Work Trip on the AT – March 17, 2015

Every year in early Spring I do a walk-through of my Appalachian Trail section to assess any downed trees that will require a saw crew to remove and do whatever maintenance and clean up of the Winter damage that I can while I am there in order to get the trail ready for the onslaught of thru-hikers that will soon be heading North from Georgia in hopes of making it all the way to Maine. I am lucky to have my good friend, former thru-hiker, and fellow maintainer, Doug Corkhill to pick me up at Spivey Gap and provide a ride for me to the summit of Big Bald where we have access to a key to the gate that allows me to hike from there back down to Spivey one way eliminating a five mile uphill climb only to have to turn around and go back down for a long hard ten mile day. I do have to hike an extra 2+ miles along Doug`s section to get to the summit of Little Bald where my section ends making my total close to 8 miles but, it is mostly downhill all day which makes a huge difference plus, we get the pleasure of each others company as we hike all of Doug`s section and have our lunch together on the top of Little Bald before going our separate ways in opposite directions. This trip would be no exception however, we were in constant 20 to 30 mph winds all day with threatening skies and chilly temps. Otherwise it was a nice day to be in the high country. After accessing the pink blazed locked gate, we started our hike at the base of Big Bald as we hiked up and over Big Stamp going North towards the shelter and Little Bald.

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View from Big Stamp (near Big Bald)

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Big Bald (if you look close you can see Doug`s little truck !)

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Big Bald

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Looking into NC from Big Stamp

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Doug in his office for the day ! That is Little Bald in the distance

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View looking into NC

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Looking into NC

We always stop at the shelter for a snack and to fill our water bottles with what I consider the cleanest and coldest spring water on the AT. Doug checks the composting privy to see how much poo he will be raking later in the day. From there we make our way down the the main ridge where there are three false summits before reaching the real summit of Little Bald.

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Big Bald Shelter aka Carolina Condo

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My shelter register entry

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Trail to water source at the shelter. Sign painted with my special blue paint I loaned Doug last year

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This tree was cut earlier in the year by the saw crew but it was frozen solid to the ground and could not be moved,, we would move it this day,,,

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Tree removed and Doug repairs the treadway

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The ridge leading towards Little Bald

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Downed tree on the ridge trail

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Doug and I on the summit of Little Bald (carolina side)

There are some good views off the TN side where we have been clearing some overgrown limbs on past trips to improve the visuals so we checked that out before going to the NC side to sit on the summit rock to enjoy our lunches. I would get pics on my down after lunch.

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Old tree at the overlook on the TN side of Little Bald summit

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View from Little Bald summit, TN side looking towards Erwin. You can see the bright red roof of the church below, I pass by it on my way to the trail head !

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View from summit of Little Bald – No Business Knob and Temple Hill are prominent in this view

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View from TN side Little Bald – to right is Flattop Mtn and Unaka Mtn

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Looking farther right you can see more of Unaka and Iron mtns

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Attempt to zoom in on High Rocks without a tripod !

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Another view of No Business Knob (left) Flattop Mtn (right) and Unaka in the distance

Once our lunch break was over, we said our goodbyes and Doug began his journey back to his section as I continued down the steep descent of Little Bald of my section on my way to Spivey Gap. I was lucky that there were not any large blow downs but there was plenty of limbs and debris from the long winter months that I tediously cleaned as I slowly made my way down the mountain. I did run across my first obstacle at the small spring on the new relo just past ‘Juana`s Rock’ where I had to take some time to saw it out of the way and maneuver it off the trail.

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What I call the stack rocks seen on the way down Little Bald

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Downed tree

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Sawing out the downed tree the hard way !

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Sawed tree and out of the way

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Continuing down Little Bald towards Whistling Gap

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A Hairnt sign ! Take heed !

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Huge old tree at the infamous AT Rock

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The AT Rock

After that it did not take long to get past the AT Rock and down to Whistling Gap where I laid down for a short rest before climbing up the hills to High Rocks.

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Laying on my back at Whistling Gap I stare up into the sky

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View of the sky from my resting place at Whistling Gap

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A large Tuantaun wanting to be ridden !

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Tombstone rock where I will request a portion of my ashes be spread

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High Rocks

Despite not having much sleep due to working the night before, this was one of the only times I was able to climb all the way to High Rocks without stopping so with this new found energy I decided to climb up the blue blazed side trail to the summit for another rest break and see if any views were possible. It was very windy with gusts over 30+ mph and the skies were black and I could tell there was rain higher up as I wondered how Doug was faring.

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Blue blazed side trail and steps up to summit of High Rocks

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View of Little Bald as seen from the top of High Rocks

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View from High Rocks looking towards Rich Mtns

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Threatening skies with sun beams breaking through as seen from High Rocks

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Looking towards Rich Mtn from High Rocks

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Small passage between the rocks require to get onto High Rocks

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Passage way between the rocks to get onto the summit of High Rocks

After a snack and rest break I climbed back down off High Rocks and climbed up under the lower side and then down the steep descent towards Spivey. It is always nice to climb the rock steps up the backside that I spent so many years building by myself. I hurt my back moving those huge rocks on more than one occasion. The Konnarock Crews helped me finish them at the top and built wooden ones on the other side.

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I built these steps up the backside of High Rocks

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Most of the rocks of High Rocks are on this angle and I must imagine what it must have been like when they were thrust out of the earth like this !

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Top half of steps I built up the backside of High Rocks

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Top of steps at the base of High Rocks

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Walking under the monolithic sized trees and rocks of High Rocks

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Pictures can not show just how tall these trees are at High Rocks

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Trail at the base of High Rocks

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Base of High Rocks

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It is hard to get it all in the picture at High Rocks

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There used to be a cable here when there was not a cribbed trail, I helped drill the holes in the rocks for these cable holders, years later Konnarock Crews drilled for reebar and cribbed the trail and the cable was no longer needed.

I was glad to finally get off High Rocks and get on the lower relo as it is much easier walking and I was feeling very tired by that point. It was also out of the wind.  It was not long before I made it down to the lower regions where the old growth Hemlock forest is. Too bad the bugs got them several years ago as they now all stand dead and many have now fallen. One was over the trail near the deer browse field but, this is close to the road so I would be able to come back with a saw and get it later. I was happy to see the rock bridge we (CMC) built many years ago and the car not far beyond it. It had been a long tiring day but the trail was in great shape and it is always a good day when in the high country with mother Nature. I will return later in the summer to cut the annual growth.

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I helped build this part of the trail on the new relo back in 1993 and this Spruce tree was only a foot high and was right in the trail. As I built the trail around it, everyone told me that it had to go but, I refused to kill it so I moved it up the hill where it still lives today.

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Tree grows over a rock along my section of trail

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View of Spivey Gap and Flattop Mountain

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Bog bridges we built back in 1993

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Long serpentine stone stairway we built in 1993 and 1994. There used to be a deep gulley here with not one rock in sight. These were all trammed in from a ways off

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Large downed Hemlock tree

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Dead Hemlocks around the deer browse field

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Deer browse field

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Trail goes thru the now dead Hemlock trees

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Dead Hemlock trees waiting to fall

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The stone bridge means I am at the road and the end of the journey

Update: I did come back on March 27, 2015 with my son Tyler and removed the large Hemlock tree that was across the trail and a couple other small step-overs. We also took some time to go down to the Big Creek Falls  and on the way back we found a new waterfall upstream from them hidden in a dark grotto. It was a nice find ! I will be coming back with a better camera to get some more pics soon ! Until next time,,,,

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Downed Hemlock after I cut it out

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My son Tyler takes out a small step over while we had the saw there

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Tyler on top of Big Creek Falls 3-27-2015

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Tyler at the new falls we discovered along Big Creek 3-27-2015

Posted on 18 April '15 by , under RATtreks.

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