Farewell 2020 Hike – 12-30-2020

Having been over 3 months since my last outing and, with 2020 nearly over, I thought I should take a hike to give 2020 a proper sendoff in hopes of at least ending it on a positive note. Along for this journey would be my son Tyler Tarpley and stepson, Jeffrey Messer. It was to an undisclosed location not too far from home but, would take us off trail into the backcountry for a short but, moderate hike (since I had no clue how my physical ability would be at this time). Upon arrival to the area we could see the tourist trailheads were already full and it was only Wednesday. I found a parking space and we proceeded to head in the opposite direction of any known trails to quickly disappear into the forest. The creek was too high to cross safely so we had to traverse some steep sidehill terrain and become one with the laurels in order to get around it. Soon we found ourselves on the secret ninja trail I was seeking.

Shrouded by trees and vines, the distant visuals almost elude us

I was pleasantly surprised to find the hidden trail in really good shape considering I can count on my fingers the number of people that even know it exists and have fingers left over. It had been a few years since I was last on this trail so I was very excited but, with my memory not being as good as it once was, I somehow missed the turnoff and we ended up going much farther up the mountain than I had planned ! I was having so much fun blazing up this awesome trail that by the time I realized this, we were already well beyond the missed turnoff and already at the butt end of the valley ! Having gained so much elevation, I did not want to lose it just to have to climb it again plus, I dislike backtracking so I seen the ridge above us (which is where we needed to be) and despite it being steep as a wall, decided to climb it. Luckily I found an old log road that made it much easier and after a short yet, very exhilarating climb, we would soon be resting high upon it.

Small falls hiding in the laurels
Tyler leads the way once on the hidden ninja trail
Jeffrey following close behind me.
Another waterfall, a 20 footer along the ninja trail below us
Tyler getting a drink along the ninja trail, high above the 20 foot falls

Standing on the narrow spine of the ridge I could see a steep climb above us, and steep downhill below us. For some reason I decided to climb even further up the crazy steep ridge trail to get to its summit in order to pinpoint our exact location. This took a few minutes and really took some wind out of my sails ! As soon as we were almost to the summit, I could see some nice rock formations and the ridge beyond was going into a Z formation. I knew then exactly where I was and realized we were indeed “too high !!” from where we needed to be. I also realized I was on a ridge that I had once stated that I would never climb again ! (Never say never !) Knowing we now had to head down the steep ridgeline we took a long break before proceeding.

Following the boys up the steep finger ridge towards the ridgeline
Almost to the top (of this part of the ridge)
Nice rock formations near the top of the ‘Z’ ridge
Nice visuals from the top of the summit along the ridgeline

Going down, the ridge splits as it tries to trick you into going the wrong way which leads you back into the wrong holler. I knew this from previous experience so, I carefully led us beneath the rocky outcroppings over to the correct ridge to continue our steep descent. Soon we found the rocky knob overlook high above the gap we should have came out at had I not missed the turn off so early in the hike lol. This was another great place to rest and enjoy the views.

Going below the rocks to get over to the correct ridge line.
After getting beyond the rocks, Tyler makes his way towards the correct ridgeline.
Jeffrey and Tyler enjoy the Rocky Knob Overlook

From there is was a short but, steep descent down into the gap where we should have been over an hour ago. Our original destination was now only a mere 50 yards away through some dense growth however, it was already 2pm and I had to get Jeffrey back to where he could obtain a phone signal by 3pm for an important call so we knew we could not spend another minute on the mountain. This kind of sucked to be at our chosen destination and not even have time to go see it ! We would be lucky to be able to get back to the vehicle by 3pm so we immediately kicked it into ‘Bear Grylls mode’ and quickly ball-hooted off the mountain from the gap back down the steep draw to the ninja trail we came in on.

Following Tyler and Jeffrey down the steep draw towards the ninja trail
Following the boys into the laurels as we hurriedly make our way off the mountain

Only this time once we got back to the raging creek we would not have time to traverse around it so I opted to do a ninja log crawl to get over it. There was no room for any mistakes and luckily no one made any. We got to the vehicle and out to the highway by 3:11pm when Jeffrey`s phone rang. We had made it in time. Although we did not get to see or enjoy the original chosen location, we did enjoy the entire adventure immensely as, just being anywhere in the backcountry at anytime is a blessing and Lord knows we needed the exercise ! It was a fine hike to say goodbye to one of the worst years of my lifetime. Hoping for better times in the coming new year. Until then,,,,,

Me, crawling across the slick log above the raging creek (Photo by Jeffrey Messer)

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Posted on 11 January '21 by , under RATtreks.

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