Friday, September 2, 2011

Some People Think Mudslide Means a Cocktail

SB6K Hike – 7-16-11 – Woody Ridge Trail/Black Mountain Crest Trail/Colbert Ridge Trail – 10.2 Miles

Another crazy Sherpa hike with the Bergs – didn’t we just do this?  Several objectives this time out:  bagging three SB6K peaks and getting in shape for hiking to the summit of Mount Whitney in September.  Yeah, yeah, that MST thing is still going but there’s so much other fun stuff to do…

Seven hikers drove through the misty morning chanting, “Please don’t pour down rain today.”  It may have been steaming hot in the Piedmont but you can count on the Black Mountains of NC to be cool and often damp.  We set up our short shuttle and started up the Woody Ridge Trail.  The woods were very wet and the breeze shook the trees and made it “rain” but no big deal. 

Steven’s duct tape gator enhancers.  He’s not taking any chances with wet feet.

The Woody Ridge Trail starts off a little steep, gets more steep, then gets ridiculous.  And still nature’s simplest offerings are amazingly beautiful: 

Turk’s cap lily (warning:  lots of these throughout the post)

Another view of Turk’s cap lily

Indian pipe, always a great discovery, a ghostly plant that lacks chlorophyll

Dampness highlights the spiderwebs

Rhodo- dendron were bustin' out every- where today

About 1.7 miles up, after I realized that crawling up over boulders was not going to be unusual, we caught our breath beside this 30-foot rock wall.  David M told a story of hiking up this trail once, seeing how difficult it was, camping here overnight and then walking back down the next morning.  Then Jeff says it’s about to get steep for real.

A beautiful view, I’m told

More Turk’s cap lilies - I can't resist photo- graphing them.  Unlike most wild- flowers, they are huge bright and showy.  And they have freckles like me!

How tough was this trail?  It took us 2.5 hours to climb 2.2 miles up to the intersection with the Black Mountain Crest Trail.  Normally this crowd hikes at 2+ mph.  The wet conditions made us cautious but nobody was goofing off.  It was just plain hard work getting up there. 

Which made the lunch break so satisfying, resting on a big sloping rock, whiteout views.  Everyone else had been here except me and they described what I was missing in glowing terms.  Will I hike up here again someday to see it?  Probably.

Sitting still for a little while got us chilled enough to put on the warm fuzzies – Steven and Carolyn

Three SB6K peaks today:  Celo Knob, Gibbes Mountain and Winter Star.  We turned right on the BMCT and hiked about a mile out to the manway to Celo Knob.  (Jamie and David M chose to continue on the route and we’d catch up with them at Deep Gap.)  The manway was faint but Jeff and his GPS got us to the summit.  In celebration, Steven played taps on his recorder and Carolyn joined in on harmonica. 

One down, two to go.  The fun is only just beginning.

We back- tracked on the Black Mountain Crest Trail, continued westward past our intersection with Woody Ridge, and reached the point for our off-trail scramble to Gibbes Mountain.  Jeff and I were going up – who else was in?  Everybody.  No manway this time, just blind faith in the almighty Jeff.  We ducked, crawled and crept our way to the top and stood on a big rock that he declared the summit.  Then we ducked, crawled and slid our way back down, dirty, muddy, covered in leaf litter.  Once you give yourself up to it, it’s kinda fun to get dirty.  This detour took over 30 minutes. 

Two down, one to go, a-quiver with anticipation. 

The Black Mountain Crest Trail is a roller coaster of ups and downs, rock scrambles, and today mud slides were on special.  Everyone slipped, some more than once, and a couple of times it was hiker bowling as one person slid into another.  I think Carolyn is the only one whose butt didn’t make contact with the ground.  Needless to say, we didn’t gain any time on this section.

During this part, for some reason I looked at my left hand and noticed all my rings were missing.  I had a sick five-minute panic attack of thinking that they had come off when I removed my gloves going up Celo Knob – a bad, bad feeling in my heart.  Poor Jeff listened as I talked to myself about what could have happened.  Finally I realized I must have removed them while working at my computer the day before and left them at home.  (PS – I was right.)  So my record of crying on Jeff’s tough hikes continues.

A muddy challenge – by foot or by butt?

A rope?  You’ve got to be kidding me.  Show us how it’s done, Carolyn.

A view, better late than never

Hallelujah – the summit of Winter Star is an easy one, just a few steps off the trail to a U.S. Survey marker

Three down – a good day’s work.

Love vine - winds itself around other plants

More Turk’s cap lilies

Underside of Turk’s cap lilies

At Deep Gap we met back up with Jaime and David M to begin the long, steep 4-mile descent down the Colbert Ridge Trail (what goes up must go back down).  Slippery going up is one thing, but slippery going downhill calls for extra caution.  We’ve often had conversations of how difficult a rescue would be in remote areas like this.  But in one quick movement, I slipped off of a large boulder and landed solidly on my low back.  I had to catch my breath (so did everyone else, I think) and needed help to get up.  I’m lucky I didn’t crack my skull on the rock - my daypack saved me from that.  My back felt extremely sore and I gingerly walked the rest of the way.  Thank goodness the trail leveled out for the last mile.  For weeks afterwards, certain movements and postures were painful.  (Yoga classes were not fun.) 

Altogether, it took us 9 hours to do a 10-mile hike, the most technically difficult hike I’ve done (I’ll be revising that statement soon).  At least I wasn’t driving (thank you, David B) and could sit in the back seat and relax my back.  Whew!

(Note:  I moan and complain about the difficulty of these hikes sometimes, but I know that you only get better when you challenge yourself.  I feel a swelling in my chest, a sense of such accomplishment when I successfully complete one of these hikes, and I just want to go out and tackle another one.)

When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.  ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

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