Work Trip on the AT – 3-7-2012

It`s that time of year again ! Time to do a walk-through of my section of the Appalachian Trail (Little Bald to Spivey Gap)  to check for blow-downs that will require a chainsaw and to clear any debris and limbs from the winter season. I also clean out the water bars at this time. I try to go as early as weather permits which is usually in mid to late February but, sometimes the mountains still have deep snow then so it must wait until a later time. This year we did not get much snow and it is unseasonably warm but it was still early March before a trip could be arranged. To make things easier on myself, I always wait until my friend Doug Corkhill goes to his section (Big Bald to Little Bald) which is just South of mine as he graciously goes out of his way to drive around to Spivey Gap and pick me up where we leave my vehicle and proceed to drive his truck to the summit of Big Bald (as we have access through Wolf Laurel and a key to the gate) whereas I can walk his section over to Little Bald and then downhill one way on my section which is 5+ miles in itself. This makes my total miles to be around 7+ and eliminates hiking up the very steep 5  miles of my section and then having to hike back after working all day the way I did it for years in the old days.

Big Stamp area looking towards Little Bald

Big Stamp area looking towards Little Bald

Doug was running a few minutes late but we were still on top of Big Bald by around 10:30 am. I had seen some patches of snow on the Tennessee side of Little Bald on my way to Spivey Gap so I did expect to see some on top. It was a sunny but chilly morning and there was some fairly strong winds blowing which made it much colder. Gloves and head gear were required. There were some small patches of snow on Big Bald but not much. We began the trek from Big Stamp and soon found ourselves standing at the place where a wildfire had been started not long ago by a hiker who’s camp stove got out of control. It was windy on the summit so we did not stick around there long and made haste to get off the exposed bald and down into the tree line. The views were incredible as always.

Big Bald

Big Bald (notice the small spots of snow near the base)

Looking towards Mt. Mitchell

Looking towards Mt. Mitchell (North Carolina) from the Big Stamp area

It did not take long to reach the shelter known as the Carolina Condo where we left a new trail register and had a snack break. Doug always fills his water bottles here as it is the best (and coldest) water I have ever drank on the trail. From there it is only another 1.7 miles to the summit of Little Bald. There are three false summits between there and Little Bald but we soon found ourselves climbing the real one which always knocks the wind out of me but it sure beats the much longer and much steeper climb from the Spivey Gap side ! The summit of Little Bald (aka Big Harry or El Grande Chi Chi) is one of my favorite places. We had our traditional lunch break on the rocks on the North Carolina side then checked out the view from the Tennessee side before it was time for Doug to head South to do his section as I headed North down the steeper side to see what was waiting for me to do.

Summit of Little Bald

Summit of Little Bald

Old tree on Little Bald

Old tree that stands at the look off on the TN. side of Little Bald

VIew from the old tree

View from the old tree look off on the TN side of Little Bald

There was still some small spots of snow on the colder Tennessee side and the wind was still blowing rather hard making it very cold despite the deceiving warm looking sunshine but the lower in elevation I went, the less the wind was and the warmer it became. I warmed up by digging out the many water bars that are on my section. There was a lot of limbs and debris to remove along with a few blow downs that I was able to remove by myself and I took pictures and noted the ones requiring a chain saw which I sent in to the Carolina Mountain Club and they have already since then been removed from the entire section.

Stacked rocks

Stacked rocks along my trail section on Little Bald Mountain

Gnarly tree growing over a rock

Gnarly tree growing over a rock on Little Bald Mountain

I met a large group of people hiking UP the mountain from Spivey Gap and it seems they had already hiked down there and were on their way back. I was investigating something off the trail and was high on the ridge looking down on them when they went by which I think kinda startled them. By the time I made it to the top of the upper relo, I was out of the strong winds and it was much warmer although I could still hear it roaring high on the mountain above me. I met a nice young fellow out for a long distance hike who goes by the trail name of  ‘Sir Hikes Alot‘. We talked for awhile before he continued North as I resumed my trail clearing. I stopped to dig out a small spring and make a ‘sit log‘ there before moving on down to the A.T. Rock where I took a lengthy break and ate a snack.

Blow down on Little Bald

Blow down on Little Bald

I was making good time so I was down to Whistling Gap by 4pm. I took another break there in anticipation of the long climb from there up to High Rocks. That pull always kicks my butt and this day would be no exception especially after working all night and getting only a couple hours rest before heading out to the trail. Also the thoughts of going home with just enough time to shower and eat before another work shift would begin made me feel even more tired. It was going to be a long night but it is always great being in the woods.

The AT Rock

The AT Rock

Blow down near Whistling Gap

Blow down near Whistling Gap (note freshly cleaned out water bar !)

It took me awhile to trudge up the hill to High Rocks but I eventually made it. I opted to not climb up the blue-blazed  trail to the top of the rocks so I took a few pics as I slowly climbed below them and soon was descending down the steep steps on the North side. I remember when there was not any steps here.  I did get a few views from there which I stopped to enjoy before continuing down the steep and rugged hill.

Colorful Fungus

Colorful Fungus

The trail as it passes beneath High Rocks

The trail as it passes beneath High Rocks

High Rocks

Looking back at the trail that passes beneath High Rocks

I was happy when I reached the lower relo where the walking becomes much easier and it is smooth sailing from there all the way to almost the end of the section with the only roughness being the rocky area just before the hemlocks at the bottom. I recalled many memories of when I worked with the Konnarock Crews to help build the lower relo when we would spend a week at a time in the woods meeting many people from all walks of life, many of which I have made lifelong friends with. I stopped to admire the small Spruce Pine tree that was in the center of the chosen route of the new trail that I was told had to be dug up and killed for the trail but, I refused to allow that and I spent some time carefully digging the little sapling up and relocating it to a safe place just above the trail where it is now still living and doing well. This was also the place where my friend Bol’Dar was nearly killed by a falling dead tree that Jack Springston had lightly touched with one finger.

View from North side of High Rocks

View from North side of High Rocks as seen on the way down

View of Flattop Mountain

View of Flattop Mountain from North side of High Rocks as seen on way down

I was very tired by this time and I don`t remember much of the last mile out to the car but I was happy to see the rock bridge at the end. I was happy the trail was now clear and that there were not any serious blow downs and the sawyers would have it easy this time on my section. Although I was unable to clear the water-bars from Whistling Gap to Spivey Gap, I was elated to learn the saw crew did them for me when they went back to clear the trees a week or so later. My next trip will be to repaint the white blazes as it has been 4 years and they are definitely in need of repainting. Hopefully I can get back up there soon to take care of that. With the unusually warm weather patterns we are having and with Spring coming so much earlier this year, I fear the weeds will be growing sooner and will be much thicker this year unless it gets really dry and hot. Clearing the annual growth in late May or sometime in June is one of the hardest tasks I have to do on my section. I have been doing this section for over 21 years now.

Large campsite at Spivey Gap

Large campsite at Spivey Gap

Posted on 18 April '12 by , under RATtreks.

You must be logged in to post a comment.