Hiking Yanahli with Levi

I’ve gotten behind on posting. I could use the excuse of busyness (and I think I will). Life has gotten in the way and since we’ve moved, the hiking trails are few and far between around here. I have to travel to hike now (and I’m not fond of that).

During a few days off due to a high volume of students sick with the flu at school where I am a teacher’s assistant, Levi and I took a day hike near Columbia, Tn. I enjoy nothing more than spending time on the trails with my son. He loves to camp, hike and spend time outdoors. That’s my love language.

Thankfully, Cub Scouts gives even more reason to get outside and enjoy nature. He’s learning so much about life skills, character development, and citizenship. I’m learning so much about leadership. I highly enjoy scouting. I wished I had been a scout when I grew up but it’s too late to change that now. I refuse to live vicariously through my son but I will thoroughly enjoy while he continues in scouting.

Hope you enjoy this quick day hike with us.

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What haunts me about the Appalachian Trail

Some great thoughts on haunting memories.

Write in Front of Me

English: Entrance to Spooky Woods in Dalbeatti...

If a ghost is a memory that will not fade, then the Appalachian Trail is my own personal phantom.  It haunts me in all the good ways a significant life experience can.  If it’s a good thing to be visited by a spirit of achievement, then the AT is certainly among the finest one could ever envision.

I am haunted by the approach trail at Amicalola Falls, Georgia, which felt like a rite-of-passage backpacking to the start of something superb, difficult, daunting, and mysterious.

I am haunted by Springer Mountain Shelter, where I first dropped my backpack on the first evening of many I would spend hiking the trail.  I remember the rugged reliability of a wooden refuge created by so many hands, by so many trail and maintenance clubs, who literally poured out their love in sweat and effort so that I might have a place to rest…

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Mammoth Cave – First Creek Loop

Campfire

Another hiking trip with my buddy Jason. We haven’t hiked together in a couple of years and I have been having trouble finding someone to hike in the cold with me. I posted something about it on Facebook a couple of weeks back and he commented he was going after Christmas. So we planned a three-day trip to Mammoth Cave.

The first day made me a little sore simply because I hadn’t walked 7 miles in a while. I had a hard time sleeping. We also tried setting our hammocks up with a ridge line to get that thirty degree angle that is a hammocker’s ideal hang. It was different so that may have had something to do with my lack of sleep. It also rained on us for about an hour the first night so we were a little uncomfortable with the weather and the temperature that it brought.

I also tried a new sleeping bag a friend gave me from the Army. It gets down to minus 10 degrees and is as light as my other sleeping bag. It was a great bag and I stayed nice and toasty inside.

The second day was the roughest because it was blistering cold with the wind reaching twenty mph and we were walking on the ridges most of the time. When we got to camp, we decided to set out hammocks up back near the rocks rather than on the edge of the ridge where the campsite was to keep out of the wind. I slept much better the second night.

We woke up to frigid temps and didn’t bother eating breakfast. We broke camp and got to the cars so we could get to some warmth and a cheeseburger soon.

Hope you enjoy the videos.

Chimney Tops

After checking out Clingmans Dome, we decided to head down 441 and take a quick hike up the very strenuous trail to the rocky face of Chimney Tops. When we arrived it was about 2:00 and the sign at the trailhead said it would take an hour and a half to reach the top. The first part of the hike seemed rather easy (for me anyway). There are many, many, many steps to climb that trail workers built to make the ascent much easier than it could have been. Carrie decided to count them but quickly lost interest when it became more work than walking.

Once we reached the halfway mark, speed began to allude us. The trail began to go straight up and the steps were becoming more laborious. At one point, I believe if I had turned to ask Carrie if she wanted to quit, she would have said yes. One couple that stayed ahead of us for most of the hike did actually quit 2/3 the way up.

When we finally reached a leveling off we could see that we were very close to the top. We were warned by a passing hiker to be cautious of the “killer” squirrels. They were definitely making their presence known and they would get rather close if you let them.

We reached a point where the trail actually came to an end but the sign informed us if we wanted to continue to the top , we could scale the rocky face of the mountain to get the views. Carrie decided to stay put where their were some other hikers there that had been there a while. They had even set up their ENO hammock. I went further climbing halfway up the rocky face before feeling the pressure of fear and shaky legs. I decided it was far enough and the views were spectacular at that point. Others continued further up but I had gone far enough. I was satisfied with the heights that I had reached.

As soon as I got my fill, I scaled back down, grabbed some water and a pack of Spam singles (I was hungry). Then Carrie and I hiked back down the mountain. The whole way down my legs were feeling the jitteriness since I was using my legs muscles more to stay paced and not rush down the mountain (like some we saw as we were going up).

Once we reached the bottom, it was time to find food and that we did in the Burg of Gatlin. BBQ was on the menu at Hungry Bear.

Clingmans Dome

For finally graduating with my Associates in Divinity from Grace College of Divinity in North Carolina, my wife and I spent a few days in the Great Smoky Mountains to celebrate both of our hard work; my studies and her putting up with me.

We decided to take on Clingmans Dome, which really is not daunting task. It is a concreted path with somewhat of an incline. It will wear out the not-so-in-shape person. They have a few places to take a sit on the way up if you get tired and you do start to feel it in your thighs as you ascend the pathway. Once you reach the top, the dome comes into view and what a view it is to see it peaking out of the tops of the spruce-fir zone.

One would think Clingmans Dome is a spectacular structure that beckons a moment of awe as it winds in spiraling form to the highest point in the Smokies. However, on closer inspection, the Dome is spartan and weather-beaten. The rock facade is beginning to deteriorate and the dome itself is showing signs of years and years of use.

Which is why there is an initiative by National Geographic to repair some of the nation’s greatest parks. You can visit VoteYourPark.com and vote for your top five parks to help unlock $2 million in preservation funding (only through July 5, 2016).

However, it was still a pleasure to visit the Dome. The views were not pleasurable since the day before experienced rain which left fog encompassing the altitude. Hence why they call them the “Smoky Mountains.” Through the fog, we got to see some distance but not much.

After some time we decided to hike the forest trails back to the parking lot instead of the over-publicized concrete path. At the Dome, you can take the Appalachian Trail for a half mile (or so) which then connects with Clingmans Dome parking lot trail. The AT was another chance to mark some mileage off walking such a prevalent and most acknowledged trail of all long trails (CDT, PCT, AT).

The fog cleared in some spots to give views to the rolling landscape below as we walked among the footsteps of those who had gone before on the AT; Benton McKaye, Grandma Gatewood, Earl Shaffer, Bill Bryson, Jennifer Pharr Davis, Warren Doyle, Bill Irwin, David “AWOL” Miller, Buddy Backpacker, Zach Davis, Baltimore Jack, Neva “Chipmink” Warren.

Knowing I’m walking in those footsteps was an honor for something I deeply respect and dream of.

After reaching the fork that takes hikers back to the parking lot of the Dome or continuing on the AT, we knew we needed to be getting back. We turned off the ridge line to walk back down the side of the mountain through the thicket of fir (so deep you couldn’t see ten feet to either side). We enjoyed the cool air, the shadowiness of the spruce coverage,  the countless streams pouring out of the side of the mountain, and the occasional view when the trees opened up.

We knew we were getting close to the parking lot when we starting hearing voices. The trailhead presented boulders larger than a house that presented a small glimpse of our size in comparison that could easily give someone a sense of insignificance in this word. After reaching the trailhead we over heard a park ranger giving an answer to the constant question of all visitors: Why are some of the pine trees dying.

“Those aren’t pines, they are Fir trees and the balsam woolly adelgid is killing the Fir.” See here

I wished we could’ve had a better view but it was still pretty cool to mark a few things off the bucket list so it was worth it. Plus who gets the opportunity to view the Dome with fog coverage? You can see pictures all day long of the 7 mile view because no one thinks the fog is worth seeing but I enjoyed it.

Hope you enjoy the video.

 

How Do You Classify Hiking

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What is hiking?

Trend? Activity? Passion? Hobby? Lifestyle? Diversion? Recreation? Necessity?

I was listening to a podcast on hiking called The First 40 Miles. They were discussing how  to classify hiking in your life. As I reflected on their conversation, I began asking how hiking is classified to me. Something I’m learning in life is it is very difficult to classify anything in one genre. What I mean by that is many things in life are both/and rather than either/or. For me, hiking is a both/and. It falls into a variety of categories and hardly fits fully in one. When I began hiking, it was a mere hobby. To walk in the woods, to see and see what there is to see. It was to get out and recharge my battery where living in the middle of the city was sucking every vital percent of energy that I needed. It was my alone time. It was my peace and quiet. It was my solitude. It was my chance to get closer to God by experiencing his creation in a raw way.

So can we classify hiking. Can we describe with one adjective? Can we give it one label? I don’t think so. Here are some of my thoughts on classifications for hiking that was brought up in the podcast.

Is it a trend? Not with me it isn’t. But what I have noticed is that I never saw anything related to hiking or backpacking until I started doing it. I thought I was the only one. Then as soon as I began sharing my escapades on Facebook and Twitter I started seeing everyone else doing it. I began seeing almost every faith meme with a mountainous scene and a backpacker in the background. All my friends started sharing their hiking trips. I told my wife that I thought I was starting a trend. She humored me. A good friend of mine said I was starting nothing. He called it Frequency Illusion. In other words, I didn’t see it till I started doing it. Then I began seeing it more. I don’t think it is a trend.

Is it a lifestyle? I don’t think so. My life doesn’t revolve around hiking. I don’t make a living from hiking. I don’t even get paid to hike. I actually normally pay to hike. I buy food, gear, and fees. I may think about it constantly. I may study maps every chance I get. I may stay on AllTrails.com too much and read the forums at Whiteblaze.com, hammockforums.net, and trailjournals.com. I may watch Syntax77 and Shug Emery (The ole shug in the third person) religiously. I probably wear beige convertible pants and synthetics a little too much but hiking is not a lifestyle. Ok, maybe it is a little.

Is it an activity? Of course! If it involves moving around, breaking a sweat and planning, I would say it is an activity. My knees hurt when I hike. My back hurts when I carry my pack too long. My back hurts when I have to sleep on the ground. My feet hurt with too much mileage. My head hurts from the straining walk. But camping is joy. I’m contemplative by the fire. I’m restful in my hammock. I’m laughing with my friends. I’m thankful filtering water. I’m content after filling my belly with rehydrated food. I’m creative when using my knife to carve. Hiking is very active.

Is it a diversion? It can be. It definitely is a diversion from work. When I’m in the woods, the last thing I think about is my occupational responsibilities. It’s a diversion from my pain in life. It helps me escape my problems momentarily. When I’m in the woods, I have new problems that I enjoy, like how far to walk, where to set camp, where to filter water, getting my chores done before sundown. What really matters are my immediate needs and not my life’s troubles where worrying helps none.

Is it recreation? Of course. Hiking is fun. Scratch that… Camping is fun, hiking is work. But hiking can be fun too when you’re walking through the woods and see the many things that God has created and man has left behind. I’ve seen some interesting things, like old cars, trains, farm equipment, house foundations, barns, structures of many types. Hiking can sometimes feel like work but can’t most recreations? Fishing takes work. Hunting takes work. Playing ball takes work. Recreations of all types have an element of work. But recreation is fun because it is work we enjoy. It is attributed to Confucius as having once said do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. I love backpacking so it is not considered work to me, just a labor of love.

Is it a passion? Without a doubt. I’m passionate for hiking. I think about it all the time. I read about it all the time. I study about it all the time. I give a lot of time and effort to hiking. If I could analyze my personal battery life, I’d say hiking takes up a major percentage. It is just something I can not get enough of. I remember the first long trail I finished. When I sat in my car, all I could think about was getting back out and heading back to the trailhead and doing it again. It felt wrong to be driving. I needed to be walking. It felt wrong to be in my house. I needed to be hanging my hammock. It felt wrong to be cooking on the stove. I needed my cookpot and a campfire. Everything about not being in the woods was wrong. I’m passionately passionate.

So, can it be classified in one category. I think not. Hiking truly is a culmination of many things. Thats why I believe it is so illustrious. It draws you and keeps a part of you. It gives you something in hopes that it may draw you back. It will make you work for the pleasure but the joy will come effortless. It may be simply putting one foot in front of the other but ultimately it is deeper than that. So deep that it can not be summarized. It must be experienced to fully appreciate its complexities.