Hiking the Smokies: a Few Pictures and Thoughts

 

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Fred and I at Newfound Gap; note the white blaze in the background. I am heading southbound to Fontana Dam.

Wild hog containment bridge on trail

Turks cap lily and butterfly

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All my gear in one spot.

Water source

Log walkway on Appalachian Trail, over a boggy area

Bunk mates for the night at Mt. Collins Shelter

Beautiful morning sun rays

Found this dead rattlesnake when I stopped for a short break.

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Usual number of rocks on Trail

My two Trail angels for this section of the Trail

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Silers Bald Shelter

Always hang your food containers, especially in bear country

A true statement, lol. 💩 🎒 [/[/

A geo marker along the way

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lots of overgrown vegetation and minimal views this hike

Lots of rain during this hike makes for wet, wet boots.
Rocky Top, no views this day.
This is at Spence Field Shelter which is closed due to bear activity; but, the electric fence was not working!
Water crossing
The reason the Smokies are named “the Smokies,”

I needed this hike for myself; to be alone, to see if my back was healed enough, and to finish this portion of the Appalachian Trail (AT). Good news is I have now hiked a total of 668.3 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Bad news is that my back, while not as sore as it was during my April LASH, was still painful by day three of this hike. I STILL carried too much extra weight: winter gear-lows in the low 40’s in July!, 5 days of food-in a bear canister no less! and regardless of the fact one must stay in a shelter each night, I carried shelter-just in case! Even though water from the sky was not lacking, the water sources to refill my bottles were lacking, so I also carried 2.7 liters of water with me. This put my pack weight at 34 lbs, approximately 5-7 lbs heavier than I need to be at to hopefully prevent my back from stressing and tensing up; which it did.

The call of the wild, i.e. Appalachian Trail, has so permeated my soul, I have to be on Trail, preferably for a 5-6 month continuous stretch. In hiking terms, I need to attempt a thru-hike of the AT. I do not have a source of income to purchase ultra lightweight gear to help reduce my pack weight. The thought of my back failing me has brought me to countless tears, already. I have consulted with my primary MD, who is also a backpacker, and he has provided me stretching exercises & even demonstrated these exercises for me. They did not however, prevent this latest incident, re:back problems.

What to do, what to do?

 

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NATCHEZ TRACE NATIONAL SCENIC TRAIL

Back in October, 2017 I attended my first Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association (ALDHA) Gathering in Abingdon, Virginia. I somehow was volunteered to hike/travel a 50+mile section of one of America’s National Scenic Trails, in 2018. My sister, Christy, lives very near the Natchez Trace Parkway and Scenic Trail so I chose this particular trail to hike. The Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail consists of five separate sections – over 60 miles. The sections include, from south to north: Potkopinu (MP 17-20), Rocky Springs (MP 52.4-59), Yockanookany (MP 108-131), Blackland Prairie (MP 260.8-266), & Highland Rim (MP 407.9-427.4). I enlisted Christy as my partner for this adventure. She has been wanting to hike with me and this made the perfect introduction for her. What follows are my journal entries and some pictures of our sisters’ adventure from March 1 to March 7, 2018.

March 1, Thursday – At Christy’s home in northwestern Alabama for a shake-down of her gear and a lesson in loading her borrowed pack, my Osprey Ariel 65. We did some grocery shopping the evening before so she would have an idea as to meal prep for a backpacking trip.

 

March 2, Friday – Christy and I are using two vehicles for the first section of our Natchez Trace (NT) adventure; one staged at northern end of Highland Rim Section and the other located at the southern end. Our first stop is to meet National Park Service (NPS) Ranger Josh Ford at McGlamery Stand so I can hand deliver the required backcounty permit.  We drove to Garrison Creek trail head, Mile Post 427.4, parked Christy’s car, then drove south in my van, Bluebonnet, to Gordon House Historic Site where the van is to be parked at MP 407.7 at 1230. I evidently parked us in the wrong location as we ended up having to walk an additional 0.3 miles up & over Hwy 50 to where the trail head actually begins, with parking!

 

We headed north on the trail and soon encountered the first of several water crossings. The trail was flooded in many spots and overgrown with brambles in other areas. The underfoot trail is definitely shared with horses as it is torn up, no smooth path anywhere. We stopped for the night at 1715 and pitched our tent directly on the trail as there was no other suitable place available. Christy hung her first bear bag without any problems. We hiked 3.8 miles today.

 

March 3, Saturday – Up early, all packed and after discussion about the distance that still needs to be covered, approximately 16 miles, we agreed to backtrack to the van this morning. We reached the van by noon, sure seemed quicker returning. We drove up to Garrison Creek and hiked the other end of this section, 1.28 miles. Trail continues to be a horse trail also and as such, the path is extremely damaged. We decide to meet Rick and Sarah, their daughter, along the way south so they can drive Christy’s car home and we continue our adventure in Bluebonnet. While driving south we observed that the Duck River was out of its banks and flooded the pasture lands along the NT Parkway. Stopped at Pharr Mounds before reaching Tupelo for the night.

 

March 4, Sunday – Today we arrived at NPS Rock Springs Campground, MP 55 and set up camp before noon! We continued south to the Natchez, MS Ranger Station located at Melrose/Johnson Historic House, near MP 0. After checking the Park out and purchasing a souvenir we stopped at MP 0, the Southern Terminus of Natchez Trace Parkway to look around some. Were able to explore a small private cemetery with an entire family buried there and with some interesting headstones; also walked a few steps on the Old Trace.

 

Driving north toward our camp, we visited Emerald Mound (MP 10), which is actually a short drive off the Parkway, the Loess Bluff (MP 12) and at 1620, the Mount Locust Historic House (MP 15) and the only Inn or Wayside still standing on the Trace. We only had a few minutes as this Historic House is gated and closes promptly at 1630 by the NPS staff on duty! Just a few miles north we parked at the Potkopinu Section trail head (MP 17) to get some NT hiking in for the day. This section is the longest continuous section of the sunken trace (Old Trace), a distance of 3 miles. When we parked there was one person getting ready to leave – he showed us the back end of his truck, loaded down with river rocks he had stolen from Bullen Creek! We walked 1.5 miles on Old Trace before turning around as dusk was moving in – also passed two more walkers and they suggested we should head back. I was excited to find wild flowers, such as trillium and mayapples along the trail. Back at camp by 1830 and enjoying our appetizers of margaritas, guacamole, and chips with our feet up at 1845. In our “stand up” tent at 2015 for the evening.

 

March 5, Monday – Rain is forecast for today so we decide to break camp before exploring the Rocky Springs section of the Trail. At 0930 we drove to the southern parking lot for Owens Creek Waterfall but the trail was blocked off and area completely closed to any foot traffic. We drove back into the campground and parked at the side trail to the Trail (MP 55). We hiked in, followed near Little Sand Creek and even played in it. At one point there was an intersection of 3 trails – the Old Trace, Old Town & the Scenic Trail paths. We took the Old Trace path a short distance, again seeing more wildflowers (violets, trillium & confederate jasmine). Returned to the van & drove north to the northern parking area for this section (MP 59.2). We walked 2.5 miles and then back.

 

Stops on our drive north today included: Battle of Raymond (MP 79), Cowles Mead Cemetery (MP 88), & we stopped at the Visitor Center located in Clinton, MS. At MP 104 is the NPS Information Cabin. There is a large parking lot as a bike/hike path is along here in addition to the Parkway. The Cabin was locked but as we were looking around a Ranger walked up & opened it for us. She helped us locate a place to camp for this evening and also to inform us that severe weather has been forecast for the evening, into the night.

 

We drove across the Ross R Barnett Reservoir and into a private campground before bad weather hit. We set up camp in Goshen Springs Campground, which is operated by the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District. Our tent was pitched just as the rain started at 1730. We ate in the pavilion and listened to my portable radio. The weather had us in a tornado watch & later, warning. The tent was soaked so we instead slept in Bluebonnet overnight.

 

March 6, Tuesday – Up at 0730, we slept pretty well in the van. At the Yockanookany Section trail head for our morning walk at 0945. Nicest section of the trail yet. Came across a furry skeleton and passed behind houses and next to the Parkway. Also on this section there are closed portions and many un-maintained areas. We walked a total of 6 miles over 2 days as the trail was in various locations for this section. Back at camp we dried everything out and had camp broken down by 1145. We stopped at Tommy’s Bait & Tackle Shop for lunch.

 

Driving north to the northern end of this section, arrived 1330 and it is very swampy & wet, also not maintained; unable to walk it at all. Continued north to French Camp (MP 180). We took a break and visited the buildings here. We are heading back to Tupelo for the night, again with several marker stops long the way, including: Bynum Mound (MP 233) and Witch Dance (MP 234). We stayed at LaQuinta-Tupelo. Best Hotel Ever!! The evening we were there, they had free beer and free homemade chili for the guests dinner – YES!

March 7, Wednesday – Our last day for our sister adventure. We started our walk today at the Chickasaw Village Site. This is in the middle of the Blackland Prairie Section (MP 260.8-266) of the NT Scenic Trail. This portion is well used by visitors and residents, several joggers passed us by. We walked north until we reached railroad tracks, crossed them and then decided to retrace our steps. We prefer not walking the Parkway and the trail follows on the road’s shoulder. We only walked 1.5 miles one way, returned to Bluebonnet, and drove to the NPS Visitor Center.

 

We bought a few more trinkets and I spent several minutes speaking with Stacy Reichert,  the NPS Activities Assistant, who I have been in contact with during the entire planning process for the Natchez Trace. She also provided boxes of literature for the next ALDHA Gathering in October, 2018. Christy remembered visiting Confederate Soldiers grave sites when she and Rick traveled a portion of NT before. It is located at MP 270 and we found it about 1000. The day remains breezy, cool, and overcast. There are 13 unmarked headstones for the confederate soldiers. At MP 317 I stopped on the side of the Parkway long enough for Christy to take my picture, lol. Arrived to Christy’s home late afternoon and took our last selfie of the trip. We had a great time and learned a lot of history. Of the 60 miles of the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail, we hiked 25.8 miles and drove almost the entire 444 miles of the Parkway, down and back!

 

Where to next sis?

 

My Birthday Excursion

 

🍀 My Birthday is (was) on March 17, also known as St. Patrick’s Day.pexels-photo-623375.jpeg I was supposed to be out backpacking with a couple of friends, but circumstances brought our hike to a shortened conclusion so I was home with Dear Hubby (DH). The morning of my 63rd born day anniversary I asked DH to come up with a plan for the day and he had approximately one hour to work on it as I was headed to the gym.

When I returned home I found a note on the table with three choices: 1- a parade in Greenville, SC (which had already been cancelled anticipating severe weather), 2- a Vintage/Antique Market Day in Asheville, NC, 3- a Train Depot Museum & Amtrak Station in Spartanburg, SC. I was excited that DH had followed through with 3 choices for me as I am the usual tour guide initiator and planner.

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Amtrak Rail System posted on outside board

DH is the train buff in our family but I enjoy watching and hearing trains go by as well. In fact, when we were house hunting in Ohio one of our requests (read requirements) was to find a home near active railroad tracks. Our real estate agent did an excellent job finding our new home with tracks approximately 1/2 mile behind our property line. So, now knowing that about us, guess which I chose to do on my special day!

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Southbound train pulling into the station

The Hub City Railroad Museum is located in the Spartanburg train depot, along with shared offices for the local Farmers Market and the Amtrak waiting room. The train buffs/volunteers at the museum are outgoing, friendly and more than willing to share their expertise and knowledge with us. We were greeted as we walked into the free museum and were given star treatment with a private tour of the museum and a viewing of the computerized engine control screen, with full explanation of how to read it.

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Control Panel for train activity on tracks

Our timing could not have been better. The depot was expecting 3-4 Norfolk Southern engines/trains to come by during the two hours the museum was open (12-2 pm) and the excitement was palpable as two trains were already rumbling from opposite directions, converging in front of the depot.

We did not have to wait long for a second northbound freight train to blow its whistle notifying vehicles of their approach. It was interesting to see the many different rail companies that were represented on the various cars being pulled.

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2nd Northbound train

Most train cars are traveling (at high-speed) canvases for graffiti or artwork known as “tagging.” The common theme for today’s show appeared to be names. How many names can you actually read?

Since there no longer are any caboose cars used at the end of trains, a system called “Flashing Rear End Device” or FRED is utilized. It is attached to the last car of the train and has a flashing red light. While my Fred has no special attributes on his rear end, I thought it was pretty cool that most trains have a FRED, lol.

In the heyday of this depot there were at least six different tracks coming into this station. Now there are two immediately in front of depot and two located behind the parking area of depot/museum and are completely separate. A train passed over one of these separate tracks while we were observing train traffic but was difficult to see as there is a tunnel that trains go through for approximately 2 city blocks of the downtown.

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separate tracks leading to a tunnel trains pass through

The museum closed at 2 pm so after we thanked our volunteer hosts, one more selfie was in order in front of the box car rebuilt into a caboose. This is where the model train setup is located as well as a small store for souvenirs and other needed items for one’s home train model system.

My step dad, Jon, moved to Spartanburg almost four years ago. He normally is out riding with the local Goldwing Motorcycle Club on Saturdays but I couldn’t visit the area without calling him. He, surprisingly, was home only because their planned outing was cancelled due to the expected severe weather. He and his sweetie, Sharon, agreed to meet us for a late lunch/early dinner at a local institution, the Beacon Drive-In . This has been a destination for locals since 1946 and has even been featured in Guy’s program Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives. The Beacon no longer has curb service, but at one time it did make deliveries using a helicopter!

When you walk in the door of this eatery be prepared for yelling by employees and greasy smells from the open kitchen. It is all a part of the kitschiness of the place. The menu is posted on a wall. An employee standing at the counter takes your order and as you tell him, he in turn hollers your order to the kitchen staff. We enjoyed ourselves and suggest anyone passing through Spartanburg to stop and have a meal break here.

From here J&S took us downtown to the small St. Patrick’s Day celebration at Morgan Square. We went on a walking tour of the area with them providing a history lesson and commentary of the ongoing revitalization process. In Hendersonville, NC there are painted bears on most corners. Once the tourist season is over they are auctioned off for different charities. In Spartanburg, it is giant light bulbs decorated and found throughout the downtown region. Jon also wanted to see what was going on at the freight yard. Since we had earlier seen a freight train we were excited about seeing what cars were uncoupled at the freight yard.

Sparky is the original decorated light bulb for Spartanburg; the FR8yard is not what we were expecting to find, lol.

In the words of Fred’s Uncle John, “a grand time was had by all.”

I had a great (GR8) time and look forward to seeing what Fred comes up with for next year when I turn 64. Racing, anyone? pexels-photo-767660.png

Round and Round

“The wheels on the bus go round & round …” This childhood ditty reminds me, on this sleepless morning, of one of my many obsessions, in this case, all things circular. Many of my photos are themed also, so I will share as flowers, trains, Texas/NM, markers, street plate covers and others as I locate circles in my daily living.

Pictures are better than a thousands words; enjoy my gallery of round “things.”

 

How did this get in here? 2011 valentine Frank

There is always a First Post

My strength is not in writing or journaling my thoughts, for that matter, verbalizing my feelings is not my strong suit either.

So what am I good at? *being a friend*attentive listener*planning hikes (but not always implementing those hikes)*encouraging others*quilting*dependable volunteer* ok, enough already.

Not sure what this post will accomplish, but then it is my First Post. I joined WordPress to follow my very talented sister, Bambi. She is excellent at painting pictures with words and has many followers on her site.

”If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” – Mother Teresa, 1995