Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How We Screwed Up

We started out our Mackey Mountain hike with good intentions. We knew that at least part of the hike would be on an established trail (the aptly named Mackey Mountain Trail), but that at some point we were going to have to rely on route-finding skills to find some older abandoned trails that would take us down to Mackey Creek. The original plan was for a loop hike of about 14 to 15 miles. Doing half each day, it would make for a relatively easy backpack.

However, the Forest Service has obviously not maintained the Mackey Mountain Trail. After some miles we lost sight of it, the old trail just vanishing. We're pretty sure now that we veered away from it below a summit that we mistook for Mackey Mountain. Thus we ended up far off course and somewhere above Lake Tahoma instead of down in the coves where Mackey Creek is located.

After that, we figured if we backtracked that we would find the old path and get within a mile or so of our original campsite destination before it began to get dark. However, we missed the faint turnoff where we had first lost sight of the trail and after some backtracking in reverse, we just realized that we'd utterly screwed up. By that time we knew that the only thing to do was to head back to the trail head and our vehicle (Andy's SUV). There is no water source along the ridge we had used to hike in, and all of us were running out of water. There was nothing to do but cancel our original backpacking plans and find a National Forest campsite and pitch our tents.

The hike along the ridge leading toward Mackey Mountain was relatively scenic, with a few steep climbs and a couple of impressive overlooks. The forest along the ridges is dry and dominated by hardwoods. I wish we'd been able to find the old Mackey Mountain trail and our way to Mackey Creek. But that can wait for another time.

As it was, we found a decent campsite a mile or so off the Blue Ridge Parkway part of the way down a road that leads to the Black Mountain Campground. We pitched our tents, cooked our meals, drank some wine, and settled in for a night's rest. I, for one, was exhausted and slept through the night, waking only a couple of times, very briefly, only to fall immediately back to sleep.

At the trail head, getting ready to start in on the long trek to Mackey Creek.

Bob Johnson, Andy Kunkle, and Andy's new puppy Kona.

Bob at one of the nicer overlooks we found on the hike in.

A stitched panorama where we dallied for quite a while.

A nice chunk of the Mackey Mountain Roadless Area. It should be part of a new wilderness area, but of course there are always political and corporate pressures to prevent new wilderness and to destroy what has already been established.

Some kind of notice carved into a tree. I assume this was for the purpose of someone doing surveying of this area.

A strangely shaped tree we encountered along the hike. Andy called it the Unicorn tree, but of course I called it the Parasaurolophus tree.

I took this one of myself in my one-man tent just as I got ready to go comatose after a grueling 12 miles of slogging along a steep ridge for no good purpose.

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