My son Tyler and myself were out enjoying the awesome Fall colors on 10-16-2010 and we ended up going to the Sam’s Gap area. We were not disappointed as the colors were really good there. We drove to the top and worked our way down stopping at all the cool viewing places. I love how you can see Big Bald and Little Bald right over from you. Also it is a grand place to see all of the Rocky Fork area including everything from Sam’s Gap to Flint Mountain, over past Wilson and Frozen Knobs on down to Cherokee and Buffalo Mountains. It really is quite amazing to see a large part of the ‘big picture‘. The sun was bright the entire week the leaves were in peak so, it made it hard to get quality photos but, the images in my head will live forever. Nature is profoundly beautiful beyond belief at times.
It has been since March 24, 2010 since I have been able to get back on my section of the Appalachian Trail for any maintenance work. This is due to a motorcycle accident in May that left me with several busted ribs and an injury to my right arm. Unfortunately I was unable to cut the annual growth this year but, I was hoping that due to those circumstances, that the Carolina Mountain Club work crews would take care of it for me. It seems this did not happen. Luckily for the hikers, it was not a bad year for weeds on my section. It has been a bit dry up there so, it was not terribly overgrown, however, it was definitely not up to my usual standards. Thanks to my friend and fellow trail maintainer, Doug Corkhill [who does the section next to mine from Big Bald to Little Bald], I was able to get a ride with him to the top making it easier for me to walk my entire section going mostly downhill, on September 21, 2010. Thanks Doug !
It grieves me tremendously to report that my dear friend Jeffrey “Okeepa” Hager left this world on September 28th, 2010 after losing his 3+ year battle with brain cancer. I have known ‘Okeepa’ since his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 1996 and we have been close friends ever since. He is a kindred soul and was an adventurer, loving the life that this Earth offered to him .
It’s hard to believe that another year has come and gone but, sure enough another RAT birthday hike adventure has been completed. For those of you who keep up with such things you may recall last years 34 mile excursion was from Fox Creek to Damascus, Virginia. (Pics seen HERE ! ). Due to a recent motorcycle accident which left me with several busted ribs and injury to my right arm in May, along with some weight gain, I chose a shorter trek for this year going from Max Patch to Hot Springs, North Carolina approx. 20 miles. My friend Bol’Dar came along; I am happy to say he has never missed a birthday hike yet.
Arriving in Hot Springs around 2:30 pm on Thursday 9/9/10, we discovered that it would be after 5 pm before our shuttle driver could take us to Max Patch. This was not planned and although we were anxious to get on The Patch, we had no other choice since Daniel at the Bluff Mountain Outfitters had graciously agreed to take us at a discounted rate due to our affiliation as trail maintainers with the Carolina Mountain Club. While waiting we enjoyed some food and a cold beer at the Rock Bottom Sports Bar and Inn. The chicken/bacon/ranch wheat wrap was delicious ! Afterward we waited on time to pass by sitting on a sidewalk bench observing life in a small town that is quickly changing to a more ‘touristy’ metropolis like Damascus, VA and Gatlinburg, TN. Eventually the time came and we were dropped off at the Appalachian Trail road crossing to begin our ascent of the mighty Max Patch Bald around 6 pm.
Due to the fast approaching annual RAT birthday hike date (9-9-2010), it was decided that we (Bol’Dar, my son Tyler, and myself) would go to Jerry Cabin (known to us as Sam’s Cabin) to check the flow of the spring there. It is usually a fair indicator of how the area water levels are and it is also a great section to hike. I had not been there since the birthday hike of 2008. It was Bol’Dar’s suggestion to hike in from the North Carolina side by way of the Fork Ridge Trail. This is a direct route to the A.T. right near the cabin, but it is very steep and at least two miles that feels more like four. I guess I needed a test to see how I was going to do on the upcoming week long hike so I agreed to this madness ! It had been at least 20 years or more since I last set a boot on the Fork Ridge Trail and then it was always going down it. I had never climbed it until now and I doubt I will be climbing it again any time soon.