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RAT-cation September 2018

Whenever it is possible, I try to take a few days off every year during my birth month to get away from the weekly struggles of work and life, and go on an adventure. This year I was able to make it happen so my son Tyler and I packed up the car and headed North for a much needed and well deserved vacation. Our first destination would require a two and a half hour drive as we planned to visit our good friend John ‘The Gnome’ Forbes aka Dr. Forbes who was working as a guide at the Breaks Interstate Park which is on the Virginia / Kentucky border. I had been there before yet, like most people, was unaware of all the amazing things the park has to offer. John had been working there long enough to intimately know every square inch of the park and then some so, he could show us most of the major highlights during our 3 day visit. We arrived early in afternoon and found him in his ‘gnomular home’ jamming out to some very loud music ! The first order of business would be to order up some food as Tyler and I had not eaten due to the lack of commercial establishments available in this extremely backwoods part of the country ! The Breaks resort restaurant serves up some very good vittles so as soon as we consumed them our adventure would begin.

Heading North through Virginia

Posted on 1 February '19 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

Work Trip on the Appalachian Trail – 6 – 29 – 2018

Cutting the annual growth along my section of the AT came a little later in the year than usual due to circumstances beyond my control. Add in an unusually warm and wet season and you get jungle type growth, some of which were taller than I am ! Suspecting this would be the case I decided to use a weedeater rather than the normal ‘sling blade’ method that we usually do. I like to use a weedeater every so many years anyway to give it a ‘good haircut’ and this was a good year to do that. Like anytime I go to the mountains I like to get an early as possible start and this trip would be no exception. My son Tyler and I started before daylight getting everything ready and packed into the Jeep so that as soon as our old friend Tommy ‘Bol’Dar’ Warden arrived we could depart on our quest.

Packing the Jeep at first light under a nice full moon

Posted on 9 January '19 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

Wolf Creek Falls and Paint Mtn. – 6 – 14-2018

Our next adventure would take us (my son Tyler Tarpley and I) to one of my favorites, the beautiful Wolf Creek Falls. Located in Cocke County near the TN / NC border not far from Hot Springs, NC., there are basically 3 or actually 4 different ways to get to them. The most known route is a long drive past Max Patch Mtn. on a very bumpy, backwoods, gravel road. Fairly high clearance would be a plus for this route. This will get you within less than half mile easy walking of the falls. Another variation (and shorter drive if you are coming from the TN side) is to drive in from Del Rio, TN., on the road that goes to the primitive Round Mtn. Campground as it intersects with the before mentioned route.

Wolf Creek Falls
Wolf Creek Falls (photo by Tyler Tarpley)

Posted on 5 January '19 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

Work Trip on the Appalachian Trail – 3-27-2018

Normally I do the ‘Pre-Spring walk-through’ sometime in February to check the condition of my trail section, mainly to get information to the saw crews as to how many blow-downs there are that will require a chainsaw and their locations, pictures, etc., however, due to the bad weather and snow we had this year it was late March before we (my son Tyler and I) could get in to the section. There was still snow on the ground but, we did not have any issues and was able to complete the task. There had been a lot of storms with high winds recently along with a round of freezing rain which was reported to us to have brought down a lot of limbs and debris. We were expecting the worst but, were pleasantly surprised to find the trail condition was about average for the amount of damage and the heavier work would be needed on the lower half of what used to be part of my section until recently. We got an early start with anticipation of having to saw several trees off the gated forest service road we use to access my section but, were happy to find only one along the road and another smaller one at the parking area. We sawed those out in a quick and efficient manner and were soon packed up and headed up the blue blazed access trail towards the campsite at Whistling Gap.


View from the TN side summit of Little Bald


Posted on 11 April '18 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

Tennessee Talus ! – 2-27-2018

Finding any form of ‘talus’  East of the Rocky Mountains is a rare thing however, there are a few instances of it found along the Appalachian Mountain chain. Mostly in the Northern sector as it is very seldom found this far South yet, we are lucky to have some fine examples of it right here in our local mountains. The best and largest examples are found on Unaka Mountain but, we do know of a few other sizeable areas of it on some other local slopes as well. This one in particular is equally as large in area but, the size of the rocks are somewhat smaller than the larger sized ones on Unaka. A small part of these could actually be classified as ‘scree’. We have known about these ‘rock fields’ for many years yet, never gave them much thought until a few years ago when we actually set our boots on the massive stones on Unaka which fueled our desire to check out some of the other ones we knew existed. We finally got around to checking out the next largest (in comparison to Unaka)  patch of talus and although I will not share the exact location or provide any pics that may give away their home, I will share a few close up shots of the talus fields to show the enormous size of them and just how steep these stacked stones are. I have always been curious as to how these massive stone fields were formed and more so as to how they manage to stay in place on such a steep angle. From a lot of hands on research of all the huge talus fields found on Unaka over several trips there, I have concluded that they used to be cliffs that were destroyed by either earthquakes, fire, freeze and thaw, or all the above. I am not so sure about this new investigation as the stones are smaller and much looser and harder to walk upon. It will always remain a curiosity in my mind until someone of authority can shed more light on these wonderful rock collections that flow down some of the steepest and most rugged of the mountains found around here. Getting to them is as hard a hike as I have ever been on so, fortunately they do protect themselves from being exploited by the masses.


Looking up from the bottom of the main talus field. Although this view shows way over a football field long of talus, this actual field is at least 3 times that in length with at least one more continuing into the tree line at the top !


Posted on 10 April '18 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

Unnamed Waterfall on Unaka Mtn – 2-8-2018

Welcome to the new year, 2018 ! Although we did go on an amazing adventure in January, it was to a sacred location that we visit yearly that I do not share with anyone other than those that have accompanied me on that journey each year for quite some time now. So, this would be our second adventure of the new year. With only time for a quick trip and with water levels at high tide, I decided to take Tyler to an unnamed waterfall that not many know about on Unaka Mountain. We got our usual early start but, were surprised by higher water levels than we actually expected which made crossing the creek a few times very interesting ! I was wearing my muck boots (which are knee high on me)  yet, the water was actually higher than they were in some places ! It was a cold day and there was some light ice forming on the laurel leaves around the falls from the heavy spray. It is just under 2 miles to these very well hidden falls and we made good time in getting there. It was a cloudy day but, was forecast to clear early so I wanted to get there as soon as I could for the best lighting as I did not possess any decent pics of these falls. The light was still good when we found them but, the attempt was futile due to the high amount of water that was flowing as there was just too much white water to get any quality pics. Since hardly no one visits these falls there is no trail whatsoever to them and nowhere to easily setup around them. I did what I could and just spent the rest of the time enjoying the pristine beauty and wildness of the area. We will come back another day when the water level is not so high.


Tyler and I at an unnamed waterfall on Unaka Mountain.


Posted on 8 April '18 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

Great Channels of Va. and Airplane Rock – 12-28-2017

Ever since my first trip to the Great Channels of Virginia a few years ago and upon seeing the huge rock formation perched high on a nearby ridge from there, that I started calling that day the ‘airplane rock’ , I have wanted to go there. Despite a few more trips to the area without accomplishing that goal, it was on my last trip there on 11-10-2016 as we were showing Larry Jarret the area, that my friend John Forbes and I vowed that we would stand upon the airplane rock before the next year (2017) was over ! That being said and with 2017 being almost over, the opportunity was presented for a return trip to the great channels in late December 2017 when another friend of ours, Scott ‘The Professor’ Burns was to be passing through our area and had asked if we could assist with marking something off his ‘bucket list’ which was a visit to see the great channels. Of course we all jumped at the chance and had high hopes of leaving early enough to have enough time for a full tour of the channels and still be able to get out to explore the airplane rock on our way out. A plan was formulated and finally the day came when my son Tyler and I would be leaving right after I clocked out of work at 4 am to pick John up at his house and hopefully arrive to meet Scott at the trail head before the first light.


Group shot in the ‘geometry room’


Posted on 5 April '18 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

Coyote Falls – 12-21-2017

The next thing on our list would be Coyote Falls. After waiting a long time for water levels to recover enough to make it worth visiting, we finally got our chance. I had not been to these falls in over 20 years and did not have any pics of them as we rarely carried cameras back then. Tyler had never been there so, on a chilly mid December morning we made our way to the area to find a place to park along the road to see if I could still remember how to get there ! There is no designated trail head nor is there a marked trail for these falls but, in recent years someone did list them on TN. Landforms so, their gps coordinates are easily known meaning, they get way more visitors than ever before. Parking beside the road at a place where some very inconsiderate people dump dead animals and trash, we jumped the guardrail and proceeded to look for the correct hollow that we would follow to the falls. It was not hard to locate and we were soon climbing the fairly steep route up this part of Unaka Mountain.


Coyote Falls


Posted on 22 March '18 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

Pinnacle Mountain Observation Tower Sunrise – 11-23-2017

A spur of the moment decision to leave before daylight to drive up to the Pinnacle Mountain Observation Tower on Buffalo Mountain to night hike up to catch the sunrise came from out of nowhere but, we acted upon it and did it ! It was a frosty morning and hunting season was now open so when we arrived at the parking area there were two trucks already there with deer hunters in them waiting on the first light. It goes without saying that they were a bit surprised when we parked and donned our packs and noisily hiked off into the pitch black darkness ! I did not feel guilty about it as I was surprised that any deer hunters would be hunting that high on the mountain since any good hunter knows that at that time and in that area they are mostly in the lower elevations due to the current environmental influences. It was colder as we hiked the half mile or so to the tower but, climbing the fairly steep grade kept us warm enough. We got there just before the first light could be seen and as I setup my tripod I was anxiously waiting and hoping it would be a good sunrise as it is such a gamble each and every time. We would end up losing this bet as it was not a phenomenal sunrise so no killer photos would be obtained however, any sunrise is to be considered beautiful as it means another day has been given to us and I can`t think of a better way to spend it than being in nature at the top of a high mountain with my son Tyler, watching the miracles unfold around us.


Sunrise. The sun is coming up on the far left side of Roan Mountain.


Posted on 21 March '18 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

Fulfillment Falls (Badger`s # 1000) – 11-18-2017

Being able to visit 1000 major waterfalls in only 4 years is quite a feat so, I am glad that I was invited and able to be there when fellow hiker Thomas ‘The Honey Badger’ Mabry completed this astonishing accomplishment. I am sure he could claim way more than 1000 during this time depending on what your definition of a ‘waterfall’ is but, knowing the Badger like I do I am sure he only counted the major ones and not every small falls he seen. Much like so many of the previous waterfalls he went to, the route to #1000 would not be an easy one. Badger chose a great location for this special occasion as it is not a well known falls and even the very few that know about them do not list them because, there is really no way to get to them without crossing private property. All of which would be difficult if not impossible to obtain permission for due to the seasonal use of the expensive homes there. I will also mention that there is no actual trails to these falls either but, that is pretty much the norm for most of the falls we go to.


Thomas ‘The Honey Badger’ Mabry presents his #1000 waterfall, Fulfillment Falls !


Posted on 18 March '18 by , under RATtreks. 1 Comment.