Autumn in the High Meadows

September 27, 2007

My last day in southwest Virginia, I hiked up into the Grayson Highlands near Mount Rogers and spent a few hours in this gorgeous open meadowland. The blueberry bushes and blackberries had turned a brilliant red, and ferns were going shades of rusty orange. The sun warmed these rocks while a breeze kept the air cool. It's a popular area for horseback riding, but being mid-week I had the whole place to myself. I could hardly bear to leave, but it was time to start heading north toward home.

Camping around Mt. Rogers

September 27, 2007

Here's my campsite at the Grindstone USFS Campground - here they had a separate road loop for only tents. There was some thunder rumbling so I set up a little roof to sit under during my supper, but it never did rain. I loved the hot water shower at this place - with hot water, my camp chair, and my coffee maker, it was Eden.

Virginia Creeper Trail

September 25, 2007

The perfect bike-hike - the Virginia Creeper Trail is a popular rail-trail following the route of a former logging rail line in the valley of Whitetop Laurel Creek. Each morning, vans carry loads of riders to the high end on the Virginia-North Carolina border, and folks ride 30 or so miles down hill into Damascus, VA, where they can end with pizza or ice cream (or both). Well, the Creeper Trail also parallels the AT so for me it was the ultimate stream-side return trip after a hike over the mountain ridge. I had my trail lunch on the mountain, and chocolate-espresso ice cream in town at the end.

There are several excellent Forest Service campgrounds nearby (with hot showers too!) and it was the harvest moon at night - a great time to be camping!

More Smoky Mountains

September 21, 2007

Bob joined me for a few days of visiting the Smokies - we biked down the Clingman's Dome road and then hiked back up to the top. The summit was in a cloud - here is the World's Fair Spaceage-style tower built in 1960, with Bob doing email while he waits for me to go up and look out into the cloud.

Smoky Mountain Hiking continued

September 17, 2007

The sun came out around noon of the second day, so we all dried out nicely. We walked 9 miles Saturday, 13 on Sunday (feet were tired at the end), and 9 more Monday. Sleeping like sardines in the shelter was my least favorite aspect - it reminded my too much of the MRI machine - but everything else was fun.

Here is the group having snack time at the fire tower on Mt. Cammerer the last day. The tower was built in the 1930s by the CCC - it reminds me a lot of the ventilation tower for the West Rock Tunnel at home - same blend of Deco and Park Rustic styles.

After this we went down 3500 feet in elevation to the finish of the trip.

Smoky Mountain Hiking

September 14, 2007

The trek began on a rainy day - Hurricane Humberto brought us a day of rain, gentle in the valleys but gusty up at Newfound Gap where we started the hike. We walked mostly in a white-out but for one moment we had this glimpse out into the mountains.

My advanced planning for feet management - "flashing and counter flashing" with gaiters and rain paints - kept my feet dry successfully. We had a group of 6 tourists and 2 guides, and stayed the first night at Icewater Spring Shelter along with several other hikers (reservations required at these shelters).

South to the Great Smoky Mountains

September 13, 2007

I'm aiming to rendezvous with a guided group trip in the Smokies, but first I get a dose of civilization by touring Biltmore, the Gilded Age estate in Asheville. As my friend Patti says, if you've been to France and seen the real thing, you might not need to spend too much time here. But the landscape is by Olmsted, so it's fascinating to try and imagine what is natural and what he invented.

Fabled Mahoosuc Notch

August 30, 2007

No photo for this one - we were too busy doing it (besides I forgot my camera).

Phoebe Bressack and I made a quick trip to Maine. We started with an overnight at Louisa & Li Zhuang's new apartment in Cambridge, with a stop at Whole Foods for some "respectable lunch food," to quote Barbara Kingsolver, which we took along for hiking picnics.

For those of you who know the Mahoosucs from your camp days, we did two day hikes, Old Speck from Grafton Notch (the north end of the range), and then we did the infamous "hardest mile" of Mahoosuc Notch in a mini-marathon loop. We approached the Notch (by a lovely side trail from Success Pond Road) with trepidation. It took us over 2 hours to go the mile through the Notch with much scouting of routes, but it was not beyond our abilities, so we felt a great sense of accomplishment as we emerged at the north end. There was a dead moose among the boulders, as several hikers that I met earlier had noted. It was mostly decomposed, lots of bones, but the head was still recognizable and it was very stinky. Someone had thoughtfully put up Tibetan prayer flags over it.

Then after that we had a very steep up to Speck Pond and then about 5 miles more around the pond and down a side trail to get back to the car, all of which took us many hours. Also there was a thunder storm, and we had to walk the last hour in the dark with headlamps. At the end we got to the dirt logging road about a mile from the car and amazingly there was a truck driver who had seen our lights in the woods and thought we might be lost. He offered us a ride to the car - our Trail Magic for the day!

Phoebe is an incredible trooper - she actually claims that it was a rewarding accomplishment to be dragged on a 13-hour hiking trip including getting soaked by rain and walking in the dark. At the end we were happy to get back to our comfy B & B for the night.

Western Interlude

August 25, 2007

A week in the west included a visit with Abby & Dennis in sunny Bernal Heights, San Francisco, then volcano touring in the clunky red Mustang including the Newberry Crater National Monument near Bend, Oregon, Mt. Hood, Mt. Saint Helens in nearby Washington, and in Portland, the wedding of my niece Margaret (shown with her parents Katie & Gregory).