Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Update

I've been out of the country for the last month, hence my lack of blogging. But now I have soooooo much to share! Once I get a bit more organized (and caught up with proper sleep) I will make some new posts.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Etsy Treasury

One of my art doll faces has been included in a pretty Etsy Treasury curated by jennjohn:

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Meigs Creek Trail summary

On Sept.21 we hiked out Meigs Creek Trail, which begins at The Sinks parking lot between Gatlinburg and Townsend. The Sinks is an area of rapids/falls that runs under a vehicle bridge and empties into large pools. I've heard two stories of how the name developed - first, that a locomotive derailed and sank to the bottom; second, because the waters swirl around like the draining of a sink.

This day, surveyors were on the job sighting for upcoming renovations and a handicap accessible viewing ramp.

Often on days like this one (after a very heavy rain) you can find kayakers braving the rapids..... as we geared up and headed out the trail we saw two trucks with kayaks pulling into the parking lot.

Meigs Creek Trail runs 3.5 miles to Buckhorn Gap, our goal.





The start of the trail crosses through a marshy boar wallow (I've never seen so much activity as here, this was just a bit of it).




Then you head steadily upward, climbing a few hundred feet along a ridge.



Some nice views along this stretch.




There are at least eighteen stream crossings. That's well over 30 times, out and back, which is a lot. The most I'm aware of in the National Park.....
I was prepared, I'd packed our aqua socks... you know, those water shoes?... but somebody refused to wear his due to a blister incident several years ago that resulted from not wearing *real* socks under the aqua socks and walking a couple miles while tubing in Deep Creek. Anyway...

I wore mine nearly the whole time (~6 miles) and it was great - no worries about slipping while trying to rock hop with a pack, no blisters... just wade thru the water and keep going.
He did end up with wet shoes ... how could he not? Those rocks were plenty slick due to the drizzle and slowly receding high waters.

We hiked most of the way with ponchos draped over our backs.

All the creek crossings meant plenty of opportunities for salamander spotting and we weren't disappointed. Neat little creatures.










A brief ascent after the final creek lead thru a field of ferns and up to Buckhorn Gap. Meigs Creek Trail intersects with Meigs Mountain Trail heading east toward Elkmont and Lumber Ridge Trail heading west toward Tremont.


Closer inspection of the sign revealed a very large walking stick insect.









At back of the sign, a fairly-worn manway was visible. I followed it a brief way down a steep hill and saw it continued on.... later research revealed this is the Spruce Flats manway, which we plan to hike as a loop with Lumber Ridge Trail in future.

Heading back, we slowed the pace and looked around more.... some highly interesting fungi were observed, including this one that looks like either a pimento olive or egg yolk.





Here's a couple pretty ones....












Roughly halfway back, while admiring Meigs Cascade, a yellow jacket stung me on the back of the right calf just below the knee. It's a scientific fact that cursing reduces pain, so I self-medicated heavily along the rest of the hike. I apologize for any blue air still hanging about the vicinity.

As we reached the parking lot, the kayakers were peeling off their wetsuits and leaving as well, so we missed that action.
We were out about 5 hours and didn't see anyone else on the trail.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Husky Gap Trail hike

A couple weeks ago we hiked out Huskey Gap Trail (HGT) in the Smokies. The leaves were just starting to turn and the feeling of fall was setting in, but still a bit warm and humid.



The trail begins along Newfound Gap road at about 1,800 ft and winds 2.0 miles upward along the side of Sugarland Mountain.








A break in the trees affords a beautiful view toward Gatlinburg.




Husky Gap, and the intersection with Sugarland Mountain Trail (SMT), as viewed from a nice sittin' log.
We've been here once before, via SMT from Fighting Creek Gap. But that's for another trail log.....

We turned left onto SMT, as our goal of the day was visiting 'old' backcountry campsite #21. Apparently the park is phasing it out for a 'new' #21, which is further along HGT toward Elkmont. The bear cables are still there.


At about 3,200 ft now and continuing a bit upward. More rhododendron at this elevation and fewer large trees.


Tunneling through a rhodo thicket.... becoming a bit rockier.





A few spots of intense red among mostly green and yellowing leaves.






After about 3/4-1 mile we reached the campsite. At first glance it seemed to be only one spot, but further investigation revealed additional sites uphill from the trail.









A small creek runs under this huge rock, and a fire ring is right under it as well.





On the way back to Husky Gap, we saw a young bear. I'd spotted a very dark shadow under a tree about 150 feet off the trail, and as we stood and contemplated it I saw this bear moving about 25 feet behind that. It moved along, crossed the trail in front of us about 75 feet away and headed downhill. Never did determine if the shadow was one as well....
Here's a video of the bear:
video

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Survival tips from The Naturist

Huh. It's almost like being in the woods with my husband.



I nearly died laughing.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Jakes Creek Trail summary

On August 23rd we hiked out Jakes Creek Trail in the Smokies past backcountry campsite #27 to Jakes Gap. It is about 6.5 miles round trip, depending on where you park.

The beginning of the trail is an old gravel railroad bed that runs parallel to and above Jakes Creek. The area was logged in the late 1800s/early 1900s.













A small side trail leads to the Avent Cabin. We were surprised to see a sign here, the last time we visited there was none and the trail was easy to miss. It was wet and muddy as usual getting down to the creek.

The highlight of the day was an amazing variety of fungi. Lots of photos ensue.












The roadbed ends in a circle and a footbridge crosses the creek.










A downed tree, with rocks captured in its roots.






Somebody lost a boot.







More magical mushrooms:


(I spent more time crouched on the ground than walking, I think.)














Fall is on the way.



This is the *omgcute* mushroom of the day! Smaller than a green pea.

After about 2.5 miles and at about 3500ft elevation, we reached campsite #27. A nice spot with a couple bear cables and several decent camp spots. Nobody was there. Pushing on..... passed a lone hiker heading back down the trail.
At 3.3 miles we reached Jakes Gap. The elevation is about 4055ft and the wind had picked up a bit.


Stopping there after our sweaty uphill climb lead to a rapid chilling. We went a little way onto the Blanket Mountain manway but decided to put that off until later in the season. We'd need pants or gaiters on to comfortably pass through the damp underbrush. Saw an astoundingly huge fresh bear poop on the manway, but didn't see any bears all day.
This will be an excellent fall/winter hike, also want to head over to campsite #26 on Dripping Spring Mtn.
On the way back we passed a couple backpackers.
I believe we were out about 4 hours.