Friday, July 2, 2010

A Skinny Dip and a Spanking

MST – Day 21 – 5/6/10 – Forest Service Road 816 to Highway 276 – 10.3 Miles

I was very excited about today’s route going through Graveyard Fields, anticipating walking across some balds and rubbing up against Shining Rock Wilderness. CMC trail builders have taken special care with the section climbing up the south side of Black Balsam, including boardwalks and stairs.

Mount Pisgah in the distance


On the edge of Black Balsam

Twisted trees - evidence of the hard winter

Halloween face on the white blaze

We passed quickly through Graveyard Fields in a tunnel of mountain laurel with a couple of rare views of the area’s waterfalls, but we had a treat coming – Yellowstone Falls, locally known as Skinny Dip Falls. Danny wondered aloud why such features have more than one name, and I speculated that many times a place is known for some local event or person. For example, there is a crossroads near my hometown called Dead Man’s Curve, but you won’t find that written on any map. Skinny Dip Falls is multiple cascades ending in large pools, perfect for swimming in your bathing suit or your birthday suit! There are also lots of rocks to linger on and forget that the only way out of here is up.

Solomon’s seal getting huge, very graceful draping over the trail

The trail section between Cherry Cove Overlook and Bennet Gap displayed the most brutal trail conditions I have ever seen. Given the many miles of the MST, there is much work for the trail maintainers that takes months of volunteer time. This section is probably less used than most others and has to wait its turn. We went from carefully picking our way through blowdowns to simply stomping over them. Our feet were not touching the ground. As we were negotiating across one tangle, we could already see the next one ahead. Slow going and extremely tiring and discouraging as we envisioned the miles we still had ahead of us. The air was very, very hot and the branches scratched at us until our legs and arms looked like we’d been through a war. I really felt a low as we scrambled our way through the mess.

Dreaded Green Knob was our big climb near the end of the day, and after seeing the trail conditions I thought it would be a nightmare . We rested at the bottom of it, had a snack and a mental adjustment to begin the assault. BUT the first half up to the top was pristine – thank you trail angels! The down side was not as clear but still nowhere near what we had been through. The view from the top (near Penny Rock) is wonderful. That’s Looking Glass Rock in the distance.

Only 10.3 miles total today, but my rear end was whipped. The hike took nearly 8 hours. Danny and I both had long drives home and then long meetings to attend (she with CMC, me with the Girl Scouts). But after a couple of days of couch potato therapy I was thinking about the next hike.

Read Danny's blog of the day here.

“You don’t want to take on Mother Nature (unprepared). She’ll spank you and send you back home every time.” ~ Lee Lewis, Search and Rescue volunteer in the Smokies.

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