Work Trip on the Appalachian Trail – 4-2-2014

Only one month late this year for the annual Spring walk-thru on my section of trail on the AT. I have been maintaining the same 5 mile section of trail for the Carolina Mountain Club for going on 23 years now. I usually get out earlier than this each Spring but, due to heavy snow and scheduling I was unable to make it any sooner this time. I also wait until I hear from my friend Doug Corkhill who is a fellow maintainer of the section next to mine between Big Bald and Little Bald as he is kind enough to go out of his way and pick me up at Spivey Gap to take me to the top of Big Bald where I can walk one way and do my section much easier. This year I was fortunate to also be accompanied by an old friend of mine Charlie Bennett who I have not seen in a few years. It was a pleasure hiking with him again and he was a big help.

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Looking back at Big Bald

We met Doug and left Spivey Gap promptly at 9:30am and by 10:30am were hiking across Big Stamp looking back at the remaining snow on Big Bald. It was a postcard picture perfect day with temps to be near 80. What a great day to be in ‘the office’. It did not take long to get to the shelter, the ‘Carolina Condo’ where we took a short break to eat a snack and replace the old register before moving along out the ridge towards Little Bald aka Big Hairy. There had already been many thru-hikers that had passed thru already according to the old register, some 15 just the day before. We stopped to check out the rocks on the North Carolina side of the ridge as Doug had never taken the time to do so just because they are very cool. After that it was three false summits and then the real one of Little Bald.

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Looking back at Big Bald

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View from Big Stamp looking towards Mount Mitchell in far distance

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View from Big Stamp, looking towards the Black Mtn Range

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View from Big Stamp looking further East off the NC side

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View from Big Stamp looking at Rocky Fork and Coldspring Mountain

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View from Big Stamp looking towards Rich Mountain and Buffalo Mountain

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View from Big Stamp, looking farther down the Rich Mountain and Buffalo Mountain chain towards Erwin and Johnson City

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The end of Big Stamp, Doug and Charlie taking in the visuals

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Looking off the end of Big Stamp. Many things can be seen here including Little Bald (closest) Flattop Mtn just beyond that, Then Unaka Mtn. beyond that, Iron Mtn to right of Unaka and then Roan further to the right of that,

We went down to the look off there on the TN side, where we noticed a lot of smoke from a fire of some sorts near Erwin. I found out later it was a controlled burn up Odom Branch. Doug cut some protruding limbs off that had been interfering with the view from there by precariously placing himself on the edge of the cliff. I had to hold him by the seat of the pants for one ! I took some before and after shots to show the difference it made. We had talked about doing this for quite some time and now it is done !

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Bald Mtn. Shelter aka The Carolina Condo

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Hiking out the ridge towards Little Bald

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Doug perched precariously on the edge of a cliff sawing out some trees that were blocking the view

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This was the view BEFORE the trees were trimmed,,,

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The view AFTER the tree was trimmed !!

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More views from the TN side looking towards Erwin and Johnson City

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View of the smoke from the controlled burn in Odom Branch near Erwin

After that we had not gone far before we both spied what looked like a spearhead arrowhead that was inside the end of a rotting tree laying right along the edge of the trail. It was a very nice one and I was shocked that we found it there.

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Spearhead arrowhead found on top of Little Bald

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Spearhead arrowhead found on top of Little Bald

After eating lunch on the summit rock, we parted ways as Doug worked his trail section back to Big Bald and Charlie and I worked mine continuing North down the steep slope of Little Bald. we were lucky and I was very surprised that there was not more damage than there was. We stopped to take out a standing dead hazard tree that Charlie took pride in sawing down.

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Charlie cutting down a standing dead hazard tree. This is some of the hardest wood to saw through so needlesstosay this took a minute

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Charlie after sawing the dead tree down !

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Leftover snow drifts as far down as the lower end of the upper relo

We made really good time until we got down past the AT rock where we had to start digging out the waterbars. This is a time consuming and labor intensive job but has to be done. I was very happy to have Charlie along for this. We slowly made our way down to Whistling Gap where we took a long break and Charlie went down the the Spring to fill up on salamander water !

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Charlie at the AT Rock

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Blue blazes that Linda painted year before last at Whistling Gap still looking good

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Looking up at the sky while I was laying down resting at Whistling Gap

From there we began the climb out of the gap up to High Rocks digging out the water breaks as we went. We took the time to climb up on High Rocks for the view and another short break before continuing on down the trail towards Spivey Gap. There is a lot of waterbars between High Rocks and the lower relo (31 to be exact) but, soon enough we had them all done and were once again making good time walking the easier grade of the relo. We were tired by the time we reached the lower elevation at the end of the relo where the serpentine rock stairway that we built back in 1993 and 1994.

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Rock stairs. This used to be a waist deep gulley with not one rock in it.

From there the trail continues down through what used to be a virgin hemlock forest which is now just a bunch of standing dead trees after the aphids that killed them a few years ago. I have found a lot of strange and unexplainable things at my trail head over the years but, on this trip I think I set the record. Sitting beside the sign was a plastic chainsaw case which actually had a chainsaw inside it. It had holes chewed in it obviously by a bear and the saw was waterlogged and the chain was rusted and froze as it was apparent it had been sitting there a long time. It was an old Craftsman brand so wasn’t worth anything and I assume it quit on whoever had it there, and I have to assume they were using it for campfire wood as I know there was no trail work done using it, and I guess they just decided to leave it. of course it was trash and I could not just leave it sitting there so I brought it home where my girlfriends son actually got it to run. It needs a gas line and a new chain. Not sure what we will do with it.

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Chainsaw and case found near the trail head. Notice the bear bite holes in the case !

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This cheap Craftsman chainsaw was in really bad shape, chain rusted solid, looked like it had been sitting for a long time out in the rain.

It had been a great day to be in the woods and I enjoyed hiking with an old friend that I had not seen in quite some time who has made some very positive changes in his life since I saw him last. The trail is now clear except for a couple of step overs and I am already looking forward to the next hiking trip.

Posted on 10 April '14 by , under RATtreks.

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