Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Overmountain Shelter

The view as you arrive at the Barn. 
There are more than 250 back-country shelters spread along the length of the 2,200 mile long Appalachian Trail. Many/most of these are little more than three-sided, rustic lean-tos, with sleeping platforms accommodating six hikers. Our area has two of the most beloved and unique shelters found along the trail: the Roan High Knob Shelter and the Overmountain Shelter, affectionately known as "The Barn." As AT shelters go, The Barn is palatial and luxurious. Sleeping 30, it has two stories, a large, enclosed loft as well as an open porch, and a nearby privy. Other amenities include picnic tables, two fire rings, a nearby water source, and incredible views.

The side view showing the open sleeping porch
The barn was built in the 1970s, not for use as a shelter, but for actual farming needs.  It was renovated in 1983 and made into a shelter by the Tennessee Eastman Hiking Club. Click here to see loads of fun images of this unique shelter.

For an interactive map of all AT shelters, click here, and then select shelters.

DIRECTIONS: There are many ways to get to there....

The sleeping loft
The Scenic Route: My favorite description of directions to the Barn was posted by CrumbSnatcher on "Start at Springer Mountain and take a right turn at mile marker #376.8 CANT MISS IT."

If you prefer starting a little closer...
The fantastic view from the Shelter
Starting at Carver's Gap
. The shelter is 5 miles north of Carver's Gap on Roan Mountain. Parking here and doing a round trip in one day is possible and would give you the thrilling experience of hiking the balds of Roan Highlands. Start early, pack a lunch and have a picnic at the Barn.  Note that the Barn is located 0.3 miles off of the AT. When you reach Yellow Mountain Gap, a sign will direct you down a blue-blazed side trail, at the bottom of this you'll reach a forest service road, turn right and you'll immediately see the shelter.

The view from the porch
Starting at 19E. The shelter is 8.7 miles south of the Highway 19E trailhead outside of the town of Roan Mountain, TN. This puts it out of reach of a one-day, out-and-back hike for most people. However, starting here would give you the opportunity to hike the balds on Hump Mountain and Little Hump Mountain. A popular approach to this impressive and popular section of the trail is to be dropped off at 19E and then picked up the next day at Carver's Gap (or vice-versa). On my visit to the Barn I met a group of hikers who were doing just that, planning to spend the night in the shelter. The Barn is a comfortable distance from 19E (although this section of the trail contains a grueling 2,000 foot climb!)... but the next day you can take your time enjoying the balds, and taking the side trail up Grassy Ridge. Here's an account of an overnight hike from 19E to Carver's Gap. Here's a video showing scenes from this hike.

Overmountain Trail at Yellow Mountain Gap
Via the Overmountain Victory Trail.  Yellow Mountain Gap is the intersection of the AT and the Overmountain Trail. This historic trail can be accessed on the Tennessee side of the mountain at Hampton Creek Cove outside of Roan Mountain, TN. The trailhead on the NC side of the mountain is found near the parking area at the end of Roaring Creek Road (described below). The NC side of the trail does not appear to be maintained and may be best experienced in the winter months.

Forest Service Road leading to Overmountain Shelter
Driving There: The quick and easy way to visit the shelter is to drive there. Turn south on Rt. 19E at Cranberry, NC, drive 8.2 miles, turn right onto Roaring Creek Road. The street sign isn't there, but you'll see a sign for a Roaring Creek Church. You stay on this road for 4.7 miles to the end (the last mile is gravel - but in pretty good shape).  Park here and walk up the forest service road (pictured left) approx. 1 mile to the shelter.  Map.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

the small things

Success in life is founded upon attention to the small things rather than to the large things; to the every day things nearest to us rather than to the things that are remote and uncommon. 
--Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) American educator and reformer.

Monday, July 28, 2014


Those who expect to reap the blessings of liberty must undergo the fatigues of supporting it. 
--Thomas Paine (1737-1809) English-American political activist, philosopher, author, political theorist and revolutionary.

Had a wonderful time shooting the final performance of "Liberty! The Saga of Sycamore Shoals" this weekend. As always, I was impressed with the dedication, professionalism and talent of the performers in their reenactment of the settling of this region. Click here for more photos.

To learn more about the drama and how to get involved in next year's performance, click here.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

living art

All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.
--Havelock Ellis (1859-1939) British physician, writer, and social reformer. 

Above: Sill Branch Falls in summer.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

better days

I cannot make my days longer so I strive to make them better. 
--Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) American Essayist, Poet and Philosopher. 

Above: Rocky Fork after a rain.

Here is a terrific resource on Rocky Fork from the Monkey's Mask. Lots of descriptions, maps, links and beautiful photos to explore.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Tweetsie Trail

The first phase of the Tweetsie Trail is scheduled to be opened to the public with an inaugural Walk/Run on Saturday, August 30, 2014 (Labor Day weekend). The
 trail follows the old "Tweetsie" railroad line connecting Johnson City to Elizabethton, TN. The first phase is 4.5 miles long, but when the entire project is complete it will be 10 miles long.

The trail itself is fantastic -- very wide, with compacted, fine gravel perfect for walking, jogging and bike riding. Along the way, you'll traverse through beautiful woodland settings and farms and over bridges.  This project has been years in its planning and execution and will provide great recreational opportunities to the residents of both communities.

Pictured (above left) is a replica of the original Milligan depot that stood about a half mile from the College. It will eventually have a bench and signage.

To sign up to take part in the inagural trek, click here.

Additional photos can be found on the Tweetsie Trail Facebook page.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Steele Creek Park

Bristol, TN is home to Steele Creek Park, the third largest municipal park in the state of Tennessee. Occupying over 2200 acres, the park has a 52 acre lake, a golf course, numerous picnic shelters, amphitheater, conference center and 24 miles of trails. The park recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. The above photo shows a bench overlooking the lake and Nature Center in the distance. Click here and here for more information.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

traveling companion

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.
– Saint Augustine (354-430) Christian theologian and philosopher.

Above: My traveling companion, Blue, exploring Rocky Fork.

Friday, July 11, 2014

vibrant thoughts

The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.
--Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD) Roman Emperor.

Above: The vibrant green moss of Rocky Fork.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

inner peace

Peace is the inner nature of humankind. If you find it within yourself, you will then find it everywhere.
--Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950) Hindu teacher. 

Above: Rocky Fork

Friday, July 4, 2014

unalienable rights

Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.
--Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850) French classical liberal theorist, political economist.

Happy Independence Day!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

flash feeder

A flash of harmless lightning,
A mist of rainbow dyes,
The burnished sunbeams brightening
From flower to flower he flies.

--John Banister Tabb (1845-1909) American poet, Roman Catholic priest, and professor of English.

220mm, f/5.6, 1/640 sec, ISO 400.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

higher nature

The true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you what the real smallness of your greatness is. 
--Phillip Brooks (1835-1893) American clergyman and author.

Above: Kiner Creek Falls found in Laurel Run Park, Church Hill, TN (taken earlier this spring).

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls. 
--Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997) Roman Catholic Missionary.

This is my friend Michael Kaal fishing in the Watauga River back in 2010. Since then, Michael, through his hard work, dedication to clients and his eye for beauty, has quickly established himself as one of the very best wedding photographers in our region. Check out his website and his Facebook page to see his work.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

mountain blooms

The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling.
--Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) American Essayist, Poet and Philosopher.