama bear and cub on the opposite side of the ravine! We all ran down to watch them until they ambled off. Then it was to bed for me! Next morning I heard that the bears came back…the guys down the hill had to come out of their tent, yell a bit, made a bunch of noise until the bears again left. 😲

I heard nothing from the bears, but oh! The whipporwills! A lovely serenade long into the night.

The following day I treated the dames to slackpacking the last 8.5 miles. I would say it was a treat for me too, but recall my pack was ONLY 21 POUNDS!! 😄😄😄

It was a great decision. Four good climbs, temps climbing into mid-80s, and a delightful mugginess moved in. Yummy.

It was one of those days. Climb up 100 yards, stop to rest, up, rest, up, rest…

The wildflowers along the way made it bearable!

Turk Gap was a welcome sight! A few of us capped off the weekend at Loft Wayside before dragging ourselves back to the real world. Here’s to good friends, the trail community, and whipperwills…hike on!

AT-VA Turk Gap to Beagle Gap

I left off telling the story of our hiking weekend back in March to attend my dad’s funeral.  It has been hard getting back to writing on the blog since then.  I wasn’t particularly close to my dad, but he was an enigmatic force and all things “Albert” could have a lasting affect on all who knew him. Alzheimer’s paired with old age got him in the end…but what a life he led!

One thing I had in common with him was his love for the woods.  So it is back to the woods we go!

Earlier in the weekend, Shenandoah National Park had been closed due to snow and ice.  It had opened AFTER we had started hiking on the previous day hiking AT – VA Rockfish Gap to Beagle Gap .  What a difference a day made!

Driving to Turk Gap we dodged an army of squirrels intent on licking up something that was on the road, possibly salt.  The road was clear, the sky was blue, and the snow was still pristine in many spots.  Evidence of other hikers was there, but still lovely!

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Capital Cheezy Shot at the Trail Head 😀

This section took us down, down, down to a lovely stream valley, then up, up, up Calf Mountain.  In the snow.  Trudge, trudge, trudge…it was kicking my butt!  I was making my best effort to love winter, but honestly, after this weekend I didn’t care to see another flake of snow for a looooonnnnnnggg time!!

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This gorgeous view was the first road crossing at an overlook.  Regardless of how I feel hiking in snow today, I absolutely go all gaga for this kind of view!

I waited so long to write up this section on the blog that is is now long past winter and warm weather has arrived.  And I use the definition of warm from the Mid-Atlantic weather dictionary…hot, muggy, and what the hell happened to Spring???

So, it is with a bit wistful yearning that I revisit this section. 😀

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Climbing Calf Mountain … hiking friends helpful on this snowy climb! However, the snow had been melting all day. Out in the distance there are snow free mountains!

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After that climb I AM NOT hiking down 0.3 miles to take a gander at the Calf Mountain Shelter. Just no.

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Hallefrickenlujah!!!!! The summit of Calf Mountain! YES, YES, YES!!! Now where is my damn sticker?

After the Summit of Calf Mountain, it was pretty smooth sailing, thankfully!  One more lesser summit on Little Calf Mountain, then down the field to the cars closing out out our hiking weekend.

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Summit of LIttle Calf Mountain-JUST LOOK AT THE SKY!!!

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View from Little Calf Summit – A very nice closer! Well done Appalachian Trail, well done indeed!

Three great hikes with four great gals! Hike On!