Work Trip on the Appalachian Trail – 10-09-2014

I do not always get a chance to go on a Fall trip to my trail section but, this year I got lucky enough to be invited along with my fellow trail maintainer Doug Corkhill to accompany him on a trip up to his section on Big Bald. I try not to turn down any opportunities like this as it enables me to walk my section from top to bottom, one way thus eliminating the arduous climb up 5+ miles from Spivey Gap to Little Bald and then having to go back down ! I can not only get more done from top down but, it is also much easier on this old, worn out body of mine. It was magnificent weather and turned out to be a postcard blue sky day so we could not ask for any better considering the weather had been rather crappy just prior to this day. After getting through the guard shack and using the brand new key to the gate on the bald, it was about 10:30 am when we hit the trail.

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Big Bald in all her glory

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View from Big Bald looking towards NC, you can see Mt. Mitchell in this shot.

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Zoomed shot of Table Rock off in the distance as seen from Big Bald

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Looking back at Big Bald

The views were incredible as always but, still hard to get great pics due to the bright sun but being on the bald is always the most awesome thing in the world. We came across the resident ‘birders’ who were teaching a class of youngsters about what they do up there. We helped them get their canopy setup and then were invited to speak to the class about what we do there as trail maintainers to which we were happy to oblige only after they showed them how to band a bird and let it go. That privilege was given to a young girl who was very excited to do so.

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The birders ! Having trouble getting the bent canopy up, so Doug and I assisted them with it.

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The bird lady getting a woodpecker out of the paper bag that had been snared in the nets earlier. She would be teaching the class how to document all the needed information and banding the bird before its release.

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Most of the kids paid close attention to what was going on as she weighed the bird, took down lots of written info and applied the band to its ankle before releasing it

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One of the older teachers showing one of the class the proper way to hold a bird to release it to prevent injuring it

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This girl was obviously very happy to be doing it the right way and she did release the bird which wasted no time getting out of there !

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Looking towards Viking Mtn, Coldspring Mtn, Rocky Fork, etc. I could see that the one mountain range, the one that is the very back wall of the Rocky Fork area, was glowing with color while the other surrounding mtns were not,, I zoomed in, see next pic,,,

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Zoomed shot of the colors on the mtn range I was seeing,,, to orient you as to what you are looking at, the hill that is just out of sight to the right is Wilson Knob, and the hill you are seeing that disappears to your left is the ascent to Buzzard Rock. That is the entire Rocky Fork Valley in the middle. Pretty awesome eh ?

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Clearly the top of the world, this view, towards Erwin and Johnson City, you can see the large evil owl (fake) on a pole that is used to scare the birds into the many nets that are set up across the balds

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This view is towards Little Bald (almost hidden by the trees) but you can see Unaka (distant left) and Roan (distant right) in the distance

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Another view towards Unaka and No Business Knob before descending into the woods

From there we made our way down off the bald out to the shelter, known as the Carolina Condo for a short break and to get some of the coldest water on the AT before continuing on towards Little Bald.

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The trees grow very gnarly around Big Bald

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This is my favorite gnarly tree Ent on the mountain

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Big Bald Mountain Shelter (Carolina Condo) as seen through the bear cables

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Fall colors are starting

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A resident cricket posed long enough to make this red leaf more enjoyable

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Doug checking out one of his white blazes as we begin our walk out the ridge between Big Bald and Little Bald

There was not a lot of work to be done on this day so it would be more of a pleasure hike than a work trip so we were in no hurry. I did dig out several water bars on my way down as I was carrying a fire rake but, I got lucky and there were no blow downs or limbs to have to saw or snip. Before long we made it over the three false summits to the real summit of Little Bald (aka Big Harry) where we ate lunch on the summit rock there. After that we enjoyed the wonderful view off the TN side made possible by our hard work earlier this year when Doug and I cleared several limbs and trees that were obscuring the views. I still plan on going below the cliff and taking out some more trees later.

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The summit of Little BaldĀ  Elevation: 5280+ feet where my section begins at that white mark.

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View from the overlook on the TN side of the summit of Little Bald. You are basically looking towards Erwin, you can see Temple Hill prominently just to left of center and Unaka to far right,,

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View from overlook on summit of Little Bald looking off TN side,, this is more towards Johnson City where you can see the Nolichucky River Valley in the distance over the Rich Mountains, Buffalo and Cherokee Mountain Ranges

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View from TN side of Little Bald summit

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more views,, from Little Bald,, TN side

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View from Little Bald summit, TN side,, Temple Hill in center, the reds were really popping as they were the first color to show this year,,

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zoomed shot of the red colors, Rich Mountains in background. If you look far enough out in distance you can plainly see Bays Mtn.

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More close up of the Rich Mtns, again you can see Bays Mtn in background

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Love the beginning colors and my favorite mtn range, Rich Mountain

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zoomed in over Flattop Mountain to see Unaka Mtn. with color starting

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Doug enjoying the view from the overlook on the summit of Little Bald (TN side)

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One last shot before I head off the mountain

I have to put in a shout out to the Carolina Mountain Club here as their work crews were kind enough to come out and cut the annual growth off my entire section this year due my right shoulder injury (torn rotator cuff) as I was unable to do it this year. They did a great job and I can`t thank them enough !

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Trail leading off the summit of Little Bald. The weeds were cut this year by the CMC since I was not able to due to injury. Thanks to everyone who was a part of that !

It is at that point where Doug and I say our goodbyes and part ways as he heads back to his truck, working on his section along the way and I begin my killer descent down Little Bald on my way back to Spivey Gap. On this trip since there was not really any trail work to do, I decided to go off trail and follow the spine of the main ridge line down, the way the old AT used to go many years ago, in hopes of finding once again, the old wooden sign made in memorial to Clyde Smith who was a sign maker for the ATC for several years prior to his passing many years ago. Me and Bol’Dar had found it once some 20 years ago but have not been able to locate it since. The ridge was not too overgrown so it was not hard to make my way down it.

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One of many old trees along the ridge

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I found this nice deer trees stand in a huge tree near where I thought the old sign would be

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Cool fungus I found on the ridge trail

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Huge old Ents found on the steep ridge line. This is where I thought the old sign was but it was not there,,,

It does become wide at one point so I had to go side to side a few times to make sure I was not passing the spot. I spent a lot of time in doing so and followed it to where I thought the sign was but, I did not get lucky enough to see it again. I plan at least one more trip back for this just to make sure but, I fear the sign may be gone although I can`t imagine how as it is a huge sign on very thick wood and was on an old growth tree that was very large even back then and it was really high off the ground where it had traveled up as the tree grew but despite my best efforts I could not find it.

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View I got from a small opening as I was making my way down the ridge

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This tree is consuming an old fence and a vintage can

I foll0wed the ridge until it came out at the beginning of the new upper relo and I knew then I was not going to see the sign that day. From there I took the trail on down to the AT Rock and Whistling Gap and began my climb up to High Rocks. I did take the side trail up to the rocks where I spent some time resting and taking some pics before taking the short cut off the back side to connect back to the trail and make my way on down to Spivey Gap. It did get very cloudy and dark, and some thunder rumbled and it actually sprinkled on me as I climbed up to High Rocks from the gap but I never got wet. I found out later it poured on Doug up on Big Bald.

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Some very colorful fungus

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Orange whip ? Orange whip ? Anyone ?

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I think this is called ‘Chicken of the Woods’ ?? if so it is edible,,

Since I was taking all the shortcuts on this day I decided to take the one that leads down from the AT Rock to Whistling Gap. This goes very near a house and private property that is located precariously close to the gap but uniquely out of sight. The owner used to ride his horse on my trail and do quite a bit of damage but, I have not seen him in a few years. They have a really nice trail cut from the gap to their house and I wondered if it was still there so I went that way to find out. I can confirm that it is still there. I am envious as I would love to live there.I came across more fungus on this shortcut.

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Some more fungus I found along another shortcut I was taking

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Tiny mushrooms

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Yellow Fungus

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A dong tree that grows along my trail section

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Closed Gentian found on the side trail to High Rocks

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View from High Rocks

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My view from High Rocks (that is Coldspring Mtn sticking up on mtn in far distance, just left of center, and rocky fork to right in the sun there)

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High Rocks view (good shot of Rich Mtn)

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View from the other side of High Rocks. This is looking at Flattop Mountain with Unaka off behind it. Lots of colors starting to show

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Zoomed view from High Rocks – looking at lower right side of Flattop Mtn and Joe Lewis fields area, that is Unaka in background and the Iron Mtn range

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View from High Rocks – Looking towards Rocky Fork, Rich Mtn, Coldspring Mtn etc

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View from High Rocks

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High Rocks view towards Flattop and Unaka Mountains

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Close up of some of the reds that were popping

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High Rocks View

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Nice color starting on High Rocks

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It had sprinkled on me earlier and was very cloudy when I arrived here but I stayed long enough to see the sun come out a few times which helped to light some of the nearby mountains

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The flaming orange tree made this little view all worthwhile

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When the sun came out from under the clouds and I cold see the clouds in the valley in the distance, it made me wish I had brought my larger camera

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Late evening view from High Rocks (too bad I did not have time to stay for sunset)

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Beautiful colors in the whistling gap valley

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Mother Nature does a great job landscaping on High Rocks

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I love the texture and diversities in this shot of the mosses on High Rocks

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Fall is in the air on High Rocks

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One last shot of the view from High Rocks before I had to leave

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Colorful spider I found on the backside of High Rocks

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The AT as it goes under High Rocks

I passed 3 young guys, South-bounders that were thru-hiking the entire AT, one who never stopped and had little to say and the other two that were apparently together that did have time for some conversation. The second of which I somehow inadvertently talked into taking a short cut up the hill on the old trail where he would come out in front of his buddy whom I had met just before him. I was taking almost all he know shortcuts going down so it was turning out to be that kind of day. After my last shortcut, I came out at the old campsite which is now off trail just beyond the top of the serpentine rock steps we built several years ago where I reminisced of the good times I have had there before continuing on to the gap and my car.

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View from trail near Spivey Gap

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The rock bridge I helped the CMC build many years ago. Once across this its 50 yards up tot he road and my car

It had been another great day on the mountain and the only bad thing would be that I had to work for 8 hours at my job when I got home. I stopped in Erwin at the ‘Hawg and Dawg’ to get my post hike grub on. I had great food which I followed by some homemade peach cobbler with peach ice cream there that made what had been a near perfect day complete. I can`t wait for the next adventure,,,,,,

food

A huge loaded baked potato with pulled pork barbeque and sauce and a grilled hot dog with lots of toppings

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My home made peach cobbler ala mode dessert. There is not a better way to end a day of hiking.

Posted on 5 November '14 by , under RATtreks.

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