Archive for December, 2019

Fall Colors on Buffalo Mtn – Oct 28, 2019

This was a spur of the moment decision hike that started less than one hour before sunset. Having been off my injured left heel and right ankle for many months now, I needed to do a test run to see if the new stabbing pains in my calf muscles had diminished and see if the heel and ankle had healed any when going up steep climbs and descents. The closest steep hill to me that has a trail on it is the one that climbs up Buffalo Mountain from Dry Creek which is just behind my house. I was there within a few minutes and began the ascent as the sun was going down. It would have been nice to have started earlier to be able to watch the sunset from the top of the mountain but, I knew that no matter how fast I went it was not going to happen.


Posted on 17 December '19 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

Work Trip on the Appalachian Trail – June 27, 2019

The only time I dread doing trail work on my section is when it is time for the annual weed whacking in the Summer. Luckily for me I have a secret weapon without which I would not be able to do it anymore. That would be my faithful son Tyler. He helps me carry the heavy weed eater and shares the bulk of the very hard work that is required to use it. My section is very steep and very rugged. It is hard enough to hike it nevertheless weed eat it. I am very thankful that he helps me. He has been doing his entire life when he was barely old enough to even carry a small sling blade. I hope he continues to maintain the section after I am unable to or gone but, that is up to him. We got an early start before sunrise and watched it come up on the way there. It was going to be a hot day to be battling the Weed Orcs on the trail to Mordor.

white blaze

Posted on 17 December '19 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

Douglas Falls & More ! – May 13, 2019

While going over my list of awesome places that my son Tyler has not yet been to, it dawned on me that I had not yet introduced him to the amazing world of Big Ivy located within the Coleman Boundary. This is a huge backcountry area that is well off the beaten path that butts up against the Blue Ridge Parkway below the Craggy Gardens range. It is rich in streams and waterfalls, a dozen or so located right along the gravel forest road that leads to the trail head of the well known Douglas Falls. There are dozens of more falls found off trail along the numerous waterways that flow through the area if you do not mind creek whacking through steep and rough terrain. I know this thanks to the person that introduced me to this area on a trip we took back in July of 2011 who was my dear friend Dave Aldridge. (RIP Dave) It was a dark, rainy morning as we drove over into North Carolina We were hoping the rain would stop and the clouds hang around. We drove to the end of the road to our first stop which would be to the main event, Douglas Falls.

Douglas Falls in the rain and fog

Posted on 16 December '19 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

Whitehouse Mtn. Cliffs – April 25, 2019

Whitehouse Mountain and cliffs

I have been to Whitehouse Mountain Cliffs many times over the years as it is one of my most favorite places located in what I call ‘my backyard’ however, my son Tyler had not yet had the pleasure of this experience. He was with us on a trip down the spine of the Flint Mountain Cliffs that sit just across the valley from the Whitehouse Mountain Cliffs back in April 2016 so, he has seen the best view possible of them but, we have not taken the time to get him on them until now. It was a brisk Spring morning as we began our trek out of the new parking lot in Rocky Fork. As you may already know, I am not a big fan of the whole ‘Rocky Fork State Park’ thing but, I will agree that a parking area was needed and now there is a rather large one to make it easier for the masses to access this pristine wilderness environment. The creek was flowing nicely as we made our way up the old (and newly graveled) road so, we stopped momentarily to enjoy the popular ‘triple waterfalls’ there.


Posted on 16 December '19 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

Work Trip on the Appalachian Trail – March 28, 2019

Approaching the summit of Little Bald

Another Spring season is upon us ! This means that it is time to do a walk through of my trail section to see how it has fared through the harsh Winter months. My son Tyler would be accompanying me on this work trip as we use the old abandoned gated forest road to access Whistling Gap where my section now begins / ends. This time we would end up doing a lot of work removing downed trees from the road just to be able to get to the trail before any work could be done there ! Luckily they were all small in size but, time consuming nonetheless.

There were not any significant blow downs on the section due to the CMC Monday work crew having already been on my section to take care of that. We would be moving limbs and debris and cutting back some trouble spots and spending our time mostly digging out the many water bars along the entire section as we climbed up to the summit of Little Bald aka Big Hairy. It was a warm, sunny day so we enjoyed the views and our time on the mountain. We made it to the lunch spot on the summit by 1pm where a long and well deserved rest was had.

Gaining elevation quickly on the steep trail
View of Big Bald in the distance. There used to be an unobstructed view of it when I first started working this section some 30+ yrs ago !
Looking back at the summit of Little Bald where my section begins / ends.
I take great pride in painting my white blazes. I do them free handed and have been told they are some of the best on the entire AT.
View from the TN side of Little Bald
View from the TN side of Little Bald
View from the TN side of Little Bald

From there we took the old AT down the ridge line to once again search for the old Clyde Smith memorial sign that we had been unsuccessful at finding on previous trips. Recently my friend Bol’Dar had finally located it and we had directions as to where to look. We ended up going right to it ! I knew instantly why I had not been able to find it on our previous tries as it was not where my memory of it was at all although, in my defense it has been over 20 years since we found it the first time ! Unfortunately the top half is now completely gone.

Lots of old, gnarly trees along the old ridge route
Tyler leans against a large ‘burl’ growth !
And just like that, I saw it !!
Only the bottom half remains.

What remains of the sign reads:


The best my memory can recall the top half read something like this:


I have plans to replace this sign with a new one (that will be worded better) to honor the legendary trail maintainer and famous signmaker who died on that spot while chopping a large tree off the trail back in 1976. I will provide a complete history of the man and the progress of that project when that time comes.

We finished up digging out the water bars on our way back down the mountain. This is hard, back breaking work that is required to keep the trail from eroding away. It is harder when the Fall leaves are not raked out ahead of time as was the case this time. It took the rest of our time taking care of this and it was late evening before we would get back to the Jeep.

This tree was mashed down by a HUGE widow maker a few years ago. Once the huge tree was removed this one continued to grow in this manner.
Freshly dug out water bar
Another cleaned out water bar
Digging these out is a lot of hard work but has to be done. I have many on my section due to the steepness.
Another freshly dug water bar
In this image there is not only a freshly dug out water bar but also some dead trees I used to block off an old ridge trail (old AT) that was also being used by a local horse rider several years ago. This is a left handed turn and it was too easy to keep going straight on the old trail so it needed t be blocked.
Almost the last water bar !! (as we come down into the gap)
An area that always has blow downs ! We use them to make resting benches !
The last water bar to dig out before reaching our exit at Whistling Gap.

We always keep a cooler with Mountain Dews on ice in the Jeep as our reward for the hard days work which we enjoyed immensely as we drove out the old forest service road to the end where Tyler would perform his usual magic on the ornery old gate lock before making the 45 minute drive home.

There is an old homestead site along the old forest service road we use to access the trail. it has lots of hand stacked rock fences and piles such as this one.
Tyler working with the old lock to get the gate open for us to get out.

The trail is now in great shape and ready for the rest of horde of Northbound thru-hikers that are already coming through and we are already contemplating the dreaded weed whacking work that will have to be done in a few short months to come. It had been another productive and enjoyable day in Nature. Until next time,,,,

Posted on 11 December '19 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.