Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year!


When I show this to folk, many times they think it's somewhere out west. But it's right here in North Carolina.

Carver's Gap, Tennessee. Last January.

Monday, December 30, 2013

National Parks

Carole and Andy and I love touring National Parks. Of course we're generally stuck seeing the few we have here on the east coast. But I want to visit another west coast Park this year. One that Carole wants to see desperately in Crater Lake. It's not as high on my to-see list as it is on hers, but we're thinking about it, since it would put us closer to seeing some friends we have in the Pacific Northwest.

So...maybe we'll be able to go there this year.

Our all-time favorite National Park trip was the one to see Yellowstone. Here are some photos from that trip, all firsts.

This was our first night at Yellowstone...at a little motor lodge just outside the Park. I had to have a photo of Carole and Andy in front of this goofy tree.

First encounter with a Yellowstone Park sign.

First mountain in the Park.

Our first family photo in the Park.

This was the best Andy could do with this shot. Our first sighting of a bison. He was pretty excited.

Our first hot spring/geyser.

First waterfall in the Park.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Working Farm (Historical)

One of the coolest things at the Kings Mountain State Park was a reproduction of a working 19th Century farm. Most of the building were original structures that were dismantled and transported to this location. There was no one official on site the day we were there, so I couldn't get information on some of the buildings. So here are photos.

We think this was housing for a farm worker. It was not the main house.

Barn and smithy.

For the rendering of sorghum into syrup.

Small vineyard.

This was a very impressive cotton gin. Apparently in working condition.

Stairs to top floor of the gin.

Under the cotton gin building. Wagon for transport of both raw cotton and processed cotton bales.

Cotton gin on right, fallow field in center, corn crib on right.

This would have been the main house of a prosperous cotton farm.

We could find no indication of what this building could have been. I suspect it was representative of a springhouse or well housing.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Kings Mountain National Military Park

We have a lot of local parks I've rarely visited; and a few that I've never seen, at all. One that I've been to a couple of times is the Kings Mountain National Military Park where an important Revolutionary War battle took place. And right next to it is the Kings Mountain State Park (SC) when I had never visited. So today we went to see them.

Just now I am exhausted and very sleepy. I'll post more photos and such, and details tomorrow.

National Park entrance.

The lake.

Interesting dam design. No spillway. Instead, the excess water just overtops the dam and creates a very nice waterfall.

I don't know if this was built by the CCC, but it looks like something they'd have built. It's a bath house at the lake and appears to be abandoned now. We looked in the windows and could see that all of the plumbing had been removed.
The office of Kings Mountain STATE Park. Not the National Park.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Hiking Decisions.

I'm poring over my hiking maps and various Internet sites to figure out a couple of good dayhikes in the Peaks of Otter area for this coming week. One place I've hiked near but never have seen (except from a distance) is the Devil's Marbleyard. It's an enormous talus field in the James River area. I've never figured out why the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia sometimes exhibit talus fields, whereas I've never seen them in most of the southern states where I hike.

I'll be very close to the Appalachian Trail, so I could do some hikes there. Although I generally don't like to hike the AT because of crowds. However, as this will be in January, I might be able to find some solitude even there.

We'll see.

Typical view in the high mountains of Virginia.

Tough hiking.

I don't see much of this kind of thing in Georgia, Tennessee, or North Carolina.

The top of the talus field on Torrey Ridge.

I wouldn't want to hike long distance in this kind of stuff, but it was fun to venture out on it for the views.

Looking back at the talus fields from another ridge.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Not Soon Enough!

Room booked. Going to see the mountains for the first time in too long. Just a bit more than a week and I can breathe the mountain air, son. We'll be staying out our favorite National Park Service lodging: The Peaks of Otter Lodge.

I still haven't decided where I'm going to hike. But I might revisit the falls on Apple Orchard Mountain. We'll see.

I climb on the rocks near the summit of Flat Top Mountain. A weirdly-named peak, because from most points of view, it's almost as pointed as the aptly named Sharp Top Mountain.

It was so overcast and drizzly, I couldn't tell if I was at the high point of the mountain here, or not. I had to scramble to get to this spot.
Lots of strange jumbling of boulders near the top of the mountain. I think I will go back--especially if the weather is better.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Many Moons Ago

A very, very, very long time ago I went on a three-day backpacking trip in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The end of the backpack had us leaving the trails on the first day of May. Warm weather, you say? LOL! Nay-nay, say I.

Just before we arrived, the upper elevations of the Park got hit with a super-heavy snow event. Up to three feet on the highest peaks. We began the trip in Smokemont (where there was almost no snow at all), climbed up the spine of the ridge where we spent the evening in a trail shelter. Then we were supposed to have camped on the summit of LeConte (eleation 6,594 feet). But the snow was so deep that we just got physically worn down from post-holing in the deep drifts. That really tires you out.

Thus, about a mile short of the summit, we had to make camp in the forest or else get caught in the dark. Sleeping on packed snow was the most uncomfortable camping experience that I can recall. I didn't get cold because I had lots of insulation beneath me and was using a down bag. But the ice formed steel-hard ridges under me and made sleeping an adventure in pain management.

At any rate, enjoy very old photos of a very young me backpacking in deep snow when the weather should have been much warmer.

Yours truly at Charlies Bunion. One of my favorite Smoky Mountain summits. The snow was deep here, but we had no idea how deep it was going to be. The slog was already tough, and I was feeling really bad at this point (roughly 5400 feet above sea level).
Trying to head up LeConte. The snow at this point was knee-deep. We were breaking trail much of the way. Hiking through snow that deep is very difficult and it only got deeper farther up. We were on the Boulevard Trail not too far from the Appalachian Trail junction.
The days of the old instamatic film cameras. Digital cameras weren't even a gleam in some computer geek's eyes at that point.
This is where we gave up the ghost and realized we were not going to make the summit before dark. So we figured the best thing to do was pitch the tent and camp on this ridge. The night was cold, but the skies remained clear and no more snow fell, so we didn't have to deal with that. In the morning, we just packed up and headed down to Newfound Gap.
Checking my trail guide as we made our way out. I think this was at the junction of The Boulevard and the Appalachian Trail. It was all downhill from here to Newfound Gap.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Two Tents

Over the past ten years I have owned two backpacking tents. I still have them both, but rarely use the one I initially purchased. That one my son uses far more often than I do.

The first one I bought when I returned to backpacking is a model that was sold through Dick's Sporting Goods stores. It's a two-man tent and is actually a knock-off of the high quality tent made by Big Agnes, the model they sell called "The Seedhouse". It's a very good design, front entrance, with lots of room for one person, but slightly cramped for two. It was great to start with, but I quickly found that I both wanted and needed a much lighter tent.

Big Agnes still makes The Seedhouse, but I no longer see the knockoff in the Dick's Sporting Goods stores. I keep this tent because sometimes I will use it car camping and my son likes it. Occasionally I will carry it on brief backpacking trips when I'm not worried about lugging the extra weight around and want the luxury of more room.

My Seedhouse knockoff (made by Quest) at Deep Gap in the Black Mountains of North Carolina.

Looking through the entrance (front opening). Plenty of room.

The lighter tent I finally settled on is the MSR Hubba. It's a one-person tent. It's just fine for me and has enough room to accommodate myself and most of my gear. It has an excellent rain fly, is well ventilated, and weighs in at just over two pounds. I've seen lighter tents...but what's the point? This one has served me well in trips all over the place, from the Piedmont of Georgia to the highest mountains in North Carolina to the San Juans of Colorado. It's a great tent.

At a campsite in the Weminuche Wilderness in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.
This was, I think, the first time I used the Hubba tent. At a campsite in Virginia on the Appalachian Trail.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Out With the Old...

I don't normally collect high-grade books for my collection. Sometimes I will upgrade from a poor condition copy to one in good to very good condition. One reason I don't generally buy them in high grade is that I like to read my old comics. I enjoy taking them out and handling them. Unlike the anal retentive types who box them permanently in plastic slabs where they can never be touched. Nevernevernever.

Last week I happened to trade up for a high grade copy of THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #27. I'll keep it, I reckon, and sell off my lower grade copy.

What the heck. Might as well.

Out with the old...
In with the new.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

How to Lose Weight

I found out the hard way last year that I am susceptible to altitude sickness. For some reason, it hits me after I crack about 11,500 feet above sea level. Back in 2010 I had hiked extensively in Yellowstone National Park, hitting peaks above 10K feet and feeling no ill effects of altitude whatsoever.

But, when I got to Colorado and started hitting really high (by USA lower-48 standards) peaks, I discovered that I do get altitude sickness. Really classic symptoms, too. Headaches, loss of appetite, dehydration, shortness of breath, nausea, reduced capacity to reason...most of the uncomfortable symptoms.

One thing about it, though...I lost a LOT of weight over the course of just a week spending most of my time between 11K and 13K feet. I pretty much stayed sick, so I had to force food down to keep from getting even sicker, and I was burning a lot of calories walking up and down those slopes at that elevation.

Another thing that I noticed is that I would awaken in the night gasping for breath whenever we camped at really high campsites.

Thus, the next time I go to such high country (and I'd like to do that in 2014...I've been looking at hiking in the Sierras in California), I want to make sure I'm in better shape than I was when I went to Colorado.

I think I weighed about 215 or so when I got to Colorado.

In Rocky Mountain National Park, on the flanks of the highest peaks in the Park, where I found out altitude sickness is some serious shit.
In the Mount Sneffels Wilderness a few days into the trip. I think I'd already lost a few pounds. Not much, but a few.
Coming down from one of the high passes we had to hike. This one had been very close to 13,000 feet.

Lying in my tent one evening. Cold. Sick.
Toward the end of the trip. I think we had one full day to go. I'd lost about twenty pounds by this point. My belt was all but useless. Had it cinched as tight as it would go and had to cram a washcloth in my waist to keep it tight.