Friday, November 22, 2019

Sheltowee Trace IX

Day One: 4.0                                                 Outcasts Total Miles: 2488.6
Day Two: 8.0
Day Three: 8.0
Day Four: 10.5
Day Five: 3.5
Total Miles: 34

This is our first visit back on the Sheltowee Trace since 2011 when we finished the whole trail. Since that time they have rerouted the trail through the Big South Fork, so we thought that we would go back and do the reroute. The sections that are also part of the John Muir trail, which we hiked in 2009, where the only repeated sections.

We planned on exiting our trip at the Parch Corn Creek trailhead on Terry Cemetery road. This trail is no longer maintained by the park. Lora and I found it in a book in 2012 and hiked it back then on a loop hike. It was well overgrown then, but who doesn't like a challenge? I felt a little confident on the location of the trailhead and we left the car there.

We drove to Burnt Mill bridge to start this hike at the Southern Terminus of the Sheltowee Trace. Once on the trail and seeing the jalapeno man we learned that the John Muir also relocated to this same trail. This is a very pretty hike along the river with a lot of bluff walls before it climbs up and starts through the woods. There is a creek that shows on the map about four miles in on the trail. When we dropped down into the gorge we could see water, but when we crossed the creek it was dry. So down hill we went until we found the water and we made camp here. It was a good night telling lies around the fire drinking cough medicine.

Day Two:
We got up and on the trail. Just before you get to the Honey Creek loop, the trail turns into road. As the Sheltowee was famous for back in the days, there was no marking which way to turn from here.  With a little exploring, we decided to continue straight and it paid off. The Honey Creek loop adds some challenges as you climb, drop down, and crawl through rocks and obstacles. After the loop you climb over the ridge and start back down to the river gorge. We saw a doe and two bucks cross the trail in front of us. There is a picnic table before you start the drop.

I know that horses are not stupid, but somehow they end up on these trails clearly marked for hikers only and warnings about how dangerous these trails are. They have torn up this trail. You go by an Indian rock house and a water fall on your way to the O&W bridge. We crossed over the newly repaired bridge and followed the trail along the main river. We stopped about two thirds of a mile from the Leatherwood Ford on an old road bed to make camp for the night. We saw our first two people who were trail runners. It started sprinkling about the same time we got our hammocks up so there was a small panic as we got our tarps out and deployed. No campfire tonight, but it did stop raining.

Day Three:
We headed up and crossed over the Leatherwood Ford bridge. The old hiking bridge is still out. It was a beautiful day for hiking as we climbed up to the Angle Falls overlook. This is where we saw our second two people who were out day hiking. We enjoyed the overlooks and rock walls as we took the Fall Branch trail around and down to the John Litton loop. We made camp just into the Scott State Forest. Plenty of good firewood here for the night. Stars were out and we heard owls and coyotes.

Day Four:
Today we had good weather again. We hiked around the Honey creek campground and across Jack's Ridge dropping down to cross Laurel Fork Creek and Black House branch. We stopped by the Charit Creek Lodge for a visit on our way by. They have done a lot of work here getting the place cleaned up.

We continued our hike out to the big river to make camp for the night. Once again lies were told and medicine taken around a nice campfire. Right about midnight the rain came in.

Day Five:
There was some apprehension about me finding the Parch Corn Creek trail. Just cause it was years ago and I didn't hike it from this direction and I didn't remember much about it and.......
We headed out feeling good because there was a sign with Parch Corn Creek on it stating we had 1.1 miles to get there. After we crossed the creek we turned left and started following the trail. Where the trail crossed back over the creek I knew we had to stay on the right side of it even though the trail faded off into the river. We crawled along the bank until it turned back into a road bed. Then we came across the old home site and I felt better. The trail continued out and then through a field which I didn't remember so back to the home site we went. I found what could be a road bed and it was going straight uphill so I knew it had to be it. After we climbed a while I found the tail tail sign it used to be a trail. The sawed off tree along side! Continuing up the side of the mountain following the faded trail we finally got to the top where we found the two poles with a sign stating no cars beyond this point. I was feeling good then. We continued to battle through brush until it opened up to a road bed and finally the rock walls with the Indian rock house. And yes, the car was at the end of the trail!

We had a great hike followed by Waffle House after we retrieved the truck from Burnt Mill Bridge.


Friday, November 1, 2019

Big South Fork

Day One: 9.6                                                 Outcasts Total Miles: 2454.6
John Litton Farm Loop 4.2
Duncan Hollow road 0.6
Duncan Hollow Bypass 0.2
Duncan Hollow bike loop 1.7
Duncan Hollow Bypass 1.4
Jack's Ridge Loop 1.2
Laurel Fork Creek 0.3
Day Two: 9.7
Laurel Fork Creek 3.7
Fork Ridge Trail 3.8
Black Horse Branch 2.0
Laurel Fork Creek 0.2
Day Three: 8.5
Laurel Fork Creek 6.6
Slave Falls Loop 1.1
Middle creek loop 0.8
Day Four: 9.6
Middle creek loop 0.8
Fork Ridge road 1.2
Salt Pine Ridge 2.5
Laurel Fork Creek 0.4
Salt Pine Ridge 1.7
West Entrance trail 3.0
Total Miles: 36.6

Troy called out sick for this hike. Since we were planning on doing a part of the Sheltowee and didn't want to have to repeat the trip for Troy, Marco picked some trails in the Big South Fork.

We parked by the pool at Bandy Creek Campground and took the John Litton farm loop. It follows the creek to an old farm where Marco got surprised by a large black snake. When we got to the Duncan Hollow road we took a right and followed it to the Duncan Hollow Bypass road and then did the Duncan Hollow bike trail. This is where the extremely large bear poop. Almost 2" in diameter! Back on the Bypass road we got to hear a Baird Owl calling and then when we got to the trail junction of Jack's Ridge Loop we saw a Momma bear and her four cubs. She stopped and checked us out for a minute and then headed on. We took Jack's Ridge Loop down and crossed the Laurel Creek, for the first of 30 crossings, and took the trail crossing once again before setting up camp for the night. It was a peaceful night around the campfire.

We got up and headed East towards the big river. We had 4 more crossings today. We got to see a small garter snake just before connecting to the Fork Ridge trail. It is an extremely sharp climb up the ridge before it levels out for a nice walk through the woods. We took the Black Horse Branch trail back to Laurel creek and then took a right on Laurel Creek trail and found a nice campground for the night. 

We got up and got read this morning. We had twenty five river crossing today. We hiked about four miles with crocks on because we crossed so many times. It started a light rain and by lunch we had to have poncho's on. The rain stopped by our last crossing and we climbed up the ridge to the Middle creek trail where we found a spring and stopped for the night. We had a nice campfire again tonight and dried things out. It was a warm night and stayed warm all night. Heavy rain later that night.

We got up to the beginning of steady rain that would hang with us most of the day.  We packed up and headed to the Fork Ridge road which led us to Salt Pine ridge. We were wondering about the Laurel Creek after all the rain. The one crossing we had today was about a foot higher then yesterday just up to our knees. We crossed and headed up to the West Entrance trail head. The wind had picked up and the temperature was dropping fast. We ended up with the rain coats on and gloves under the poncho. The rain cut out for lunch and mainly it was just water off the trees. 

After our celebration at the Waffle House, Marco drove through a small snow fall.


Thursday, April 4, 2019

AT VA 670 to VA 610

Day One: 3.8                                                 Outcasts Total Miles: 2418
VA 670 to VA 601
Day Two: 11.2
VA 601 to USFR 644
Day Three: 9.9
USFR 644 to Little Brushy Mt.
Day Four: 4.5
Little Brushy Mt. to VA 610
Total Miles: 29.4

This hike we started by leaving our car at the Quarter Way Inn in Ceres, VA. Tina met us at the door with a welcoming smile. We got a tour of the old farm house which is a must if you are in the area. 

We used Bubba (276-730-5869) for our shuttle driver who took us back to Teas Road to start our hike. It was a cool windy afternoon, but the sun was shining beautifully. 

We started the climb up Pugh Mt. and then made camp up on VA 601.  There was a lady Southbounder camped there for the night so after visiting we went across the road a ways and set up camp for the night. We had us a campfire, ate, and took some cough medicine under the stars.

Day Two:
We got up and did us some walking today. We checked out the fancy Partnership Shelter which has a shower and a view of the lake below. We saw two day hikers near the Mount Rogers NRA Headquarters. We climbed Brushy Mt. and Locust Mt. today and then headed to the Chatfield Shelter, which is not hammock friendly. We crossed USFS 644 and found a place to hang for the night. It was another beautiful night under the stars. 

I saw for the first time in my life, a comet hitting the atmosphere and exploding. It was awesome and shot flames every which direction. I tried to point it out to Marco, but it happened too fast. That night the owls talked to us after we were in our hammocks.

Day Three:
We got packed up after breakfast and headed out. We got to checkout the Lindamood Schoolhouse along side the trail. A Baptist church had stocked it for thru hikers with drink, food, and hygiene supplies. It got to shorts and tee shirt weather today. Lots of beautiful scenery until we got to US 81 dodging traffic. Gotta do what you gotta do.

We ate lunch at the cow pasture after VA 617 and saw another Southbounder. We filled up with water after crossing the cow pasture and took advantage of the water with a quick bath. Davis Path Campsite is the location of an old shelter. The privy is still there and a picnic table, but no water. After that we climbed Little Brushy Mt. which really is not little! Especially after loading up with extra water.

We found us a campsite for the night on top and had another great evening around the campfire. 

Day Four:
After leaving camp and going down the mountain, as we were hiking through a rhododendron tunnel, I saw a deer standing right in the middle of the trail just looking back at me. She waited until I got her picture.

We finally found what we were looking for. The quarter of the way sign. It is located at Crawfish Valley just before the side trail. Someone had painted out the mileage each way to Maine and Georgia, but it was still the quarter way mark.

After that we climbed Big Walker Mt. and down to VA 610. We added a quarter mile going back to the Quarter Way Inn where we had another great visit with Tina before heading to Waffle House. 


Thursday, March 14, 2019

AT- Grayson Highlands to VA 670

Day One: 3.0                                                 Outcasts Total Miles: 2388.6
US 58 to spring
Day Two: 11.0
Spring to Damascus 2.0

Connector trail 0.5
Massie Gap to Old Orchard shelter 8.5
Day Three: 8.0
Old Orchard shelter to Dicky Gap trailhead
Day Four: 8.2
Dicky Gap trailhead to VA 670
Total Miles: 30.2

This hike we used Sundog Outfitters for our shuttle service.

We had our shuttle drop us off at US 58 to make up for our early departure from last hike to avoid the storms. We hiked to a spring just before the downhill into town and made camp for the night. The next morning we hiked to Sundog Outfitters and had them shuttle us to drop off the car at VA 670 and then take us back to Grayson Highlands and drop us off.

With the weather a 100% better than last hike, there were more people out and we enjoyed the views as we hiked across the top of the mountains and balds to the Scales. We got to see the wild ponies again and then headed down to the Old Orchard shelter for the night. When we got there we saw eleven hammocks swinging in the trees. A group of college students from Missouri were doing an overnight backpack. We got to visit a little bit before we set up our camp down the hill from them. The Old Orchard shelter is a log shelter with no chinking so you might want to think about that if you are planning on staying in the shelter.

Day Three:
We got up a little later today as we didn't have as far to go. The students had gotten up at 6am and headed out. It was another beautiful day for hiking. We stopped at the Hurricane Mt. shelter for lunch, but did not climb up to the actual shelter. We set up camp at the unmarked Dickey Gap trail for the night. Troy and I headed back to the last spring to get water instead of taking the trail down to the river which was rather steep. Of course the next day we found that just up the trail was another spring which would have been a lot closer.

Day Four:
We got off for a good start today. The weather got warmer and we had to go to shorts, but no complaints there. More hikers today as well. We got to see the Comer Creek Falls and got to see a couple of deer today. Our plans were to stay at the Trimpi shelter tonight, but we got word of storms coming in so we hiked on the the car. This is the first hike a quite a while that nothing came down from the clouds on us so we were quite excited.


Friday, February 15, 2019

AT- Grayson Highlands to Damascus

Day One: 3.5                                                 Outcasts Total Miles: 2358.9
Connector trail 0.5
Massy Gap to Thomas Knob Shelter 3.0
Day Two: 6.6
Thomas Knob shelter to Whitetop Mountain road

Day Three: 9.8
Whitetop Mountain road to Campsite by pond
Day Four: 12
Campsite by pond to Damascus
Total Miles: 31.9

This hike we used Sundog Outfitters for our shuttle service.

Day one started out in a forty mile an hour wind and rain. We had a hard time just getting our poncho's on. Troy's pack cover blew off from under his poncho. In the tree line it wasn't as bad and we did get to see one herd of ponies. Once we got up on the rocks and flat land out of the trees, it was on. We had to walk at an angle against the wind on the way to the next rock formation. At one point while Marco and I were standing behind a rock formation, we saw Troy coming at us with his poncho over his head. He had to regroup before heading out again. The trail was under water most of the way one to three inches. It was a tough walk to the Thomas Knob Shelter and we missed all that beautiful scenery. Just before the shelter we saw two deer standing in the cloudy field next to the trail.

Once we got to the shelter and got the tarp across the entrance, we started unpacking and figuring what to dry out first. The temperature dropped fast that night calling for 23 degrees, but water froze instantly on the wood surface. We all slept cold that night and the wind shook the whole shelter every time it gusted. Part of the roof slammed as well. 

Day Two:
We got up to extremely cold temperatures. After the bathroom break, I headed down to the water source sliding on the ice. We had icing issues with our filters. As long as you were actively filtering it was fine, but if you ever stopped it froze solid. 

After breakfast we started out on the frozen trail. Slipping and sliding along the way. The wind never let down until sometime the during the night. Walking across the balds was a battle with the wind not to fall over and stay on the trail. There was lots of beautiful views as the sky was clear and we could see forever. We made it to Whitetop Mountain and set up camp before the road. The wood was wet so we had a hard time getting and keeping the fire going. We did start drying out boots and socks. That night the stars and moon came out in the calm and all was well.

Day Three:
With the wind gone, the hike turned out to be nice. Lots of views today. Even got warm. We met up with the Virginia Creeper trail today for a short spell. 

We ended up camping next to a pond on the mountain. The only place for three hammocks was right at the edge. My hammock was actually over the edge of the drop off to the pond. We got a good fire going tonight and Troy actually got all of his stuff dried out. 

Day Four:
I woke up to Marco getting out of his hammock. Then I heard something sliding down the bank and splash into the water. I just knew that my pack went swimming. I sat up and took inventory of everything. I looked down at the pond and didn't see anything in the water. I laid there wondering what it could have been. Then I heard a loud commotion and then a duck flew low level over my tarp. It must have been next to my hammock when Marco got up and headed down to the pond. 

Today's hike was good with lots of views. We did walk a little while in the cloud mist. We saw the Creeper trail quite a few times. I had finally got a signal to talk to Lora and she warned us of the storm coming in. When we got a snack break, Marco said that he had lost a crown. Not a good time for that. 

We continued on until we got to Hwy 58 where we made a decision to cross over to the Virginia Creeper trail and head to the car. We finished the last six miles and then headed to the 7 Trails Grill for some dinner.


Friday, January 11, 2019

AT-Wilbur Dam Road to Damascus

Day One: 3.0                                                 Outcasts Total Miles: 2327
Wilbur Dam Road to Spring
Day Two: 8.5
Spring to Iron Mt. Shelter

Day Three: 11.1
Iron Mt. Shelter to US 421
Day Four: 11.0
US 421 to Campsite
Day Five: 4.0
Campsite to Damascus
Total Miles: 37.6

This hike we used Sundog Outfitters for our shuttle service. We parked at the free parking lot at the library and they took us to Wilbur Dam Road to start our hike. It was a warm day and we got to the first spring right at dark. We got us a campfire going and enjoyed a pleasant evening.

Day Two:
We got up today which turned out to be overcast all day long with rain on and off all day. This whole section of trail to Damascus has wonderful views on the average day. Not today! We were in the clouds. We did get to see a couple of deer on one hill and a couple more at the Iron Mt. Shelter. There was a lot of downed trees and branches from a storm which we got to go around or through.

We got to the shelter for the night. The wind got to hollering so we didn't bother with a fire. Marco and Troy stayed in the shelter with Micky and I hung my hammock out in the wind. It blew all night and into the morning. The stars were amazing tonight!

Day Three:
The wind was blowing still this morning and blew all day. It didn't get into the higher 20's today. The sky was clear and we got lots of views as we hiked. We made it to US 421 and camped out on the roadbed heading to a cemetery out of the wind. The temperature dropped as the evening went on, freezing our water. We enjoyed a nice campfire and saw the stars again!

Day Four:
It snowed all night, but never accumulated anywhere. When we got up the frost was frozen in the air so you looked out and everywhere there were sparkles floating around. It was a beautiful morning. We could hear the wind blowing constantly all night long through the gap. We were grateful to be able to get out of that.

We battled the wind most of the day today. It never did get out of the teens for temperature. We enjoyed the none windy side of the mountain anytime that we got it. We found a place to camp just before the Tennessee /Virginia boarder. We set up camp and got the fire going to warm up. It was cold tonight, but not long for us. We enjoyed the evening around the fire listening to the coyotes and owls. When we went to bed there was frost on the inside of our tarps. Not a good sign!

Day Five:
Today was the day of celebration. We made it to the Tennessee/Virginia boarder or for Troy the Georgia/Virginia boarder. Troy only agreed to hike the state of Georgia when we first started on the AT. He said he agreed to hike to Neal's Gap and I tricked him into agreeing to hike the state. Any which way, I never let him know that we left Georgia so he just thought that it was a very LONG state. Now I have to renegotiate with him to hike to at least the quarter way mark of the trail. We will see.

We hiked into the town of Damascus and had us a good greasy burger at the Damascus Diner. I highly recommend this restaurant. 

For some odd reason the winter snow storm missed us and the snow was coming in tonight. That is unusual for sure!