Showing posts with label sunset. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sunset. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Empty Auxier Ridge

Auxier Ridge
Red River Gorge, Daniel Boone NF
Trailhead: Martins Fork

Dayhike 1/23/18
Backpack 2/2 - 2/3/18 (1 night)

2018 bag nights: 1

The Forest Service has closed Tunnel Ridge Road for repairs which means it takes a little effort to get out to Auxier Ridge. I decided to take advantage of the closure. I started at the Martin Fork Trailhead and took the "backdoor" up to the ridge. I first hiked north and checked out the view of Ravens Rock and then south towards the road and Auxier Ridge.

The clouds were low and grey and made for a striking looking sky, but the wind was gusting about 40 miles per hour which made it feel a lot colder than the actual temperature of low 40s. I hiked lots and did not linger for many photos.

Looking at the "backdoor" ridge, the Martin Fork trail head is to the left and the Tunnel Ridge Road to the right. 

One of the few times I have had the view of Haystack Rock all to myself.

I hiked back on the road to the Grays Arch trail head and took the D Boone Trail back to the car.

I enjoyed the solitude so much that I decided my first backpacking trip of 2018 would be Auxier Ridge. So a week and a half later I was pulling into the Martin Fork lot. The forecast was a lot colder (lows around 15), but thankfully very little wind and lots of sunshine. I was really hoping for clear skies at night so I could try out my new camera with the stars.

When I got to the lot, it was still snowing, but it stopped after about an hour. Since I had a pack and the ground was covered with snow, I decided that a scramble up a rockface was not a good idea, so I went up the D Boone trail and then out the road.

I went a little way out the Jailhouse Rock trail, but bushwacking through snow covered brush was not very fun, so I decided to stick to the official trails and headed out the Double Arch trail. First I checked out the Rocky Branch Overlook trail which was a new one for me.

I then headed for Double Arch, very weird to have this popular spot to myself.

I had never noticed this rock before, looks like a snake head

Then over to the other side of the valley and Auxier Ridge. I set up camp and then hiked back towards Courthouse Rock to cook dinner and wait for the sunset and some stars. It was just past a full moon, so I knew there would be a lot of light to make my way back to camp once the sun set.

Courthouse Rock waiting for the sunset.

It wasn't the best sunset I've seen, but it was nice. I was hopeful that the limited number of clouds boded well for stars.

It was cold waiting for the stars to come out, but it was worth it. Looking south with Orion peaking out from behind the trees.

Looking north towards Cassiopeia, I even got the Andromeda Galaxy by accident (the small smudge near the middle left)

Orion again and then time for bed.

Since the forecast called for zero chance of rain/snow, I decided to cowboy camp for the first time. I don't know that I would have been warmer in my hammock, but I was very cold in the night and ended up being wide awake at 6:45, plenty of time for a short hike to catch the sunrise.

Pano composed of 6 individual photos

Mountain ridges catching the sun

Double Arch catching the morning sun

I quickly ate breakfast after the sunrise and headed back to the car. I was really surprised as I got close to the Auxier Ridge trailhead to hear voices. It turned out to be four young guys from Cincinnati who had woke up early and drove down for the day, they said they had hiked in from the gate at the beginning of the road. I gave them some ideas for destinations and went on my way. 

I got to the Grays Arch trailhead and headed down the Rough Trail and ran into a solo woman heading up the trail and then not long later ran into three guys my age who had camped up on the ridge near Grays Arch. I passed a couple more dayhikers and when I got to the parking lot there were about 10 cars there, very different from my one car the day before. I ended up with complete solitude for the part I cared about so I was happy. Not a bad way to start 2018.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Gregory Bald

Great Smoky Mountains NP
Twentymile Station Trailhead
12/28 - 12/29/17
2017 bag nights: 32

I had a couple nights to recover from the holidays and the weather forecast looked close to perfect (sunny and 30s during the day and partly cloudy and 20s at night) in the higher elevation of the Smokies. I have wanted to check out Gregory Bald for a while and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

I started at Twentymile ranger station and headed up the Twentymile trail to the Wolf Ridge Trail and then the steep climb (about 3000 elevation gain over about 6 miles) to Parson and Gregory Bald. My goal was to set up camp and then catch the sunset on Gregory Bald, since I started hiking a little before 1pm, I did not have a lot of time.

Both the Twentymile and Wolf Ridge Trails parallel creeks which makes for nice walking when there are bridges and cold wet feet when you have to ford the creek.

As I got to about 4000 feet snow began to appear on the ground, not very much, but enough to chill my feet.

I got to Site 13 in between Parson and Gregory Balds and set up camp then headed to Gregory Bald for the sunset.

Looking down on Cades Cove

Even without many clouds it was a beautiful sunset. The stars were going to be out tonight, but so was a 1st quarter moon right in the middle of the sky.

Panorama (5 shots stitched)

Gregory Bald in the morning, sadly I could not feel my feet at this point and had to keep moving to stay warm.

A little bit of snow as the trail drops off of the Bald

My feet were cold enough that I still couldn't feel my toes. As I hiked towards the AT I decided that I would make a decision at the next intersection. If I still couldn't feel my feet after hiking more than a mile then I would drop off the ridge on the Long Hungry Ridge Trail and would think about camping at a lower site. Well I got the the Long Hungry Ridge Trail and still had frozen feet, so down I went.

The trail is an old railroad bed, pretty obvious on this long straight stretch, and makes for easy hiking.

The only problem with the trail is there are a number of fords to deal with lower down. I was able to rock hop across the first couple fords, but then I came to a couple that I had to wade through. My feet had finally warmed up, but now they were soaked. When I got to the next campsite, it was only noon and I did not have a book to read( I have the Kindle app on my phone, but I don't like to read for a long time that way). I decided that I could be at the car around 2 and home before my kids went to bed, so I kept going.

About a half mile from the trailhead is the Twentymile Cascade, not one of the best waterfalls, but nice.

This trip ended up not working the way I planned. The main problem was cold feet. I realized that I did not have bread bags for my feet which meant that once my feet got cold, I had a hard time warming them up. I also should have packed an extra pair of hiking socks. And lastly, I should have packed a book instead of just my phone to make it easier to kill time. Basically this trip failed because I did not transition from fall to winter backpacking. Oh well, lesson learned.

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.