Saturday, April 16, 2011

On A Clear Day You Can See Forever

MST – Day 44 – 12/7/10 - Mountain Park Community Church to Dobson Library- 10.75 miles

A very cold start again today, felt colder than yesterday. I didn’t note the beginning temp but we finished at 28 degrees. Today’s road walk was even more open and definitely more breezy, thus the chill that would not go away. I have hiked comfortably with less clothing in these temps before, but with little elevation gain we could not work hard enough to get toasty. Again, there were few places to take trail breaks except behind the occasional old barn.

The highlight of the day was a golden retriever that picked us up and followed us for about an hour. She was very friendly, allowing me to pet her profusely. (Our last dog pick-up, Heidi, would not let us touch her.) This frisky gal crossed the road indiscriminately and a couple of times approaching cars had to brake for her. I was worried about how she would get back home. We passed a man who had driven his truck down to his mailbox to get his mail (!) and I asked him if he knew the dog and could take her home. He smiled, shrugged and declined, indicating that out here in the country we just let dogs find their own way. Eventually we passed a house with an older dog...and the golden retriever decided to stay and play.

Every bathroom should have this view

The mountains are always with us
Always love the mailboxes

Halfway along our route we stopped at a convenience store/Dairy Queen, but the DQ wasn’t open yet…did we really want ice cream anyway? We sat at a table, removed layers and had our only leisurely snack of this trip, but we knew we had to keep moving because it wasn’t gettin’ no warmer outside.

On a treeless, high elevation stretch of Twin Oaks Road we saw Pilot Mountain clearly to our left (east) and Hanging Rock and the Sauratown Mountains behind it. Then off to our right (west) and much farther away was the distinct outline of Grand- father Mountain. To the north was a big notch in the mountain range – Fancy Gap? AMAZING. Do the folks on Twin Oaks Road know their good fortune?

Ultimately we walked into the town of Dobson, with Pilot Mountain in clear view for the last mile. We stopped at the library and had our photo taken in the same spot we had been back in March 2010. A great sense of closure to be completing this gap!

My car’s heat stayed on full blast all the way back home.

Read Danny's blog here
On a clear day
Rise and look around you
On a clear day
How it will astound you...
You will follow every
Mountain, sea and shore
You will see from far and near
 A world you've never seen before
~ Alan Jay Lerner

Something Is Messed Up

Sorry, folks, I have written more posts but is not cooperating with formatting. Hopefully I will become a programming genius overnight and get it figured out...not.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rural Route

MST – Day 43 – 12/6/10 - Stone Mountain State Park to Mountain Park Baptist Church – 15.2 Miles 
Danny and I are back on the road trek again. We have completed the Mountains-to-Sea Trail from Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains down to the ranger station at Stone Mountain State Park. Now it’s time to follow the double yellow blaze for a while and close our gap from SMSP to the library in Dobson, NC.
Winter comes every year to western North Carolina – why are we always surprised that it happens in December? The gate to Stone Mountain SP was closed so we parked a car and started walking eastward from that point. As we prepared, a ranger came by and snapped a photo for us.

We had a 23-degree start today and a 32-degree finish. An overnight snow coated the roadsides. The air was crisp to the point of crunchy. Domestic animals ruled the farm scenery: cows, horses, crowing roosters, and a few dogs (none that were determined to maim us). Road walks are challenging for other reasons – try finding a place to pee on those open country roads (AND it’s below freezing).

 Every picture tells a story, don't it?
Yeah, you got that right.


Checking out this house with no roof

Chairs in the yard always make a statement

Laura Ingalls Wilder fans - this reminds me of the house in "On The Banks Of Plum Creek"

Rural route mailboxes

Waiting on the hay

Winter sky and bare tree

Bringing on the hay

Tiny vineyard

Still chillin'


Many churches

 Across the street from the church where we parked our end car was Mountain Park Family Country Store, open for business and a warm place to catch our breath. This little gem has used books, snacks and beverages (hot coffee for us today) and an affable owner, Peter McGuire, ready to shoot the breeze with patrons.

But our day was not yet done. There was that pesky mile between the SMSP ranger station and the entrance gate (still closed). We did the out-and-back walk quickly and congratulated ourselves on finishing another section, then drove to the Dobson library to leave a car for tomorrow’s end.

Over dinner at a local restaurant we discussed future plans for completing the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Our initial scheme included hiking the trail portions and biking most of the road miles while staying flexible to accommodate different schedules and events in our lives. We both purchased hybrid bikes and had been practicing skills. In the end Danny decided she was more comfortable with walking than with biking, so at this point we plan to meet at the Outer Banks in the spring to walk the 80 miles up the coast to Jockey’s Ridge State Park. There are more trail sections along the way and we will do those together when possible. So for now, Danny will be walking and I will be biking and we will have different tales to tell.

Read Danny’s account of the day here.

Some people spend a lot of money on camping equipment and spend weeks in the wilderness when they could save themselves a lot of trouble simply by occasionally going out in their backyards to pee. ~ Lewis Grizzard

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Harsh Realities

MST – Day 42 – 11/18/10 – Highway 321 to Bamboo Gap – 6.5 Miles

One last little bit of the Mountains-To-Sea Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway, just 6.5 miles today. As Danny approached our parking spot to begin our trek, we came upon a very young deer lying bleeding in the road – it obviously had been struck just moments before. About 50 yards ahead on the side of the road stood its companion (mama?) looking back at the small lump on the pavement. I could see the distress in her eyes before she turned and leaped into the woods.

We began walking towards the carcass just as a Parkway vehicle drove up with flashers on. Probably the driver that hit the deer had called it in. We hurried forward to take a photo of the process, but the Park guy was all business. He grabbed the animal, front legs in one hand, back legs in the other, then dragged it to the roadside and tossed it up onto the hill near the trees. We said hello and he smiled and nodded, but did not stay to chat. As I walked past the spot on the road where the deer had fallen, it was slick with thick red blood. I haven’t been around too much blood in my life and I was a little taken aback at the brightness of it against the black asphalt.

We took the few steps up the hill to where the deer carcass was deposited and took a photo, but I could not detach from the emotion and decided not to use it. Twenty minutes ago Bambi was alive and following his mother. I know nature is harsh but…

Like yesterday, a cold wind blew and I had overdressed but early on I stopped and rearranged to just a short-sleeved shirt and my rain jacket. I felt slightly chilled the rest of the day but was able to control it with hat and gloves rather than sweat dripping down my back at every exertion (a whopping 600 feet elevation gain in 6.5 miles). Views from the overlooks were that hazy blue that lends the mountain range its name.

Me on maintenance equipment

Big cows and big houses

Awesome stonework on bridge over Goshen Prong - you gotta get out of your car to check this out

Being so close to Blowing Rock, there was a bit of traffic on the Parkway. Fun moment: A guy driving past us stopped and yelled out the window, “Are you walking to the sea?” How novel to have someone know what we are doing!

Check out Danny's blog for today here.

“Nobody can be exactly like me. Sometimes even I have trouble doing it.” ~Tallulah Bankhead

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Merlot, Please

MST – Day 41 – 11/18/10 – E.B. Jeffress Park to Highway 16 – 14.8 miles 
Read Danny's story of our hike here. 

“B” couldn’t hike with us today but instead shuttled us to our starting point, after giving us a tour of some of his projects in Wilkesboro, including his beloved Wilkes Community College campus.

Walking today was a new leap of faith with no map or trail description or "B" on this brand new section of the MST, just hopes that white blazes are plentiful (they were). As a reward for toughing it out in yesterday’s rain, today offered an intense blue sky, but a mighty wind was blowing that kept us chilled. I had a very hard time getting comfortable, frequently adjusting layers. It took me half the day to get the right combination. My rain jacket was necessary against the cold wind, but out of the wind it was hot and sticky. I finally got it down to a short-sleeved shirt and rain jacket, and for the remainder of the hike my hat and gloves were constantly on and off to regulate my comfort level, easy enough to do while moving.

Within E.B. Jeffress Park we took a short side trail to a delightful waterfall called the Cascades, definitely worth the few minutes out of the way. Remember, part of what makes the MST special is the way it strings together many of North Carolina’s natural jewels.
More of what makes the MST so special: churches and cemeteries, some preserved in the parks and others still active parts of their communities.

Cool Springs Baptist Church

The final resting place for members of Blue Ridge Baptist Church

We crossed the parkway multiple times today too, walked along fences and pastures. Once we startled some cows with horns and long shaggy light brown coats – sorry, no photos, they were too quick.

At one point we got onto the Parkway for a while looking for a re-entry into the woods. We stopped for a snack break and I went back behind some trees for a trail break, where I noticed a nice looking trail and it happened to have white circles on it. We had missed the entry back into the woods. By now there is no heartburn about literally taking every step on the trail, so we didn’t backtrack to look for our mistake, just kept going.

Surprised at how tired my legs were today. For being out of the “big mountains” we sure seemed to walk uphill a lot. Maybe it was going up and over the many stiles?

From the Mount Jefferson Overlook we spotted Table Rock and Hawksbill, old friends. I continue to be amazed when we are able to discern these landmarks on the horizon, kinda like seeing Half Dome from different viewpoints in Yosemite – well, okay, maybe not as big, but just as cool.

“B” left us a surprise along the trail - two large rocks stacked and tied with ribbon and a note to “Danny and Sharon.” After he dropped us off he had hiked in and placed it there to remind us to go off trail to the right, across the Parkway and up on “the Lump,” a bald from which we could see Pilot Mountain and Stone Mountain. With such effort on his part, we followed instructions to check out the Lump. It would be hard to match “B’s” enthusiasm for all this trail has to offer.

Danny twirling on the Lump like Julie Andrews, Sound of Music

We had a long drive back to “B’s” house and I was feeling the fatigue set in. “B” had plans to meet us for another short hike to a favorite spot of his near his home, but I did not think my legs would take me up another mountain. I begged off and Danny went with him.

I went back to “B’s” house, had a long hot shower, and wandered downstairs to the kitchen to chat with his wife, Martha. She poured me a glass of red wine and I nearly melted right off the barstool. No words necessary.

"You're in pretty good shape for the shape you are in.” ~ Dr. Seuss