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The Appalachian Queen Falls – 1-24-2017

With the Camel Servicer`s season now in full swing and water levels to match, our next run would be to see another one of Larry`s latest and grandest discoveries that we ended up calling the ‘Appalachian Queen’. With a full crew including Larry Jarret, John Forbes, Tommy Warden, my son Tyler Tarpley and myself, we were anxious to meet this previously unknown, unnamed, dot-less mistress that Larry had spoken so highly of. Getting to her address was difficult and required navigating some extremely steep terrain and finessing of some private property. In other words, another typical Camel Servicer type run ! She did not fail to deliver on this day as we could hear her calling out to us loudly from over a half a mile away ! It took awhile to find a safe route down the cliffs and steep scree slopes to reach the swollen stream but, we soon would be at water level where getting upstream to her was equally as hard. She was angry on this day and we could barely hear each other talk over her deafening roar. I was instantly blown away with my first view of her and I could not wait to get closer.


The Appalachian Queen Falls


Posted on 27 December '17 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

Gentry Falls – 1-18-2017

Welcome to the New Year ! Normally I am out with my friend Tommy ‘Bol`Dar’ Warden on a New Years Day hike but, for some reason which I can not remember now, I was unable to go with him. It would be nearly 3 weeks later before I was able to hike for the first time in 2017 and in turn he would be unable go with me ! This time would also be my first time hiking with a new hikertrash friend Brian Solomon. It was one of those short notice trips so it was decided that we would go to Gentry Falls, a local favorite that I have been to many times over the years. This falls is made up of two drops right together that are in excess of 40 feet in vertical height. During higher water flows, the taller, lower drop is actually a twin / double falls as it would be for us on this day. I would also be accompanied by John Forbes and my son, Tyler Tarpley. It was an early, before daylight start in hopes of good lighting. The water levels were also very good after some recent rains. Tyler and I got to the trail head first in total darkness and waited for a short while for Brian and John to show up. Soon we would all be on our way along the 2+ mile hike to the falls as first light was breaking.


Gentry Falls


Posted on 26 December '17 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

Laurel Fork and its Unknown Falls – 12-13-2016

There are many well known waterfalls along the Laurel Fork corridor of Carter County, TN. but, there are also a few unknown falls that have never been documented before. That is, until now. Yet another tip of the hat to my friend and fellow mountain man Larry Jarret for mining out another impeccable run of waterfalls that he was generous enough to share with his fellow ‘Camel Servicers’ ! Having already surpassed more than 250 major unknown and unnamed waterfalls locally, this run would only add to those numbers. Like any other Jarret find, the route required to reach them would definitely not be easy as there are no trails anywhere near where these well secluded beauties hide. It would also require crawling through one of the longest, continuous laurel hells that I have ever encountered just to reach the correct unnamed creek. Then it was an ‘up the gut’ steep climb to reach the various falls located there. Add in the fact that it was raining by the time we reached the off trail part of this journey and then crawling the last mile or more off the mountain in the dark and you end up with another typical yet, amazing Camel Servicer run ! We would be missing Tommy ‘Bol’Dar’ Warden on this amazing adventure but, those present would be our Jedi leader Larry Jarret, Resident Gnome John Forbes, my son Tyler ‘Little RAT’ Tarpley and me, the RATman.


Unknown, (until now) unnamed, dot-less beauty in the Laurel Fork area


Posted on 24 December '17 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

The Shinbone – 12-07-2016

There is no such thing as an ‘easy Camel Servicer Run’ but, I will say that the Shinbone run is without any doubt, the most difficult one to date. Located in North Carolina yet, only a stones throw from Tennessee, it involves some of the steepest terrain, and thickest laurel hells that I have ever encountered. The fact that it took us nearly twelve hours to go a mere three and a half miles speaks volumes as to how rugged this trek is. The last mile was done in total darkness. I don`t recall ever being so tired and sore from a trip in my entire life. That being said you may be wondering was it worth it ? The answer would be absolutely however, if you were to ask me would I do it again ? I would have to ponder long and hard on that one and the answer might very well be no. There are several pristine, unnamed and dot-less waterfalls hidden within the Shinbone realm that are well protected from prying eyes by the sheer difficulty of the terrain itself. There is not another picture of them anywhere and I feel sure it will remain that way for years to come. I am grateful and privileged to have seen them and I owe it all to our fearless leader Larry Jarret who did the excruciating legwork to find them on two previous trips (down AND back I might add !). On this trip we would use two vehicles and go one way, top down with the full Camel Servicer crew of Larry Jarret, John Forbes, Tommy Warden, my son Tyler Tarpley and myself.


Into the sun and some of the thickest laurels found anywhere with Larry Jarret.


Posted on 18 December '17 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

The Great Channels of Virginia – 11-10-2016

You know it is a very special and significant destination when the ‘Roan Mountain Jedi’ Larry Jarret agrees to leave the great state of Tennessee to see it ! This trip was definitely a special occasion as we would be visiting the Great Channels of Virginia. Having been there a few times before, I place it on my list of ‘must see before you die’ as it really is a local wonder of the world. I mean, where else can you seeĀ  sandstone rocks that are over 400 million years old carved out by ice ! On this trip would also be John Forbes who has explored this area extensively more times than anyone I have ever heard of. There would also be another first timer with us, my son, Tyler Tarpley. It was a bright, sunny Fall morning with warm temps and after a short delay (as Gnomes must have their breakfast and espresso) the Camel Servicer`s Union would find ourselves at a nice local waterfall that was along the way.


Group shot from within the Great Channels of Virginia (top to bottom = John Forbes, Tyler Tarpley, Randy Tarpley, and Larry Jarret)


Posted on 10 December '17 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

The Rhino Horn Cliffs – 11-5-2016

The Rhino Horn Cliffs (a name given to them by our group, the ‘Camel Servicer`s’ ) are a prestigious series of impressive vertical rock formations that sit on Black Mountain, some 650 feet above Laurel Falls (Hampton,TN). I have looked up at them for well over 30 years now, each time vowing that I would one day stand upon them. That day finally came. It was with much help from my friend and fellow ‘Camel Servicer’, Larry Jarret that would make it all possible. He too had always had this quest on his list and after much research had plotted a route to the cliffs from above them. This required a completely off trail trek that would include a steep climb and an even steeper descent all while navigating in and around private property. It turned out to be the perfect avenue as we would discover that getting down to the lower areas and bases of the cliffs did require using a rope thus the idea of climbing up to the top of the cliffs from the waterfall and gorge below (like we had always assumed would be the way we would go) would not be possible as, it would require some very technical freestyle climbing and ropes etc. On this expedition would be Larry Jarret, John Forbes, my son Tyler Tarpley, and me, the RATman.


The Rhino Horn Cliffs (Photo by Larry Jarrett)


Posted on 30 November '17 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

Bonas Defeat Gorge in its Entirety – 10-30-2016

After being defeated by rain on my first trip back on 8-20-2016, a return trip was planned back to the gnarly gorge known as Bonus Defeat. For some history on this area and how it got its name, please refer to my report on that previous trip HERE. On this un-defeated trip, we would successfully imperforate the entire gorge from bottom to top, from the Powerhouse where the gorge ends at its confluence with Wolf Creek to the upper Tanasee Lake Reservoir at its inception. This would be an all day and into the night event despite it being under 3 miles one way which shows the extreme ruggedness of the terrain. Also, we would be taking our time to explore and document every facet of this amazing place which is a daunting task to do in such a short time. After a late morning start and a short hike down the gated road to the river, we soon found ourselves at the lower entrance to the gorge where this awesome journey would begin. Those present would be myself (RAT), my son Tyler ‘Little RAT’ Tarpley, Thomas ‘The Badger’ Mabry, John ‘Gnome’ Forbes , and photographer extraordinaire, Cathy Anderson.


Tyler, somewhere deep within the Bonas Defeat Gorge


Posted on 21 November '17 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

A Sunrise, The Darkside, and a Waterfall – 10-19-2016

With the Fall colors now showing I planned an adventure for my son Tyler and I. This trip would start out a few hours before first light as we would make the drive over to the Grandfather Mountain area and night hike to a point high on Rough Ridge to anxiously await the impending sunrise. From there we would make our way to the ‘Darkside Cliffs’ as I had never been there and it was on our way to our final destination of Harper Falls.


Sunrise as seen from Rough Ridge on Grandfather Mountain


Posted on 13 November '17 by , under RATtreks, Uncategorized. No Comments.

Twisting and Compression Falls – 10-6-2016

With the Fall colors just beginning along with the mild temps and lower water level, I decided it was time for another return trip to one of my favorite locations in the Elk River Gorge which is Twisting and Compression Falls. This would be my son Tyler`s first time to this awe inspiring area and it is always exciting to see the expressions on the faces of first timers especially when they are seeing a place as rugged and special as this one. We would be accompanied by John Forbes who is also no stranger to these parts having been with me on more than one occasion here. Normally we would follow river right along a very hard to find and primitive ninja goat trail that snakes it way along the tops of the many cliffs that line that side of the gorge which does afford a very good high view of Twisting Falls not to mention being able to get down onto the ‘shelf rock‘ just below the base of the falls and then continue on until a super steep descent down the correct off trail route would land us at the base of Compression Falls. Of course here is also ‘the chasm‘ that one can use a rope to climb down to reach the base of Twisting Falls as well, which we did on a previous trip but, since the weather was warmer this time and we were looking for a new adventure here, we decided that we would cross the river and go down river left all the way to Compression Falls and out that way. Our decision was rewarding and paid off with everything we had expected and then some.


Early morning sun making its way down into the Elk River Gorge


Posted on 9 November '17 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.

RAT`s Annual B-Day Hike – 9-8 to 9-10-2016

Almost every year I have tried to take 4 or 5 days off to go hiking around my birth date in September. Although I have missed a few I managed to make it happen in 2016. This one would only be for 3 or 4 days which is the shortest yet but, it is way better than none at all ! I will also add that the location and the unusually hot weather made it seem much longer. For the first time ever and to my delight, I would be joined by my son Tyler Tarpley. Unfortunately though, my usual compadre Tommy ‘Bol’Dar’ Warden would be unable to attend. The locations I chose for this event was in the Linville Gorge as Tyler had only been there once before and there was much more I wanted to show him. Day one was spent gathering last minute supplies, packing up and driving over where we stopped at the Gorge Rat`s campsite at the Hawksbill trail head with just enough daylight left to complete the climb to the summit before the sunset.


View from Hawksbill looking towards Table Rock as the sun began to set on our first day.


Posted on 25 October '17 by , under RATtreks. No Comments.