Tag Archive: Hike


By Trent Tibbitts

Growing up on the banks of the Raccoon Creek,  I had often wondered where the waters went. I knew that they flowed north and entered the Etowah River some 10 miles away.  But how did they get there and what was it like along the way.  From a young age I wanted to make this trip.  I have made it a goal to travel the entire length of the Raccoon Creek and to eventually follow the waterway to the Gulf of Mexico.  But one step at a time.  I have covered most of Raccoon Creek, only needing to complete the uper most section of  a few miles.  However, I was able to complete a large portion of Raccoon Creek with a canoe trip from our property at the Ford, all the way to the Etowah River.


It was Saturday  May 28, 2016, Memorial day weekend. We had a party at the creek  for Wyatt who had just graduated from North Paulding High School. Being a three day weekend,  I wanted to take advantage of the time I had. John had been at the party all day and had helped setup.  His wife and kids had plans for the night so he was free to do whatever. I told John that I wanted to canoe down the creek to the Etowah.  He was up for it. The party wrapped up around 7 PM. It took about an hour to get everything together and in the boat. We both keep our backpacks packed and ready.  John gathered his supplies, emergency food and clothing. I took an extra MRE. We weren’t sure how long we would be gone. I then loaded a cooler with leftover ice, drinks, uncooked  hamburgers and hotdogs. I had the bread, pop tarts for breakfast, candy and a few ofher things in grocery bags under the seats. I put my portable gas grill in the back of the boat. I was sitting in the back with the cooler between my  legs.  Both packs were in the middle and John was in the front seat. I was trying to video document the trip,  so after a short video, we were off.

We launched at the camper right below the Ford.  I quickly realized that I didn’t have my sunglasses. We stopped at John’s Pavilion and I ran back to get them. Good thing, I had left the camper door open. I ran back to the waiting boat and we were off again. The creek water level was down some. One indicator of how much water is flowing is if any water is running over the road or not. There wasn’t any water flowing over the road, all of it was going through the pipes. This made the shoals difficult to navigate.  We were able to push our way through some if the waters were to one side of the creek. Often this ment we were right next to the bank and the low hanging tree limbs. John cleared the spider webs out for me.  If the waters were wide going over the shoals,  it would only be a few inches deep and we would have to get out and pull the boat along. Most of the time we would keep walking until the water got up to our knees. Just below John’s Pavilion is a small stream flowing into the creek from papa Hollis Tibbitts original Lake.  The stream forms the land line between John and Carlton. We paddled past Carlton’s place and to the Poky hole.  A favorite swimming hole of my youth.  It is a small rock ledge named after a female slave of the McGregor’s who were the first white settlers to live here. Papa Hollis Tibbitts was baptised here. A few hundred feet on down is the remnants of a cable Crossing.  The inspiration for my zip line across the creek at the camper.  Only a few dozen feet on down is the Mill Branch.  It is a good size branch with lots of water. You can read about it in my other post. It does drain a large area of the Sheffield WMA. The old Tall Pine road comes down the ridge here. It comes from Dent Myers Camp. Dent owns Wildman’s in downtown Kennesaw Ga. I’m not 100 percent sure of how the story goes but I believe he bought that land from Alton Cates, or papa who bought it from Alton.


Poky Hole



Mill Branch


Side note about Dent,  he was hired to be in a commercial for Canon Ball Tobacco. The seen was Dent and other Confederate reenacters charging across a field and a Canon being fired. This was in the 1960 and was being filmed in the pasture where the sub station is now on Tibbitts road. A lot of people gathered to watch the filming. When the canon was fired, it blew off the wheels. Dad said Papa got a big kick out of that and would tell the story often and laugh about it.


The Tall Pine road used to follow the creek down stream before crossing it just before where the power lines cross now. The creek has washed away the bank and the is no longer room to walk in some places, much less have a road. Once across the creek, the road is the same one that comes up by Carlton’s and then on by Fed’s house. When Papa bought this land it was a public road. He had to put a fence on each side.  During  WW2 War years, when Papa and his three oldest sons and his brother Maston with his sons were cutting lumber, they would haul lumber out of the mountains on this road.



Below the Mill Branch,  the creek makes a hard right against a big Boulder and travels East. Then in a few hundred yards goes under the power lines for the first time for this trip. One of only two times it travels on the east side of the lines before Crossing a final time in Taylorsville.  As we cross under the power lines we are on the lookout for deer and jump one on the North shore.  A King Fisher then flys by. We didn’t go five minutes the whole trip without seeing a King Fisher.




Just past the power lines is the area known as the cliffs.  Not sure how tall they are, maybe 70 feet or more. On top of the cliff is the Copper mine.  A shaft that goes into the mountain about 30 feet and then has a shaft that goes down who knows how deep. The well part stays full of water.


Copper mine

A little ways down is some bottom land, the old Charlie Burt farm.  The farm was bought by Jim Grant, he operated Lama’s of Atlanta from this farm.  Jim keep exotic animals on the farm.  He would have several types of deer, Elk, ostrich, zebra, I’m not sure what all he had. The watershead from my land ends up in the stream that flows through his farm. Along with everything between mountain Road, the top of the mountains at the water tower and Burt road. The creek makes a U turn at the Grant house that is on a bluff just above the creek.  We are now going in a northwest direction.  It is starting to get noticeably dark. We spook Wood Ducks a few times.  Once being right in here.



We pass our last home sight before going into the WMA section of the creek.  We get right to the edge of the power lines before the creek U turns back to the northeast. It makes a big upside down S shape here and as we enter the top of the upside-down  S,  on the left is a flat area about a 3rd of an acer. The creek is on three sides and a large hillside is to the back. It is truly dark now. We have been using flashlights while padding for the past 15 minutes.  We beach the boat. A good bit of water is in the boat and several of our items are wet, including what we are waring.  We pick out our campsite and start a fire. John gathered most of the wood while I started the fire. Once we had a good fire going, we hung our hammocks. Luckily none of our sleeping gear got wet. One of my pads did but no big deal.  We got out the grill and cooked up two hamburgers each. While the burgers cooked we stripped off our wet clothes and dried them by the fire. I had a pair of dry pant and a long sleeve shirt to sleep in. We had a armadillo come through camp. John has a crank radio and we enjoyed country gold to midnight, then went to sleep shorty afterwards.  I had set out a crayfish trap that night and in the morning had caught, with out any bait, 3 crayfish,  two small fish, and a small turtle. No bigger than a 50 cent peace. We keep the turtle for a collection to the Aquarium. It made the trip to the end, not sure from there what happened to it. Packing up was uneventful.


Hill Climb at Forsyth Shoals

We may have gotten on the water around 930 or 10. John was now in the back seat. Just above our camp was a small stream coming in on the left. It drains a small Valley in the WMA. There is a old home place there but I am not sure who lived there. Could have be a Forsyth because not far from there is a shoals on the creek called Forsyth Shoals. It is just below our camp and is under the next power line crossing. The creek has a good rock bottom here and was used as a place to ford the creek for many years.  On the North side of the creek is what was once a hill climb for motorcycles in the 60′ and 70’s. Several organized races where held here and covered in dirt bike magazines of the time. At the shoals,  the creek turns a little and is running west. As we go over the falls, John sets up his camera and gets a good action shot of us.


Forsyth Shoals

Past the Shoals,  the creek stays straight for 1/8 of a mile and then turns North and to the right. At this point is where the wildcat den is supposed to be.  I have yet to find it. It may have be filled in with debris over the years.  I think Joe built a box and put down in it an caught a bobcat.  Just a few more yards down is the stone fence / rock wall that no on knows who built.  We believe it was built by Indians. Papa Hollis Tibbitts said he played on it as a boy and no one at that time knew who built it. It serves no purpose that I can tell. It runs up the side of a steep embankment about 100 feet. It would have been 3 or 4 feet tall when first built.


Stone fence

We saw a lot of different types of fish in the water as we went. The water was clean and clear.  Very little man made trash was in the water. We only saw a few cans and a few tires the whole trip, and most of that was closer to Taylorsville.  We saw lots of big turtles fallin off log as we would turn a bend in the creek.  We only saw 3 snakes.  We also saw a Blue Heron and a few Red Tail Halks. The health of the creek is very good. The best part of the trip for me, was to know how well the creek is doing and how natural it is.


About a 1/4 mile on down from the Stone fence, is the Murray branch coming in on the right.  This is the largest amount of water to enter the creek below the Ford.  It has a larger watershed;  From Blue hole road to Burt road to Braswell  Mountain, to HWY 61 to the north end of Narroway Church Cr., to Clay root Rd. The branch was once know as Gold Creek and a few gold mines we operated at its headwaters.  I have seen gold come out of it before and one good nugget.  Narroway once conducted baptisms in the branch below the Church.  Many of my family,  including myself was baptised there.


Not to far on down the creek is where Clay Root Rd cross the creek.  The road one ran the ridge top from the city of Braswell,  through the Braswell Mountains,  past Iron Stob, past Clay Root,  past Pine mountain,  crossed the creek,  crossed the power lines and ended on Narroway Church Cr.


We then passed several cabins along the creek belonging to the Cochran family.  The Grindstone Branch enters the creek in this area on the left. The last large branch to do so while in the mountains. The branch gets it name from a mill that once was on this branch.  From the top of Pine mountain there was a road that turned south off of Clay Root Rd and followed a ridge down to Grindstone Branch.  The mill site was just upstream from where the road crossed the branch in a small Valley.  When I was young,  beavers damed up the branch and a good size pond filled the valley.  Dad and I counted 17 dams in that area at that time. The road was blocked by several piles of dirt dumped between the high road banks. This made great four wheeler jumps and mud holes for me to play on. Brandon and I spent a lot of time there. He and I hiked there not to long ago.

Just before the creek exits the mountains there is one more noted area. Harris Bottoms or Sand Bottoms is another area we used to ride four wheelets. There was a large sand bar that had a bowl in it from all the four wheeler that had done donuts in the same spot. It was always a fun destination.  Once I rolled my four wheeler in the creek there. It took several hours to get it running again after getting the water out of the engine.  Another time I came up on Jason Tibbitts walking out. He had run out of gas. That is a long walk so I gave him a ride home. John and I hiked this area last year. Part of the  Union army crossed Raccoon Creek here on their way to Burnt Hickory then onto New Hope and Dallas.  It has a hard rocky bottom for a good long ways.  We decided to stop here for lunch. We grilled the last 3 hamburgers and 2 hotdogs.  We had a nice lunch on the gravel bar. Up to this point we had a tough time with shoals . A lot of dragging the boat. I was hoping that from here on we would be in deeper water.


I was right about having deeper water but the number of logjams exploded. Up to this point we had only gone under 3 trees. From here to the river, must have been 20 or more. Two of them we cut our what thru,  two we carried the boat around, several we lifted the boat over and some we got out and floated the boat under. The rest we navigated. If the log looked like we could clear under it, no matter how small the space,  John though it fun to gain as much speed as possible and see if I could duck to the bottom of the boad before being decapitated.


Last Crossing of the Power lines.

We were now in the Etowah River Valley and out of the Braswell Mountains.  The creek travels through hay fields,  cow pastures,  cotton fields and small patches of woods. We cross a few field roads and got out at one to make contact with the rest of the world, having been cut off in the wilderness for atleast 18 hours. John made plans for Linsey to pick us up and we were off again. This was the toughest part of the trip. The logjams really wore us down.  We only saw two other people while on Raccoon Creek and it was a man and woman hanging out on a sand bar in this area. We said hello and kept moving


Not much to report in this area. We did see one more deer in the creek. About the only history I know is that about half of the Union army crossed Raccoon Creek in this area also on their way to Dallas. (Different from the aboved units)  I read just yesterday about the men bathing in the creek and watering livestock.  May of 1864. We did travel about a mile or more along a farm where the owner had lined the banks with old concrete. We did pass one more cabin and just before the 113 bridge there was a house on the right.


Once at the bridge we called Linsey again to give her a up date. From Harris Bottoms to the bridge was a longer distance that I thought it would be.  From the bridge to the rive is about a half a mile. We only had one difficult log to cross. We went under the old Railroad bridge for the line that travel from Cartersville to Rockmart.  People used to take the train out to Rockmart and the on over to Van Wert to hear Sam Jone Preach at Van Wert Methodist Church. It later became a Baptist Church. I have direct ancestors buried there on the Johnson side.  We went under the Railroad bridges that supplies plant Bowen. Coal is delivered via train. It is one of the largest Coal fired plants in the country.  Just passed the last Railroad bridge is the Etowah River.  Several people were taking a break from kayaking and on on the left shore.

We enter the Etowah River feeling a real sense of accomplishment. I don’t know of anyone else who has made this same trip.


Confluence of the Raccoon Creek and Etowah River

From Raccoon Creek at river mile 128 to the Euharlee road bridge at river mile 132 it is an easy 4 miles. The river looked to be up but did not seam to be moving that fast. We quickly pass by the Etowah Cliffs, an antebellum plantation.  At the base of the bluff is a spring coing out of the rock face.

At mile 129.8 is one of dozens of fishing weirs along the river. This one is a little more impressive. It is in a very wide part of the river and is a double V. Lots of nice homes are on this section of the river.

At mile 130.8 is the water intake and discharge for Georgia Powers plant Bowen. The plant takes out 40 million gallons a day and returns half.  The rest is evaporated.  The returning flow is the size of Raccoon Creek and is hot to the touch.  The plant produces 20 percent of the power Georgia Power sells.


Milam Bridge

At mile 131.2 is Milam bridge. Only the iron skeleton remains.  This is where in 1955, Grady Cochran, who was working for Green Tibbitts at the time sawmilling,  dumped the body of Patricia Cook, a 13 year old girl who he had murdered.  He used chains belonging to Green to weigh the body down. Grady was arrested at the job site. A relative who was a GBI agent was able to get a confession and the location of the body.  He was coveted and died in the Georgia Electric Chair. During the War of Northern Aggression, and before the iron bridge was biilt, half of the Union army crossed the river here. The Confederate Soldiers burned the wood bridge but the Union built a pontoon bridge in its place.

At mile 131.5 is the Euharlee creek. Only a half mile up the creek is the old covered bridge and the old mill. The sisters who ran the mill last had some type of dealings with papa Hollis Tibbitts about timber they owned. I believe he gave them advice on its value. Euharlee is rich in history and has a good little Museum. Well worth the trip.  You can tube the creek down to the river from the town.

Only a half mile more is the Euharlee road bridge at river mile 132. We ended our trip here. Linsey came and picked us up in my truck with in 10 minutes of our arrival.

Very tough adventure.  A little tougher than I thought that it would be.  But very rewarding also. I am very happy with the health of the creek and the amount of wild life we encountered. This completed a live long goal and a bucket list item for me. Raccoon Creek is a channel that I can take to my past, my history,  my family history, history of the land but it is always flowing.






By Trent Tibbitts

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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



The Art Loeb Trail is 33.1 mile Trail in the Pisgah National Forest. It is called the mini A.T.

I first learned of the trail from reading an article in the “Blue Ridge Magazine”. One of the editors had ran the trail in one day, in the rain, gotten lost several times and finished in 13 hours or so. Crazy, right? It was his description of the trail that got me interested, especially when he said it was a mini A.T. I have hiked a fraction of the A.T., but being a solo hiker it is difficult to do a long stretch. Most of the time I combined the A.T. with other trails to make a loop. Very few time do I double back. This affords me half the distance on the A.T. for the time invested. So the idea of a mini A.T. got me hooked. I started my research. I checked web sites, I checked blogs but not much was available on the web. I order two hiking guide books on the area but still there was not a good trail description. So I had to make my own or at least an outline with mileage from one point to the next. Best way to reach a big goal is to set small ones along the way. That is what my guideline does for me. It is much easier to walk to the next over look 0.6 miles down the trail than it is to the end of the trail 25.8 miles away. I gleaned as much information as I could from what little sources I could find and came up with a three page outline.

I have a few friends who like to hike, although we tried in the past we have never been able to get together. This was going to be our first trip and it was going to be big. I asked several people to go and at one point we had 6 signed up but there was only three of us that made the trip. Brandon is my best friend from childhood and he was the first on the list. He is an Eagle Scout,  has done a lot of hiking and is in great shape. But he had never done a trail this long before. Brandon kept his supplies simple and did not over think things. We have stayed in touch over the years with phone calls, the occasional lunch and two or three visits at family functions per year. It was great to speed a few days reconnecting. John was the next one on the list. He is also a cousin of mine that is eight years my younger. He has just recently started hiking. He had done a few over night trips but nothing like this. When John does something he goes all out and puts everything he has into it. He and I also got reconnected during our training. We were not in as good of shape as Brandon so John and I started a training program.

The hike was going to be in April and it was still February when I stared making the planes for the trip. A few days after asking John to go along, he called and suggested we start building up our endurance. I agreed. He lives a few doors down from me, so meeting up in the afternoons was easy. We live on our granddad’s old farm, with lots of family around. The family lands also boards a wildlife management area or WMA. We may not have mountains that top 6000 feet but we do have some that are just as steep. John moved to the farm a few years ago, but did not grow up here as Brandon and I did. So, he did not know much about the family land. Each day I would take him on a different loop, on old logging roads, four-wheeler trails, dirt roads and some bushwhacking if needed. After a few weeks we had covered the farm pretty good. We then started making our way on to the WMA. The days started to get longer and so did our afternoon hikes. Most, if not all, ended in the dark. We got where we could walk those trails in the dark with no light. We would talk about what we thought we would expect to see on the trail. What equipment we should take. What we were going to eat. If we were going to use tents or ENOs hammock. How many shirts to bring. How heavy our packs were. We reviewed and reviewed our plain. After three weeks or so we started hiking with our packs. John got new boots and started breaking them in. We did a few field trips to Kennesaw Mountain. The only real challenge near by us. John meet me there after work one day during the week. We did a few miles and finished up in the dark to find we each had a ticket on our windshield. Who knew the park closed at dark. Luckly it was just a warning. We came back a few Saturdays later with full packs and did a test hike. Stopped and ate some trail food for lunch and everything. It was a very cold day that day. I did the trails around Kennesaw more than John, because my office is right next door. Somedays, I would do a few miles during lunch. A coworker was also training for a hike on the A.T. and he and I would meet there a few times. After mastering the trails around the house, we took a day trip up to Hellen Ga. We hiked Raven Cliff Falls trail, with full packs we did another test hike. It is an out and back trail with no connections, but the falls are amazing. There is no place like it on earth. I will have to write a blog about it some day. The training paid off and I enjoyed the time I spent with John. We have a lot more adventures ahead of us.

(Raven Cliff Falls, Hellen, GA)

It was now time to make the trip. Brandon and John meet me at my office on a Wednesday afternoon after a short day at work. Brandon drove his truck for us. It was about a 5 hour drive from Atlanta up to Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp where we were to stay the first night. We made a stop at a Wal-Mart to pick up a few last-minute supplies; beef jerky, candy bars, oak

Oatmeal, 8 pack of Mountain Dew, gummy bears, all the essentials. When we got to the little town Waynesville, we stopped at a fast food place to eat dinner. It was already dark and had started to rain. We took all the packs and supplies that were in the back of the truck and put them in the back seat. We were now riding three across in the front seat. Off into the unknown we went. We fount the side road that the Scout camp was on but we had to drive past it several miles to the Blue Ridge Parkway. We had planed to drop a pack of supplies there. When we cross the parkway we could resupply and not have to carry so much food. In the dark we missed the small sign marking the trail crossing. We turned around at the Grave Yard Fields overlook and then fount the crossing. We were in high elevation and it was a little cold. We loaded the bag with goodies and fount a tree to hang it from. We didn’t thing anyone would take it, but we were in bear country. Back down the mountain we went and all I kept thinking was that we would have to climb this same amount of elevation to get back to our supplies at the parkway on foot. We fount the Boy Scout camp with no problem. I had called ahead and talked with the director about our plans to leave a truck there over a few days and stay the first night there. We would have a shuttle pick us up in the morning. It was still raining off and on when we pulled up, but luck would have it that the Scouts were building a little pavilion between the road and a mountain creek. It was perfect. This would be our shelter for the night. Brandon was using a tent, John and I had our hammocks. We set up camp in the dry.

Next morning I packed up and tried my flavored oatmeal. I never liked oatmeal before and I fount out that I don’t like strawberry flavored oatmeal

either. I finished it because I knew that we had a big day ahead of us. The Scout director came by, offered us coffee and told us where to leave the truck. We checked out the end of the trail and the information board. Then our shuttle driver showed up right on time a 9 aM. It was still raining off and on so we had to ride with our packs in our laps. On the way to Davidson River Camp he told us about his business, an out-door adventure outfitter. Dream Job, right. He was a little bit of a hippy but most of thoes guys are, it goes with the live style. Fly fishing, rafting, kayaking, mountain biking, you name it and he does it. Davidson River Camp it just outside of Brevard. Another great mountain town.

We are now at Davidson River Camp parking lot at 2200 feet above sea level. A few photos and we are off in the rain. We have some rain gear, jackets, ponchos, pack covers but we are not to worried about it. Davidson is the last water source for the day. The next water is at Butter Gap Shelter 8.6 miles away. We all have about 64 oz each. Because the Art Loeb stays on the ridge tops, there is not much water on the trail. After a short walk along the river and one last crossing at 0.8 miles the trail starts its up hill climb. More rain off and on, fog roles in and out. We see a dog on the trail up a head and think there may be other hikers coming our way, but never see anyone.  We make it to our first major mile stone, an old forest serve road, F.R. 5062 at 2.4 miles in.

We ate lunch here. John and I had one of our MREs (meals ready to eat) . A military work of genius. You need no camp stove to have a hot meal. Everything you need is in the box. You put your meal pouch into a special bag along with the salt water provided and it gets super hot. So hot you can’t hold it. There are cookies, peanut butter, crackers, drink flavoring and your main meal. The down side is they weigh a pound each. I have used them before but only one per hike,  now I am over weighted with extra food. That is why I wanted to get one out of my pack. My pack was around 35 pounds with water. It gets heavy after a while. I fount I did not need my camp chair either. I would ditch it at the parkway. We made a small fire and burned all of our trash. Back on the trail it was more of the same. Off and on rain and we were in the woods, which was nice but very little views. After another 2.5 miles we came to Sandy Gap at 6.3 miles in. Up to this point we had not seen anyone on the trail. A church mens group of 20 to 25 guy were having a meeting at the gap. As soon as we walked through, they brook the meeting and hit the trail right behind us. Oh No! we thought. We just pass a huge group of guys, it’s raining, more storms are coming in, the shelter is not going to be big enough, we have got to pick up the speed. It was now a race to the shelter. If we could just get there to clam one corner it would be okay. The group was pushing us. We could hear them just a few yards back. Brandon was in the best shape and took the lead. John has a longer stride than me and soon I was in the rear. I fell further behind when I stopped to put on more rain gear. I can see their lead guy now. It is really raining now. How much further is that shelter. Will we make it first. I was starting to doubt. The group must have stopped at a dry stream bed that was now flowing to fill water bottles. They were not on my heals any more. The rain is coming down in buckets. I am socked. Where is the shelter, it has to be here somewhere. Then I here a shout for joy from John and Brandon. We collapsed into the shelter and stake out a spot. A few minutes later the group of guys start walking pass in small pockets, in the heavy rain. No one stops, not even to fill water bottles from the spring. After the group passes and I rest for a little bit, I go fill my water bottle. We hang a line in the shelter and try to dry out. John and Brandon talk of bailing in the morning. I strip down to briefs and slid in to my sleeping bag. Nothing else to do. Rain turns to hail, lighting all around. I go to sleep with out dinner.

Butter Gap Shelter

More storms throughout the night. Next morning I get up first. I find enough small dry sticks under the shelter to start a fire. I then started adding wet wood from the old fire pit. This caused a lot of smoke that was blown into the shelter and woke the guys up. I took our wet cloths and started drying them over the fire. Then the talk on bailing out started up. They were both ready to go home. The day before was a hard days hike up hill most of the day in rain with no reward. John had gotten sick a few times and was now dehydrated. He really did not need to go on. When Brandon ask me what I was going to do, I told him finish the Hike and get Wendy to come get me if need be. They could call for the shuttle if they wanted to, but I was here to hike the whole thing. Brandon decided to stay, but we decided it was best for John to head home. He was close to being in a bad condition. He needed to be at full strength to finish. Not dehydrated and sick. We got a call into our shuttle driver and he told us where to meet him about a mile away. We packed up and headed out. It was just a few yards and we came to an old road crossing the trail. The drive told us go to the old road and take a left. He would pick John up where it came into a useable FS road. We said our goodbyes and departed. The Art went up a ridge and the old road went down a valley. We could hear John walking in the woods so I steeped over the side of the hill and asked if he was okay. He said he had lost the road. I showed him how the bank hand been cut and that was the road. It was very hard to see. I sent him on his way. Back on the Art, Brandon asked for the map. I could tell he thought something was not right. We had read about how hikes get lost easy on the Trail. It is not marked very well. Brandon was right, it was not but a minute that we topped another hill and there was a nice FS road that you could drive a car on. Oh Crap! I drop my pack and make a Bee line through the woods to where John should be, two valleys over. I get to the ridge top: JOHN, JOHN, JOHN  I holler. I find him quickly and get him on the right road. He is off again.

We keep going up and over knobs and ridges and back down into gaps and saddles. Slowly gaining elevation. We pass by a rock overlook, a sheer rock wall and a boulder field. We cross a dirt road and cross it again in a tenth of a mile before starting our assent of Pilot Mountain. We rest here for a little. From here it’s 2 miles to the summit. This is the most difficult climb of the trail for us. We start to have views of the sounding area. It is midday and it’s hot. I have cut the legs off of my paints and made shorts out of them. We stop at a sheer rock overlook, Brandon goes Bear Grills on me and squeezes water out of the moss into a water bottle. Then filters it in to another bottle. It tasted like crap but it was clean water and we were starting to run low, especially Brandon. I had 24 oz left.  We got to a false peak and the trail leaved out for a ways. We stopped here for lunch and another break. We drank most of our water here and had not reached the peak. After we got going and as we got closer to the top. We fount rain water seeping out onto the trail. Brandon funneled the flow by cutting a notch in a log that crossed the trail. We then collected the water in a bottle and filtered it into other bottles. We were able to fill all of our bottles. What a live saver. The final climb to the summit was very steep. Root grabbing, hand over fist stuff. The top of Pilot mountain is 5095 feet above sea level. From here we could see Black Balsam, one of our goals for the next day. We could see Looking Glass Rock along with 15 other mountains. We took a lot of photos and made phone calls, taking advantage of the cell coverage on the peak.

It was just 0.8 miles down to Deep gap, the next shelter and a good source of water. The last good water was 6.5 miles back at Butter Gap. We don’t want to run out of water again, fill everything we’ve got. This shelter was in far worse disrepair than the last. There was still a lot of daylight left so we decided to keep moving. It was an easy walk to old FS 229 another 1.2 miles down the trail. At the intersection with the Farlow Gap Trail there was a large clearing and a good camping spot. This is where we would stay the night. We set up camp with plenty of daylight left. We got a good fire going, ate our dinner and enjoyed relaxing for a while.

The next morning, day three on the trail, we packed up not knowing all the adventures we would have and sites we would see. Nor did we know how long of a day it would be and how many miles we would walk. We had walked 16.3 miles so far in two days from Davidson River, and it seamed so far away. Other than the summit of mount Pilot, most of our hike has been in the woods with very little vistas. From our camp it was a 1.5 mile climb up to the Blue Ridge Parkway where we had left supplies like food, water, cloths and what was to be my favorite, Mountain Dew. Making it to the Parkway was such a sence of accomplishment. It was the symbolic half way point of our trip. We took the bag down from the tree and resupplied our snacks, beef jerky, filled water bottles and dropped things we fount we did not need, extra food, extra cloths, that camping chair. If we only had known what all we could have dropped. We each down a Dew and I put the rest in my bag. What an energy rush and we will need it. We hung the bag back up and left the unused gallon of water on the trail next to the marker by the parkway. Maybe we helped out a thirsty hiker. Up to this point we had only seen the mens group at Butter Gap and a small family camping a few yards back. We had the trail to ourself 99% of the time. That was about to change.

We cross the parkway and I’m glad I had that Mountain Dew, what a climb we have, it’s like going up a wall. I open another Dew, going to need it to get to the top. We climb several hundred feet in under a half mile. Switch back after switch back. Don’t fall off the edge, it’s a long way down. As usual, Brandon is up to the top like some kinda mountain goat. He is paying me back for all of those hikes I would take him on when we were kids. Once on the top of the ridge, the trail levels off and the fog starts to lift. We start to see what we came to see, long vistas and big mountains. We soon came to our first clearing and could see Black Balsam Knob. We were about a mile away from the summit. We went through a small stand of timber, crossed the road that leads to a parking area for the Knob and started the climb for the top. We had never seen a bald mountain before, where you could see for miles and miles in 360 degrees. It was amazing. We kept taking photo. We would thing this view was so cool and then walk a little more and the view was even better.

That is Pilot Mountain between us. We are on the summit of Black Balsam Knob, 6214 feet above sea level. It was Saturday and with the close proximity of the Parkway, the area was teaming with day hikers and passerbys. We got a few goodies from John when he left, like his camera and his solar charger. We had not been able to use it much until now due to the tree cover. We took turns charging our phones and making a call back home. Our next goal was Tennent Mountain just a mile away. Tennent rises to 6046 feet. We stop briefly for a quick look and down to Investor Gap we go. The Gap is the entry point for the Shining Rock Wilderness. Several trails intersect here. In the Wilderness the trails are not blazed or marked and can be hard to follow.

We soon learned how easy it is to take the wrong turn. I had on the outline that we needed to take a left just 15 yards down the trail from the sign. I even saw people on that trail, on the side of the hill. But I led us on the nice flat trail that went around the side of the hill. I guess I did not want to climb that Hill. A few minutes later we noticed the outline was not matching what we were seeing and the trail was no going in the direction it was supposed to go. We stopped, checked the map, checked our outline and fount we had missed our turn. Studying the map we fount a connecting trail a little ways up. We took it up the hill and dead ended into the Art Loeb. We asked a group of scouts who were stopped on the trail just to make sure. We walked another mile to Flower Gap and ate lunch there. The gap was a grassy high meadow. Great views. A group of guys came from the direction we were going, they were lost or at least bewildered. We compared notes and checked maps, then figured out where they missed their turn. Told you people get lost here a lot. After lunch we stopped at the spring 0.4 miles up the trail and filled our water bottles. Another 0.2 miles up the trail we came to Shinning Rock Gap where multiple trails come together in a small meadow. This is a very confusing junction.   So we took this photo with us just to make sure.

We started up the Old Butt Knob to see the Shinning rock but we ran in to a large group of kids and we really didn’t want to spend too much time there, so we turned back. Using our photo we got back on the Art Loeb without getting lost. Down the trail we saw some of the “shinning rocks”. We had walked about 8 miles so far and Brandon starts talking about finishing today. He didn’t want to spend another night sleeping on the ground. I told him I would see how I felt when we got to Deep Gap our planed camp site for the night. We had 2 more miles to Deep Gap. We have the Narrows to cross before we could think about getting to the Gap. The Narrows are just that, a narrow, knife-edge ridge that runs for a mile. In some spots the hillside falls away on both sides of the trail. We climbed boulders and skirted around rock ledges. It was a highlight of the trip. We could see the Boy Scout camp in the Vally below and Cold Mountain was in front of us.

We had planed to climb Cold Mountain just to say we did but our planes we evolving and I was wanting a hamburger.

After the Narrows, it is a steep decent down to Deep gap. We reach the gap and a small clearing with large trees. This is where the side trail goes to the summit of Cold Mountain 1.5 miles up the trail and 6030 feet above sea level. We stop to weigh our options. Do we stay the night here and climb Cold mountain tomorrow before leaving. I don’t think that was an option for Brandon. Or, do we walk the 3 miles down the mountain to the truck and head home. We seen a lot of views and I had seen the same mountain back on the Narrows as I would see from the top of Cold Mountain. I had climbed a lot of mountains so I didn’t think one more would help the hike be any better. Brandon said if we leave now he would buy me that hamburger. Afraid Brandon would leave me on the trail, I decided I would go with him to the truck and be home that night. I prepared for the new challenge by changing socks. Man did they fill good. After a short break we headed down. Normally a 3 mile down hill hike wouldn’t take that long. But we had been hiking all day and had walked 10 miles already. It took what seemed like for ever to get down. When you keep going down, down, down, your knees will buckle with you. This is when I use my walking stick a lot. The trail kept going around the ends of ridges and the back into the sides of the valleys as it snaked its way down. Around each corner we would think we would be at the end of the trail. You know when all the cool stuff is behind you and you just wish the trip was over. That is the way we were. Nothing to motivate us, just get off this mountain and into the truck so we don’t have to walk anymore. Hiking is great and inspiring when there are wonders to see and new places to explore. But this was painful, there would be no grand view at the end of the trail, no majestic water fall, no natural wonder, nothing pulling us, nothing driving us, just the thought of get it over as fast as we can. These woods looked like all the other woods I had ever be in. Hamburger, was my new goal. To get it, I had to get to the truck. Eventually we heard the campers, the noise grew and became louder and louder. Hundreds of scouts were at the camp, swimming, playing, laughing. It was a welcoming song. Then there it was, we could see Brandon’s truck at the bottom of the hill. One more switch back and we would be out. We made it out with a little daylight left. What a fun Hike!

We had to get our bag from the Parkway. It got dark on the ride up and the fog was very dangerous. Once we had the bag, we had to back track and get out of the high elevation. We couldn’t see the road. Back down off the mountain it was time for Brandon to pay up and get me my Hamburger. He was a man of his word. Next stop Atlanta. We were both home around midnight or a little after.

John, remember John, was the only casuality of the trip. He fount his way to the shuttle driver and got a lift to town. Poor John paid all pain but got none of the reward. Wish he could have made it.

Thanks to our wifes and families for supporting us during the training and the hike.

START OF SECTION ONE (Davidson River Camp to Gloucester Gap)

Distant                                                                                                                        Total

Between                                  Key Points                                                                  Distant

Points                                                                                                                          Travel

0.0       Davidson River Campground parking lot – 2200 feet above sea level           0.0

0.2       Mountains-to-Sea Trail                                                                                   0.2

0.1       Swinging bridge over the Davidson river                                                       0.3

0.5       Wooden footbridge – Davidson river valley – last WATER till butter gap    0.8

1.6       F.R. 5062                                                                                                        2.4

0.5       Crest a knob on Shut-In Ridge                                                                       2.9

Neil Gap                                                                      N16’26“, W44’57”

North Slope Connector                                               N16’22”, W45’20”

Large Campsite                                                                                               3.8

0.8       F.R. 475C                                                                                                       4.5

Chestnut Knob – small campsite under hickory trees N16’1”, W46’35”

Cat Gap                                                                       N15’53”, W47’21”     6.3

0.6       Sandy Gap                                                                  N15’33”, W47’47”     6.9

Large Campsite – lots of bush pea

Headwaters of Kuykendall Creek – WATER

Butter Gap Shelter – reliable spring – WATER next water is Deep Gap        8.6


Major trail junction,                                                    N15’12”, W48’43”

Small saddle and trail junction, AL connector trail                                        8.9

1.0       Crest Chestnut Mountain – campsite                                                              9.9

1.8       F.R. 471                                                                                                          11.7

0.6       Gloucester Gap                                                           N35’15”, W82’50”     12.3


START OF SECTION TWO (Gloucester Gap to Blue Ridge Parkway)

0.0       Gloucester Gap – moderate assent through phacelia                                       12.3

0.5       switchback sharply to the right, Rock overlook; sheer rock wall and

boulder field – stop for snack                                                                         12.8

0.8       Gravel road                                                                                                     13.1

0.1       Gravel road again                                                                                            13.2

The assent of Pilot Mountain follows a long series of moderate

to strenuous switchbacks

2.0       Summit of Pilot Mountain – 5095 feet above sea level                                   14.2

No Camp sites

Starting from the North:

Fork River Bald at 11* and 2.8 miles

Mount Pisgah at 35* and 12.2 miles

Green Knob at 37* and 6.9 miles

Rich Mountain at 53* and 7.1 miles

Looking Glass Rock at 67* and 4.6 miles

Black Mountain at 68* and 8.4 miles

John Rock at 89* and 4.3 miles

Cedar Rock at 111* and 3.9 miles

Kagle Mountain at 126* and 4.8 miles

Sassafras Mountain at 165* and 15.2 miles

Rocky Knobs at 209*             and 14.7 miles

Toxaway Mountain at 218* and 7.5 miles

Bruce Knob at 240* and 3.7 miles

Rich Mountain Bald at 286* and 7.5 miles

Mount hardy at 306* and 4 miles

Chestnut Bald at 336* and 2.6 miles

Black Balsam Knob at 358* and 3.8 miles

0.7       Campsite and Trail Junction, old roadbed, carsonite sign                              14.9

0.1       Deep Gap – A-Frame shelter – WATER                                                         15.0

0.4       Crest of Sassafrass Knob – Campsite – views to thesoutheast                        15.4

SECOND NIGHT (6.8 miles)

0.8       Old F.R. 229 enters from the right                                                                 16.2

Trail Junction in large clearing -To the right Farlow Gap Trail descends

to Shuck Ridge Falls and Daniel Ridge Trail

0.1       Farlow Gap – Old F.R. 140-A enters from the left     (N17’28”,W52’17”)    16.3

Assent Shucks Ridge through mixed hardwoods to the Blue Ridge Parkway

1.4       Blue Ridge Parkway                                                                                       17.7


START OF SECTION THREE (Blue Ridge Parkway to Deep Gap)

0.0       Blue Ridge Parkway                                                                                       17.7

1.6       F.R. 816 Black Balsam Parking area                          (N19’14”,W52’34”)    19.3

0.3       Top of small knob                                                                                           19.6

0.3       Crest Black Balsam Knob – Plaque – 6214 FAS         (N19’39”,W52’28”)    19.9

1.0       Summit of Tennent Mountain 6046 FAS                   (N20’13”,W52’9”)      20.9

0.25     Sharp left and descend to Ivestor Gap Trail                                                   21.15

0.35     Trail Junction – Investor Gap Trail                                                                  21.5

50 yards Art Loeb forks off to the right

Small but Great campsite

0.2       Investor Gap – Entering Shining Rock Wilderness     (N20’43”,W52’3”)      21.7

Multiple trail junctions – Art Loeb turns right on the dirt road, follows it

for 15 yards, then forks off to the left at a carsonite sign.

0.4       Trail Junction – Gressy Cove Connector to the right  (N20’49”,W51’43”)    22.1

0.3       Wooden sign – Trail rerouted                                                                          22.4

0.5       Flower Gap                                                                                                     22.9

0.3       Small Spring – WATER                                                                                  23.2

0.1       Spring – WATER                                                                                            23.3

0.2       Shining Rock Gap – multiple trail junctions                (N21’51”,W51’49”)    23.5

To see the Quartz outcroppins of Shining Rock take the Old Butt Knob Trail

0.4       Trail narrows and begins a moderate climb                                                    23.9

0.3       Crawford Creek Gap – old RR                                                                       24.2

0.5       Crest Stairs mountain 5869 FAS – spur trail leads to overlook                      24.4

0.9       Trail begins a moderate to strenuous descent                                                 25.3

0.2       Large rock to the left – views to the west                                                       25.5

Descent to small saddle, crest small knob, strenuous descent to Deep Gap

0.75     End of Descent                                                                                               26.25

0.05     Deep Gap – Small Clearing                                                                             26.3

THIRD NIGHT (10.8 miles)

0.2       Spring on down the trail                                                                                 26.5

Cold Mountain Trail


START SECTION FOUR (Deep Gap to Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp)

0.0       Deep Gap                                                                                                        26.3

Strenuous climb

1.0       Unreliable ephemeral spring – PVC pipe                                                         27.3

0.1       Small Campsite                                                           (N24’38”,W51’49”)    27.4

100 yards is an excellent campsite grove of beaches (back up 3rd night)

0.4       Summit of Cold Mountain 6030 FAS                                    (N24’35”,W51’25”)    27.8

Spur trail southern side of the mountain to rock over look. BEST VIEWS

1.5       Back to Deep Gap                                                                                          29.3

0.2       Spring                                                                                                              29.5

1.1       Spring                                                                                                              30.6

0.3       Stream                                                                                                             30.9

0.2       Old road bed – trail goes right                                                                     31.1

0.5       Old road bed                                                                                                   31.6

Trail switches back several times and heads north                                         32.6

0.4       Last 0.1 is a brutally steep drop down to the dirt road                                  33.0

0.1       End at Boy scout camp                                                                                   33.1

By Trent Tibbitts

The Jack’s River, Penitentiary Branch, Hemp Top Loop is a 13 mile loop with no backtracking in the Cohutta Wilderness of the North Georgia mountains. It can be done as a day trip or a easy one night back packing trip. I did this trip on July 20 and 21 of 2012. The trailhead is at Dally Gap, a easy drive from Blue Ridge Ga. I got on the trail around 7:30 Friday night and started up the Hemp Top trail. This trail runs the true “Blue Ridge” that divides the Blue Ridge mountains. It is an old road, as is so many of the trails in the Cohutta. It was an easy, up hill,  uneventful, 2.3 mile walk to Penitentiary Branch Trail, that falls away to the left for 3.6 miles. A lot of storms had come through the area over the past few weeks and there were a lot of blow downs on the tops of the ridges. Penitentiary Branch Trail is a wide trail and it is a steady down hill walk. I made it another mile or so before making camp at the first small camp site I came to. It was now 9 PM. I sat up my Enos hammock, inserted my air pad, put up my rain fly, and got to work building a fire. Not that it was cold but when you are alone in the middle of nowhere, it helps to calm the soul.  It was also a personal challenge for me. It had been raining and I love to start fires in wet condition. Like I said it was a challenge. I collected dry sticks that had not been on the ground, along with dry pine needles and worked my way up. The wet wood was really smokey. So much so I had to but it out because the smoke was collecting in my rain fly and I could not breathe. After that I hit the sack. There was lots of lighting around and two owls who keep on hooting. Could have been spooky if you didn’t know what they were. The next morning I was up and back on the trail by 9 AM. The rest of the trail was easy and down hill. A total of 5.9 miles from Dally Gap to Jack’s River. From here back to Dally Gap there are 18 river crossings. So many that you can’t keep them strate. Once on the JRT the first thing you do is wade the river. I hit the water at 10:30 Am. Jack’s is a wild river. All of it is in the Wilderness. Very amazing place. I would stop in the middle of the river at each crossing and take in the glory of the Lord. It wasn’t after to many crossing it started to rain. I started to sit it out but after about 20 minutes of hard rain and when I noticed that the river was rising, I decided that I had a lot more ground to cover and “Flash Flood” came to mind. I had changed in to my sandals at the first crossing. I now had on my rain jacket and cover over my pack. Even though the rain was coming down in buckets and lighting was flashing, I truly did enjoy the hike. I felt more connected to nature. The rain slacked off around 1:30 PM and I stopped to eat at the best camping area I have seen in the Wilderness. It was in a curve of the river and opened up into a large area of big trees with no under story trees. There was a water fall on the opposite side of the river. It was really flowing good with the water from the rain. While eating I watched the river rise four inches in 20 minutes. After eating, I passed a group of three girl, one guy and two dogs going down river. I really worried about them. They had a lot of crossing to make and the river was getting worse. I made the next crossing and noticed that the water was flowing a lot faster than before. The water was now brown and I could not see the bottom. I felt my way slowly across and really used my walking stick. I then entered the Jack’s River Gorge. It is over a mile long and with all the rain it was one long white water roaring rapid. I just knew that I would not be able to make the next crossing. So when I came to a hill-side that had washed away in one of the last rains, I took a nape on the exposed rock face over the river. 1/4 mile up the trail was the next ford. When I got there the river was racing and foaming. No way to cross. Much to fast. Much to deep. If you went in here it was a mile of white water before you could even think about getting out. What to do? I decided to follow the river up, off the trail. No way to get lost, just keep the river on my right. After changing back into my hiking shoes, I bushwhacked about a half mile or more. I fount a foot log and crossed there. I was now above where a major creek feed into the Jack’s and it was not as wild as before. It was still running fast and deep. I made it across with no problem. It was not but 100 yards and I came to my last crossing. I changed back into my sandals. Even though I was at the head waters, the river was still very fast. This was the toughest crossing yet. I had to lean into my stick and feel my way across. Once across it was a easy 2.3 miles out. I was off the trail at 5:30. One of the best and most rewarding hikes I have been on.

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