Friday, November 21, 2014

Possible Peaks

I've been going over my Glacier National Park map and comparing notes with folk I know who hike there. What I've been searching for are really impressive summits that are not technically difficult and which can be done as day-hikes. I won't be in a position to do any overnight backpacking trips, so the peaks I want to reach have to be something I can do within the span of a day.

Initially I was curious about a peak called Grizzly Mountain. Seemed to have all the criteria I was searching for. High, but not a mountain that requires technical climbing to reach. But the more I looked at it the more I realized that it's at the absolute limits of reaching as a day-hike. I got differing mileages from people who had done it, but all of them seemed to say that the hike was somewhere between 20 and 22 miles. That's just more than I want to plow into a peak. If I had two days to use I'd arrange to make it an overnight hike. But Carole and I and our friends are going to be trying to pack so much into our time in Glacier that I have to stay close at hand. So Grizzly had to be ruled out.

And finally I think I found the two peaks I can bag while I'm in the park:

Mount Helen in the Two Medicine area (where we'll be camping), and Mount Oberlin near Many Glacier. Helen is a longer hike, but well within the constraints I've set. And Oberlin is often termed as the most climbable of Glacier's major summits.

So. That's the deal, as I now see it. Things could change, but the more I look at the maps and read about the hikes, those are the two that are currently foremost in my plans.

I've never hiked peaks exactly like the ones in Glacier, so I'll be comparing them to terrain out west where I have hiked. Features such as:

On Mount Washburn, Yellowstone National Park.
Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park.
From Avalanche Peak, Yellowstone National Park.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.
Longs Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Older Photos

I love digital cameras. It's one part of computer technology that I absolutely love. Digital cameras and high volume memory cards have given me almost unlimited ability to take photos of the places I visit. I can take thousands of shots, knowing that most of them might be unremarkable, but that some of them are going to be outstanding.

But sometimes when I'm leafing through my digital files I'll find a shot and won't be able to recall why I took it.

Here's one: 

I took this photo in the Tower Canyon area of Yellowstone National Park. I couldn't figure out why I framed it the way I did. I'd taken several from that vantage point that made a lot more sense.

Here's one that's traditional and dramatic:

So why had I shot that other photo that focused on that bend in the river? It didn't make a lot of sense outside the fact that with a digital camera you can take thousands of photos and never worry about wasting film (or even your time).

I decided to enlarge the photo to see if there had been some critter down near the edge of the river that had engaged my attention. But there wasn't. And then I saw what I'd obviously spotted from high up on the lip of the canyon:

It was a thermal feature! Down at the edge of the river I had spotted steam rising up. So there, just at the river bend, was a boiling-hot steam vent.

I'll be damned.

I still get a kick out of looking at photos from old trips. And I still find surprises!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Megafauna from South to West

I spend a lot more time in the outdoors than most Americans. A lot more.

One reason I go to Parks and wilderness areas is to find solitude. I also go to enjoy various types of scenery. Mountain vistas. Waterfalls. Rivers and streams. Forests.

But another huge reason I head off into the forests and swamps and mountains is to see wildlife. And there are all kinds of animals to define wildlife, but when I talk about that aspect of my journeys I'm speaking about megafauna. These are the larger animals. Things that are not tiny to us.

Most of our National Parks feature habitat that is the very reason that enables us to view such creatures. And in my wide journeys I am always on the lookout for the big critters, and I have varying degrees of luck spotting them.

For big fur-bearing animals I suppose the places like the western National Parks are the best. It's hard to visit one of those spots and not see the large critters we all think of as designating wilderness. In the east...well, the pickings are slim in comparison. When I'm hiking in the Piedmont or along the spine of the Appalachians, I just don't see a lot of wildlife. I feel fortunate to spot the occasional black bear. Elk are only now being reintroduced, but I do spot them from time to time. I've never seen a bobcat or a mountain lion here in the East. About the only big critters I can count on seeing in the East are white-tailed deer, raccoons, wild turkey, and the two vulture species we have.

But there is one place in the east where I often travel where there is at least as much wildlife as in the west. Maybe more. And that is in the wetlands of the deep South. If I go paddling in the Okefenokee Swamp, or trekking the rivers around the Outer Banks, or cruising the low country of Florida then I can pretty much guarantee myself that I will enjoy a vast bounty of wildlife.

West, East, South. I'll take what I can get.

Mullet school. Silver Glen Springs, Florida.

Black snake. Virginia Creeper Trail, southwest Virginia.

Migrating hawks forming a "kettle". Linville Gorge Wilderness, North Carolina.

White-tailed deer. Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Coyote/Red wolf hybrid. Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Alligator Snapping turtle. Outer Banks, North Carolina.

Cottontail rabbit. Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina.

A black bear and I surprise one another. Douthat State Park, Virginia.

Bison herd, Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park.

Bothersome raccoon. Blue Spring State Park, Florida.

Black buzzard, Manatee Springs State Park, Florida.

Bull elk. Rocky Mountain State Park, Colorado.

Bull elk, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cataloochee section, North Carolina.

Grizzly bear, Yellowstone National Park. (Yeah, not a good photo, but I prefer Grizzly bears to be far away.)

Manatees. Manatee Springs, Florida.

Bull moose. Grand Teton National Park.

Key Deer. Big Pine Key, Florida.

Osprey. Fort DeSoto Park, Tampa Florida.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

And...the Bad.

I didn't want to post this with the blog entries about the rest of Big South Fork. I figured it would unfairly color the Park as a sketchy place to go. But it happened so I figured I have to at least report it.

Most people who hike down to Charit Creek use a different parking area than we did. That trail is much shorter (only eight-tents of a mile), but is a lot steeper. We opted to go down via the Twin Arches Trail because, while it's longer (2.1 miles), it's a lot easier on the legs and lungs. Lots of people do park there to go down to the lodge. But most use the other trailhead and parking lot.

So, we headed down and left the truck.

I have to mention here that we had just bought two brand new tires for the truck. They were installed on the front. Left and right. The tires were two days old, because we bought them on the trip when we had a flat and just decided to replace both tires.

We had a great time and hiked back up. We got to the truck to discover that both front tires were absolutely flat. A quick inspection soon revealed that they had been slashed by vandals.


I have no idea. Vandals never need a reason. Frankly, I'm surprised that only two tires were slashed instead of all four. I suspect that they destroyed the front ones because it was obvious that they were brand new. Or maybe something scared them away before they could do any more damage. Who knows?

Fortunately, for some bizarre reason, we had cell phone service there at the parking lot in the middle of nowhere. We have Good Sam road service and they soon dispatched a tow truck to take us right back to the place where we'd bought the tires two days before. The owner was horrified. He said that he'd never heard of anyone having suffered anything like that at one of the parking lots in the Recreation Area. It made him feel bad about the local folk. But of course it wasn't his fault. 

At any rate, it happened. It sucked. Weirdest thing about it...I didn't even get upset. I think I said "damn" once. And "Oh, well" several times.

Both front tires. Flat. Both brand new.

I've circled one of the punctures. Looks like they used a knife. Each tire had at least two such slash marks.

The tow truck fellows arrive and load up the ol' truck.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Random Scenes from Big South Fork

Here are just some random scenes from our rambling around the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.

I spotted this gorgeous Fall color from the walkway across the top of the coal tipple at Big Heron Historical Area.

The restored coal tipple at Big Heron. It once contained the machinery that sorted sizes and grades of coal.

The walkway across the top of the coal tipple. Once, a rail crossed here that unloaded coal into the tipple.

The view from  Station Camp Overlook peering down toward Charit Creek Lodge.

And, down at Charit Creek Lodge looking up at the rocks of  Station Camp Overlook. (That's the Lodge stable below the hill on the other side of the meadow.)

The top of South Arch. Don't stray to the left or right. A fall of over 100 feet would greet you. Briefly.

Grotto beside Natural Bridge.

Yahoo Falls, the highest waterfall in Kentucky.

Water at Devil's Den.

The restored O & W bridge.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


While we were in Big South Fork we shared adjacent campsites with Bobby and Sharon Childers. Sharon is a long-time friend of Carole's. They reconnected via Facebook and the two planned a reunion at the Park.

As luck would have it, Sharon and Bobby love to travel and they love to hike. A great combination to my way of thinking. Sharon is now retired from her small business and Bobby is a Navy veteran who has worked for decades at King's Bay helping to keep our nuclear submarine force in tip-top shape.

We all did a lot of hiking while we were in the Park and also made plans to meet again in 2015 for a trip to Glacier National Park (which has been on my bucket list for a long, long time). Bobby and Sharon have been to Glacier before so they'll know how to get around the Park once we arrive.

I've always admired people who are mechanically inclined and who are adept at engineering. Bobby Childers proved to be exceptionally skilled in such when I toured the 1970 Holiday Rambler that he completely rebuilt and restored. When he and Sharon found it, the trailer was a total wreck (it was bound for scrap metal and they got it for $400). But they spent the better part of two years refurbishing and improving it. This is not only going to be their RV, but will be their permanent home.

They decided some time back to downsize so that they could enjoy the traveling life. Thus, the Rambler will be their house 24/7 after they sell their current home. I was absolutely stunned at the quality and breadth of workmanship that the Childers have poured into their Rambler. While we were camping, hardly an hour or two passed without someone stopping to see close up the fruits of all of their labor and skill.

Now we're looking forward to exploring Glacier National Park with them in August of 2015.

The four of us in front of the Childers' restored 1970 Holiday Rambler.
Motto the Childers applied to their home (aptly named "The Phoenix").
We stop along the Ladder Trail in Pickett State Park.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Golden Age Jack Kirby

Although the title was never foremost in my mind to collect, I've managed to buy two issues of BULLSEYE by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. I now have issue #1 and #5, both in decent condition. This was part of Simon & Kirby's Mainline Comics. They had both been frustrated in having their work controlled by others and actually stolen by their publishers in the past (ex: Captain America at Timely Comics).

So the two men decided to pool their knowledge of the industry and their talents and start their own comics publishing company. Alas, even with their combined knowledge and energy it was not a successful endeavor and eventually they had to shut down, actually selling titles and unpublished work at bargain basement prices to the likes of Charlton Comics.

But they did manage to produce some amazing work, including the title I've now found myself adding to my collection, BULLSEYE.

This is a stunning cover. Amazing design.

Ad on the back cover. Not sure if the revenue helped Simon & Kirby.

Big South Fork Campground Review

Carole and I really enjoyed our stay at the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. It's administered by the National Park Service even though the preserve does not have full National Park status. This is because some things are allowed in National Recreation Areas that don't fly in our National Parks (such as hunting).

One thing that Big South Fork has that most National Parks don't have are electrical and water hookups at the campgrounds. We chose to stay at the more centrally located Bandy Creek Campground. And we stayed in Loop D, which has hookups. The campsites are paved and there is a lot of room between campsites and plenty of trees to give you a sense of privacy.

Every campsite as a picnic table, an iron fire pit with grill, and a lantern pole. There are bathhouses strategically placed throughout the campground. Best of all, these facilities come with flush toilets, sinks, and hot showers. So you don't have to use your travel trailer bathrooms if you want to keep from filling your gray and black water tanks. In addition, the bath houses also had outdoor sinks for washing dishes (also with hot and cold water). You can bet we made use of that, too, which saved us from filling up our gray water tank.

Just across the road from the Bandy Creek Campground was an official Park office and shop. You could see a nature museum there and speak with knowledgeable rangers and buy books and maps.

If you come into the campground from Oneida Tennessee, then you will have to negotiate an extremely steep and very narrow road to access the Park. If you're pulling a small trailer such as a Casita, you won't have any real problems. But if you're pulling a larger trailer then I strongly suggest that you arrive at the campground via Jamestown and Route 27 (instead of 25).

All in all, the Bandy Creek Campground was a delight. It is picturesque and pleasant and offers amenities that we are not accustomed to encountering in National Park campgrounds. Very highly recommended!

Our spacious campsite at Bandy Creek Campground.

The campsite used by our friends, the Childers. (This is his personally fully restored vintage travel trailer.)

What's more pleasant than a roaring campfire?

Typical southern weather. 80s and clear one day, later in the week freezing with snow.

We stopped at the Park entrance on our way out.