I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more…

Well, I would walk eighteen or nineteen miles, five hundred might be a stretch. That would take a while. Over the weekend I went on a hike I had organized, at the Gorges State Park in North Carolina. There were only three of us total, which made it easy to ride up in one car.

Getting ready to go

At the state park, we parked on Frozen Creek Road access, and filled out the mandatory self registration. There was another group of people that left ahead of us with a big bloodhound-looking dog. As we headed up into the woods we passed a second group of twenty-somethings coming out, and those would be the only people we saw in the park.

Registration and maps

We went up for quite a bit, and then went left onto Cane Break trail. It wound around and down into the gorges and finally reached the headwaters of Lake Jocassee.

One of many of these stone cairns we saw along the trails.
Looking down into a gorge.
Stopping for a look around.
The “trail” which is really a forest service road.
Trailside waterfall… maybe five feet high.
At the intersection – Cane Break and Foothills Trail

We stopped and had lunch on the edge of a creek feeding into the lake, and found the Bloodhound Gang from the parking lot. This was apparently as far as they were going. After a brief confusing moment from out directions, we turned around and got going the right way west on the Foothills Trail.

Not the bridge we were supposed to cross.
Water under the bridge

The Foothills Trail is a 77 mile trail through South and North Carolina along the foothills of the Blue Ridge Escarpment. It normally takes a week to walk the whole thing. We were only doing four miles of it. It was definitely a different style trail. The state park trail was an old forest service road. Wide, gravelly, and generally not too difficult or twisty; the sort of thing you would drive a 4WD vehicle on. The Foothills Trail is a hiking path only. We nicknamed it the Footstairs trail for all the little wood steps in the soil leading up and down the sides of steep hills.

Looking up the creek by the little bridge.
The suspension bridge we were supposed to cross… much larger!

The climb out of the lake was one of the toughest of the trip. It was up up up forever, gaining back the elevation we had lost all day, in the space of a mile. At the end of the climb we were all sweating, tired and needed refreshments.

View from the bridge – Lake Jocassee Headwaters
View upstream
Jim coming down the “Foot Stairs Trail”

We continued around the trail and up and down the hills and along the ridge line until we left the park boundaries. There we had a confusing moment. We were supposed to avoid the Auger Hole trail, and go on along the Foothills Trail for another mile to camp.

What are the odds of this happening? One tree falls on an old stump and stops.
Going around the bend on the way to camp
Rock overhang

We didn’t see the Auger Hole trail, and since we had to go down the Foothills Trail anyway, we just kept going. We went about a half mile down into a gorge, and found a campsite. It was right next to a small creek in a clearing, with a fire ring. All day long we had taken it easy with walking, thinking we had plenty of time. It turned out to be longer than we thought, and when we found the empty site, we decided that was camp, no matter where camp was supposed to be. GPS coverage sucked at this point, and it couldn’t find us.

David setting up the stove

After setting up tents, we started gathering firewood and preparing the evening meal. David had his Cat-Can stove and windscreen, which worked rather well. Jim had a Jetboil system, which I have seen before. They are fast and efficient, but a little heavy. I went middle-of-the-road this time and brought my Snow Peak Giga Power and titanium mug. I had packed myself a special woods treat, two brown-n-serve rolls and my roll-cooker system, which goes in the titanium mug, turning the mug into a miniature oven. It took a pack of rolls to perfect the system.

Yes! Finally…. I made brown warm crusty rolls in the WOODS. Add some “butter” and any meal is all the better. The RollCooker 4000 system is a success, and weighs less than a nickel.
We make fire!
Hoping the big ass dead trees (“widowmakers”) don’t fall on us overnight.
The campsite came with running water. The hot water wasn’t working…

After the food was consumed and the rest of it packed into the bear canister, We stirred up a fire. It took a while, but finally we had a decent fire going, and we waited for dark to settle in. It didn’t take long, and we tried to stay up to a decent hour, so we weren’t all ready to get up at four in the morning. So by 8:30 we were in bed.

Jim’s Tarptent… these look pretty nice.
My hammock setup… complete with accessory bags all over the place.

My hammock may not save on weight, but it sure is nice to be off the ground. And the lines provide a convenient place to hang all my crap. If I could ever get organized maybe I wouldn’t need to hang stuff all over the place. The blue blob under the hammock is my pack in it’s rain cover.

Breakfast time!

Breakfast wasn’t nearly as fun as supper. With no fire and colder air, it was time to eat, pack and head out. It was going to be a shorter day, but with lots of up.Thankfully fighting my underquilt and my sleeping bag back into their sacks warmed me up.

Mushrooms on my hammock hanging tree.

 

Our camp view. Pretty impressive hill next door.
There we are!

After the half mile walk out of camp back up to the sign, we find the park and begin our 500 foot climb in half a mile, which is a pretty steep grade. Then we spent most of the rest of the day going up, up to 800 feet up in a single stretch. The views got pretty nice, and we knew it was coming from before the trip, but the sheer amount of up was really surprising to me.

View from the sign area.
David looks over the hills
Looking north east?
Strange tree… most of them were very straight and vertical…
More pretty views before slogging back down into the valley to start all the ups over again.

 

The resiliency of nature is sometimes very impressive. This pine clings to the side of the cliff.
Same pine tree – the root system is incredible.

 

an unidentified creek

Four miles from the car we had to cross two creeks – Bearwallow, and Toxaway. The first was narrow and swift, the other was wider and swift, both below knee level. Crossing the river was a little scary, but the rangers had said it wouldn’t be a problem. These two crossings were the only places in the park with “warning” signs.

After crossing bear wallow creek

 

Upstream
After crossing Toxaway river. The sun was shining off the water really hard, so pictures were hard to take.
Upstream from our crossing.

So our trip came to an end. A couple more miles of gentle punishing up, and then a harsh downhill slog to the cars. My thighs have just forgiven me, a day later. But I feel better, and had a great time. I’m kind of glad it was fall and the cool weather made it comfortable, but this is probably my last overnight until spring. The idea of waking up to frozen water bottles does not appeal to me, and due to family and work requirements, I don’t think I’ll have time for another weekend trip. So I must look forward to March and April.

This was my first time organizing a trip, and thanks to David and Jim for putting up with me…

 

 

 

Sky Top Orchard – or, Angie’s Apple Adventure

At the orchard

Well…On Sunday, October 21 We took part in the annual tradition of Angie’s Apple Adventure. I colloquially call it the “Hundred Dollar Sack Of Apples” trip, because with gas and dinner that’s what it runs, but it’s really worth it. What else can you do as a family and have such fun?

So we left the house and drove to Flat Rock, North Carolina. We first had lunch at the Flat Rock Village Bakery. Excellent place, but the counter girls are always kind of snooty. You would think young women that take orders in that place would be friendly and cheerful, but it’s more like being in a French bakery as an American. But the food is worth putting up with them. I’m really surprised it is even open on Sunday. My flat-land town rolls up the sidewalks and bars the doors on Sunday, but this little mountain town throws caution to the wind and *gasp* actually does Business on the Sun’s Day! I’m happy. After stuffing ourselves with sandwiches and pizza, we headed up to Sky Top Orchards. I’ve been there on days where the lot was full and people were parking down the mountain road. This was not one of those days. We got inside, and the friendly migrant workers got us parked.

First stop, the doughnut line. It’s always long on Saturday, but today wasn’t that bad. They make doughnuts from apple cider, which taste really good. People will stand in line for two hours for these things. We waited about seven minutes.

Time to make the doughnuts!
the waiting, is the hardest part.

Doughnuts in the car, off to the orchards. Sky Top is a you-pick place. Sure, you can buy from the stand, but the you-pick option is where the fun is. Of course, this late in the season, a lot of people have had their fun, and we had to walk to the back of the orchard. Thankfully it’s all downhill.

the orchards

The back is way down the hill. That’s good, right?

So we filled our rolling cooler with apples, slowly but surely. I haven’t climbed a tree in a long time, but to get the apples this late in the season it was necessary.

Better than lugging a basket.
Arkansas Blacks! Mmmmmm tasty.

So we all tried our hands at picking apples, and eventually got enough fruit to call it a day. The little rolling cooler wasn’t the best for this trip, it tended to wobble all over, but it still beat lugging a basket full of apples up the hill.

Kaylee enjoyed picking her apples. But soon it was time to head to the barn and get checked out.

back up the hill
Angie gets tired
Time to rest

 

Leaving the orchard

Our next stop was downtown Hendersonville, at the Mast General Store. Sure, there’s one in Columbia, but this one is fun too. They have all kinds of neat hiking stuff in there. I got some food for my upcoming trip, because frankly I’m tired of the Wal-Mart Coleman meals.

Downtown

Then it was up to near Asheville on I-26 to a small portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway. An accident and bumper-to-bumper traffic on the way up had everyone’s spirits a bit diminished, but the parkway was so pretty it helped liven the group up again.

On the parkway!
Kaylee at the “Ladybug Breeding Grounds”

The above picture was taken at an overlook with thousands of ladybugs flying around. They got on everything and coated everyone. Normally ladybugs are sort of fun, but not when the air is thick with them and they land on you by the dozens.

The parkway south of Asheville

 

Angie poses on the parkway at an overlook.

 

An overlook near Pisgah… BRP in the fall is pretty. 

So, we drove through a couple of tunnels, and came out nearer to Mount Pisgah than Asheville, but didn’t get as far as I had hoped. Because of our traffic delays, it was time to head home. We turned around and headed down the way we had come, and got stuck in a second accident on the way south on 26. Thankfully a stop at the Olive Garden in Spartanburg was enough to refuel us and get us home before it was too late.

Now we have apples to eat. I’m saving seeds and hope I can grow some trees in the spring. I’m doubtful, otherwise there would be apple farms here instead of peach farms, but one can try.

 

 

Fond memories

I was listening to this tune last night, and watching the outstanding landscape video…

Simon OShine Video

Maybe you dont like the drums, but about two minutes in the drums fall off and the music and scenery together are achingly beautiful. If you have firefox, install the YouTube video downloader and grab the HD version for your PC. Just…WOW!

The amazing scenes reminded me of a few things that didn’t make it into my other hiking blog posts.

One was the bats. If you’ve never hiked in the woods in the fall by night, using a headlamp for light, you’re missing a real treat. First of all, the lights attract the bugs, just like your porch lights or headlights do. The bugs attract bats. You’ve never experienced a bat eating a bug quite like when the bat swoops into your narrow field of light, two feet from your head, and snatches a bug out of midair before disappearing into the darkness again. It adds a whole new dimension of terror to walking along in a dark forest at night.

But there are good things too. When one of your group has a great singing voice and bursts into song as the slightest provocation, singing a bar or two and stopping before it gets to be too much, that can be nice. It’s even nicer when it is a song everyone knows. Several of us stopped at an intersection to wait on a few others, and someone mentioned the song “500 miles” by The Proclaimers. Another hiker, not knowing the song, prompted five of us to belt out the chorus together, including the “da da da-da dah”s. And hearing a woman sing the “Brave, Brave Sir Robin” song and other collected Monty Python works was quite funny, Monty Python’s Flying Circus being sort of a “man thing” like the Three Stooges.

I was recently accused on Facebook of being “Always Negative”. I do post a lot of cynical things, simply because that’s my expression of humor. I am brash and straightforward, and an undying realist. But some of my funny attempts sometimes get lost in translation. Sixty percent of what we humans say to each other is non-verbal, which is hard to communicate on Facebook.

Tell your dog, in a sweet voice, that you hate him and are going to put him to sleep. He will come running and show affection. Then yell at him that you love him, in your most angry threatening voice. He’ll run for the hills. Facebook is sort of the same way. Humor gets lost without the subtle voice inflections, facial expressions, and body language. The same can happen on here, which is my more filtered, “sanitized for your protection” outlet. Humor can often be misconstrued as anger or disappointment.

Before deleting the person that called me negative (for my profile says; if I offend you with my postings, please inform me as soon as possible so I can delete you), I let them know that if they think I’m always negative, they must not read all my posts. I may whine and complain and be cynical about things, but that’s only because that’s what interests people, and people can relate to the crappy stuff that happens in their own lives. Look at Eminem. He sells record after record about how he had a crappy childhood in Detroit and knocked up some skank and how awful it was that his mom was a crack whore. He sounds so angry, but no one would buy his stuff if he suddenly sounded happy, talked about how rich he has become and about how he lives a posh, superstar lifestyle. That is boring and dull, or worse, uppity. In his gruff voice, it would come across as, “look what I have and you don’t, you filthy, pathetic, poor scum! Go buy my CD’s, I need another G6.”

But in my backpacking stories, all the cynicism and complaints about bee stings and being cold, there are some really outstanding moments, some almost tearful occasions of beauty and serenity that make the hard stuff all worth it. Indeed, you don’t have to go into the backside of nowhere to find those moments. It doesn’t hurt to go anyway.

And if my cynicism offends you at some point…you have been warned.

Enjoying the spam

I really have nothing much to say tonight. I’m trying my hand at time lapse photography again. I did it before, but the thing about time lapse photography is that, in essence, it takes a long damn time to know if you got anything good. Plus, there’s only so much I can take pictures of from my front and back yards. Trees and stars get old rather quickly. Planes do leave cool trails across the empty vastness of space, however.

So I was going through my spam folder deleting crap, when I started really looking into some of it. It is actually pretty funny stuff. Most of it is just advertising one product or another, of course, that is what spam is. Ninety percent of it is simply something like, “Enjoyed your post!” often in some sort of broken English.

“I am being enjoy your postings” is not proper English. Neither is “This is stuff for good, I like your blog to read.”
I’m starting to think the people who write spam emails are the same ones that claim to have thirty million dollars to send to me, as soon as I give them my name, social security number, and bank information. Seriously, does this still fool people? Haven’t all the gullible people been conned already?

Among the “I like your stuffs” messages are the longer more rambling messages, vaguely alluding to something they liked but not quite getting to the point. If you are a college professor or student you know the paragraphs I am talking about, the kind that talk all around the test question without ever really answering it. Also the same type of answer you may give your girlfriend when she asks you “what do you think of my sister?” You don’t want to say you don’t like her, because she may be really close, but if you express too much fondness for her, your girl may think you want her sister instead, when all you really want to do is get her alone somewhere to make out. And hopefully she’ll bring her sister into it later…

I was discovered recently by foreign spammers. Liste De Email or some crap sends me 10 or 12 messages a DAY. At least they could look at my pages and bump my stats, but NO, they just send me messages.

But today I hit the big time. The ‘adult’ ads. You know you really have someone’s attention when you are getting spam emails with ads for porn companies attached. I haven’t tried approving any of it, but I guess if I approve their comments, you see the ad for their services.

I’m sorry Georgia Jones, you may be the “prettiest brunette you’ll ever find on the internet”, but I don’t need your naked butt splattered across the bottom of my post about how to get the most mileage of my home made Cat food stove.

But at least she “Likes my postes on many varied topics I find interesting”.