Monday, December 15, 2014

AT Neels Gap to Dicks Creek Gap

Day One:                                                                    Outcasts Total Miles: 1773.88
Neels Gap to Baggs Creek Gap 4.2
Day Two:
Baggs Creek Gap to Poplar Stamp Gap 8
Day Three:
Poplar Stamp Gap to Stream Past Unicoi 8.6
Day Four:
Stream to Swag of the Blue Ridge 8.6
Tray Mtn. Shelter 0.4
Day Five:
Swag to Dicks Creek Gap 7.4
Deep Gap Shelter 0.6
Total Miles: 37.8

The three of us headed back to the Appalachian trail to continue our adventure.  On the way there we saw a first.  We have all seen the single and double wide house trailers.  This time we saw a double long!  They had welded two different size and shaped house trailers together end to end.  Now that is something worth checking out.

We called Sam Duke 706-994-6633, for our shuttle to Neels Gap from Dick's Creek gap where we left the car. As usual he provided us with good entertainment on our drive.

For some strange reason we left the day AFTER the snow and freezing ice?  As a matter of fact this was the best weather that we have had for an extended hike that I can remember.  Clear nights with shooting stars on top of that. It felt like we were getting away with something. The Southbound thru hikers were coming through and we met a bunch of them all through our hike.

We started the first evening with a strong wind and made it to Baggs Creek Gap for the first night. The wind blew all night long and it blew strong. We had quite the fight with the tarps to set them up, but even after we got a fire going, it just was not worth it.  Too cold and relentless.  We called it an early night. 

Day Two:

The wind had died down so we had a fire to warm up to this morning. Some time in the night our bear bag holding tree gave up on us.  When we got up the branch had broke and the bags were hanging about waist high.  Glad we didn't have any visitors last night!

We headed out for some more mountain views. From Tesnatee Gap the climb is absolutely brutal. The good part is after the climb, you just cross the road again.  We stopped and got water here.

We met an elderly lady thru hiker.  She had a guy hiking with her for a few days.  We asked the question "what are you going to do after finishing the trail?" She said she was from Vermont and was going to get some exercise going down hill skiing when she gets home. There is always someone on the trail to put you in your place!

We planned on stopping at Poplar Stamp Gap for the night.  We found the campground, but never saw the water marking so we hiked on to the where the trail turns and found some water.  We camped off trail that night to stay out of the wind.

Day Three:

We had a good fire for breakfast and then got back on the trail. More good views for today!

We passed another older man thru hiker today.  We told him we had seen alot of thru hikers and he jumped back with "none of them my age."  So I had to tell him the story of the elderly lady.  He just dropped his head and said his plans were to sit on his butt!

We had a steep and long downhill into Unicoi Gap.  After which we had a steep and long climb up the other side.  We found our stream for the night and a good campsite next to it.  Running water meant bath night! We had plenty of wood for our fire.

Day Four:

We got up and headed out after a good nights sleep. There is nothing at the Cheese Factory Site at all. No foundation or any sign that there ever was anything ever there.  Our big climb today was Tray Mountain.  The view was wonderful from the top and we stopped by the shelter to collect water and have lunch.  We went on to Sway of the Blue Ridge for the night.  We had to carry water from the shelter, but we had a good campsite and plenty of firewood. There is water at Steeltrap Gap with a sign, but is not shown on any map that we have.

We were standing around the campfire, when we heard something coming through the dry leaves.  It was big and getting closer.  We flashed the lights in the direction and saw a hunting dog coming at us.  She was a friendly dog and we found a number one of her collars.  We called the man and asked him if he was out hunting. He told us that he was out a couple of days ago and we told him we had his dog. He did not know where we were camping and asked if we could walk her out tomorrow. We tied the dog up and she laid down and was done for the night.

Day Five:

We got up and ate around the campfire.  We packed up and took our new friend with us.  She walked great on the leash so we let her off and she just walked along with us.  We climbed the steep side of Kelly Knob.  Some where along the way the dog picked up a scent and was gone.  We heard her bark as she went over the ridges.  We figured she was gone, but kept on whistling for her as we went on. Somewhere about a mile down the trail she came running up from behind and stayed with us the rest of the way.  We stopped at Deep Gap for water and then about two miles out we called the guy again and told him where we were and he met us at Dicks Creek Gap.  We found out our friends name was Missy.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Big Island Loop - Big South Fork

Pilot Wine Loop 1.6 miles                                           Outcasts Total Miles: 1736.08
Big Island Loop 16
Pilot Wine Loop 1.6
Total Miles: 19.2

For some reason the weather changed and there was a great Northern freeze moving in.  As usual the closer we got to Big South Fork the more snow was falling.  It started building up on the ground.  We stopped by the Hitching Post to pick up a camping permit.  The man there said that the park had come in when the government shut down like the Nazis and confiscated all their permits and records.  We said OK and headed to the park headquarters.  The Ranger had put all the permits away for the year because of the weather, so he had to go to another building to get them.  I told him that we had tried to get one at the store and he said that they pulled them from some stores.

The ranger then started teaching us about picking out trails after we convinced him that we were not here to hunt.  "Well you guys are the second third and fourth person to stop by.  The first one bought ice."  He showed us a lot of trails that he likes to recommend.  Most of them we had done, but he did teach us about downfalls.  There is a "Bear" downfall and a "Giant Oak" downfall.  If you come across a downfall and I don't mean a tree that a bear dragged across the trail, but a giant Oak that you cannot get around or over, call him and he will get it on the list to be removed.  After all these years, we are still learning.

To the trailhead we went.  Different than the last two times in Big South Fork, we didn't start in a major snow storm this time.  The temperature was dropping and it didn't take us long to get an old fashion foot washing in.  The water was up all over so we dropped the shoes and did a little barefoot wading.

This is a horse trail, but we knew we didn't have to worry about seeing any hawses on the trail today. We were told that after it drops down to freezing they have to put those animals in the barn.  It does make it challenging to hike on frozen hoof prints in the mud.

This trail drops off into the river gorge and you walk along the Big South Fork river.  There is an Indian "Dome" rock house, a old Ford car upside down, and an old cabin on the trail to check out.

We found a place to make camp along the river out of the wind.  The temps dropped down to 17 degrees, but Troy kept the fire up to around 70 degrees.  We had a good evening telling lies and taking cough meds.  Sometime in the night another inch of snow dropped on us.

Troy woke up to a loud "thud".  He thought he heard some grumbling and then another "thud".  He asked Marco if everything was alright and heard more grumbling.  He asked again with the same result and then  screamed "Marco are you all right?"  More grumbling so he got up and yelled "Marco are you all right?"  This is when I woke up too.  Marco yelled back "I fell out of my hammock!.....  Twice! And couldn't get out of the bug netting."  Lot's of laughs.

The next day we got to see the car and cabin.  They had built an outhouse at the cabin since the last time we were here.  It's a two holer which would make any man proud!  We though about crossing the big river at the two crossings we came to just for practice, but then decided against it.

Another good hike!  When I called to let Lora know we were off the trail, she said that they had closed all the schools in the area for the last two days due to the weather.  We apologize to all the parents out there.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Cumberland Mountain TTA Hike

Day One: 3.8 Cumberland Trail                              Outcasts Total Miles: 1716.88
Day Two: 8.9
Total Miles: 12.7

We had five people do a backpack trip on the Cumberland Mountain Segment of the Cumberland trail.  Eric Luncford, Lora McBride, Craig McBride, Marco King, and Pete Broehl.  This was my first backpack with the infamous Santa Claus.

This is a strenuous hike of a special mountain.  It has two rock formations that stick straight up and run on both sides of the mountain for the entire length. They call it the Devil's Race Track. The trail actually spends a lot of time on top of the rocks.  There are lots of views!  There is also Bruce Creek and Bruce Creek Falls on the lower section of the trail.  There is a shelter with a spring to spend the night at.

We started at Eagle Bluff parking at the overnight parking area 0.2 miles down from the overlook. There was a group of four wheeler riders at the overlook when we got there. They were excited to see Santa as well.  We hiked a total 3.6 miles to the Shelter and camping area.  The rock formations are amazing and the trail traverses across some rock areas that are narrow as well.  There is one rock with a hole going through it they call it the window rock.  There are numerous overlooks all along this trail giving you a chance to enjoy the scenery and take in the color changes.

After we got camp set up we hiked another 0.1 miles to the "Rock climb", which is a large stack of rocks you climb a ladder to get on top of, for an evening view of the valley.

We hiked back to camp and had a great evening telling lies around the campfire.  The next morning Marco got a good fire going to warm us up and eat breakfast around.  We headed out for the Bruce Gap trailhead which is 8.9 miles away.  Lots of up and downs along the ridge.  We ate lunch shortly after the short road walk we had.  We enjoyed the overlook for the Devil's race track where someone has put up an American flag and then we started our downhill trek.  At the bottom we enjoyed the walk along Bruce Creek and seeing Bruce Creek Falls.  Then more ups and downs going towards Cove Lake State Park.  We even saw a large black snake for Pete.

Between the weather, scenery, water fall, and snake, I think we covered everything on every one's list on the 12.7 miles we hiked.  We had a great hike with some great people.


Monday, November 3, 2014

AT - Springer Mt. to Neels Gap

Day One: 6.1                               Outcasts Total Miles: 1704.18
Parking to Springer and back 1.8 miles
Parking to Three Forks 4.3
Day Two: 9.5
Three Forks to Justis Creek 9.5
Day Three: 9.5
Justis Creek to Lance Creek 9.5
Day Four: 4.2
Lance Creek to Woods Hole Shelter 3.7
Woods Hole Shelter 0.5
Day Five: 4.2
Woods Hole Shelter 0.5
Woods Hole to Neels Gap 3.7
Total Miles: 33.5 

We left Murfreesboro as usual after running all night.  We met our shuttle driver Sam Duke 706-994-6633 at the Byron Reece Memorial Trail parking lot next to Neels Gap.  Sam drove us up to Springer Mountain.  As we were riding I told Sam it makes you feel like your in the middle of nowhere.  Sam answered "you are in the middle of nowhere!"  He was worried about the weather we would be hiking in.  As usual the two days before our hike the weather report dropped twenty degrees and added a 50 percent chance of snow.

We got out at the parking area and I stayed with the packs as Marco and Troy headed up to the top of Springer Mountain.  I visited with the other hikers coming through as I have already been to the top of Springer a couple of times so far.

Marco and Troy got back and headed out.  The weather was warm and everything was good and dry. We hiked to Three Rivers for the night.  We got wood gathered and camp set up before dark.  We enjoyed a short night around the fire before we just called it a night. 

Day Two:

We got an early start knowing it was going to be a tough day of hiking.  Before we got out of camp we met "Screamer".  We didn't ask how he got that name,  but he was hiking to Neels Gap as well so we passed each other a few times over the next few days.  Screamer had forgot his lighter so Troy gave him one.  We also gave him an update on the weather as he did not know that it was going to snow.

You are never alone on the AT. We passed numerous South bounders over the next few days as well as day hikers. Justis Creek was the first water to camp next to so that was our goal.  To make it before the weather kicked in.  We got a light rain on and off before we got to camp.  It cleared up long enough for us to get dinner in next to a campfire and that was all.  The snow kicked in and we called it a night.  The wind blew and the snow fell most of the night.  

Day Three:

We woke to an inch of snow on the ground.  We did a cold pack up and headed out.  We didn't see anything of Screamer from his tent.  We planned on getting to Woody Gap for the night.  We saw Screamer at Gooch Mountain Shelter.  He had made it through the night.  

Before we got to Woody Gap, a group of hikers told us that we didn't want to stay there for the wind. Long before we even got there we could hear the wind blowing through the gap.  We made a mad dash through traffic in the high wind and continued on.  We met a South bounder that said this was horrible weather and he was getting off at the gap.  We continued on and didn't find any relief from the wind until we got to Lance Creek.

There was another tent set up in camp when we got there, but didn't hear or see anyone. We had to eat under the tarps again as the light snow was coming down.  No fire tonight.

Day Four:

Another cold morning and no wood for a fire.  We got packed up and headed out.  It wasn't long and Marco remembered that he had left his clothes line.  I stayed with his pack as he ran back to get it. Some time in the night I had seen a light on in the tent.  Before I left a man had gotten out.  Marco said that a woman was with him when he got back and that they were heading back out due to the weather.  Just too darn cold.  Today's plan was to get to Wood's Hole Shelter.  We got there in time for lunch.

When we got to the shelter a couple of ladies stopped by wanting to know where the trail was. They were hiking from a program on their phone.  No water or supplies and lost.  We got the map out and helped them find their way.

We had the shelter to ourselves and a great night around the campfire.  Tomorrow was Blood Mountain.

Day Five:

Through the night the weather got warmer.  We heard owls, cyotes, and a couple of screech owls early in the morning. We got up and headed out for the climb.  It was a great day for being on the mountain.  Warm, clear, and light wind! Life was good! 

On the way down, I took the side trail to get the car while Marco and Troy headed on to Neel's Gap. When I got to the parking lot there was another backpacker there.  He had spent the night in the back of his truck because it was too cold to camp.  He was heading North, but of course didn't have a map or any idea where he was going.  Another lost hiker!

We visited the store at Neel's Gap and then headed to Blairsville and had a celebration lunch at the Hole in the Wall on the square.  Another good hike.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Long Hunter IX

Day one: 5.5 miles...........................................Outcasts Total Miles: 1670.68 
Day two: 5.5 miles

The Outcast Hikers have officially started there eighth season. They picked the annual hike of Long Hunter to start with once again. Craig started the season off with an injury and could not make the hike.

Troy, Marco, and Travis got to the trailhead to find that they had changed the beginning of the trail this year.  It is a good change as the old gravel road it used to follow was usually a little overgrown. There was no hikers on the trail today so they had it all to themselves. They saw deer and turkey on the the way to there camp.  This is the first time that they used campsite #2.  At the office they said that someone else was at campsite #1, but they never saw them.

This was a time to try out new gear.  We all have new tarps and new set ups for our hammocks. Troy tried out his new backpack. Everything checked out good. They collected firewood and headed out to the point to see the sunset. Another great night around the fire taking cough medicine and telling lies.

The next morning they got up and enjoyed the morning.  They made it back to the day loop before they saw the first person.  Then they saw lots of people.  One man was walking his Pitbull puppy.  A few minutes later they heard a lot of yelping and barking and the dog come running back with leash in tow.  The leash wrapped around a tree so Travis got to catch the dog for the owner.  He came running back down the trail all out of breath.  They found out that the man had tripped and dropped the leash.  It had a automatic rewind, so it rewinded and hit the dog in the back of the head.  The dog got scared and ran off.  Entertainment for all.

Another great start on another great season!


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pilot Wine Loop

Pilot Wine Loop: 14.8 miles                                              Outcasts Total Miles: 1659.68

We had us a weather full hike this time.  We headed to Big South Fork in the snow.  We started at the Station Camp East trailhead and did the loop counter clockwise.  This is a horse trail following an old roadbed all the way around.

Pilot Rock is actually just off the trail and you have to some bush whacking to get to it.  After you drop down through some very pretty rock walls and go around them there is a small campsite.  From that campsite if you continue straight out when the trails turns right and down you will find Pilot Rock.

We continued down to the river and camped along side the Puncheoncamp Fork of Williams Creek right at the confluence of Grassy Fork.

While we were hiking we had about five different white outs with sunshine in between.  When we got to camp, the snow was so big of flakes that you could feel them hit you.  We got about an inch on the ground before it stopped and we gathered fire wood during this time.  When it stopped, we set up camp and within a half hour the sun had melted it all away.  This is Tennessee.

Just before we got to camp we saw a flock of turkeys.  We had ducks on the creek and listened to an owl while we were setting up camp.

We enjoyed an evening around the fire telling lies and taking cough medicine.  It got down around 15 degrees that night.

The next morning we headed out and finished the loop with plenty of sunshine.  We saw a ground hog on the way out of the park cross the road in front of us.

                                                 Eye will see you next season!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Laurel / Snow Falls - Cumberland Trail

Day One: 9 miles                                               Outcasts Total Miles: 1644.88
Day Two: 4.9 miles

Total Miles: 13.9

Marco and I headed over to the the Laurel / Snow falls segment of the Cumberland Trail.  We hiked up Richland Creek and over the 50 foot bridge.  Then we headed towards Snow Falls which is a good climb after the 150 foot bridge.  We got some pics from the powerline overlook then did the ford of Morgan Creek.  Checked out Snow falls and then went back to the dirt road and hiked out to the Buzzard Point Overlook.  The dirt road does not have trail markers.  From the overlook we headed back down to the Henderson Creek Campsite for the night.

We saw our first two day hikers while we were setting up camp and they were coming back by while we were collecting firewood.  It was calling for 35 for a low, but we ended up with 24.  We stayed warm around the campfire enjoying the full moon and stars.

The next morning we hiked up to Laurel Creek Falls and then continued the climb which does get steep going up the bluff, to Laurel Creek Campsite.  We forded Laurel Creek and hiked out to the Overlooks. From Bryan Overlook there is a unnamed trail heading to two more overlooks past the four wheeler turnaround.  After that we headed back to the car.

Another great hike on the Cumberland trail.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Mammoth Cave II

DAY ONE: 6.41                                      Outcast Total Miles: 1630.98
Pretrail: 1.25
Good Spring trail: 2.52
Collie Ridge trail: 0.53
Blair Spring Hollow trail: 1.6
Wet Prong trail: 0.51

DAY TWO: 8.4
Wet Prong trail: 3.01
Collie Ridge connector: 0.94
Good Spring trail: 2.02
Buffalo trail: 2.43

This is our second backpack at Mammoth Cave.  We started with our permit.  There was no one at the permit window, so we went down to the very last window to the only lady there.  We asked for the permit and she referred us to window number one.  I politely told her that no one was down there and she immediately told me that she would be down there in a minute.  So we walked down and waited patiently.

The lady came down and asked where we were going to stay. Back country site Raymer Hollow.  She said OK and she wanted the car description, tag, and a driver's license.  I told her the car description and looked up my picture of the tag on my phone which I proudly showed her.  She was not impressed as I had hoped and let me know that she needed my driver's license.  I told her the tag number and she told me she wanted my driver license first.  So I gave her my license and then had to look up my picture one more time.  Next she asked how we were going to get there.  I told her we were going to park at the Good Springs church and take the Raymer Hollow trail.  She told me the Raymer Hollow trail was closed.  I looked at the map and the only trail going to our campsite was that trail.  I said OK, then how can we get to that campsite? YOU CAN'T, IT'S CLOSED!  OK.  Pick another campsite (NOW)!  All the other campsites are available. That really surprised me.  Highs were going to be in the 20's lows in the teens and no body else was out camping? The pressure was on now, I was taking up her time and had to re plan our entire trip.  I looked at the map and slung out the next campsite I saw "Ferguson".  OK, how are you going to get there?  Ahhh, Marco start adding up miles!  I am waiting......I started sweating on the brow.....Well we will start at the church. YOU CANNOT PARK AT THE CHURCH!  Well yes I can, I parked there last time and took these trails.  YOU CANNOT PARK AT THE CHURCH AND THERE ARE NO TRAILS THERE!  Ahhhh, they were there last time.  THEY REMOVED THOSE TRAILS AND ADDED BIKE TRAILS SOMEWHERE ELSE!  Ahhhh OK, we will park at the Maple Springs trailhead and take this trail on your map.  YOU CANNOT TAKE THAT TRAIL!  YOU WILL ROAD WALK. Ahhhhhhh, OK! She printed off our permit.  You put this on the drivers side dash face down with this emblem pointed in this direction! Yes Mam.

Needing a drink very badly, we headed to her parking spot.  Deer were everywhere.  Not that they were used to people, but Troy had to get out and take the deer by the ear and walked them out of the road so we could drive on.  We got to the ferry and took it across the Green river.  We proceeded to the Maple Springs Trailhead parking.

OK, Marco had the brochure on back county camping.  I downloaded the map from the brochure on back county camping off the computer.  They are both different.  Even the miles for the length of the trails were different.  The map our dear lady had was different than both of ours.  Every time I had picked up her map she snatched it back out of my hands like it was the only one on the face of the earth.  Her map showed a trail from the parking spot that went up to the Good Springs trail. There on the kiosk was the only other copy of the map that she had.  It also had a notice on it that there are maps available at the trailheads and the information center.  Ya, right!  Anyways, we didn't road walk just to spite her.  We hiked the graveled trail to our trailhead.

As soon as we got on the trails, we were glad for cold weather.  These are all horse trails and dug up mud.  I would highly suggest you don't hike these trails in wet weather!  It did make it a little more challenging.  We did see more deer as we hiked and these deer, after watching you for a while, did run off.  The only water crossing we couldn't rock hop was Wet Prong which Troy built a bridge with an old log.

Marco was talking about his camping trailer and Troy was asking about the shower in it.  I explained that no one really uses the showers in campers.  Dad and Mom had one all of our growing up years and we never used it.  I was telling them about when we first moved to Florida and we were living in a guys cow field until we got a house to live in.  Each Saturday when we got a shower, Dad would hold a water hose out in the field and we would have to run under it, go get soaped up, and then run through it again.........Hey, now I know why it just feels normal when hiking to get a bar of soap in the creek.  Temperature never did make any difference to us.  Troy thinks I need counseling.

Anyways, we got to camp and got all set up.  We enjoyed an evening around the fire telling lies, listening to owls and taking cough medicine.  After Troy headed off to bed, Marco and I hung out a while.  I saw something run to the base of the tree that we hung our bear bag. It climbed up a ways and then peeked around the tree at me.  I pointed it out to Marco and he watched for it.  I just knew he was going to climb out on the limb with our bag.  Then he jumped out of the tree and flew to another.  It was a flying squirrel.  I didn't think they would be out at night.

I went to my hammock and climbed in.  After I got all settled in and got quiet, I heard snoring.  Marco was already tearing it up.  Now that was fast!  I was wondering if I was going to have to get up and put Marco the rest of the way in his hammock.  I could picture him standing next to it with his face on his pillow.

The next morning Marco had the fire going for us.  We had breakfast and packed up.  The mud was frozen as it had dropped down in the low numbers last night.

All the trails were well marked.  Some of them are roadbed and the terrain is rolling hills.  Another good hike.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

TTA Backpack North Chick Segment - Cumberland trail

Day one: 5.9                                                       Outcast Total:  1616.17 Miles
Montlake Rd to Stevenson's Branch campsite

Day two: 10.79
Stevenson's Branch campsite to parking 3.33
Parking to Montlake Rd. 7.46

Total Miles: 16.69

Murfreesboro TTA members Sara, Marco, Wayne, and I with Lora and Chuck from Soddy Daisy TTA, did an overnighter on the North Chickamauga Segment of the Cumberland Trail.  The young lady that picked this section from Memphis could not make it because she got "bit by a owl"?  Had "knee problems" or whatever reason, anyway we missed her company.

We met at the Montlake road trailhead and headed in taking the Hog skin lower loop after we got Chucks keys out of his car.  By the time we made it to the overlook past the stairs, we were ready for lunch.  The next section was old road bed that was covered with blow downs.  The real challenge starts at the cable crossing.

At the cable crossing, a tree was down in the middle of the creek on the cable.  Chuck went across first and whipped out a saw that would make a young girl blush.  He quickly cut limbs to make a safer crossing.  The cable is actually broke on the far side, being held in place by where the tree had grown around the cable.  It was a wet crossing for some and and an old fashion foot washing for the rest.

After the crossing there is another cable to help you get down to the ladder.  The cable came up and hit Marco's pack just right to completely empty one of his packs' pockets.  The stove and other contents went rolling down the hill.  The stand for his stove fell off the edge and was rescued by Chuck.

From the ladder down to Chickamauga creek was steep and slippery.  Everyone was excited to see the campsite and then quickly disappointed when I notified them that this was not the campsite we were staying at.  I think there was a competition between Sara and Wayne to see who could see the most worms as they both spent lots of time on the ground looking?

After we got to Stevenson's Branch campsite, we set up camp and collected firewood.  We spent a little time inspecting each others camping gear and then we sat around the campfire eating dinner.  The night was spent telling lies and taking cough medicine.

The next morning Wayne volunteered to watch camp while the rest of us did a day hike to the far end of the trail.  After a good old fashion foot washing in Stevenson's branch we did the switch backs up the side of the gorge.  We were very impressed with the trail work and design on this part of the trail.  Probably the best switch backs on the Cumberland trail.  We took a break at the overlook and then went to the parking area.

We got to see Panther Branch falls which had good water at it.  On the way back we stopped at the overlook again and ate our lunch.  We got back to camp where Wayne was glad we made it back.  We packed up and headed out.  Chuck went ahead and cleaned up a lot of the wind falls we had to climb over on the way in.  Sara and Wayne continued their competition as we went.  Marco got the award for the best fall as he was doing the cable crossing.  He got extra points for water coverage.  We saw a few hikers and trail runners on the way out.

Our wildlife consisted of a Bald Eagle and a mouse that ate Wayne's walking stick strap.

Great hike with some great people!


Friday, January 24, 2014

Big South Fork Cumberland Loop

Day One: 8.3                                           Outcast Total Miles: 1599.48
West Entrance Trail 3.4
297 Road 1.0
Trailhead 0.2
Gernt Trail 3.3
Overlook .4

Day Two: 14.1                                               
O&W Trail 5.5
Tar Kiln Trail 4.5
Darrow Ridge 3.2
Christian Cemetery 0.5
Panther Branch Trail 0.4

Day Three: 9.6
Panther Branch Trail 0.5
Little Cliff Trail 1.5
O&W Trail 5.2
Coyle Branch Trail 2.1
North White Oak 0.25

Day Four: 3.3
North White Oak Loop

Total Miles: 35.3

Once again the weather saw us coming.  It started snowing on our way to Big South Fork.  We kinda caught the ranger by surprise as he was not expecting any hikers today with the snow and 31 degree forecast.  Our high was supposed to be 31 this hike with a low of 4.  We were close as the high was 16 and the low was -5.

We got our permit and started at the Bandy Creek trailhead with a heavy snow falling.  We hiked to the West Entrance Trailhead on 297 and then did a road walk to the Cumberland Valley trailhead.  We had a couple of white outs on the way.  The West Entrance Trail is very beautiful.

We then hiked the Gernt Trail down to the Laurel Fork Overlook.  It was very nice with all the snow.  We continued our hike to the O&W trail along the North White Oak Creek.  We stopped at the Laurel Fork Ford to size it up for the next morning, then camped along side it on an old road bed.  We collect our wood, set up camp and enjoyed the evening.  The temp dropped to -4.

Day Two

Well, the Laurel Fork Ford had frozen over during the night so we had to break our way across it.  We did get some scratches from the thin ice and it took a little quarter mile walk to get the feet heated back up.  Not bad after the pain was gone.  The O&W trail is an old rail bed along the North White Oak Creek.  There was lots of icicles, frozen ground, and frozen water along the trail. We saw lots of fresh coyote tracks in the snow. Our next fording was of the Panther Branch Creek.  Not as much ice on this one.  Less pain.  We stopped and ate lunch along the side of the trail later in the afternoon.

At Tar Kiln trail we headed up and out of the river gorge and followed an old road bed through the woods.  It really would have been muddy if it was not frozen over.  There were lots of tracks in the snow.  Deer, cat, rabbit, and coyote tracks all through this area.  We got on the Darrow Ridge trail which is a dirt road and followed it to the Christian Cemetery Trail.  When we got on Panther Branch trail we started looking for the creek as the ranger had said it would be "difficult  to find."  Well much to our surprise, we found it under the first bridge we crossed. We got a laugh about it and then set up camp in the woods near by.  It was another good night by the fire as the temps dropped down to 7 degrees.

Day Three:

We did the ritual of thawing out water the next morning, packed up, and headed out.  We finished out Panther Branch and then took Little Cliff Trail back down into the river gorge to the O&W.  We though about going back and crossing the Panther Branch again just because that is what Outcast do, but just continued our trip.  The North White Oak Creek had frozen completely over in some places now and when we got to our Laurel Creek fording, it had frozen over too.

The ice was about an inch and a half thick.  Marco made it about halfway before he broke through and actually got back up on the ice part of the way across before breaking through again to finish the crossing.  I told Troy that we did not stand a chance, being as we both weigh more than Marco.  So it was in and out and in and out for us as we crossed as well.  Marco was the only one to get a good cut on his leg from the ice so we fared quite well.

Shortly there after we had a fording of the Groom Branch.  As I was putting my socks back on I told the guys, we probably need to wash our sock along with our feet at the next one. Then we got some miles in to warm up.  We stopped and ate lunch along the trail.  My tuna salad sandwich was frozen solid.  It still tasted good.  Today's high was 16 degrees and it got cool when the wind blew.

Our next fording was of Coyle Branch before we headed up out of the river gorge on the Coyle Branch trail.  This was all a very pretty part of the park.  The top part of the trail is road and we got off on the White Oak trail to find water for the night.

We found water on the Coyle Branch and made camp in a swampy, but frozen area.  We did have some problem with the wood being frozen and slow to burn, but we managed to stay warm as the temps dropped to -5.  We found that at a damp -5 we have to add clothes to our sleeping gear so that is our bag and hammock limit.  We listened to the owls talking that night.  It is difficult to go potty when you are shaking.

Day Four:

All of our hammock screens, tops of our sleeping bags, and underside of our tarps were frozen this morning.  Well, for that case if you stood around very long your breath started piling up at your feet.  We got a good hot fire going to thaw our water out to make breakfast.  We had 3.3 miles back to where we parked our cars and one fording of Bandy Creek.  Kept the long underwear on today.

After we got back, we stopped by the ranger station to let them know we were done.  The ranger asked if we really did all of our trail and we told him about our adventures.  He had been writing down the temps for us and said that we had "bragging rights."  We let him know we earned those along time ago.  A couple of other rangers came in and wanted to hear our story as well.  I don't know why they just can't believe someone would backpack in this weather.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Hobbs Cabin IV - Savage Gulf

Day One: 8.2                                                                                    Outcast Total:1564.18
North Rim Trail to Hobb's Cabin                      
Day Two: 9.4
North Plateau Trail to Office  
Total Miles: 17.6 

Travis joined us again for another great hike.  This was his first time to Salvage Gulf.  The weather was cool to start with and then got cooler as we went.  Our wildlife viewing started at the beginning of the trail with deer and signs of where the wild turkeys had scratched.  There was plenty of water in the creeks and at Savage Falls.  

When we stopped for our first break and I dug through my pack for a snack, I found another bag of food that I did not pack.  I opened it to find a big bag of Troy's famous fried chicken.  Wow, what a great day it is!  After the appropriate hugs and "I love you's" the boys stepped back as I dug in.  Not a pretty site, but they knew how much I love that fried chicken.  Troy made enough for everyone and included cream corn, biscuits, and potatoes as well.

We had good views at the overlooks and started getting some big flakes of snow as we neared Hobb's cabin.  We passed a hornet nest that was just off the side of the trail.  We knew that good fire wood was hard to find at the cabin.  A very popular spot and unless you have a saw for all the large trees, small wood was gone.  We managed to scrape up a stack to last us through the night.  Travis got the fire going as we set up camp and soon we were sitting around the fire listening to owls as we got our chicken dinner warmed up.

After some lies and cough medicine we headed off to bed one at a time.  There were many owl calls during the night and a pack of coyotes doing some singing.  I woke one time to breaking of wood and Travis was out getting warmed by the fire.  The next time, Troy was packing the wood on.  We had a full moon so the woods was bright as the temps dropped below 15 degrees.  

When the moon finally went down and the sun came up, Marco had the fire going again.  We enjoyed an easy morning and then hit the trail.  On the way out we got to see some more deer.  Great hike as always here at Savage Gulf.