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Repelling. First Day.

By Trent Tibbitts

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It was February the first,  a Saturday.  Wendy was at work.  Sarah and Wyatt were at a friend’s house. I needed something to do, an Adventure.  I called all my buddies but they were busy.  There was a little snow on the ground from the storm on Tuesday that trapped so many people who were on the road trying to get home.  The temps would be in the high 50’s so I knew that the snow would soon be gone.  I thought about caving,  but it was a two-hour drive to the nearest wild cave in Dade County Georgia.  I didn’t want to drive a total of four hours by myself.  I was looking at exploring Waterfall cave. It is a good cave for beginners like me. I will report back when I get a chance to visit it. After reading about some of these caves, I knew I am going to need to know how to repel. That got me thinking about how I could learn.

Years ago, when I worked at Post Properties,  one of the guys gave me a pack of repelling gear. I never have used it.  I really didn’t know what all I had in the pack. It has just been sitting in my basement all these years. I retrieved it along with my kayaking helmet and brought it up for inspection.  I found one rope that was 150 feet long. Two harnesses that are very basic compared to today’s one’s.  There were two emergency 8 rings,  one 8 ring and several carabiners. I could see how to wear the harness but I had no idea how to attach the rope or operate the rings.  That’s why the Internet was invented.  I watched several videos and learned various ways to attach the rope and use my equipment.

Now I needed a place to go.  I gave it a little thought and decided that the rock faces along the Mill Branch would probably work best for what I had in mind.  It is close to home and I am very familiar with the area.  Plus it is not that high.  By this time,  Wyatt is home and I asked if he wanted to go also but he decided to stay home.  I packed the rope, a harness,  one of the emergency 8 rings, the regular 8 ring and a few of the carabiners. I buckled my helmet to the top of the pack and grabbed a pair of gloves.  I then drove the short 3/4 of a mile to a place we call the Indian field because of Indian relics found when farming.  I parked the truck here and begin to climb the hill in front of me.  It may be a 150 feet elevation change from the  truck to top of the hill and another 50 foot from the truck back down to Raccoon Creek.  After getting to the top I walk out a ridge that cuts back towards the creek. Along the right side of the ridge is the creek and along the left side of the ridge is the Mill Branch.  They met at the point of the ridge.  The left side is where the rock faces are located.  I start to work my way down the side of the ridge to get to the top of the rocks. The ground is still frozen and is slippery.  I sled down once an my helmet swung around and hit me in the face.

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I come to the first rock face and decided that it would be a good place to start.  I picked a tree to tie to and pulled out my gear. After suiting up, I tie the rope to the tree. This may not seem that big of deal, but to me it is huge. This is my life line and I have to get it right.  I try a few different knots before I am satisfied.  The tree is about 10 feet from the edge of the rock face top. I wrapped the rope into the emergency 8 ring two times because I wanted to make sure I could handle the rope.  I tried it out on the hillside and found it was too much so I took out one of the loops.  I tried it again on the hillside and it felt better.  Time to go repelling.  I eased backwards to the edge and leaned over the edge.  Then it was the first step over. I was concerned about having control of the speed of the rope but it was not any issue.  If anything,  it was a little slow. On the first descent I took it slow and just eased down one step at a time.  Once on the bottom,  I was hooked on repelling.  The rock face is only about 18 to 20 feet high.  It does not take but a minute or two to get down.  I unhook from the rope and go around the side of the rock up the hill and do it again. This time I do a few bounce outs and get the fill of the rope. I make two or three more trips and decided to look for another spot.

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While at the bottom I see what looks to be a good spot.  I packed up a walk over to the rock that is at the base of the hillside.  It protrude out so that it has three sides. It is a little higher than the first but not by much.  The front face is an overhang. It is a little tough to get to the top. I unpacked the rope and tie off to a big tree. I didn’t ever fill good about the knot but I tested it over and over.  After hooking into the rope I backed over the edge.  There were a lot of vines and vegetation.  I was concerned about getting my foot stuck.  I was not liking the over hang and could not find a way to pass over it. I keep working my way around the left side and stayed away from the front edge.  That is when I seen a few ice Sickles on the next ledge. I packed up again. The hike over was a little tough.  From where I was to the top of the next area I had to climb through a small craves in the rock.  Not much but just enough to make it fun. I tied off to a small tree about 20 feet up hill from the edge.  Again I hooked into the rope and went over the edge.  Climbing back up to the top I decided that the next trip down would be my last for the day. I also wanted to try a way to retrieve my rope from the bottom so not to have to climb back up. This may be useful in a survival situation.  Not having to leave my rope behind.  What I did was to untie the rope from the tree a just run the rope behind the tree. I then took the end of the rope and made a loop and tied it back on its self.  Using the loop I hooked it in to my harness.  I then hooked the rope than ran on the other side of the tree into the 8 ring.  I had all other gear in the pack and the pack on my back. The tension of the rope going around the tree really made it hard to let rope out. A 2 inch Calabria tree is as big as you want to use. Any bigger and the rope would not slide.  I made it down very easy.  At the bottom, I untie and pulled the rope back around the tree and packed it up.

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The Mill Branch is a small creek about 8 feet wide. A place I have visited a lot. While there is a four-wheeler trail that runs along side the branch I would most often arrive on foot. To cross Raccoon Creek in the winter or when it was to high to cross on foot, I would us a cable that ran from one side to the other.  I don’t know who put it up but it was a one inch cable with a seat hanging from a pulley.  A separate rope was attached to the pulley running to each side of the creek.  This allowed you to retrieve the seat if it was on the other side of the creek from you. It also allowed you to pull yourself across. The seat was eventually lost in high water and not replaced. I then crossed over on the cable by hanging below  and crawling hand over hand and leg over leg. The cable is still there but is broken in to two pieces. Next to where I started my repelling,  is a small hole that goes back in the hillside about 12 feet. There is a rock out side of the small cave that makes a good bench.  Early on when exploring this area I discovered a small piece of rock on the stone face slid out of its place. I placed two quarters on it and slid it back in its place.  The year had to be 1983 or so, I would have been around 9. One of the two quarters is dated 1981. I would return here a lot.  It was one of my secret spots. I carved this Beach tree in 1991. 20140202_190954I explored a lot by myself in my youth so it is natural for me to go solo. That’s not to say I didn’t ever go out with other people.  Brandon was my best friend and he and I did a lot of explore together.  Shawn was also my best friend and she and I had a lot of adventures.  On the way back to the truck I walked up the creek and passed the Pokey Hole.  A swimming hole that was named after an Indian girl.  The hole has a rock that we used to jump off of. The hole has filled in over the years and is not very deep. I also passed another small branch where Shawn and I would play in the bamboo.  It runs next to her dad’s chicken house and his rock shaker. He ran a grave business and used the shaker to separate the different size rock and sand. If repairs were needed inside the machine,  Fed would employee me to crawl in side to make the repair because I was small enough to get in. I also passed an area of the creek where there was a rope swing. It was not as good as the one at the Jimmy hole but was closer. I will have to give a tour of the creek in a post someday.  From there it was a short walk up the hill to my truck.

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There is always an adventure to be had on the farm.  Lot of thing to do, if you just get out and do it. I will be looking to do more repelling soon.

By Trent Tibbitts

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This hike started with John texting me and asking if I wanted to do anything next weekend. I said yes and asked if he wanted to do Friday night and Saturday night or just Friday because of Church on Sunday.  He said two nights and asked what I had in mind.  I said we could go to The Great Smokey Mountains and hike the AT north from newfound gap and stay the first night at Ice Water Spring Shelter.  Then check out Charlies Bunion before hiking the Bulverde over to Mt LeConte. (side note, it did snow 7 inch Friday night on Mt LeConte) Stay the night there and hike down Alum Cave Bluffs trail to Newfound Gap road.  We would then catch a ride back to the truck.  John said that sounded a little more than he wanted to do and didn’t want to go that far from home.  So I said we could go to Springer mountain and make a loop using the AT and the BMT.  John said that was still a little to far and ask if we could check out some of the RR tunnels around the house in the Paulding Forest Wild Life Management Area. I said I would find us a route. I pulled out the map and started looking.  I could not find a good loop so looks like it would be a one way with a truck drop some where. John invited me over on Wednesday night to review our trip and to take a dip in his new hot tub. He pulled out his laptop and using Google Earth we plotted a course. 20140104_083041We decided on starting at the RR crossing on Brushy Mountain road, check out the old RR  tunnel there, hike the tracks down to unnamed branch, camp along the Branch,  follow the Branch to the tunnel where it goes under the tracks, hike the tracks to where Raccoon Creek goes under the tracks in a big tunnel,  follow the creek up-stream to the creek tunnel under the Silver Comet trail (a bike/walk trail that was a RR), hike the Silver Comet to Little Raccoon Creek,  then follow the creek down to our truck at High Shoals Road.  This is about 8.5 miles.  An easy hike, right? Felling good about our plan we hit the hot tub. While in the hot tub we statt to talk about what we would take with us and what to eat. I said a steak.  Then we said we would try a survival weekend and live off the land. We could squral hunt and fish. We would not take any battery operated lights, lighter or matches.  Next was what to do about the weather.  Friday high would be in the mid 30’s, overnight lows in low 20’s. Saturday and Sunday would reach the 40’s and lows back into the 20’s. We usually sleep in a hammock but we thought a tent might be warmer. After nailing down the details I went back home. Thursday John bought a new tent and a crank operated light. I stayed out of work and took Wyatt to get his Drivers license.  At 1 pm,  Wendy,  Wyatt and Sarah left for Kentucky to see her dad. That afternoon I went out for dinner alone and stopped at Wal-Mart to pick up some insulated long underwear and other supplies. IMG_9786 I was looking for a candle lanterns, but they didn’t have any. Back at home I packed my bag with what I thought I would need. I had my old army mommy bag that I have had for 30 years. It is proven in cold weather.  I went through my first aid and survival kit to make sure it was full.  I packed extra cloths and one Mountain House just in case we did not kill any squrals. I had a pillow,  water pump, two water bottles,  camp stove and that is about it. I did have my .22 rifle and a pocket full of bullets.  Friday I had to work but during lunch I went by REI and picked up two candle lanterns. I then stopped in my favorite store,  Gear Revival.  They have second-hand gear and New items at great prices.  I picked up a light weight chair. I left work a little early and stopped at Kroger to pick up two steaks and a bag of Red Potatoes.  I got home and grabbed my bag and headed to John’s. He is just a few doors down from me. There we put our bags in his wife’s SUV. Lindsey then followed me to a friend’s land where we would end the hike. We dropped the truck there and she then took us to our starting point. The RR crossing on Brushy Mountain road.  She took a few photos of our start, then we were off. We had planned on going west down the tracks and hiking through the tunnel back to this spot. Due to the time and fear of losing light we simply walked straight to the tunnel on the old railway.  IMG_9773It is now a muddy trail and soon we are in the trench.  We drop our packs and work our way to the tunnel trying to stay out of the mud. We soon reach the east end of the old tunnel.  This tunnel was abandoned in the late 1970’s due to the height of the train cars getting higher. The other rail road that is now the Silver Comet trail inlarged their tunnel through this mountain. What they did here was to cut a deep trench through the mountain.  We have called it the “cuts”  ever since.  It has been a hang out for teenagers for years. Until recently it was remote.  Guys would try to take jeeps and other four-wheel drive trucks through the tunnel.  Most would get stuck and have to be pulled out.  It’s been over 10 years since a truck has made it through but the mud is still over 2 inches thick on the walls of the tunnel.  The roof is black with smoke.  IMG_9774There are cracks in the bricks and water drips in. This is the start of the branch we will follow down.  The west end of the tunnel has silted in over the years and is much shorter than the other end. As we near the west end of the tunnel,  the ground is dry and ice cycles hang down.  IMG_9778We explore this end of the tunnel and then headed back to the other side. We say dry and get back to our packs.

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We back track to the RR and follow them east for about a half mile and spot a flat area next to the branch that has turned into a small creek. Once in the woods we see a five gallon bucket.  I grabbed it and took it with me. We soon find a flat area to pitch the tent. We remove all the debris and add pine needles back down.  I had a tarp and we put that down next. While John finished setting up the tent,  I started gathering fire wood.  It had been raining and everything was wet. We did find enough dry wood that was not on the ground.  John had an ax that had a fire starter so we used it along with cotton balls covered with petroleum jelly. It was dark when we got the fire started. The wet wood was not drying out and our fire was not doing to good. John found some rich pine that is good for starting fires. It is the heart of a dead pine stump that doesn’t rot away.  If you find a pine stump you can usually find the rich pine inside. Using the ax we chop several pieces up and put them in the fire. We then used the crank up light to find another larger piece of rich pine. We bust this one up and burn it all. The fire is now hot and burning good. We use the ax to strip some larger wood of the wet rotten outer layer.  I pulled out the two candle lanterns and Got them lit. One had a broken globe.  They put off a good bit of light. It was now time to eat. We could only cook one steak at a time on John’s frying pan On His Jet bowl. IMG_9779He was smart enough to bring some oil to cook with. I wrapped the two biggest potatoes in tin foil and put them in the hot coals of the fire. They were done in 20 minutes and the first steak was ready to eat.  We cut it in half and ate our dinner while the other on cookedIMG_9780. We were both full from our meal and decided to keep the other steak for breakfast.  We wrapped it up in foil and put it in a bag with the potatoes.  We then hung the bag from a leaning tree to keep any raccoons from getting to them. We keep the fire going. Then decided to wash our dishes.  We first tried baby wipes but the grease was too much. Then we tried the creek but the water was too cold. We then filled the bucke up about half way with creek water and put the plastic bucket right on the fire. It did not melt. IMG_9781After about 5 minutes the water was warm.  John had some camping soap and he washed the plates in the bucket and I dried them with the baby wipes. The rest of the night was relaxing next to the fire. I stayed warm the whole trip.  I was wearing my new long underwear,  fleece paints and long sleeve shirt, cotton paints and long sleeve shirt on top of that. I added a fleece sweet shirt after dinner.  I had on gloves and  boggin that covered my ears. Plus two pair of socks.  One being smart wool. My boots are water proof.  We got our beds ready by blowing up our mats and putting down our sleeping bags.  I also had a silk insert for my bag. John’s tent was small by design.  It has two doors so we didn’t have to crawl over each other.  We each had a loop to hang items from the roof so i moved the candle lanterns inside.  They burn for nine hours and put off 1900 BTUs. I crawl into bed and in no time I am asleep.  We are just yards away from the tracks a trains run every 20 minutes or so. They wake me several times.  The first half of the night was not to bad but the ground soon became hard to sleep on. The next morning when I woke up the fire had burned up all but just a little bit of the wood.  I was able to dig down and find so hot coils. I IMG_9784had a small fire got in no time. I then went looking for more rich pine and found a good size stumble on the other side of the creek. I chopped up about halfway it and got the fire going good. Then John had the good idea of burning the whole piece.  I put it in the fire and John poured some of the cooking oil on top. That got us a good fire. I got our frozen steaks down and cut us sticks to warm them up over the fire on. It worked good. Phone said it was 24 degrees in Dallas,  so I bet we were around 20 degrees.  We slowly broke camp, stopping to keep warm with the fire. We took a few shots with our .22 rifles at a can. We then put the burning wood in the creek and put out the hot coals. We start to follow the creek down stream.  20140104_111906There are tons and tons of trash in the woods from the railroad.  The mountain on the other side of the creek is very steep.  We make it down to where Cochran branch joins our branch.  20140104_100919We make it to the west side of the tunnel where the branch goes under the tracks. It is  a little windy and we have not seen any squrals. We have decided make the trip a little shorter and hike out today.  We will drop our packs at the raccoon creek tunnel and hike up the creek to the Silver Comet trail tunnel.  Then back to our packs and down the creek to the truck.  John had a pack of beef Jerky and we ate it while checking out this tunnel.  A train stopped while we were there.  We hike the nearly straight up hill from the tunnel to the tracks.

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T20140104_124521he train was still stopped on the nearest track and it was impossible to walk along the tracks while it was there. We were going to cross over to the other track until another train came by. We had to wait for it to pass. Then both trains were gone. From there we walked east down the tracks to the crossing of raccoon creek. We lost time with the trains and decided to Skip the hike up the creek to the other tunnel.  We headed down the hill to the north-east end of the tunnel.  20140104_132510This is the down stream side.  We take our packs off and hang here a while. John tries a little fishing but there was not much to be had. The other side of the creek is a rock cliff. We pack up and head down stream.  The undergrowth is thick and hard to travel in. We move to a little higher ground but soon get where this side of the creek is so steep that we couldn’t pass. We had to take off our boots and cross the creek.  That was the coldest water I have ever been in.  After getting our packs back on we walked just a little ways and hit another wall of rock. The creek had a small rock island that we jumped to then used rocks and a log to cross over. There was an old road where we crossed and we decided to abandon our trip down the creek to take the road out. We didn’t know where it would take us but we would figure that out when we got there.  20140104_132538The road followed the creek for a little way then crossed over a ridge and down to Cochran Branch. We knew where we were then and knew the way out. This Road would take us to Friendship Baptist Church.  We followed the branch up-stream and cross on a rocky small water fall. The road then starts the long climb up out of the low land of the creek.  We take a lot of Breaks On our climb. A few more hills and we area in the  area where the timber had been cut. I called my sister Tammy and she met us at the Church.  She took us to my truck.  We got back home and I took a shower before going to John’s and enjoying the hot tub for a good end of our hike.IMG_9790

Finding the Old Electric Dam

20131226_140046By Trent Tibbitts

I went on an adventure today to find a local landmark,  the electric dam. I have heard tell of it my whole life, but in my 39 years, I have never been to it. I was off work for the week of Christmas and got some new hiking pants as a gift from my sweet wife Wendy,  so it was a good time to go. The weather was nice,  high in the mid 50’s.

Since I had never been,  first I had to know where I was going. There are no roads to the site anymore.  It was going to be a hike. But where to start. I knew of the general location.  A area about 2 miles square. I knew it had to be on a creek, but what creek. I knew of a road named the electric dam road,  but it was a dead end way before the dam. I had heard it was behind two different churches and knew them well. I knew from reading a little history that it was on the old Owen’s mill site. I had seen the location of the mill on a old Civil War map, but today’s roads are different than then. However,  the Churches were marked. 20131226_185039 All this information gave me a good idea where to look.  I tried to find information on the Internet but there was zero.  A well keep secret.  I then went to Google Maps and started to hunt. It took some time. All together I spent a good hour researching and looking. Then I found it on the satellite map, or what I thought was it. The creek runs in a forest and is hidden form view but I could make out white water, it had to be the dam.

I plotted my course and committed it to memory. I picked one of the two churches as my starting point.  It was a short 7 or 8 minute drive from my house to the church.  The only supplies I took was a water bottle. From the church I walked a old logging road for 1/2 mile or so, then turned right into the pine forest.  I followed a dry stream down hill to Punkingvine Creek.  The story goes that the name comes from early settlers who would plant crops in the creek bed during times of drought.  It had to be pre civil war because my map list it as Punkingvine.  I then headed down stream. It was another 1/2 a mile to the dam. It took me 30 minutes from the time I left the truck to get to the dam. I didn’t know what to expect.  I had only seen a few old photos. It was a little bigger than I thought it would be. 20131226_140423 I walked out on the top of it to the hole that had been blown in it. That’s right,  someone blew up the dam. The story I got from dad is that fokes up stream didn’t like the pond the dam created. People were getting sick and blaming it on the pond.  That is when someone blew up the dam. The creek was up and running fast from a rain earlier in the week. A lot of water had fell and I could tell by the mud on the ground that the creek had risen out of it’s banks and flooded the small narrow valley.  The hills leading down to the creek are steep.  There is not much room between the base of the hillside and the creek.  It is almost a gorge. 20131226_141107 I would imagine that during the highest point the water would have overshot the top of the dam. Four days later, a lot of muddy water was still going through the breach.

The dam is around 25 to 30 feet high and 80 or so feet long. The top of the dam is about five feet wide and the base is around 20 feet wide. It is made of concrete, with local stone as filler. Other than the concrete, only a small section of piping remains. It looks to have housed one generator.  IMG_530533068925964The dam was built starting in 1905 on the site of the George Owen’s mill.  It supplied power to Dallas until 1927. I was told by a relative that her grandfather worked there up to the time of the explosion.  IMG_531057575029479George came to Paulding county in 1848. He then married Nancy Bone and his brother married Mary Bone. Both where daughters of Bailey Bone, who is my great,  great,  great, grandfather. The road from Burnt Hickory to Dallas once passed close to the mill and a covered bridge crossed the creek.  IMG_531409816911803Parts of Sherman’s army took this road to the battle of Dallas and New Hope Church.   Other parts destroyed a church to build a bridge a mile down stream.  Sherman brought a lot of death to the fokes living in Paulding but that is another story for another day.  Most natives of Paulding still hates Sherman.

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After a few photos,  it was time to get back to the truck.  I took the same path back. I did come across a old deer stand and old home place that I did not see on the way in.20131226_144647 The timber had been harvested several years ago and the pine trees looked to be 15 years old. They had been planted and were spaced 20 feet apart. This made the woods very open with tall grass growing under the trees. I made it back to the truck with no problems.  I took the opportunity to visit the grave of my great grandfather Arthur Crew who is buried at this church along with other relatives. 20131226_151044

This hike is just what I needed. It had a little adventure,  a little local history and a little family history.  I hope to explore more of Paulding’s hidden places. 20131226_150723

Fort McAllister to Edisto Island Via the ICW.

By, Trent Tibbitts

It had been a dream of mine for years to cruse the Intercostal Water Way. I first had the idea when I was 15 years old. A friend of mine had sailed down with his uncle from Savanna on his uncle’s boat. His story always stuck with me. Something about it resonated with me. Over the years I would think on it and how free I would feel if I could make this dissent trip that seamed over the horizon. At that time I had a very rudimentary knowledge of the water way. It truly was a dream, without any thought of how to make it happen. Someday I would get older and do it. That was my plan.

I have always loved the Ocean. Each summer for my whole life, we had taken trips to the beach. Later on, dad would take me with him on day deep-sea fishing trips. We would sail on large 60 foot plus party fishing boats. We would stay out 6 hours or so. I guess that was my first time out to sea. I never was interested in fishing, I just loved being out on the boat. In my early teen years, dad, some men from his work and men from around the community would charter a 40 foot boat for a two-day trip. We would board at night, sleep on the  boat as the captain took us out and wake up 100 miles from shore. We would fish all day, sleep on board again, then fish half a day before the three-hour trip back to shore. We did that trip at least three times. What I loved was being out passed the sight of land at night, I would get on the roof of the wheel house above the boats lights and gaze at the stars. From horizon to horizon, 360 degrees nothing but stars. It was like being in a huge dome. One morning we woke up and the sea was as smooth as glass, not a ripple could be seen. We had been out when the swells were big enough to hide that 40 foot boat. At the bottom of the swell all you could see was a wall of water all around you. Then it would take the boat up to the top and the water would disappear from under the boat and we would come crashing down. The deck in front of the wheel house was covered and was supported with one inch round steel poles. I would hold on to one of them while the boat rose and fell with each swell, and I would slide up and down the pole.  Another time we were out, a sea hawk roosted on the boat. We seen a sea turtle bigger than a Volkswagen Bug swim by on one trip. Dolphins would ride the waves on the bow of the boat. We would catch a lot of interesting sea creachers; Amber Jacks as big as I was, sharks, octopus, and ells to go along with the more normal sport fish. When we stopped for the night we would anchor over some type of wreak to have better fishing through out the night. On one particular morning when weighing anchor, the anchor got stuck. The captain tried everthing to pull the anchor off the wreck. We would be right over it and the bow of the boat would sink down into the water with the force of the winch pulling on the rope. After some time the anchor rope was cut. By the time we took the last of those trips I was 16 and driving. My parents had given me their Red Ford Thunder Bird. We drove it down and back up. Only problem was the fish we brought back not only stunk up the trunk but the whole car and I had a date waiting on me at home. My first date to be exactly. We raced home the same afternoon after getting off the boat so I could go on this date. I spent most of the next day cleaning and washing my car. Using everything I could think of to get the smell out. Then I got the call. Wendy has called off the date. We would eventual have that date, date through 11th and 12th grade and married two years after graduating.

I guess the next time I was on the ocean was with Wendy, We had gone to her Grandmothers in Fort Lauderdale for our Graduation trip. I proposed to Wendy on her home beach during a full moon night. She said yes and lighting filled the sky from one end to the other. While there we took a cruse to nowhere. It was the first of several cruises we have done and Wendy’s first time out to sea. At some point in time early in our relationship, Wendy gave me a Seaman’s Cross medallion to wear on a necklace. It is a crucifix of Jesus on an anchor with a ship’s wheel behind the body of Christ. It symbolizes my belief in Jesus and my love for the sea. I have worn it for 20 years now. At one point in my early 20s, I was considering joining the Navy. I was wanting to fly F-18 off carriers. The Navy was more interested in me joining the silent service on a nuclear sub because of my high ASVAB scores in nuclear engineering. They even offered to take me to Kings Bay to tour the sub base. I didn’t do either and I don’t think I would have married if I had. So I am glad it turned how it did. Though I never went to sea for our country, I did go when I could. A cruse here or a fishing trip there, I always loved to be on the ocean.

A few years ago my dream took a big steep forward, Wendy and I bought our first boat. After weeks of searching, we chose a 25 foot, 1996 Bayliner cabin cruiser. It was built to be ocean worthy. The previous own would take it on deep-sea fishing tournaments. We do a lot of camping and liked the idea of being able to sleep onboard. The hard top gives us shade and a diving platform for the kids. We can pull a tube or fish from the stern. It fits in with all the things we want to do. Lake Altoona is our home waters. We can be on the water with in 30 minutes of leaving the house. It does have some draw backs. The lake is very close to Atlanta and gets a lot of use on summer weekends. By summers end the drain on the lake from drought and the drinking water being pulled from the lake makes it lose a lot of water. We don’t go very much from midsummer on.

Not to far from us is the Tennessee River around Chattanooga. We can be there in two hours or so. We have made several overnight trips on the Tennessee in several places. One of the beast trips was the cruse through the george. We put in on Nickajack lake and went all the way to the base of Chickamauga dam on the other side of Chattanooga and back. It is very strange piloting a boat in a current. At the base of the dam the river is very strong. It’s not til you are out of the george that the still waters of NickaJack Lake are felt. The TVA has built a series of dams along the river for power and flood control. Each lake is connected by locks and the river is navigable from Knoxville down. You could go from the mountains of east Tennessee all the was to the Gulf of Mexico or to the Atlantic Ocean via the Great Lakes in a boat if you want.  We have not been in the locks yet but it’s on the list. All of these one and two night stays were gearing us up for our big trip on the intercostal.

As I do with each trip I stared my research. I ordered a guide book, bought maps and charts. I read blogs and web pages. I had each Mile planed out. We did a dry run of sorts a month or so before the big trip. We took the camper down to Fort McAllister state park and checked out areas to launch the boat from. We toured Savanna and all the sites around while we were there. We also attended a sunrise Easter service on Type Island beach.

After packing the boat with supplies we started our journey. Lucky our only troubles happened on dry ground. It started on the drive down. We were running low on gas but there were no stations for miles and miles on I-16 just before I-95 outside of Savanna. We nearly made it but ran out of gas just two or three miles from the first station. We made a call to roadside assistants and in short order we had help and gas. We the drove to the nearest station and filled the truck and boat. We then went back to Fort McAllister State Park where we had decided to launch. There is a marina just outside of the park that can launch boats with a sling but our boat and trailer is not set up to launch this way. We drove on to the Park but it had closed for the day so we could not use its ramp. The day was getting late a we decided to lunch at the small public ramp just outside the parks gate. After lunching and last-minute packing of supplies, we cruised up the Ogeechee river just to check things out. This was the first time we had to deal with river current and incoming tides. We tied up at the Marina and ate dinner at the on site restraint. We stayed our first night tied up here.

The next morning started our voyage. It was 5.1 nautical miles cruse from the Marina to the ICW at Statute Mile 605.5. The river was privately marked by the Marina. We took the ICW to the Ossabaw Sound and to our first chalagen, Hells Gate, just 2.5 miles North at Raccon Key. The cut is very shallow but we only draw about 2.5 feet, so hitting it at mid tide we had no trouble. It’s also only 20 yards wide and maybe 1/4 mile long. Once through the gate, we headed toward the open sea down Ossabaw Sound to Wassau Island, an uninhabited barrier island. We really did know where we were going, we were just following other boats. Once we seen the beach we knew where we were going. We beached the boat on the sound side of the island and dropped an anchor off the back. We walked around the island to the ocean side. It was amazon to see this huge beach and be the only people in sight. When we got back to the boat there we a lot more boats and people, plus the tide was in more and our boat was bobbing about. Our mud anchors for lakes were not holding in the sand. We tried to reposition the boat but other smaller boats were to close for my liking. It took some maneuvering but we got out without incident. It was mid-day and we headed back to the ICW. Like I said we were just following other boats and did not realise we missed the channel on the way down. Using our map we found our way back to Skidaway island and the ICW.

We cruse the waterway pass The Isle of Hope and a lot of nice homes. We took a left at the Savannah Yacht Club and cruse pass Thunderbolt Marina. Where we seen a lot of very big and very nice yachts. There are a ton of no wake zones and it is slow going. We make it to the Savannah River and look both ways for Oceangoing vessels before crossing to Fields Cut. This area of the ICW is very desolate and winding. At statute mile 570 we took a left up a creek called New River. It has several hairpin turns and a mile or so up has a good protection anchorage. We dropped our hook and made preparations to stay the night here. We had a small propane grille that worked more like a hot plate. We could grill buggers, chicken and chops and cook caned vegetables. Open a can of fruit and you got a meal. Breakfast was cereal and lunch was sandwiches. Up the river was a sand bar in the middle of the river with a small boat on it high and dry. The tide came back in and the owners came back to clam the boat. With shifting tides it’s hard to keep the boat in one location.So we tie up to the shore with one rope to the stern and use the anchor off the bow.

Our goal at the beginning of the trip was Charleston South Carolina. We love the charm and history of Charleston. Wendy and I spent our first year anniversary in Charleston. I belive the first time I ever went to Charleston was a company reward trip. We stayed on the Isle of Palms. We all liked it so much we would come back year after year. The first year we flew but after that we would drive. On that first trip was the only time I have been in a Hot Air Balloon. We visited Carolina Nursery and they provided us with a BBQ and gave rides to us in a tethered balloon. We went up maybe 80 feet. Same trip we visited Milton Plantation and the USS Yorktown. Again I went on a deep-sea fishing trip. This time it was on a 20, maybe 25 foot sports fishing boat. I didn’t fish, just took the boat ride. A few of the guys did a night shark fishing trip in the harbor with the same caption. They caught a big Bull Shark. To big to land. They got it to the boat a took some photos. The next trip and all to follow, we rented a three-story, beach front manshtion. I made this trip about 5 or 6 times. The house has a big back porch overlooking the ocean with a soft couch and a fire-place. I would build a fire and sleep most nights on the couch listening to the waves roll in. What a way to sleep. On the second trip we setup a kayaking trip on Wambaw Creek in Francis 20140125_154333Marion National Forest. We paddled up the creek, seen a few alligator and had a lot of fun. That got us hooked on kayaking. The next year we took a guided tour down the Wambaw Creek, to the Santee River, around an Island that holds Hampton Plantation State Park and back up Wambaw Creek. The idea was to use the tide so paddling would be easy. That did not happen. The guide must have misread the tidal charts because we had to paddle against the tide all day. When we got to the river a seen logs floating up-stream the guide keep saying “I never seen the tide this high before”. We were five miles in land. We got a little relief when we turned the corner to go to Hampton Plantation but we stopped for lunch and a tour of the Plantation. During that time the tide started to turn and now all that water that had been pushed inland was draining out. We again had to paddle against the tide to get back up the Creek to our truck.

I experienced the force of the tide a few years later. We had a few Sea Kayaks dropped at the house so we could play in the surf. I decided to take the opportunity to do a solo tour of the estuary on the inland side of our island. I loaded up on drinks and snacks and pushed out into the surf. I paddled out passed the breakers to open sea and turned south down the beach to the inlet between Isle of Palm and Sullivan’s Island about a mile away. Once I was even with the inlet, I turned and headed inland. The tide was coming out so the estuary was draining and the inlet was like a river running into the ocean. I was where these two forces were colliding. Water was trying to go in all directions, waves were coming in, tide was going out, a flood of water was coming out of the inlet and rip currents going down the beach. When I hit this sitting in my sea kayak it was hard to keep it pointed inland and soon I was overturned. When I hit the water I knew I was in trouble if not dead because I was a few hundred yards from shore. To my surprise and delight when I swam out of the boat and stood up I was in water no higher than my wast. I waded in to the inlet, pulling the kayak behind me. Once in tamer water I got back into the boat and paddled to the bridge where I watched a paire a of dolphins fishing in the narrows of the inlet. I spent the next several hours exploring the back channel of the estuary. I was so tired, I knew I would not make the paddle out the inlet and down the beach to the house so I beached the kayak at the bridge over the inlet and walked back to the house to get a truck to pick up the boat.

We had several other adventures on our trips to Charleston. One group that I was not a part of took a guided Kayaking trip in the Charlton Harbor and paddled around the Yorktown. I was on at least two other guided tours that I can think of. One was in the estuary around Folly Island and the other was a round Bull Bay where we visited shell mounds created by native Americans and seen Bald Eagle on nest. One year we chartered a dinner crews on a privet yacht around the harbor and around Fort Sumner. There are lots to see and do around Charlton.

Next morning we headed back to the ICW and on the way passed a very nice sail boat anchored on the other side of the hairpin turn from us. At statute mile 560 we took a left and went up the May River to the little town of Bluffton and pass Brighton Beach. We had to turn back at Bluffton and head back to Caibogue Sound. Then a right on Skull Creek and  passed Hilton Head to Port Royal Sound at statute mile 548. The sound is vast and is the biggest body of water we have been on as of yet. Where we crossed it is about 5 miles wide. There were some fairly big waves in the open water. Once across we went up the Beaufort River and passed Parris Island on our left, I mean our Port side. We made our first stop for gas at Port Royal Landing Marina at statute Mile 540. So that’s 68.5 miles from Fort McAllister. From there it was just a few miles up river to the riverfront city of Beaufort South Carolina. We will make a stop here on the way back. At the end of Brickyard Creek we cruised down the Coosaw River into the ACE basin (Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto Rivers) and St. Helena Sound. The sound is huge and to keep from having to be in open seas we snake our way through back waters and man-made cuts to the Edisto River.

I had been on this river a few times before. We made the State Park on Edisto Island  a summer beach destination several times over the past few years. Often camping a week at a time. Edisto is a great island in the low country, there are no hotels, one Piggly Wiggly, one gas station and few small restraints. The one we love is the Sea Cow. We go there for breakfast mainly and it is very good. It’s a small place, just seats 30 or so. The State park takes up about half the island, the rest is small privet homes on the beach and there is one back street. There is a golf course and a marina. That is about it. Wendy and I don’t like crowds or crowded beaches. Edisto’s slow pace fits us perfectly. But if we do want more, Charlton is about 40 minutes away. We have visited the aquarium, walked the Battery, seen Rainbow Row, toured old Homes of signers of The Declaration of Independent, walked gardens of Plantations, looked inside elaborate Churches, shopped the open Market, stroll cobble stone lanes, stood on old fort walls, took in history in museums and fount it in the streets, visited backyard gardens and ventured the deck of an aircraft Carrier. Between Edisto and Charleston is  Folly Island. On the north end of the island is Charlton harbor and an old light house. The island has eroded over the years and now during high tide the light house is surrounded by sea water. We visited it on one of out trips. The road ends close to the tip of the island and it is a mile or so walk to the pointe. It is state-owned property so there is no development in sight. The beach is covered in drift wood and dead trees from where the sea is eating the island. Very Cool.

Back in my days Kayaking around Charlton, I bought a map of the low country by Coastal Expeditions. It was made for sea kayakers but has so much information and is so accurate that I find it very, very useful. In fact it is my primary navigational tool on our ICW cruse. I can find old plantations that are not on any tourist maps. It is fun to drive out and see some of these historical homes. I used the Map to find Wyatt and I a kayaking trip down the Edisto River on one of our camping trips on the island. I brought my kayak and borrowed one from a friend. Wendy’s mom spent a few days with us so we had two cars and was able to drop one at the down stream end of our kayaking trip at Long Creek. I had a GPS with me and made a waypoint. It was strange to me why the “river” was so small here. We then drove to Good Hope landing where Wyatt and I put into the river. The river was much bigger here than at Long creek. That was very confusing to me. The river is flat water with a little bit of current. We paddle down without incident. The river is big enough for smaller bower boats. It is very remote and not many homes are along the section. After going the two miles that should have been our total trip length, the river is wider than when we started and does not look like where we dropped the truck. We stopped to check the GPS and the waypoint I had made earlier at Long Creek. The GPS shows the point to be about a quarter-mile to our right, not down river. That is when I discovered that Long Creek is a Creek that flows into the river and we have to go up it to get to the truck. We soon find the creek marked with a home-made sign that we would have missed if we had not stopped and checked the GPS. We made it back to the truck just a few hundred yards up the creek. The next day I used my map again to find a creek to paddle. I chose Penny creek that flows into the Edisto. It was the craziest thing, the road that leads to the creek goes straight into the creek. The road is the ramp. Not much to it, it was a small creek and I did about 1 or 1.5 miles down and then noticed the tide was really going out so I turned back before the creek got to shallow to paddle. There were a few log jams I had crossed that I need to get back across. I did see a few 5 foot Gators sunning on sand bars on my trip down. Most of our time on Edisto was spent on the beach.

We followed the channel markers down the Edisto River to the Marina. We docked and inquired about an overnight slip. We were unable to get the boat in the first slot they gave us. We asked for another location and was able to back into the slip. This is where we decided to make this our turning point. We had come over 100 miles on the ICW and add a few more when you count the side trips. We were familiar with the island and wanted some beach time, plus we wanted to eat ate the Sea Cow. We ordered pizza and took advantage of the marina’s showers while we waited. Wyatt finished up early and went back to the boat. While waiting on the pizza at the entry of the marina, I set up some bikes to be delivered the next morning. Once we had our pizza, Wendy, Sarah and I walked together back to the boat. When we got to our dock, Wyatt was sitting on the neighboring boat eating with them. They had a big sport fishing boat with the big fly bridge. We are talking about a $400,000.00 boat. The family of three lived aboard and were having friends over for a catered dinner. They were very nice and invited Wyatt over and he took them up on it. They offered us some also but we declined. While we were out a big 60 foot yacht docked at the end of our dock. It looked like wood but was steel hull. It looked kinda like the boats on Disney Worlds jungle Cruse ride, but supper sized and nicer. We found out later it was built-in England in 1880.

The next morning we started riding our bikes to the Sea Cow for breakfast. One off the bikes had a flat tire so we went by the golf course were the bikes were rented from and made the repairs. After eating we went back to the boat and retrieved our beach supplies. We loaded ourselves down with what we could carry on our backs. We spent most the day on the beach until we were forced back to the boat by a rain storm. After the rain storm and dinner the nice boat people told us about a secluded bay for tubbing and told us about Monkey Island. We spent one more night on Edisto Island.

The next day we tried to find the area to go tubbing but it is a narrow unmarked channel to get into and out of the bay. Without a depth finder, I don’t trust going through the shoals. We did make it out pass the point where the sound turns to ocean. This is as far into the true ocean as we go in the boat. We turned back up river and head to the ICW and cut over to the Ashepoo River and the St. Helena Sound via the Coosaw River. The ICW goes up river but we turn and go down river in search for Morgan Island, KAK monkey Island. Using the Coastal Expeditions Map we find the creek that leads inland on Monkey island. There is a half sunken ship at the mouth of the creek. It is a small creek and we have to watch our depth, so its ideal speed. Not to far up is what we were looking for. We had no idea this place excited 24 hours payor. Now we are just a few yards away from a colony of hundreds or Reece Monkeys. The island has a dock but you are not allowed to inter the island. There are a few tin roofed out buildings and Monkeys everywhere. On the dock, jumping on the buildings, jumping tree to tree and on the shore. I throw out the anchor and say this is where we are staying the night. Wendy is a nervous wreck. She don’t like the idea of all these monkeys surrounding her. We grilled dinner on the back of the boat and light our tiki torches as it gets darker. A flock of Egrets roost in a few trees close to the boat and make a lot of noise with their wings. Wendy can stand it any longer and goes to bed. The kids and I break out the spot light and shine it around and see a few night critters, Raccoons, deer, sharks and monkeys. We then get out on the front deck of the boat for some star-gazing. There is no light pollution and I have not see stares this bright sence those overnight deep-sea fishing trips. We see the Milky Way, satellites fly over and shooting stares. There is a lot that goes on in the night sky that we can’t see at home. The tide was going out when we anchored but during the night it started to come back in and the boat came off anchor. I felt us moving a little too much and got up to cheek. Sure enough we were floating up-stream. I got us re-secured and went back to bed.

We leave Monkey Island and go back up river to Brickyard Creek and the Beaufort River. Sarah did some morning tubing in the wide river before we got to the Town of Beaufort. Then we spotted some dolphins fishing in the area. Docking at the Beaufort Marina was difficult with the strong tide and river current. We rented a slip here for the night at filled up on gas. It is mid-day and we toured the city on foot. One of the shops we liked was a Butterfly shop. The owner was so nice to us and the kids. He showed us all around the shop and told us all about everything in the shop. We ate lunch at a little fish shack. We did so more shopping and sight-seeing. Once again we took advantage of the Marina showers and the shore power. The down side of sleeping on the boat is no air conditioning! To conserve power from the boat battery we only used small fans during the night. Having shore power allowed us to run the big box fans and stay cool all night. Before leaving we ate breakfast in town and visited the Butterfly shop one more time. The owner gave the kids a giant moth cocoon. When we got home we put it in between the kitchen window and the screen. When it opened it was trapped inside where we could watch it.

Back on the water way and down to Port Royal Sound passing Parris Island. We didn’t see any Marines. We then crossed the open water of the sound to the back water of Hilton Head Island. The channels were very well marked the whole trip. We didn’t have a chart plotter or even a good depth finder. We did have a common GPS unit but did not use it very much. We used maps and charts to navigate. All the channel markers are numbered so pin pointing our location was easy. Just keep it between the buoys. Most of the small back water channels are no wake zones with short sections of full throttle. From Hilton Head Island and Calibogue Sound we cruse toward the Savannah River. We met our only commercial traffic in this section. It was a tug pushing two barges. We had seen much lager rafts of barges on the Tennessee river, upwards of six or eight at a time. The Tennessee is much bigger than the small channel we were on and there was a lot of room to navigate around the big tug and barges. Here we are in tight quarters. The tug was navigating a tight passing under a draw bridge as we came around round a bend. We monitored channel 16 on our radio and could hear the communication between the tug and the bridge. Very professional, yet very personable. When we were getting gas on the Beaufort river, were heard another bridge master get all over a boat for speeding through a no wake zone where they were doing bridge construction. We pull to the side and let the tug pass. Bigger boat has the right of way.

Before getting to the Savannah River we travel the Fields cut where we got attacked by Horse Flys. By the time we got to the river we had a pile of dead Horse Flys. They got in some bits, but we won the day. Or at least got out with a tactical retreat. The kids did a little tubing in the no wake zone around Thunderbolt. When we got to the Isle of Hope and Skidaway Island we saw more dolphins. We hung out here for a while just watching them fish. Wyatt had gone on a school field trip a few years earlier to the UGA marine research center on Skidaway. They spent two nights on the island and learned about marine live and how the estuary system works. We were just off shore from its campus. Down from the Isle of Hope marina we passed the Wormwood Plantation that we had visited during our Easter trip. It was built by one of the first settlers who came with James Oglethorpe. In fact he was the surveyor who laid out the city of Savannah. This plantation has the longest Live Oak lined drive in the world. That alone is worth a trip. Only a few walls are left of the original Tabby house made from a mixture of shells and mud. The plantation is a Georgia State Park and has a great little museum that does a good job of telling the story of early Georgia.

From the Isle of Hope is a cruse down Moon River, yes the Moon River to Ossabaw Sound and Wassaw Island. We explore Wassaw creek and get stuck on a sand bar. This was about the third time this has happened on this trip. The other times we were able to get off with a push with a pole or just the engine. This time we were stuck good. The boat will float in two feet of water so water depth is not usually an issue. I jumped out to push us off the bar. Once off the bar I climbed back in the boat. One word of advice, make sure the bottom is sand and not mud. If it is mud you can get your feet stuck and not be able to climb back in the boat. With rasing tidal water that could be a problem. During one visit to Edisto Island, I read about a man having to be rescued by the Coast Guard who jumped out of his boat into mud to push it off a bar.  Wassaw is a National Wildlife Refuge, so it is 2,000 acres of federal land. All but a few hundred acres of private property in the center of the island. After getting off the sand bar we cruised back to the rangers dock and waited out a rain storm. While docked I checked out the rangers station and meet the  Ranger. Strang man, he told me that we could not stay tidied up to the dock. He said that it had to remain open for emergencies. There were five of us on the whole island, what emergency would need this whole dock in the time it would take us to move our boat. He told me how he would come out to stay on the island two or three days at a time and then home two or three days. I told him once the storm passed we would move and we did, about hundred yards down stream. More dolphins showed up. We tried to play with them but they acted like they had never seen a rubber ball before. With the engines off, they would come up to the boat and want food but we did not have anything to feed them. Soon we saw the ranger leave and we went back to the dock to fish. We anchored for the night below the dock. Just incase there was an emergency. We seen a few alligator so no one wanted to go swimming. It was another great night under the stars.

Last full day on the boat we promised the kids a beach day. It didn’t take but a few minutes to motor from out anchorage to the beach on the sound side of the island where we had been on our first day. This time it was a weekday and there was no one else there. I had also bought another sand anchor. We had learned a lot over this week about boating. This time we did not beach the boat, we anchored it off the shore and used the tube as a raft back and forth. Most of the day was spent enjoying each other and our privet island. When man does not spoiled it, Gods nature is amazing. So real and relaxing. After a long day at the beach we cruised back through Hells Gate and up the Ogeechee River and to Fort McAlester. We camped here on our Easter trip and explored the fort then. It is an earthen fort built-in 1861 to protect commercial ships on the Ogeechee. During the war of northern aggression,  the fort repulsed at least seven attacks by Union warships with rifled cannons before falling to ground forces during the march to the sea. We docked at the marina and had dinner at their restraint. It is a very nice place. Like I said we learned a lot on this trip. Wyatt became an expert on tieing off the boat at the docks and was a major help with the everything. After dinner we anchored across the river a watched a thunder-storm move across Savannah. Oh how I love the low country. The rain final pushed us inside for the night.

Next morning was moving day, back to Dallas Georgia. We cursed across the river to our dock at the boat ramp. I had learned how to use the river current to help with docking. First rule, face the current. I got the truck and trailer in place and stated to load the boat. This is where the day from the under world began. I am sure you have seen boat trailers with the tall poles on the back that stick up above the boat. Well, I don’t have those. They keep the boat on the trailer in moving water. With Wyatt’s help we got the boat hooked to the winch but while witching the boat gets turned sideways. The winch handle got wedged against the boat and we can’t turn it. I wade out into the river and push the boat strate with the trailer and Wyatt winches it on into place. We pull the boat out of the salt water and need to wash it out with fresh water. The boat is not on the trailer all that well so we need to do something. We drive to the fort and use their boat ramp that is in the back waters of the river and there is no current. We get the boat on strate and use their fresh water to flush the system. It’s now time to hit the road. There is a graduation party we want to get back home to. All is doing well, we are making good time. I am traveling in the right lane and come up on a slow-moving truck. We start-up a long hill and I pull into the left lane to pass. As I get around the truck, it happens. All heck breaks loss and I get the truck and trailer to the inside emergency lane. everyone is okay and I can still see the boat. I get out expecting to see a flat tire, if I could have been so lucky. The trailer has two axle and the first one had come off the trailer on the passenger side and the two tires rubbed agents one another. I had a flat tire and a tire with a bald spot. I was missing the U-bolts and plate that holds the axle onto the trailer. I walked back to the area where it happened and found the plat but the bolts were bent beyond repair and no nuts if they were useable. What to do. I had a spar but not two. We were far from any exit. Only thing I could do was un hook the boat and find what I need to make the repair.

The reason for the failure was my fault. Months earlier I was towing the boat home from a long three-day weekend at the lake. We had my whole family camping and boating together on lake Altoona. We rented three camp sits on a little pinnacle. We had our camper, my brother’s camper and had borrowed one other one. We also had my boat and rented a pontoon boat. We had lots of fun. When scouting for the camp sits weeks before I seen a black bear. A very rare sight for this area but becoming more common. I was able to get a lot of good photos. He had killed a young deer and was eating on it. While I was about to cross a tight bridge over the lake, I was met by a large truck that forced me too close to the bridge. Both right side tires blow out. I only have one spare. I replace one and remove the other one thinking I can get home. I made it about half way, then that tire blows. I am on the side of the road again. I decide to remove the first tire on the left and put it on the back right. This did not work because the front axle is now dragging. So I decide to remove the axle. After much labor it comes off. It is very late on Sunday night so we get the boat down the road just a little and park it for the night at a church. The next day I get all new tires and put the axle back on. I’m sure the bolts I put on that day became loss and caused my troubles on the way home from Savanna.

We went to a few stores and found what parts we needed and bought a spar tire. remember the tires that were on the boat were new from the last blow out. I didn’t think I would have ant trouble out of them. We ate lunch and headed back to the boat on the side of the road. With some time and labor we were back on the road thinking we left our troubles behind us. Think again, coming into down town Atlanta on I-75, eight lanes of traffic, one of the spares blow. There is no space. I pull off to the right against a wall and change that tire out with the tire with the bald spot. I was NasCar fast. Time to get off the interstates with that tire. We find a used tire place on the side of the road and buy another tire. using our GPS we find our way home on back roads. Once home we discover the windshield has been broken out. We made the party though.

We had some troubles on the way down and a lot on the way back but what a trip, it was everything I wanted: The freedom, the nature, the family time, the Sea. I would do it again tomorrow!

Labor Day weekend offered an opportunity to take a Hike. So I pulled out maps and books and started looking into where to go. I just bought a guide-book on the Joyce Kilmer / Slick rock Wilderness. That was on my mind. I looked over the map and read a few tail description and got a tentative plan on what trails I would take. I scheduled Friday off so I could maximize the weekend. After work on Thursday, I drove up to Robbinsville, did a little last-minute shopping and ate my last real meal before getting on the trail. From Robbinsville I drove out 129 toward Joyce Kilmer. Just before the trail head parking was a campground called Rattler Ford. So being 9 PM and the first campground I see, I pull in. I may have seen a little sign that said “group camping reservations only”, but it was late and a very small sign that my truck lights hit for only the briefest of time. The place is empty. I poke around, read the information board and knock on the door of the camp host’s R.V. Know one is around to tell me no, so I find a place to hang my ENOs hammock for the night. The hammock sleeps great. I put an air mat in it to help keep it from folding up to tight. It also makes it very comfortable, beats the heck out of sleeping on the ground. The temps dropped down to maybe low 70s. I did not need the sunggie I brought as my blanket. I also add a rain fly not only to keep me dry if it rains but gives me a feeling of being in a tent. Next morning I wake about 7:30 and get out and start to stretch. There he is, the camp “Nazi”. Watching me from across a big field and behind a tree at his R.V. If you ever done a lot of camping at State Parks or National Parks you know these guys. They are the camp host who believes the world will end if any campground rule is broken and they are the ones intrusted to save the planet. The good thing is not all camp host are this way. So what to do, my pack is back at the truck and I need it to break camp. I truly think he thought I could not see him. I start walking to my truck at the edge of the field and keeping my eye on him. I give out the loudest “Good Morning” I could muster. He then comes out from behind the tree and looks like he doesn’t know what to do. I make it to the truck and can see him coming toward me. I got my pack and meet him at the rear of my truck. “You got a reservation?” he ask me. Like I said, Nazi. He may aswell have asked me for my papers in a german accent. “No” I boldly tell him. Then we get into the debate about how the campground is for groups and you need reservations, but there are no groups camping I explained to him. “That’s not the way it works” he protest. “I should have ran you off last night” he tells me. I thought how fun that would have been to have this argument at midnight after waking me up. I have a very strong well and don’t back down to easily. He then said he would not say anything. I’m thinking who is he going to say something to. After the Nazi interrogation and harassment, I packed up my things and headed the mile or so down the road to the Joyce Kilmer parking lot.

I turn of the main road and drive about a half mile up to the parking lot. I had not gotten water at the campground thinking I could get it here, but no. There was not any water fountains. I pumped my first bottle of water from the creek that I would follow-up along Necked Ground Trail. I would only pump one bottle at a time to save weight. I changed out of my work cloths that I had slept in and checked my pack to make sure I had all that I need for a four-day hike. Overnight parking was not allowed at the trail head so I left my pack and drove back down to the end of the road and parked where it was allowed. It would work out okay because the trail I would end on ended there also. Back at my pack and I hit the trail. The elderly park cleaning crew was the last people I saw as I headed into the woods. The walk up Santeetlah creek through the virgin forest was easy most of the way.

Though this forest has never been log, unlike most of the Appalachian forest, it is not the same forest it was 100 years ago when the American Chestnut covered over 40% of the forest and reached 11 feet in diameter. Today the Yellow Tulip Poplars are the giants of the land. All American Chestnuts were wiped out by the importation of the Chestnut Blight during the early 1900’s. By 1920 the blight was in the southern Appalachian forest and by 1940 most of the Chestnuts were dead. On this trail and thought out the national forest fallen Chestnuts can still be seen slowly rotting away. The forest is always changing. From 1900 to 1930s the region was logged heavily. Timber companies cut roads and RR beds next to every river, creek and stream. A lot of them are the base of the roads and trails we use today. In the late 1930s after the government started buying a lot of the mountains for National forest and parks the CCC build parks like those in The Great Smokey Mountains, roads like the Blue Ridge Parkway and trails like those that are part of the Appalachian Trail. In the early 1940s the TVA (Tennessee Vally Authority) started building dams along the Tennessee River and it’s contributories in the Mountains. 1950, 1960 and 1970 saw population growth in the surrounding communities and the forest second-growth reclaim the land. In the 1980 Smog kild trees above 5000 feet, in the 1990 Pine Beatles kild a lot of the Pine trees. For the last ten years the mighty Eastern Hemlock has been attacked by the Wooly Adelgid.

At mile 0.3 I took the alternate trail that was to travel on the other side of the creek and then rejoin the trail a mile up. After 50 yards the trail comes to a camping area and side trails go everywhere. I try a few and could not find where the trail continued on the other side of the creek. I backed track to the main trail. At mile 1.0, I took my first break at a small bridge over Indian Springs Branch. On the Map I had only gone a mile but in reality it had been about 2 miles I had walked sence leaving the truck. My next stop was at this giant Yellow Tulip Poplar. It is the second largest one next to the trail at 16 feet 7 inches in circumference. The opening to the hollow inside is 6 feet high. There are accounts of early settlers taking shelter in trees like this during storm. Some were big enough for families to fit in and there is one account of a man who lived in a hollow tree for sometime. At mile 2.6 is the largest tree next to the trail, a 17 foot 10 inch circumference Yellow Tulip Poplar. I took lunch here. It was hollow too but the one at mile 1.9 was more intriguing. At mile 3.5 I cross my last water supply and stopped to fill my water bottles. I started with four, one full and three empty. I am now down one. I fill all three and leave the stream with only 84 oz of water. I know once on the ridge line I will not find water, the guide-book is clear on that and it’s been dry. The next mile was tough, leaving the gradual incline of the valley, the trail starts to climb to Naked Ground Gap. Once at the gap the trail was over grown and there was a lot of flys. There was also a nice over look back down the valley I just came up. After a little tree pruning to improve my view, I ate dinner. Now on the narrow ridge line, it’s a short mile on the Haoe Lead Trail to the Haoe, the second highest peak in the wilderness at 5249 feet. Some of the trail had been cut back recently but a lot of it was over grown with weeds and briars over your head. There are no views from the top of the Haoe and a few limited views from the trail. At the peak is the Junction of the Haoe Lead trail and the Hangover Lead Trail. From this Intersection it is only 0.2 miles across the saddle tree gap and another 0.2 miles to the Hangover. I almost did not take the side trail to the Hangover, glad I did. The only thing I knew was it had 360 degree views.

The Hangover is short ridge that the last 100 yards is a rocky, Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel bald with out trees. The ridge line points to Maryville at 12 o’clock and Knoxville beyond. At the 1 o’clock and 2 o’clock is The Great Smokey Mountains National park with the little Tennessee River in the foreground. At 3 o’clock is Robbinsvile and the Nantahala forest. At 4 o’clock and 5 o’clock is the Joyce Kilmer Wilderness. At 6 o’clock is the Haoe. At 7, 8 and 9 o’clock is the Slick Rock Wilderness. At 10 o’clock is Tellico Lake. At 11 o’clock is the Tennessee Valley. I was truly blown away with this view. I was only at 5000 feet but it was the best view I have seen from a mountain top and I have seen a whole lot. Better than the view from the fire tower on Mount Cammerer. Better than the view from Black Balsam on the Art Lobe. Better than the fire tower on Sterling mountain. Better than Charlies Bunyan. And so on, and so on. I was seeing God’s view. It was awesome. I got very excited and decided to camp right there for the night. With out any trees I had to figure out something. I rigged up the straps, that normally would go around a tree for the hammock to clip into, around the rock out cropping on either side of the trail. With a little help of some parachute cord, I was able to secure each end. The first time I got to use the saw on my multi tool was then to saw down a few rhododendrons, so the hammock would lay straight. The rain fly went up easy. I was able to tie it off to shrubs. I was getting hungry and needed to eat something. The beef jerky I brought was awful and only keep it in case I was starving to death. I was down to my last ration for the day, Ramon noodles. I break out my pocket rocket stove and my minimalist cup and begin to boil up 16 oz of water. remember I only started with 84 oz and had drunk about half already. This could be a problem. I cooked my noodles and ate them all. I did not want to waste water so I made sure to drink all the water that was left in the cup. One other thing I had done when I filed up my bottles the last time was to make some Cool-Aid. I brought a few packs and some sugar. It was nice to have that boost from a sugar drink when I climbed the last mile of the Nacked Ground Trail but now that was gone too. I was down to less than 24 oz of water. Darkness soon fell and a full moon was shining bright over  Robbinsville. You could see every light down in the Tennessee Valley but in the National forest it was dark, all except little Robbinsville. It was like a little island. Once agin I was amazed at the sight before me. I decided I would spend some time the next day just taking in the view. With the moon so bright I could not see many stars. I was very tired and went to bed around 11 PM. I woke just before sunrise and was able to watch the sun come up over the Smokey mountains. Fog was lying low in the valleys. After the forest woke I wend back to my nest and sleep for a few more hours. Up again and ate breakfast. I took a close look at the map, the landscape in front of me and the trail descriptions of my route. I decided that I was at the best location this Wilderness could offer. I did not want to walk up and down any more mountain and I knew that I did not bring enough food for the four days. On my last 30 mile hike i took too much food and now too little. I wouldn’t starve but I would go a little hungry. The lack of water also weighed my decision.  Now I had to call an audible. How long would I stay here and where to go when I leave. The view was so impressive, I wanted to stay most of the day but I knew my water supply would not allow it. I decided I would stay till lunch. I pull my air mat out and made me a recliner out of a rock outcropping. I spent the rest of the morning watching clouds and fog role in and out and napping here and there. I ate lunch and packed up around noon and was on the trail by one.

I made my way back to the Haoe and took the Haoe lead down the mountain. It was strate down. Again the trail was overgrown. The trail guide is given in the opposite direction and I try to figure my location from land marks in the guide but working backwards is difficult. I keep thing I am at one location then I come to another area and discover the guide is talking about this location. This makes me thing I have missed the Jenkins Meadow Trail. It seems I have walked more than the 1.3 miles to the trail head. If I miss this trail its 3.9 more miles to the road and then 4 or 5 miles down the road to my truck with out  a water source. Do I back track and look for the trail or do I keep going and potentially keep getting further away from it. I give up hope of finding the trail a decide to keep going down the trail and start planing on camping at the trail head. Then I came around a corner and there was the Jenkins Meadow Trail head. I was happy to see the trail but was disappointed that I had only hiked 1.3 miles. I felt I was going slow. Most of the trail was down hill with a few flat areas. You would thing this would be easy walking but it is not. It puts a lot os stress on your knees and the extra weight of your pack pushes you down the hil,l so you are having to catch yourself with every steep. The Jenkins Meadow Trail drops 2,320 feet in 3.3 miles, another steep trail. I am now back in an open hard wood forest and the trail is no longer overgrown. About 2 miles down the trail I find a little water running across the trail. I was down to about 4 oz. I fill one water bottle up as much as I can from the little trickle and pump out of it to fill my other bottle. There is nothing to draw you on this trail and it is a boring, painful walk. Again I think I have hiked more than what I have, but I know I am still to high to be close to the end. With no highlights on the trail, the trail guide’s landmarks are easily mistaken for something else. One small open area looks like the last one you were at 10 minutes ago. So which one is the guide talking about. I made it to the truck by 4:30, so not a bad time. It was just a boring hike.

Once at the truck I drove around Lake Santneetlah looking for a camping spot for the night. All were full, so I made my way back to Robbinsville for a Big Mac. After my dinner, I decided to head to The Great Smokey Mountains. On the way I stopped at Cable Cove Campground on lake Fontana. The campground was primitive, no power, no showers or water at individual camp sites. There was one toilet and one communal water source. It was dark when I drove in and there was a lot of empty sites to choose from. I fount one that had trees that would work for my hammock. I did walk back to the information board and pay the $10.00 user fee. Setup only took a few minutes and was very easy with the truck and table close by to spread all my stuff on. I was hoping to find a campground with a shower because it’s now Saturday night and I have not showed sence Wednesday night. Plus I am waring the same cloths sence Friday morning. I about can’t stand myself. There is not much to do so I craw into bed. I do have my phone, so I play a few games of solitaire before going to sleep.

Next morning I was up early and broke camp. I exploded the lake at Cable Cove boat ramp then drove to the Fontana Marina looking for a shower. I had passes a few small Baptist churches and was trying to figure out a way to shower in time to make meeting. All the churches start at 10:30 and it will be close. I had a clean shirt and my paints from Thursday were not that dirty. But there was not a shower there so I drove over to the dam and stopped at a overlook of the lake. The Appalachian Trail crosses the Dam of the lake and has a shelter close by. Better yet there is a shower house for thru hikers just a few yards from where I parked. I showed and changed into clean cloths but it was too late to make it to church. I will have to plan better on my next trip. I have wanted to visit one of these small mountain churches for some time. I drove on down to the dam and went to the dam museum and the dam gift shop but there was not a dam tour. Fontana is the highest dam this side of the Mississippi at 480 feet. You can drive across the dam but I chose to walk about half way out and back. The dam was a WWII project to supply power for aluminum factory. Ground was broke just 2 and a half months after the Jap attack on Pearl Harbor. Work was around the clock. Patriotic music was played over load speakers. The town on Fontana Village was formed to house the dam workers and their families. The dam was completed in 3 years. After my visit to the dam, I drove to Fontana Village. It is now a resort with cabins, restraints, gas station, and a lot of other amenities. Over priced if you ask me. I then drove on down to the base of the dam. From this view you can see just how big the dam is.

A mile or so from the bridge is the beginning of the Foothills Parkway. This will take me to Townsend. The road quickly climbs above Happy Valley. I pull over at a overlook and eat lunch looking at the main ridge of the Smokeys. It is Labor Day weekend at the most visited National Park in the United States but so far I have stayed away from crowds. On the trail, I did not see anyone at all from Friday morning to Saturday evening. There was not to many people around Robbinsvile or Lake Fontana. There were was a good many on the Dragon Tail but not bad. On the Foothills Parkway, only a few people here and there. I know once I get to Townsend I will start to see the crowds. After lunch I drove on up to the top of the parkway at Look Rock. I pulled over and took a quick look at the rock overlook. It is the same view I just came from so I take the 0.5 mile trail up to this tower used to monitor air quality. From the tower there is a nice view of the Tennessee Valley and you can barely see the Cumberland Mountains on the horizon. From the other side of the tower the Smokeys stand tall behind Happy Vally and Cades Cove.

On to Townsend at the Western entry of the Park, home of the Little River Rail Road and Lumber Company that was founded in 1901. The Rail Road is responsible for the most of the roads and trails in the Smokeys. They laid more than 300 miles of track and logged over 80,000 acres. On Sundays engines that would pull log cars during the 6 day work week would pull passenger cars along the Little River. Todays Little River Road is on that same Rail Road bed. As early as the 1920’s, resorts were spring up in what would become the National Park. Rail service increased and soon there was a train a day from Knoxville to Elkmont. In the 1930’s logging was on the decline and soon the towns that boomed around logging camps became ghost towns. The Great Smokey Mountain Park was created and all the tracks were removed. I stopped to eat in Townsend and while I was in the gift shop, I saw a photo of the same train from the above photo. It was coming around a curve that has a rock overhang that those that have driven Little River Road would recognize. Next time you are driving in the Smokeys, remember trains have made the same journey.

Now one of my most favorite place on earth, Cades Cove of The Great Smokey Mountains. It is a hidden valley with large pastures in the bottom land, lots of wild life; deers, bears, turkeys, wolves, coyotes just to name a few. The Somkeys are known for Black Bears and the population is on the rise. When I was a kid in the 1980’s deer were everywhere but bear were very hard to see. Now due to bear, coyotes and wolves the deer population is way down. The second largest campground in the National Park system is at Cades Cove. It gets a ton of visitors and it is full for this weekend. From the campground there is a one lane, one way, 11 mile loop road with two roads that cut across the center of the cove. There are two roads that leave the cove from the loop road but are one way and that is out. One goes to the Dragon Tail and the other goes to Townsend. Unless you are going home, there is no reason to take these roads. It take hours to drive back to the campground. It didn’t take long to see my first bear. It crossed the road right in front of me. I parked at an old church and walk down a patch of woods that jute into the large pasture land looking for deer that maybe bedded down. I saw this little water hole on my way down and though it may be a good place to see wildlife, little did I know. I was coming down on the left side of the woods and then I saw this bear coming up the right side. The woods we are in is large hard woods with no understory growth. I can see the bear very well and start to follow him to the water hole. He drinks a little, then gets into the water. It is about 85 degrees. He cools off and I get with in 10 yards of him. He pays no attention to me. Once he is done with his bath, he walks back the way I was original was going. He makes his way to the high grass and I loss him. My attention turns to a little doe deer feeding in the lower area of the woods. I make it to the end of the woods and walk out into the grass. The sky is turning black so I start back to the truck. I come to another doe that is bedded down. It starts to rain a little while I am watching her. By the time I get to the truck the rain is coming down in buckets and I am soaking wet. Once in the truck I hit traffic. It is due to a tree that fell across the road in the storm. After getting through that I hit it again. This time it is a bear jam. I pull off and take a hike to a cabin that I know is close by. The Park kept and restored several cabins, barns and out building to help show how mountain life was in the late 1800’s. There is even a grist mill on site. From the cabin I took a side trail down to Abrams Creek

where I saw several Gobbler Turkeys feeding along the trail. I saw more turkeys on this trip than I have ever seen. One the way back to the truck I meet a young family walking to the cabin. The five year old little boy asked if I live here and I told him Yes I did and welcome to my house. He then asked If I had seen any bears. I said I had and showed him my photos of the bear in the water. He was then off to something else. Back at the truck the bear jam was still going on. Some nice person let me in line. A few minutes later a ranger walks by and I ask her if it’s a bear jam. She said she thought so. She soon passed me and was out of sight. Twenty minutes later the traffic starts moving and I catch back up with her. She has a brace on her leg so I offer her a ride. She climbs in, I know I only have a few minutes to quiz her. She told me how the fields are mowed ever other year. How the bears are on the increase and how the coyotes are impacting the deer population. She told me of a photographer who showed her his photos of a coyote taking down a deer. The traffic stops again and she hopes out and keeps walking. The bear is long gone by the time I get to the turn at the grist mill. Traffic opens up and I can drive about 15 MPH. You really don’t need to go faster than that. I will tell you why later. It is about to get dark and traffic slows again. I pull over and see the first coyote I have ever seen in the Park. You can hear them all the time, but to see one is rare. He is over 100 yards away, along a tree line in a field. He works back and forth tracking a deer. As he nears the bottom of the hill where there is a fence line and over grown brush, I see the white tail of the deer he was tracking. It is now dusk and I can’t make out details so I finish driving the loop road.

The loop road ends at the campground. Now I did pass a sign at the beginning of the road that leads from Townsend the 11 miles to Cades Cove that said the camp ground is full. The government is always lies to us, so I figured this was a lie too. I drove the first loop and took note of what sites were empty and came back to the now closed ranger station to cross check the late arrival sheet. I found several sites that were empty and not listed on the board. While checking the list, I noticed a camper pulling out. What really got my attention was when the camper stopped and dropped off its site registration card in the night deposit box. The box sits off by itself, and all you do is open the top and drop the paper in. I know a ranger is still inside the office because I have seen lights come on and off. I sit in the truck untill the ranger leaves. I then walk over, and pull two registration cards out of the box. Wouldn’t you know it, the end date is for Monday. I am in luck. I go and check out my two camp sits. The first doesn’t look like it has enough tree for me but the next one is a corner lot with more empty lots around, plus trees for my hammock. I get the hammock up with the rain fly because there is lighting all around. I was wanting to take a night hike in the cove to see some stars out here where there is very little light pollution. But with more rain coming in I decide to stick close to camp. I change out of my wet cloths. I have one clean shirt left and back into my dirty paints. Once again I crawl into the hammock. Just in time too, the rain starts to come down heavy.

Monday morning I was up early again. I got packed up and up to the loop road gate before the ranger. About 10 cars are ahead of me, including a photographer right in front of me. I ask him if he is the guy the ranger was talking about that had seen the coyote take down the deer. He wasn’t but he showed me one that he had seen trying to find a bear cub in a fence line. The mom bear came back and ran him off. After 30 minute or so the ranger opened the gate. Slow go at first. A few deer are out, but nothing to get out of the truck for. I really did see anything so I stopped to take a few shots of these turkeys. I was walking back to my truck on the side of the road when I heard a car approaching very fast. I step way off the road and wait on the car to pass. The truck tops the hill and sees me. It hard breaks and comes on by me. A ranger sheepishly gives me a wave. I said “going a little to fast, aren’t you” as he drive past. He stops and turns back and said that he was. Then tells me he is clearing the roads of fallen trees. You know what, he did a wonderful job. I did not see one fallen tree from that point on my whole trip. This is why I was saying you don’t need to go over 15 MPH, all kinds of things could step out in the road here. I see a few more deer and turkeys but no more bears. Off to Pigeon Forge.

This is over half the reason I left Joyce Kilmer, The Old Mill restraint. We love the breakfast they serve, not so much the dinner. I was a little worried about my appearance but I did not let that stop me from enjoying one of the best meals around. I did see a groundhog on the way in, so add that to the wildlife list. The breakfast consists of; pancakes, fried potatoes, sausage, corn fritters, eggs, grits, biscuits and gravy with OJ. I can’t eat it all, so box up a biscuit and sausage patty for latter. Pigeon Forge is packed with people, I got to get out of here. I take back roads to Cosby, then the other end of Foothills Parkway to I-40.

I take I-40 to the Water Town exit. From here I drive the 16 mile to Cataloochee on a winding dirt road. About three miles in, I stopped at the Cataloochee Baptist Church. It was founded in 1903 and sits on a little knoll with a cemetery in the rear. The grounds were keep very neat and clean. The church was well maintained also.  What I really liked was the his and her out-houses that has vinyl siding and fresh paint. I have grown up in churches that use out-houses but have never seen any that were this close. They are always very far apart. One on one side of the church yard and the other on the other side of the yard. Not surprisingly, the church was unlocked. I went in and explored. The church only meets once a year for homecoming. The community that once supported this church no longer exist. A victim of the creation of the Park. I only meet one car on the way to Cataloochee Valley. This is how I like it. I have made the drive to this remote valley for one reason, Elk. The park has reintroduced Rocky Mountain Elk. They started with 80 and are now up to 160. I get into the valley around noon. Not a good time to see Elk, but the turkeys are out. The Valley is a lot smaller than Cades Cove. There is a single, one lane, two-way, 2 mile road down the center with large fields on each side. A large creek hugs the south ridge. The Park has preserved a few cabins, barns, a church and a school-house. The church in the photo (left) faces the creek and the old road bed. The school-house (photo right) has a very innovative design feature. The school is divided into two rooms. The wall that is the divider has four panels that can be razed to form one large room. In the photo you can see that one panel has been razed to demonstrate how this system works. I thought it was a very good way to convert this building in to a multi use facility. It is a school most of the time but can become a dance hall, a town hall, maybe even a courthouse. At some point one of the rooms were “updated” and the panels were nailed shut. It’s only when you look at them from the unfinished room can you tell what they are used for.

I drove up and down the road a few time but didn’t see any Elk. I stopped and checked out the school then I parked at the church and hiked to the Palmer cemetery. That was the steepest hill I have been on all weekend. After that I walked back down to the church and walked down the creek along the old road. I was hoping to see some elk in these woods. No luck. The road is now a horse trail. Between the old road and the creek is a knee-high river rock wall. Round rocks don’t stack well and most of the wall is crumbling. I like to think about what life was like here and what this lane would have looked like 100 years ago with a carriage coming down it on Sunday morning going to church. It’s nice to romantics that time period but the truth is, I like my modern life just fine. It’s around 2PM and I have to leave now to make it home before its to late. I walk the road back to my truck. Very few people are in the valley, may be 100 at the most. So when a black Cadillac passes me with Fl plates I take notice and laugh a little to myself because I know the road he had to take to get here. I can only imagine what he was thinking bringing that Cadillac up the winding dirt road with hair pin turns. This road needs to be on the TV show “Deadliest Roads”.

I am now on my way home. I travel the aforementioned road and only had one close call with a head on collision. My rough takes me to Maggie Valley over the mountain and across the Blue Ridge Parkway, back down into Cherokee Indian Reservation, Bryson City and the Nantahala Gorge to complete my circle of The Great Smokey Mountain Park. While driving through the Nantahala River Gorge, I seen a hitch hiker just past the NOC. I pull over and he jumps in. This is very common here. I used to do the same thing when I kayaked this river. He and his family were here from New Orlans escaping the latest hurricane. They keep a camper near by and use this area as their bug out place. I thought it a very good idea. I drop him off at the “put in” and headed home.

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