Sunday, March 27, 2016

End of Tunnel Ridge Road

Saturday March 26 2016

It was a perfect day for a hike. Evidently, everyone who has ever been to the Gorge thought so as well. I have never seen so many cars at the end of Tunnel Ridge Road. My plans were a couple of unofficial trails, so I hoped I would not see too many people (ha!). Given the number of hang tags I saw, my guess is the woods were full that night.

A nice walk along the Double Arch Trail, the Redbuds have started blooming.

Then off towards Star Gap Arch. I explored the ridge line near the arch.

You can see a number of people under the arch. Lots of people decided to visit the arch for the first time. I talked to one couple who lived in the area but had never been to the arch. And then towards the end of Star Gap ridge, there was a young guy and what looked to be his parents. He thought they were on the trail to Double Gap Arch (Of course, there was no map). And a young couple who were going to camp out towards Pepe's Point.

I love what water and sandstone does when given enough time. I still wonder why circles like these end up developing.

View from under the arch

No idea what these flowers are, but I like them.

Star Gap Arch from the trail to Jailhouse Rock.

I passed one guy (and his dog) on his way back from Jailhouse Rock and a couple guys had set up camp near the trail and three young guys were just leaving the Rock as I got there. I was glad to have the truly awesome view from Jailhouse Rock all to myself.

A great way to spend a couple of hours.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Carter Caves

The family has enjoyed the cabins at other state parks in the past. It was decided a while back that we would spend the MLK weekend at Carter Caves State Park because the weather would not matter if we were in a cave.

The weather was mostly overcast and low-30s on Sat and Sun. Woke up Mon to mostly clear skies and mid-teens.

I got to explore the park a little bit with my oldest and then by myself. There is good day-hiking and lots to see in the park. We will be back.

Beat by Slickrock again

Joyce Kilmer - Slickrock Wilderness
March 12 - 13 2016
2016 bag nights: 1

My previous two visits to the area had ended in failure, but third time's the charm, right? :)

The weather report did not look good, but when you have permission to abandon your family for 3 nights to go visit the woods ...

I met JC at Beech Gap for what was planned to be an easy 3 nights, covering about 25 miles.The weather report called for a high chance rain most days and there was a threat of thunderstorms one of the days, but it wasn't looking like it would be too much rain. We hoped for lots of grey and a minimum amount of water (The NWS had forecast .1 - .25 inches overnight), didn't turn out that way.

The view from the old forest road gave us hope regarding the weather.

Looking north into the Slickrock watershed.

We had an easy hike up and over Stratton Bald ...

... and on to Naked Ground where we set up camp, gathered water and had dinner. The wind was blowing a pretty constant 20ish MPH and the sky was overcast, but the view was still nice. There was a hint of the moon and even some stars at one point, that left us hopeful that maybe the weather was going to cooperate.

Awesome view looking down the Little Santeetlah Creek watershed towards the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. You can just make out Lake Santeetlah in the distance.

Heard some rain in the middle of the night, but rolled over and went back to sleep. Woke up around 5:30 with lots of wind-driven rain against the tarp and somewhat of a cold butt. That was surprising since I had a 20 degree underquilt and it was above 40. I discovered that I had water running down my hammock lines and it was pooling under me. There was not a lot, but it was enough. I realized that I would not be going back to sleep and so I got my phone and read for a bit and listened to the wind and rain. After a while, I noticed an occasional drip on my face. At first I thought that it was humidity getting bounced off the inside of the tarp, but I realized that I had hung my new tarp wrong and the seam was channeling water under the tarp. It was about this point that I realized that this trip might be cut short.

The rain finally slowed down around 9 and I crawled out of my hammock to find JC and retrieve the food bag. We talked a bit about bailing and when he checked his phone for the weather, it was saying 80% chance of rain all night and the whole next day with possible thunderstorms. As we were talking, the rain kicked up again and we decided it was a sign. While we were packing up, I noticed that JC had left his cup out against a log. It had almost 2 inches of water in it and my pot that had a lid on it (just a tiny hole) had accumulated about a 1/2 inch.

Same "view" as the evening before, the Memorial Forest is down there somewhere.

We decided to leave our packs at Naked Ground and have an easy hike over to the Hangover. It was basically like hiking in a cloud, but the rain had mostly stopped.

Not much to see from the Hangover. This is looking south towards Jenkins Meadow.

By the time we got back to Naked Ground, it looked like the clouds were trying to lift. We decided this was a good place for lunch before heading back to the trailhead.

 Once the rain finally stopped, it was actually nice hiking, the mist/clouds provided extra "atmosphere".

 The bald looked very different today.

An uneventful hike and a couple of beers at the Beech Gap parking lot then a quick bite in Tellico Plains and then a longer than normal drive home since northbound I-75 is still shut from the slide a couple weeks ago. I got home around 10 and enjoyed a warm shower and sleeping in my own bed.

Once again, not the trip I planned for the Slickrock Wilderness, but a good trip nonetheless.