Category: Uncategorized

The Garden of Stone

We meet in the Garden of Stone, in the shadows of the Battle in the Sky. Where Blue and Grey fought in the June George Sun. While our Southern Boys wait for the Great Judgement Day, their Sons and Daughters pay a visit of honor and respect. To remember their gift of Love to Land and Country. A unselfish gift of Life’s Blood. Stone, know and unknown, are adorned with the symbol of the hope of Eternal Life, the Evergreen Wreath. The muskets of the Color Guard give their salute and the cannon of war fires once more. The smoke from its gun lies low over this hollow ground.


Memorial day weekend of 2017. Sarah and I took a packpacking trip into the wilderness of St. Joseph Penisula. The peninsula is in the Gulf of mexico just south of Mexico Beach. It is about 20 miles long and eleven of the most northeastern are part of the state park. The seven miles of the tip are Wilderness.  A wilderness has no mechanical machinery,  you can’t even ride a bike.


I had done a one night hike in the Wildernes during one of our camping trips at the State Park. I  also had done a two night backpacking trip the first of January of 2017 into the wilderness. You can read about the first trip in my other article on St Joseph State Park.


The trip in January was exciting.  I hiked 3 miles up the sand road that runs up the center of the peninsula to the campering area that I had chosen with the rangers at the check in station. The location didn’t look that good. It was right on the road. There was lots of sand, no shade, looked as if a fire came through the area not to long ago. FB_IMG_1577648177122  There was also a trail here that bisected the peninsula, running from Gulf to the bay. I took a right and headed to the gulf. A hundred yards or so and just as the sand dunes started, I saw a campsite in the low maritimes  forest of Live Oaks. The Oak limbs were all bent and contoured.  The area had been used by campers before but was clean. There was an almost secret trail that lead to a oasis in the trees. The sand dunes blocked the sea breeze and the trees blocked the sun. It was a very cool campsite.


The next day I spent the day hiking the 4 miles up the beach to the tip of the peninsula.  I believe I was new year’s day . I decided to take a polar plunge. There was part of a dock that had washed up, so I used as an area to strip. I hadn’t seen any one since I entered the Wilderness and I could see up and down the beach.  There was no one for miles. I got up to my chest but did not go under. After getting dressed, I keep heading up the beach.


This part of the beach doesn’t see a lot of visitors  and there is a lot of debris washed up on shore. There are shoes, sunglasses, logs, lumber and at one point I found a orange.  It looked in good shape so it pealed it. The inside looked good so I ate it.


At the tip of the peninsula the landscape is much different.  It’s all sand dunes and marsh. I explored the area. On the bay side there are several boats beached and families are out for the day exploring too. Some have dogs running around.


I took the beach back down to the campsit. Then I tried to do some fishing with a net / trap that I had brought with me. I took it out to the bay side of the peninsula during low tied and put a long rope on it. I did have any luck but it was fun trying.


The next day I took my time walking the beach back to my truck.


Sarah Tibbitts and I went to St. Joseph Peninsula state park and camped in the Wilderness for three nights. Instead of hiking the three mile in like I had done in January,  we paddled 4 miles to the trail that bisects the peninsula.


It was late when we arrived at the park. We drove to an area where we had launched kayaks into the bay before.  We had the canoe that we maned with gear and we towed Sarah’s Kayak loaded with gear.


I didn’t have a map. Only my memory of the area from my January trip and a spot I picked out on a goggle map that I had on my phone. We set out at 7:30 in Hope’s of finding our camping spot. The trip out was fun and we saw a lot of sea life as the sun set.


The last 30 or 40 minutes we were paddling in the dark.Using the Goggle map and Dead reckoning,  we were able to find the trail head with little difficulty. We made landfall at 9 PM.


We secured the seats to a tree with a lock and cable.  I didn’t think anyone would take them but I wanted to make sure we had a way home. It was a 10 minute walk to the same campsite I had in January.  It took two trips to haul all the gear. We left some of the water at the boat. That was one of the biggest difficulties, was having enough fresh water.


We spent a little time on the beach in the dark moonless night looking at a starfilled sky. The beach is magical at night. We then set up camp and was in bed at midnight.


We spent two days on our private beach. We only saw 6 different people on the beach for very short periods. Maybe each person for only 5 minutes.


We had a lot of down time. At one point, I had fallen asleep on the beach and Sarah took a walk. She left me a note in the sand.


The sand dunes on St Joseph peninsula are the largest ones in Florida.  We had to cross over three sets of them to get to the Gulf from out campsite.  It was an effort to climb them. You could see where different animals had crossed. We had a opossum living near our camp.



We saw dolphins feeding in the waves and where a sea turtle had come up in the night to lay eggs. We also kayaked around some in the bay. The water was as warm as a bath tub.



We sailed with the tide on Monday morning at 9 and was back at the truck by 10:30 for the drive home.




The Weeping Widow

FB_IMG_1524529853811It was Christmas time 2017. I was recently divorced from Wendy. I was at the Marietta Confederate Cemetery for the Wreaths Across America event.  It was my second year participating. I had gotten there a little late for the speeches so I was hanging out near the cannon with men from my Son’s of Confederate Veterans camp. The party that had gathered for the speech at the bottom of the hill made their way up to where the boxes of Wreaths were set out. That is when I noticed a lady who was dressed in a 1860s widow morning gown. She was vailed in black from top to bottom.  She took two wreaths and in a southern voice like that of Kattie O’Hara and for all to hear, said she must put a wreath on the Georgia boys monument. I thought to myself that this would be interesting and preceded to follow in hope of getting a good photo to rival the one I took the year before of the Cannon. That photo was spread across different Facebook pages. She was most animated in her posing and many were there taking her photo. With here face vailed, you could not tell on thing about her. I walked away, leaving the photographers to their subjects as I saught out new intreste.  The Lady in black then called out to me in her southern draw. She asked my name and as I tured to give it, it was as if I had been transported to the 1860s as was talking to a widowed Confederate bride. Even face to face I could not see beyond the Vail. I knew not the Southern bell who was behind the Vail. She told me her name and that she was the Mariett Confederate Cemetery Weeping Widow. She asked that I give her copies of the photos I took of her and gave me her cell  phone number to forward them to her. We parted and I wend on over to the national cemetery for more photo opportunities.  They were just starting to lay Wreaths when I got there. Afterwards I ate lunch  and started to text over the photos I took of the Lady in Black. As I was driving home she text back asking who was texting her. I explained who I was and that we just met.  She again told me her name and thanked me for the photos. I had several photos so it took some time to send them all. She would compliment me on a photo and I would tell her that with a beautiful subject as her it was easy to take great photos.  We text several times.  Then became friends on Facebook.  It was several days of texting and flirting before I called her. I was living in the camper at the time. Once we did call we talked for several hours. We had so much common intreste.  We both enjoyed anstey,  history, cemeteries, Confederate history, travel and on and on. We met again in person,  this time with out the vail. I was in luck, the Sothern Bell I had fallen in love with, with out seeing her was a beautiful woman, Ms Kathleen Boucher, soon to be Mrs Tibbits.


By Trent Tibbitts


Little Tybee island is just south of Tybee Island Georgia and lies  across Tybee creek. Though just a few dozen yards away, it is world’s apart. The island is truly a grouping of 18 small islands bisected by marsh and tidal creeks. It is only  accessible by private boat. There are no facilities of any kind, a true wilderness. At 6,780 acres, it is twice as big as the historic beach destination of Tybee Island.



John and I had become quite the kayaking adventurers. We had several trips down the Raccoon, Etowah,  Cossa and other rivers that you can read about in other  articles of mine. I  had also enjoyed several extended overnight trips in the Okefenokee Swamp. A few solo trips into the swamp, one four night trip with Sarah and one trip with Brandon and Sarah . I  like kayaking camping because you do not carry your supplies on your back like when hiking, plus you can carry more items that make the trips little more enjoyable.  John and I packed up his truck with gear and tied down the boats. Trips to the river had taught us how to pack and haul our kayaks. Tybee Island, our launching point, is 5 hours from the house. We pulled out around 7 on a Friday morning.  The trip down was uneventful. Lunch was early at a Subway and a last minute stop at a Kroger before arriving at Alley street, the site of the boat ramp. I am always good about preparing for trip, I have maps and a detailed plan.  But not so for this trip. There is so little information on the island that it was hard to know what to expect.  We were using Google maps on our phones, I  know, bad idea. Phone dies or drops in the water like mine did in the Swamp on the trip with Brandon  and Sarah, and you are lost. Not really. It’s an island.  We could see the other islands when on the back creek, follow the tide out if we were inland or head north if we were on the beach. I wasn’t to worried about getting lost.


We arrived at the boat launch that was no more than a sandy incline into the tidal creek between the two islands.  We could see our goal just a few hundred yards away.  The lot was a public pay parking. We made sure to load the meter with plenty of money for the three days we would be gone. It was winter and we both had brought out wetsuits, the weather was nice and the forcast was favorable, so we left them in the truck. However, we both had our Magellan jackets and pants on, they are extremely warm, block wind good and are somewhat water proof. We would have been in trouble with out them. We had water proof duffel bags straped to the back of our boats and other supplies in the front storage areas. One last check and we are off. We paddled southwest down the back creek. We came in contact with dolphins right away.



John’s boat was off balance due to the water he was carrying, so we used someone’s dock to rearrange his load. We knew we would not have fresh water so we were both hauling a lot of water.  As we paddled,  there were houses and docks on our right and the uninhabited Little Tybee on our left. More dolphins were seen as we made our way around the island. We really didn’t have a destination, just taking it as it comes. We passed the last house and the sun was starting to get lower in the sky.

20171229_172333_108453846307090 Using our phones and online maps, we found a Creek that we hoped would bisect the island. Not only was the sun going down but so was the water, as the tide was going out. Most of the area we were in was low, marsh and no trees. I knew we had to get to high land before we ran out of water. The water was low and we couldn’t see over the grass. It was as if we were in a watery maze. Then we turned a sharp corner and spotted the most wonderful camping area up on a small bluff. The top of the bluff was ten feet or so above the water. A very small beach, just big enough for our two kayaks, welcomed us to our secluded private island.


The sun was just setting and we were able to behold the glory of the Lord as we viewed it over the marsh. Our campsite had been used many times before but was not abused.


We were on a thin finger of high sand held together with pine tree roots. The strip of land was 30 feet wide at most and stretched into the marsh maybe 100 feet.


We set about preparing our site. We were able to find downed wood for making our fire. Several trees had fallen into the marsh and with the water down we were able to collect dry wood that was sticking up. We were also able to pull several large logs up to burn. We layed out a tarp and strung up a line, to dry out our cloths.  The fire got a little to big and burned our line into. A quick repair and we were back in business.  A small cluster of high ground and trees is called a hammock and we normally would sleep in our hammocks, but not knowing what we would find, we used John’s Big Angus tent instead, we have only used it one other time up to this point, it was on another winter camping trip close to home when the temperature dropped to 16 degrees.  Not that cold on this trip but it was down in the high 30’s at night. The sky was cold and clear. A great night for star gazing, surprisingly something we have done quite a bit together. As the night got later, the creek we paddled up shrunk down to a stream. Oyster beds were exposed and small sharks could be seen swiming with the light of our flashlights.


We awoke to a high tide that was starting to go out. After packing up and getting on the water we could tell the water was dropping. We knew we could only make the crossing at high tide. We continued following the creek into the center of the island. Not having a map and only using Google earth,  it was trial and error.  We made it to the center of the island to an area that was a small pond. The water was draining out fast. Soon this area would be a mudflat and we would be stuck.  We finally spotted a small one foot wide 2 inch deep channel of water running out the other side.  It ran about 20 feet and dumped into a 6 foot wide creek that we could tell was our way out. We tried to navigate this sliver of water running over the mud. The kayaks quickly got stuck. We tried to push our way through with our paddles with little success . We tried to scoot ourselves across but the back and forth motion just made the kayaks sink into the mud more. We could see the water in the little creek was dropping. In my mind it had become the moment to do something to get us out or we would be here until next high tide.  I could tell the mud was deep just from us trying to use the paddles to push the kayaks, I also knew people had gotten themself stuck in Fluff mud like this before and had to be rescued. It was not at all a faint descision to exit the kayak. I  stepped into the cold mix of water and mud, trying not to put a lot of my weight in one spot but trying to hold myself up with the kayak as much as I  could.  My boat was in the front and John was right behind me. I pushed my boat ahead and with John’s help, pull his boat forward. We worked this way until both boats were in deep water. The mud was just over my knees and I lost one shoe.  I was able to reach into the mud and retrieve it.  We paddled out of the area to where another creek joined ours, where we did not feel pushed by the receding water.  My legs and boat was covered in mud. I washed off best I could while still in the boat.


The interwater way continued to grow in size as it snaked it’s way to the sea. The sun was out and the sky was blue. We were enjoying our easy paddle out with the tide. Along the way, we started seeing crab trap bouyes. We decided to pull one up and check it out. I pulled it up on my boat and it was full of Blue Crab. It was then decided that we like crab and we should take a few for ourselves.  Removing crab from a 2 foot square basket in a kayak is not that easy.  While getting one out, it got me with its penchers. I had a hold of the basket with my other hand. John had to get it off for me. We took 4 crabs and put them in a dry bag we had and stored them in the forward compartment of my boat.  We returned the basket, still full of crab, to its place.


When we reached the Atlantic Ocean there was large beach on our right that went up into the inlet. The tide was at it lowest. We beached our boats and made our way into the dunes for some protection from the wind. We found a small group of palms but firewood was harder to find. We were able to burn a few palm branches but they were not that good.


We at out lunch and rested while waiting on the tide to come back in. We could see a channel of water heading north just behind the beach. We checked it out on the satilite map and it went a long ways. The surf was to rough for us to try and paddle. So we thought we would use this avenue. After an hour or two we loaded up again. The inlet was very wide and we decided to try out our sails John had bought us for Christmas.  They attach to the front of your boat and the wind pulls you along. I had difficulty but John did well with his. We had a lot of fun trying them out. I believe if you had a boat with a rutter that you control with your feet that it would be easier.


We went a good amount of time up in the back beach water way before coming to a dead end. The tide was still rising so we waited 30 minutes or so for water to fill more of the channels.  We then paddle on for a good ways before being stopped again. We did this 2 or 3 more time and the ran out of luck. We got out of the boats and scouted a head. We could tell this was the end of the waterway. The beach was several hundred yards wide between us and the ocean.  We drug our boats across.  Once at  the waters edge, we could see there was a sand bar 40 yards out. The waves were breaking on it. This made a calm tidal pool a foot deep that we could paddle in next to the beach. We were able to do this for a little ways. Then the sand bar ran out or the tide got to high and we started getting bigger waves. I started pulling my boat in the surf. John tried to paddle out past the breakers. He was quickly swamped and rolled over. Most of his gear was tied down so it was easy to recover. John was now soaking wet. It was getting well into the afternoon and getting cooler. We checked out the map. There was a big inlet coming up. We were tired and wet and thought it best to find a camping spot.  We drug our boats 50 yards up on the beach, well beyond the high tide mark. We unloaded our gear and started our hike to the woods, about another 150 yard away. We crossed a small marsh before the pine tree maritime forest. I made one more trip for supplies while John set up camp.


Our site had a commanding view of the Atlantic.  The beach was and is as it had been for thousands of years, void of any human impact.  We needed a fire to dry our cloths.  We setup a line and had items hanging everywhere we could find. We found several big logs and had a good fire going for the evening.  Most of our time was spent moving and checking on our cloths as they dried. We had packed our backpack camping chairs so we were comfortable in camp.


The night was very cold. We awoke to frost out in the marsh. Our crabs were exposed to the cold all night . I thought the were dead so I threw them out into the marsh.  As the sun got higher and the day warmed up, I started to hear the crabs craw around. So I gathered them up again. When we got to our boats we drug them on down to the inlet where we thought the crossing would be easier.  The water was still cold when we crossed over.


The surf was calm and we were able to paddle our boats out into the ocean about 80 yards off shore.  It was an easy and enjoyable paddle north. A lot of sea birds were active. As we made our way, I could tell that we were being pulled out to sea. Not wanting to get lost at sea, we paddled for shore. Once we felt safe again, we continued north. We arrived at a sand bar at the mouth of Tybee Creek.  There we beached our boats and ate a snack. Soon we were swarmed by Sea Gulls that we were feeding crackers. After about 40 minutes a weather front moved in. We could see the line of clouds coming.  That is we we decided to head to the truck not know how bad the weather may turn. It was a short paddle up Tybee Creek to John’s truck and the end of another successfull adventure.



We did stop at tha Crab Shack on Tybee for a great meal before heading home. We did try steaming the crabs at John’s house with his brother Josh but we didn’t have much luck. Just one other note, you want to do this trip in the winter when there are no biting insects.


This is a trip I would do again.


Meek Vs. Weak

Meekness vs. Weakness

To often we in the 21st century think that to be meek is to be weak. But the true meaning of the word is quite the opposite. To be meek is a great virtue to be admired among men.

Meekness is the ability to control your own temper, anger, frustration and bitterness with a calm mind that is not easly provoked. To be put in a unfavorable situation and accept the will of God with patient and hopeful endurance.

The use of the Greek word when applied to animals makes this clear, for it means “tame” when applied to wild animals. Meekness is to tame yourself even though you are strong.

So be Meek and Mighty in the faith.FullSizeR21

Growing Streams

Just thinking about life and raising children.  I think of the hike I was on this weekend.  I would come off a ridge line into the head of a hollow.  A little stream would form. The hillsides would be tall and steep. The valley would be very narrow.  The stream would flow straight down the center.  Then the valley would widen some but the hillside would be tall and steep. The stream would go side to side being guided by the hillside.  Over time the valley would be even more wider and the stream would flow more freely but would be turned if it runs into the hillside.  The hills are not so steep and are easier to climb and are not so high.  But the the valley would narrow and force the stream down a straight way or the stream may hit a rock face and have to make a 90 degree turn. There are several falls and troubled waters in this part of the run. The stream runs over rocks and runs fast at times.Then the bottomland becomes larger and the stream has grown from what it has gathered on its journey.  It travels it’s on path between the rolling hills before it leaves the mountains and hills to open land where there are no hills to hold it on course.  But it continues on its path, larger and stronger.  Growing  as it goes. Fast and troubled waters now run slow, slightly and deep. Water that you can swim in. If I have done anything,  I hope it was to be a good father to my children to guide them on their journey.  To give them freedom to run their race.  To show them the way to go as I was. It takes two hillsides to guide a stream and I have had a good hillside to help me. Sometimes one turn the stream sometimes it was the other and sometimes it took both to guide the stream where it needed to go. Always working together.  I love my little family of hills, valleys and streams.

As I looked back on this several years after I first wrote it, a lot of thing have changed in our mountain range. Like those streams, time and life keeps on flowing.  Not knowing what lies around the next bend in the river. Hilltops that were once close move apart as the ridges run their course.  Fire sweeps over them, leaving the land barren and raw. Winter comes. the rocky hills are cold and the wind blows hard. A blanket of snow is the only joy in such a dreadful place.  Through the course of time, the sun returnes. Spring blooms anew.

All these Tomatoes

Mr. Doyle Holland  was a well respected Godly man who lived near and attended Mount Moriah Baptist Church in the Burnt Hickory community of Paulding County Ga. many years ago. During one summer he and his sweet wife had a bumper crop of tomatos come in all at once. They spend the better part of a week , harvesting tomatoes, cooking tomatoes and canning tomatoes.  They would work all day and into the night. They finally got done late on Saturday.  They were extremely exhausted from the weeks work. Mrs. Holland suggested that they spend the next day resting and not attend Church meeting as they would normally do on Sundays.  Mr. Holland  said no, “we’ve got to go to Church and thank the Lord for all these Tomatoes. ”

Moral of the story, always be thankful for what God gives you.




By Trent Tibbitts

The toughest, roughest, most demanding, most rewarding hike per mile I have ever been on. Located in the Pisgah National Forest north of Ashville, North Carolina. The Linville River cuts between two mountain ranges. Creating a 2000 foot deep gorge with step hillsides topped with a cliff face.  It doesn’t look very intimidating when looking at a map.  In fact we blow it off as child’s play a the beginning of the hike. By the end we had full respect for the wilderness we  had endured.


It was February 2015, Brandon and I were just20150116_115746 off a Hike we had done in late January 2015 in the Smokies when he started planning another adventure.  We had hiked from Twenty mile ranger station to Gregory Bald where we had camped the first night.  Then to the AT and camp site 113 for the second night before hiking to Shuckshack fire tower and back down Twenty mile creek. It was a 22 mile loop. The first day was all up hill after the first mile. 20150117_113048This is the Smokies and its a steep climb. This was one of those trail that you keep thinking you’re at the top but it just keeps going. I was out of shape and my pack was over weight . I had met Brandon that morning at a local Wal-Mart where I bought my food for the weekend.  That was not the best idea. But I didn’t prep and I need food.  I was grabbing what I thought I needed. Like; a 20150117_113002potato,  ribeye steak, rice, trail mix, pack of flour tortillas,  thin cut steak, can of tuna,  crackers and other things that were heavy.  The one pound of trail mix was the first thing I left on the trail. We arrived at the trail head around noon. By the time I made it to camp it was dark and Brandon and Mike had been there about 2 hours.  I’m glad I saw them first because I was camping with whoever I saw first. There were two or three other groups near by. I set up my hammock and not expecting any rain, I just had my rain fly tied lousy.  I grilled my steak over the open fire and cook the potato in the hot coals.  I could not eat it all and shared the rest with Brandon and Mike.  My pack is now 3 pounds lighter.  But it’s not that much help. It was cold but we were dressed for it. We all climbed in bed for a well deserved and need sleep. Around 2 AM the wind started blowing and didn’t stop. We were camped in what’s called a saddle.  The low point between two high points. So this meant we were where the wind had the easiest place to cross. The valley funneled the wind straight through our camp. My rain fly was going crazy.  I had to tie it down and wrapped it around my hammock for more protection.  I then put my parka over my head and chest and got into my bag as much as I could.  I slept good. The noise was the worst part. 20150117_114903The next day after packing up it was a short up hill hike to the bald. The wind was still going strong.  We were late getting out of camp and people were stating to arrive from hiking up for Cades Cove.  The views to the South were great 20150117_114847from the Joyce Kilmer over to Clingmans Dome. You had a good view of Fontana lake. It was mountains after mountains.  To the north was Cades Cove with a great view of the layout.  After 40 year of visiting the cove it was nice to see it from this position. Past the Cove was the foothills Parkway and the Tennessee Valley.  Maryville  was very clear and you could make out Knoxville. We could see all the way across the Tennessee Valley to the Cumberland Mountains. That is when I noticed 20150116_122820two little gaps in those mountains.  It couldn’t be what I thought.  I pulled out maps and sure enough,  it was.  Cumberland Gap.  I could see Cumberland Gap 90 miles away.  Wendy and I had been there two or three years ago.  To pick out a landmark 90 miles away with my necked eye was wild to me. I’m sure you couldn’t do it in the summer.  The bald is covered with grass and blueberry bushes.  We hung out as long as we could stand the wind and then headed on. Mike was still at camp. I keep up with Brandon until we got to the AT. I stopped to rest and he pushed on. Mike caught up to me just as Brandon got out of sight. He pushed on and I brought up the rear. The wind seamed to die down some. We made it to camp with daylight left. It was off the trail down in a small valley.  A lot of protection from the wind.  There was a nice place for their tents and a good water supply but I had to venture up a way to find a good spot for my 20150117_171145hammock.  We had a great night by the fire cooking the steak strips and making steak tortilla. We went to bed looking forward to a good night of sleep.  Well, it started snowing around 4 AM. Then turned to light rain. I put my boots in the hammock with me and covered my pack as best as I could.  20150117_202437It never got heavy but I was not sure what was coming  so  I packed up my wet camp and hit the trail around 7 AM. Fog had set in and there was no view. The trail to the tower was a mile down trail and when I got there knowing there was no view and it would add two miles to my trip, I turned onto the Twenty Mile Trail and headed down to the truck.  The weather improved fast. I lost a lot of elevation on the steep descent.  I could now see the old fire tower but I wasn’t going back. I made good time going down hill and a somewhat lighter pack. Brandon had driven,  so once at the truck I couldn’t get in. I napped in the bed. I then unpacked and dried all my gear. I explored the ranger station then packed things up as they dried. It was about 3 hours before Brandon showed up. Mike was not to far behind.  They got some great shot of the tower.  We drove to the base of Fontana Dam before heading home.


Brandon was wanting to hike the AT north from newfound gap to Charlie’s Bunion.  Stay at the Ice Water Spring Shelter.  Hike the Boulevard to Mount LeConte for the second night and down the Alum Cave Bluffs trail to Newfound Gap road. This would have been great.  You start at a very high point with out a lot of climbing.  Day three is all down hill.  Great views. Stay in the shelter,  so no hammock to carry.  The Boulevard is a tricky hike so there is a challenge.  Mount LeConte is the second highest peak in the Smokies.  Alum Cave Bluffs trail is the best trail in the park.  It would have been a great trip. The only problem.  Everyone else thinks that way too. The shelter was booked when we tried to make a reservation.


20150307_103038That is when Brandon asked for a backup plan.  I had been interested in the Linville Gorge for some time. I  have seen it in the Blue Ridge Outdoor magazine a lot. I told Brandon and he had been interested in the gorge for sometime too. Now we had to find a hike. I had the Linville Gorge Mount Mitchell National Geographic Map.  It has a lot of information but cover a much larger area and does not give detailed information on the trail we are looking at. Next stop is the internet. We don’t find a lot of information. One site gives a loop in the south part of the gorge but the information is loss at best. All the post we read talk about how this is the toughest hike they have ever been on, we got lost, we almost died, maybe not the dying part but they were making a big deal out of it. Brandon and I just said they haven’t hiked with us. I mean come on we just got off 22 miles in the Smokies. We hiked the Art Lobe Trail. We Climbed Pilot Mountain and hiked 16 miles that 20150306_122954day. We had been on the toughest sections of the BMT. We had done the AT in Ga. We had been up and down mountains in the Smokies. We had done all these things and more. We were experienced. We could take care of ourselves. What were these people talking about? We got this. With very little information we planed our trip and started the invitations. Everyone always wants to go hiking but when you start asking they can’t make it. The crew was four of us; Brandon, Jason who is an experienced hiker and has been with us before on the BMT, Russ who is an all around expert, and myself. The trip was set for March 6th 2015. We would drive up Friday morning and come home on Sunday. It was Monday and we still had not gotten much more information. As a last-ditch idea I searched Face Book for a page on the Gorge. That is when I found Linville Gorge Adventures and Phil Phelan. I read his web page and sent him a message telling him about our hike. He sent back a pumped up message about the gorge and got us excited. We exchanged several messages and he told us where we could get his book and a better map of the gorge.

20150306_115920Friday came and we were to meet at Brandon’s office at 5 AM. I was out the door around 4:20. About half way there I couldn’t find my phone.  I thought I had grab it but it wasn’t where I normally put it. It had the address to Brandon’s office, GPS and Brandon’s cell number.  So, I was lost. The only choice was for me to go to my office and look up Brandon’s number from my contacts off my email.  Luckily our office are very close. I get to my office and call Brandon.  He gives me directions and I grab my tablet so I would have something to take photos with.  Once at Brandon’s office,  I unloaded my pack and find my phone. That saved a pound from not having to carry the tablet.  The message I missed from not having my phone handy was everyone was running late.  Russ and Jason were there but I beat Brandon even with my delay.  Once Brandon got there, we loaded his truck with our packs and hit the road. A few hours and stops later we were in Morganton NC. With directions from Phil, we went to the CBS sports store to get his book and a better map,  The Linville Wilderness.  I also got another Map of other trails 20150306_144552close by. Russ got a set of Tracking poles. This would be the first time I ever used tracking poles also. I bought some at REI a few weeks pyro. I filled my water bladder at the store and we stopped at Subway before heading to the trailhead. We had seen this crazy looking mountain on the way into Morganton.  Turns out its Table Rock where we are going. It looks like a monolith sitting on top of a mountain range. Like a small Devil’s Tower.

20150306_112452The trailhead is on Wolf Pit Road and we get there in short order.  We are excited to get on the trail.  We grab our gear and hit the trail.  One thing I like about backpacking is that you have to bring everything you need for survival with you.  Total self-reliance. A few hundred yards up the trail and we find a good spot for a 20150306_11485420150306_121501group photo.  It’s still cold but the heat we produce as already got us losing layers. The trail from Wolf Pit to the Mountains to Sea Trail is all up hill. It’s not a bad climb at all. There are plenty of switch backs and steps cut into the trail. The area was hit by the 2013 Table Top wildlife and is wide open. Young pines are just starting to grow back. These affords us the opportunity to have great 180 degrees views. We can see Lake James very well. As we make our way up we are still wondering what all the fuss is over this trail.  By all measures, this is an easy climb. Where we are climbing is the south end of the gorge on the east side, Shortoff 20150307_105641Mountain. The Wolf Pit trail intersects the Mountains to Sea Trail a little over half way up. We turned right on it. Once we reach the top we start to see the rock face of the gorge.  It has only been an hour’s walk from the parking lot and 1100 foot climb to a different world.  We drop our packs and explore the cliff edge.  We take more and more photos as the views get better and better. Large ice sickles fall from the cliff face in the warm afternoon sun and crash down hundred feet below.  We pack back up and keep exploring each side trail to the gorge edge as we make our way to the top. We then find a nice over look that gives up a clear view up the gorge. We can see the Linville River cutting its way through the gorge.  This area was named for father and son setters who were scalped by Cherokee Indians. The upper gorge is very narrow.  Closer to the end it opens up and there is some room on the side of the river. We take a break here and eat a snack. We could see Table Top in the distance,  our goal for the day.  The map shows water there and 20150306_13064820150306_121642we were told by fokes at the sports store that it was the only water source for this part of the trail.  After the break,  we passed a small pond. The last water source, not a place you would want to get water from. We were all still good with our Water supply and with the promise of water at Table Rock we keep going. The trail pulled away from the rim’s edge and continue up a rise that did not get burned. We emerged from the woods to more fire damaged landscape.  We follow the Ridgeline with the gorge on our left and Lake James on our right.  It makes a large sweeping curve to the left.  It was down hill for the first time then right back up to a point and trail junction where the fire did not touch. The trail turns right and starts an almost straight down hill decent. We loose 500 feet of elevation, close to half what we had gained through out the day. I hated to lose it because I knew we would have to make it back up. Chimmeys gap was the20150306_141134 low point at 2500 feet.  Then came the climb back out of the gap. This side of the gap was pines that were 6 to 8 inch in diameter and 15 to 20 foot tall. The fire had 20150306_144552come through here but the timber was still standing dead and black with soot. In area trees blocked the trail. On the decent, I had been eating trail mix and had fallen behind.  The rest of the crew was now out of sight in the thick dead forest. It was a steep incline and I could hear them often over head. It was a 1000 foot climb to the top. I caught back up with everyone at a nice rocky over look. We had a good view of the Chimmeys and Tablerock. I took off my pack a rested for a minute while taking photos.  Then it was back on the trail and more climbing to the top.  It wasn’t any worse than anything else I have climbed. In fact it was a short climb compared to the climbs in the Smokies,  but it was late in the day, a day that had started at 4 AM. So when we got to the top and found a camping spot I was all for stopping here for the night. We did a quick survey of the area and pick our spots. Next order of business was to go find water.

20150306_163341 I took my head lamp just in case it got dark and a pullover if it got cold. Plus I had my water bladder. We had only seen three people on the trail and that was at the start. We came across a man and his daughter making camp. We asked about the water we had seen on the map. The map showed a blue diamond,  bathrooms and a parking lot all right together.  He told us there was no water there. The bathrooms were just privies. No running water. He said he and his wife ran into the same problem last summer and went 24 hours without water. He suggested that we check the tops of the rocks a long the Chimmeys for pools of water or ice sickles.  We split up in search for water. I stayed on the trail and everyone else checked the top of the rocks.  I came around the corner of the trail and had a great view of the gorge.  The trail is narrow here with some rock hopping. I found a rock slide and see ice sickles above. I made my way up and started harvesting ice. Putting it 20150306_171036straight into my water bladder.  I made my way to a large cave like over hang.  Would have been a great place to make camp. Had a wonderful view of the gorge.  I got as much ice as I thought I needed. Then headed back to camp about a quarter-mile away. I stopped to talk to the guy who told us about the water. He said he and his wife had done the same loop we were doing. When they ran out of water. He told us of the next water being about 4 miles away on the trail down to the river.  He said the bridge was out and they waded across. He said the trail was real rough and the climb back out was awful hard. He hadn’t eaten well and it was very hard for him. I asked if it was harder than the hill we just climbed up20150306_115755 out of the gap and he said yes. I wasn’t to concerned about him saying that the bridge was out because Phil had said there was a new bridge at the top of the loop. We knew we would have to wade the river at the down stream crossing.  This trail still hadn’t shown us anything that tough and rugged. What were these people talking about? Back at camp we prepared our dinner.  As the sun set. I used my new alcohol fueled stove to cook Mexican rice and pan fry steak strips for camp fajitas.  The camp fire was over looking the east and we had a clear view as the moon came up over the horizon bright red. It was big and was a grand sight to see. The wind was picking up and the temperature was dropping fast.  Water in my water bladder was already freezing.  Some of the guys boiled water and put it in a water bottle and slept with it. One, it helped to keep them warm and two, it kept the water from freezing over night.  I set up my hammock and made sure to tie the rain fly down good. I didn’t want a repeat of the night in the Smokies a few weeks back.  The wind was strong during the night but the rain fly did the trick in blocking it. Over night temperature was around 15 degrees. Everyone survived.  I was warm all night.

20150307_095637The next morning,  I was up first and got my things packed.  It was cold and I didn’t want to spend too much time in camp. I did get the fire going and made a cup of hot chocolate. I had lost my head lamp the night before while looking for water.  I needed time to look for it so I headed out before everyone else. I searched the trail as I walked but I had an idea it was where I had gathered the ice. Having not found the light on the trail,  I stopped at the landslide area where I was the night before and dropped my pack.  I back tracked my path and found the head lamp at the point where I had turned back.  Once I got back to my pack,  Brandon had caught up to me. The view up the gorge was fantastic from the trail.  We took our time and made a lot of photos as we explored the rock formations along the trail.  Jason and Russ caught up to us.  We passed a group of campers and asked about trail conditions.  They too told us that the bridge was out.  Last summer they had cross with a use of a rope up river and the rope may still be there. We walked on to a rocky over look that gave us a 360 degree view.  The discussion of what to do was intense. 20150307_101730 Was the bridge out or not? Did we want to hike down and see? If it was out,  then what?  Would we swim?  Would we hike back out?  Do we call a shuttle and leave from the parking lot at Table Rock? We text Phil and asked him about the bridge.  Yes that bridge is out, he said.  The new bridge is at the top of the gorge. With the winter flow and the added water from rain earlier in the week,  we would have to swim.  But we still didn’t think we would have to swim.  Surely we could find a way to cross. Maybe we could rock hop or find a down tree. We decided to go take a look.  We scrambled over more rocks before leaving the Chimmeys and entering the camping area next to the parking lot. Unfortunately the restrooms were locked. We stopped to rest and check the map. The Table Rock was right in front of us.  We took more 20150307_103149photos.  Then we climbed up the trail from the parking lot on the North West side of the mountain with great views of the gorge.  We passed two guys collecting water from a wet weather spring on the side of the trail. They gave us more advice on how to cross the river.  On up the trail where we were to leave the Mountains to Sea Trail,  we met a large group of Boy Scouts.  They to had done our loop last year. More advice on how to hike the trail. We started our decent to the river. It was straight down hill, no switch backs.  I was getting a little hungry so I slowed down a little to eat a snack while walking.  We started to hear water and was soon at a small creek and our first fresh water on the trail.  I used my new life straw filter for the first time.  From here it was up and over several ridges till we got to a camping area. We stopped to check the map. There was the trail we walked in on and it looked like it went straight ahead. There was a trail coming in on the right down the crest of the hill and a trail to the left. After looking over the map,  we went straight ahead.  After a few hundred yards of down 20150306_170514hill hiking the trail disappeared.  More map reading and discussion of what to do.  We turned back and bushed wacked our way up the draw to the trail junction. More map studying and up the hill we went. It was a short climb.  We passed a young lady hiking by herself.  I thought how dangerous it  for her to be alone. We soon came to another trail junction.  We turned left and started our decent to the river.

20150307_140240We got to the river at lunch time.  There were a few people hanging out on the rocks.  Two ladies with a dog were finishing up their lunch.  A couple was sitting on a large boulder that was once the landing of the now missing foot bridge.  We dropped our packs and began exploring the area for a way across.  Where the bridge once stood was a gap much to wide to jump.  There was a boulder below that we might could have jumped to but if we didn’t make it we would have been swept 20150307_141053down river in the raging white water.  The river was up due to rain just two days before our trip. There was a row of smaller boulders below a pool that looked like we could have rocked hopped across but again it was to big of a gap. I made my way up the river looking for a way to cross.  The gorge is very narrow and the hillsides are like walls.  I could only crawl and climb over rocks for a short distance before coming to a point that could not be traversed.  I made my way back to the trail and reported my findings.  Jason and Brandon tried a route a little higher up the hillside with the same 20150307_144354results.  I ate my lunch of tuna with crackers.  The talk of swimming the river came up again.  The air temperature was in the 50s. Remember it had been a low of 16 degrees over night. There was a very deep pool of water just above the spot where the bridge once span the narrow slot of swift water that funneled all the river. Not a place you would want to get caught up in.  The plan was evolving.  We looked where to enter and where to exit. What would be the easiest and fastest way across without getting caught the current and be pulled into the rapids.  Russ was the biggest supporter of this plan.  Jason was up for it too.  Brandon and I had not fully committed.  That was going20150307_140311 to be some cold water.  Part of the plan was to ferry our packs across on a rope.  Two of us on one side and two of us on the other to handle the rope and packs.  We stripped down to our underwear and put our clothes in our packs. Brandon and I were still not sure if this was what we wanted to do.  While discussing our options and had almost decided to bail out and head back,  we heard Russ splash in. There was no turning back now.  Jason quickly followed with a dive into the clear frigid waters. They were across in about 15 seconds. That doesn’t sound long. But believe me you couldn’t stand much more than that. After they caught their breath, Russ took a position on the lower bolder.  It had a 30 degree angle into the water and was not that good  a base. I think Russ may have swam with the rope.  We had found a big carabiner on the old bridge foundation. We used it to attach our packs to the rope. The upper end of the rope was looped around rebar that was part of the old bridge and I anchored it.  Russ ran the lower part of the rope behind his back while sitting and Jason anchored the end of the rope. Brandon loaded the packs and send them down to Russ who caught them and passed them to Jason.  Talk about a team building exercises. It was now mine and Brandon’s turn to swim.  We waded in until 20150307_144400the water was waist deep then started our swim.  I made the mistake of keeping my sandals on thinking they would help me walk over the rocks.  They were pulling me down a little and slowing down some too. I was almost to the other side and was at a point where I thought I should be able to stand up but to  surprise I could not touch.  I felt that I was in a fight for my life.  The cold water had taken my breath.  I was trying to take in deep breaths. I was getting encouragement from the guys on the shore. It was the most primeval feeling of survival I have ever had.  One on the back of the river I collapsed with deep gasping for air. After the shock wore off and I regained feeling,  I was the most refreshed I had ever been.  I also had a huge sense of accomplishment.  We got out of our wet short, got dressed and got back on the trail.


20150308_092534The trail now followed close by the river.  Never losing sight of it. We were still in the narrow upper part of the gorge.  The trail was narrow and climbed up and down the side of the hill.  It really was a goat path. Large trees littered the way. This was becoming the worst part of the trip. More people were on this side of the river. There are a few trails coming in on this side and more camping opportunities. Most  If not all possible camping areas were occupied.  We made our way down to below the chimneys before we made camp.  Almost even across the20150307_171408 river from where we had camped the first night.  The sun was low in the west and its soft light painted the cliff face above on the east rim of the gorge. It was a sight worth the efforts of the day.

20150308_113040Our camp was a spacious area. We had plenty of fire wood and room to spread out.  Brandon pitched his tent and the rest of us hung our hammocks. We cooked dinner,  I had a setak cooked over the open fire.  Then it was a relaxing evening around the fire.  The night was not as cold as the night before.  The next morning I cooked eggs for breakfast.  We had a big day ahead of us. We broke camp and we all hiked together, getting back logged at each down tree we had to cross.  Some 20150308_115634were quite tricky, like a puzzle you had to solve before you could pass. The morning trail was much like the afternoon before.  It was a goat path on the side of the hill.  We took lunch at a campsite that was just passed where the gorge started to open up.  After lunch we hiked in the flat flood plain of the river for about an hour until we could go no further.  The river cut into the steep mountain side blocking our path.  This would be our second river crossing.  The river was very wide here and didn’t look to deep except right next to the bank on our site. We looked for a spot that wouldn’t be too deep. Again we stripped down to our underwear and I put my sandals on.  This time they worked as planned.  The river20150308_134841 turned out not to be too deep.  My shorts didn’t get wet. The water was cold but refreshing.  Jason took the opportunity to soak his knees for a while.  This is where the trail ends and your own your own.  After gearing up we wander and bushwhack our way down river.  We found a road a little inland and took it out of the national forest onto to private land.   About a mile on down the road it crossed the river and there was no way to continue down the river without crossing. We studied the map and decided we had to climb out up the mountain to the east. We were looking to hit the Mountain to Sea Trail on the ridge top. The mountain side was steep. I believe it was a 1100 foot climb.  We did not have a trail to follow.  It was get to the top.  We were soon on the west slop where the fire had burned all the trees. We were without protection from the afternoon sun.  It was slow going.  My tracking poles helped a lot. We had to take several stops.  20150308_135306We found the trail and took a left and continued to climb the mountain along the ridge line. This trail intersects the trail down to the truck almost at the top of the mountain so when we found a side trail that looks like it cuts a  cross the side of the mountain we take it.  It goes up and over several ridges but it was a shorter route.  The guys turned on the over drive and left  behind.  Once a Wolf Pit trail I turned right and it was all down hill to the truck.  It took a little longer to get down than I thought it would.  The small parking lot was packed.  We loaded up and headed to the nearest waffle house.  Great trip.


Confession of a Rebel

Some of you may not know this about me. I am not proud of all I have done but feel I need to tell my story.  

I came from a broken home.  My mom died when I was very young.  My dad fell in with the wrong crowd and left me and my sister.  I was sent to live with my dad’s half-brother on his farm. It was in the middle of nowhere.  I never saw my dad when growing up.  I thought he was dead from the storied my uncle had told me.  Come to find out he had not even told me half of what my father had done.  He was a war hero. A great pilot. A warrior. He nearly died from his battle wounds. But he changed with the death of my mother.  He went crazy, destroyed the hospital room.  That’s when he turned evil.  

My sister went to live with a family friend.  He was in politics and lived far away from us.  I didn’t see my sister for a long time.  Her adopted family got in trouble with the authorities and she got caught up in it to. We were both in our late teenage years at that time.  She had made a video of herself and when  I saw it, I had all these strange feeling come over me. She was in trouble and I had to go see her.

I didn’t have a ride so I asked some friends to help me out. My aunt and uncle that I lived with had just both ben murdered. I had found the bodies.  It was awful. Turns out one of my buddies that we were catching a ride with, owed a lot of money to an underworld gangster.  Plus Federal special agents were looking for him. He had been smuggling “supplies”. So we blasted out-of-town.

  We found out that my sister was in jail.  We went to pick her up. At first she didn’t know who I was and then on the way out she gave me a kiss.  It wasn’t a sisterly kiss. Said it was for good luck. She told us how her adopted family was murdered. Their home was destroyed.  She couldn’t go back. We then went to her friend’s place.

My buddy was trying to put the moves on my sister but she blew him off and laid another kiss on me.  Again I had more strange feeling. Her friends were at a place that was cold and snowing.  I took a walk, got lost and nearly froze to death.  Lucky my friends found me the next morning.

Then Me and my friends shoot up a police station on a fly by. We needed to lie low. I went to one of my dad’s old army buddy’s place.  He lived way back in the woods.  A swamp really.  A good place to hide.  I think he was hiding out himself.  He was a war hero too. He was a high-ranking general during the war. He and I started a training program.  Stuff he had learned in the service.

The other guys and my sister went to the smuggler’s friends place.  That guy ran some kind of underworld operation, too. They thought they could hide out there. Turns out the Feds had his place under surveillance.  They conducted a raid, my sister and most of my friends got out in time but my buddy got caught.  Through corruption of the system, the gangster he owed money to get a hold of him. My sister tried to negotiate his release but was kidnapped too. Me and some more friends had to bust them out. I killed several people who day, including the kidnappers.

Fast forward to this party we were at. I had seen my sister in a two piece bikini.  More strange feelings. Did she like me or my buddy.  I knew she had kissed him too and told him she loved him. I walked outside to clear my head and she followed me out. We stated talking and I told her I had to go fight Darth Vader our father.

April Fools!


There is Good and there is Evil in this world.  There is Right and there is Wrong in this world.  Evil is wagging a war against Good. Michael and his Angels are fighting the Devil and his Angels. It is a warfare that starts in each of us. Each chose we make is a battle in this war. Will we choose to do good or to do evil.  Choose you this day whom you will serve,  for me and my house will serve the Lord.  “My House” is not your household,  but rather your body.  Your body houses your soul.  The Devil is in this world. He said that he is going up and down,  to and fro in the Earth seeking whom he may devour.  Again the Earth is not plant Earth but our Earthly body. He is going up and down in our body and going from person to person.  So the battle is in us. I would do Good but Evil is present.  We will win battles and we will lose battles. Let God fight your battles and you will win. As a Christian you will fight two major wars and win them both. As a non-Christian you will fight the first war until you win or die. At that point you lose.  The first war is for your soul. As you come to the age of accountability,  that is to know right from wrong,  good from evil and accountable for your own actions, you will enter this war. This happens at different ages for different people. It occurs when you realize you will die one day and spend eternity somewhere. An event may trigger this realization. For me it was Dooms Day. Back in 1982 all the planets were on the same side of the Sun and there were Dooms day predictions.  The fear was that the gravitational pull would blow up Earth. The talk and buzz got me scared. Fear of God is the beginning of Wisdom. I was only 8 years old, the age of accountability hit me. I talked to dad about it, how I was scared. He told me about God, Heaven and how beautiful it was there. He compared it to the Mill Branch. A small stream in the hills behind our house where we had been hunting just days before. It is still one of my favorite places. You could call it my Bethel. Where I first knew the Lord. I don’t believe I was ever lost or out of the grace of God. I won that war at age 8. It was any easy one for me. I just believed in Jesus. As I grew up my belief also grew. I now believe that Jesus Christ, son of God, came to Earth, borne to a Virgin 2000 years ago, preached His own everlasting Gospel, set an example for us to follow, set up sacraments to be handed down, gave His life on the Cross of Calvary as the supreme sacrifice for all sin, rose on the third day with a glorified body, was seen by many for 40 days, set up His Kingdom in the hearts of those who believe upon His name, ascended to Heaven to the right hand of God where He makes intersections for us with groanings that can’t be uttered and sent back the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us on Earth.

Why are we here?,  you may ask yourself. Well it isn’t about you. In short, it is to worship God. But you say he has the Angles and all the Heavenly Host to do that. Yes he does and they do it continually. But consider this, they were created to worship God and can not disobey God. They do not have freewill. We were created with freewill. So when we stop what we are doing in our lives and give God praise it is a true praise that the Angles can not give. You may say, I am a good person, why does bad things happen to me? Again, it is not about you. It is about God. When trouble befalls you, consider it great joy. Why would you do that? Here is why. If everything in our lives were easy go lucky, peace and happiness we would not feel the need of God. If we have troubles and seek the Lord for his help and receive a blessing, then we have a reason to give him praise.

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