Showing posts with label backpacking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label backpacking. Show all posts

Monday, October 16, 2017

Mt Rogers

Grayson Highlands VA
10/6 - 10/8/17 (2 nights)
2017 bag nights: 28
Miles hiked: ~25

I parked at the Grindstone Campground and hiked a couple miles to the Appalachian Trail and then headed north on the AT towards Mt Rogers. Based on some readings and helpful people on, I was pretty sure I could find a campsite along the AT below Mt Rogers. The only real question would be the number of people in the area and would I be able to be near a good view. After a couple hours hiking, I came across the perfect spot overlooking Brier Ridge about a mile from the Thomas Knob shelter on the AT. I headed in that direction to get water for the night, but found a solid trickle about 10 minutes down the trail. I filled up for the night and morning and headed back to set up camp and catch the sunset.

I walked onto Brier Ridge and there was a small herd of ponies. I took a couple photos and enjoyed the view and then headed back to cook dinner and wait for the sunset and hopefully stars.

My campsite was close enough to the open ridge that I carried stove, food, water and bourbon and camera/tripod back to the ridge. I cooked dinner and enjoyed the amazing sunset.



And then a little bourbon while I waited for the stars to come out and hoped that the clouds would not be too bad.
Looking almost due south at Sagittarius and Scorpius and some sky glow from the sun.

As the full moon rose behind the trees it was obvious that the clouds were going to catch a lot of the moon light and it was not going to be a good night for astrophotography. So, off to the hammock to read for a bit.

I woke up to clouds all around, no view at all.

I had a leasurily breakfast and a second cup of coffee hoping it would burn off as the sun rose, but by 9 o'clock it was still foggy/cloudy and time to get moving.

I took the AT north towards Thomas Knob and then along Wilburn Ridge. Supposedly there are great views along the ridge, but the top of the ridge was covered in clouds. The ridge was also covered in dayhikers coming from Massie Gap in the state park. I found this part of the day to be really frustrating, there were no views and no solitude.

As I got closer to the border of the state park the clouds began to break a little and I was still on an open ridge so there were views. The leaves were starting to turn and at times were very striking.

I had lunch on a rock outcrop just off the AT ...

...and then continued into the forest towards the Wise shelter. It was very nice hiking with no one around, but nothing special. I filtered water near the shelter and looked at the map a little more. I was heading towards the Scales area and could take the direct route on the Scales Trail or continue on the AT. Since I was going slower than I had expected, I decided to take the Scales Trail. It was nice, but from what I later read, I probably would have liked the AT better.

After Scales, I took the Crest Trail back towards Rhododendron Gap. The views were very good in parts.

I took the Crest Trail past Wilburn Ridge until in intersected with the VA Highlands Trail which I followed back to Brier Ridge and camp. When I got to the ridge it looked like I was in for another great sunset. I talked to a couple young women from App State in Boone and then went to get water for the night. When I got back after about 1/2 hour the clouds had settled on top of the ridge and there were no views to be seen.

I cooked dinner and sipped some bourbon while I watched the mist swirl around for a bit. This girl was not afraid at all, I assume there is no hunting in the area.

Woke up in the morning to more fog/clouds, no point in lingering. I had a quick breakfast and then took the VA Highlands Trail towards Deep Gap and the AT. After a couple hours of hiking I was back at my car.

I was hoping for more views and more stars, but overall it was a good trip. Next time I think I will avoid the AT near the state park just to avoid some of the dayhikers.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

O&W Trail

Big South Fork (TN)
9/2 - 9/4/17 (2 nights)
2017 bag nights: 26
Miles hiked: ~30
Animals: 1 bear, 1 snake and what felt like 1 million horses and riders and I'm pretty sure I saw a cougar aka mountain lion
Trailhead: Leatherwood Ford

I had been planning on a three night backpacking trip over Labor Day weekend since there was no soccer and then the remnants of Hurricane Harvey came through the southeast and ruined those plans. The weather forecast ended up improving for Sunday and Monday and my wife said go, so I went.

I've been curious about the O&W Trail in Big South Fork for a couple of years so I decided that would be a good place to go.

It was supposed to rain most of Saturday but stop around 5, so I was in no hurry to get to the trailhead. The forecast was right, the rain finished up about 4, I headed down the trail at exactly 5. I planned on hiking for a couple hours and see what happened.

It was pretty wet and gray, so I did not take many photos the first day.

 The O&W railroad bridge

View from the bridge

The O&W road ends at White Oak Creek, the trail is on the other side. The water was up to my shorts and was moving pretty quickly, I almost fell at one point, but caught myself on a rock just below the surface and only ended up with one shoulder getting wet. 

About 7 I found a good site to hang my hammock with a nice view of the creek.
Not a bad place to enjoy dinner and a little bourbon

Home for the night

I woke to a gorgeous day, took my time with breakfast and packing up and then headed down the trail. Parts of the trail were great, it is an old railroad bed, so easy walking next to a bubbling creek ...

... and parts of the trails are a giant mud pit. I was puzzled why I was seeing so many horse prints over on the far side of the trail. I know why my wife wants to walk around the mud, but I could not figure out why a horseback rider would try to keep the horse from getting muddy. Later in the day, a woman said, as she was forced to ride her horse in the middle of the mud to go around me, "my horse doesn't like getting his feet wet" :o What the hell? I wanted to tell her that she need to train her horse better, not to mention the trail she was riding had many creek crossings. So now I have another reason to hate horseback riders, first the garbage and second, destroying trails. 

 Fungus covered tree

The trail parallels the creek, when it was a mudpit, it was great hiking.

 The trail goes through a couple creeks, not very deep, easy to cross. but my feet and shoes never dried

White Oak Creek

My plan was to walk to Zenith (one of the old stops on the rail line) about 6 miles down the trail and then turn around and climb up to the East Laurel Overlook. I was hoping there would be a place to hang a hammock and then I could do some astro-photography.

A nice place for lunch. The concrete in the water is the ford at Zenith.

Cool fungus

As I got to the top of the ridge, 6 people were getting off horses to walk out to the overlook. Since I was not on a horse, it was like I was invisible. I enjoyed the view for a bit and then as I put my pack on, they decided that they were done as well. I thought about dropping my pack and hanging out since they were leaving, but it was pretty warm in the sun.

View from East Laurel Overlook

Cool rockhouse below the overlook

I then headed towards the Leatherwood Overlook.

There is a very large clearing on top of the ridge, I suspect the park service mows it for hunting. From the map, I thought the path to the overlook should be at the top of the trail, i.e. through the clearing. But, after following the jeep trail for a bit and checking my location on gps, it was obvious I was on the wrong path. So I turned around and headed back to the obvious trail.

About 20 minutes after I took this photo, I spooked a bear.

It turned out the Nat Geo map was a little misleading, but I eventually found the trail to the overlook. The trail is actually a pretty good gravel road, so I got worried about other people (idiots) being out there. A father and son passed me in a pickup and there were a couple people camping in the trees, but at the end of the road, there was no one.

View from the Overlook, looking down at Leatherwood Ford (bridge in the distance).

There was no where at the overlook to hang a hammock, so I headed back up the trail to the end of the road.

Dinner, bourbon and a nice sunset.

The road passes through another large mowed area, so I was hopefully that I would get lots of stars. I had forgot about the moon...

... almost full moon rising to ruin my planned star photos

I took a couple photos while waiting for it to get dark. I realized that the moon was sitting right over the Milky Way, so that was out, but maybe a nice polar star trails with the moon lighting up the foreground.

 Big Dipper

I noticed that the photos were a little blurry, but I did not think it was a focus issue. I pointed at the moon and got this, the lens was covered in dew. I took this as a sign and went to bed :)

I woke up the next morning at exactly 7 and realized that I had time to walk the 1/2 mile back to the overlook for sunrise.

While waiting for my water to heat up, I took a bunch of photos for panoramas

After hanging out for about an hour, I headed back to pack up

Another beautiful day for hiking

As I was walking along the O&W trail, I heard a slight splash and I looked over expecting to see a deer. It was deer colored and deer sized, but then I saw a very obvious cat shaped head and a cat length tail. It jumped up out of the creek bed and disappeared into the trees on the far side of the creek. My first thought was cougar, but then realized they aren't in the SE, so I thought bobcat. But, then I realized the tail was too long and it was pretty big (deer sized) for a bobcat. After getting home I looked online and there are confirmed sightings of cougars in TN (near Nashville). Given that, I'm pretty sure it was a cougar.

View from the O&W bridge, a lot more clear today

The rapids under the bridge

The whole morning, I was thinking how great it was to have not seen any snakes. About 2 miles from my car I saw this. It was going right across the trail and I noticed it when I was about 10 feet away, so it did not startle me.

I still hate snakes. 

Got back to the car about 1, changed into dry clothes, had a beer and got on the road. The drive took a lot longer than it should have since a boat trailer overturned on I-75 and the north bound lanes were shut for a couple of hours. Other than that, the whole trip was great. But, I'm not sure I will go back to the O&W trail, there are just too many horses and riders.