Tuesday, May 19, 2015

a daring adventure

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure. 
--Helen Keller (1880-1968) Blind & deaf author and educator.

I started to say that we ran into some interesting thru-hikers up at the Overmountain Shelter. But "Interesting Thru-Hiker" is an oxymoron. You never meet a boring person on the trail. Each has a story to tell and a reason for undertaking the arduous six-month-long 'walk in the woods.' Two of these hikers are from Minnesota (Crusty and Little B), one from Louisiana (Grahams), and the final hiker from Virginia (Cheerio). We decided to take some chocolate 'trail magic' with us to the shelter, expecting that we would run into some hikers in need of some sugar. We enjoyed hearing their about their backgrounds and experiences along the trail. 

The view from the shelter is fantastic - so remote and tranquil.  It's one of the most unique and loved shelters along the 2,200 mile trail. Click here for more photos of the shelter from a previous visit and for directions to "The Barn."

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

never enough nature

We need the tonic of wildness -- to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground. At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature. 
--Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) American author and philosopher.

Here are two hazy views from Unaka Mountain both looking southeast toward Mt. Mitchell in NC.  The one above was taken from Beauty Spot, the one to the left from Unaka Mountain Overlook.  Spring is coming to the mountains. :)

They've done a great deal of work on the 12 mile road that goes up and over Unaka, digging trenches and installing culverts. I still recommend a higher clearance vehicle. They've also opened up some views at Beauty Spot looking out to the east.  Click here for directions and descriptions of all there is to see and do on Unaka.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day

Most of all the other beautiful things in life come by twos and threes, by dozens and hundreds. Plenty of roses, stars, sunsets, rainbows, brothers and sisters, aunts and cousins, comrades and friends — but only one mother in the whole world. 
--Kate Douglas Wiggin (1856-1923) American educator and author.

Happy Mother's Day! Love you, Mom!

Friday, May 8, 2015

limitless possibilities

Most people are not really free. They are confined by the niche in the world that they carve out for themselves. They limit themselves to fewer possibilities by the narrowness of their vision. 
--V. S. Naipaul (b.1932) author.

Above: Expansive springtime view from Round Bald in the Roan Highlands (click image to enlarge).

Congrats to those graduating from Milligan College this weekend! :)

Sunday, May 3, 2015

forward looking

Never look back unless you are planning to go that way. 
—Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) American author and philosopher.

Above: Steele Creek Park, Bristol, TN

Thursday, April 30, 2015

joy | hope | love

It's not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something. May I suggest that it be creating joy for others, sharing what we have for the betterment of personkind, bringing hope to the lost and love to the lonely. 
--Leo F. Buscaglia (1924-1998) author. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

glorious green

For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver. 
--Martin Luther (1483-1546) German Theologian.

One of the first comments people visiting this area for the first time invariably make is, "It's so green!" It's green because our average annual precipitation is more than Portland or Seattle. :)  (Above: Buffalo Mountain Trail)

Friday, April 24, 2015

wildflower's song

As I wandered the forest,
The green leaves among,
I heard a Wild Flower
Singing a song.
--William Blake (1757-1827) English painter, poet and printmaker.

Above: Foamflower

Thursday, April 23, 2015

better days

Only he who has seen better days and lives to see better days again knows their full value. 
--Mark Twain (1835-1910) American Humorist, Writer and Lecturer.

I didn't find any information online regarding the history of this old cabin and smokehouse located near the trailhead at Laurel Run Park. Anyone know the background to this?

Here's my page describing the park and the hikes to the waterfalls found there.

Other Laurel Run Park Links:
Hawkins County website
Facebook page
TEHCC Trail Page

Update: Thanks to fellow photographer Richard Siggins for the link to this recent article discussing the cabin and its future. You can check out Richard's work here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Kiner Creek Falls

This is the best time of year to go see Kiner Creek Falls outside of Church Hill, TN in Laurel Run Park. In the summer months it often is just a trickle, but as you can see it's flowing well after our spring rains. The wide angle lens makes it look bigger than it is. It's listed as 30' online, but I'd say it's more like 20'. It's a fun place to visit, but it does require a sense of adventure. First, the main trail is tough slogging -- muddier than usual. Such a beautiful area, it's a shame the old trail isn't kept up better. So, if you go, wear old shoes and just embrace the fact that you'll get muddy.  Second, the creek crossing is also tough with all the rain we've had. I made it across ok, but it was iffy. Third, the last section of trail to the falls isn't marked and requires some scrambling through the rhododendrons.  And finally, leaving the falls (at least the way I go) has you climb out of the falls - which is very steep and slippery -- but all well worth it to experience this beautiful place! Another bonus... you'll also find lots of wildflowers this time of year. Directions here.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Wild Rocky Fork

Lots of activity out at Rocky Fork as it is being transformed into a state park. As you enter the park, you'll see many survey stakes and orange flagging tape lining the entrance road indicating changes are afoot. While final plans for Tennessee's newest state park are still being worked out, access improvements are underway. Here is a recent Johnson City Press article on the upcoming 'First Annual Hikers’ Jamboree' on May 2nd. At the end of the article is a rendering of the proposed entry way to Rocky Fork. See the park's Facebook page for more information.

I'm certainly glad the property wasn't developed into a gated residential community or some other private development -- which was feared when the timber company owning the 10,000 acre parcel placed it up for sale. Eventually the Conservation Fund and the Federal Government stepped in. Still I do wonder how Rocky Fork will change going forward. According to the Conservation Fund, "preliminary plans include an access road, ranger station, primitive campground, picnic areas and trails, in addition to interpretive efforts to share the historic Revolutionary War-era battles site." The JCP article referenced above says the new park will allow for "hiking, biking, running, walking, horseback riding and possibly two-wheeled motorized recreational vehicles." That sounds good, but put me down as a 'no' vote against the use of any two or four wheel motorized recreational vehicles. I already had my run-in with an atv out there.

While I have every hope that the new park will be thoughtfully designed with efforts taken to keep Rocky Fork as wild and pristine as possible, I did think, as I was walking along, it will never be as wild as it is today.

Directions: Take the Flag Pond exit off of I-26 (exit #50), at the stop sign turn left onto Upper Higgins Creek Road. Drive ½ mile, till you reach Rt. 23, turn right and travel 2 ¼ mi. through Flag Pond, then turn left on Rocky Fork Road. Enjoy the views of the tumbling creek. After ¾ mile, you will see a gravel pull-off to the left. Park here (out of the way of the gate) to continue exploring the 10,000 acre Rocky Fork on foot. Trail map here.

Friday, April 10, 2015


Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.
--Frank Herbert (1920-1986) American author.

Above: Rocky Fork after a spring rain.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

spring work

Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm. 
― John Muir (1838-1914) Naturalist and Conservationist.

Above: An early white trillium blooming in Rocky Fork.

Friday, April 3, 2015

spring has returned

Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems. 
--Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist. 

Such a fun, unusual spring wildflower, with such a fun name... Dutchman's Breeches.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

spring embrace

Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love! 
--Sitting Bull (1831-1890)