Harleys and Hamburgers in the Holy City

7:42 p.m. on May 27, 2012 (EDT)
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I have appreciated some of your comments about how even "car-camping" is a good thing if it's all you can muster to make the "natural" connection.  I'd rather backpack, but I live 500 miles from the nearest mountain, so I put on my thinking hat and pondered the dust-covered mountain of gear (I call it "Someday Mountain") to come up with at least a hybrid plan.  If the mountain can't come to me, I MUST go to the mountain...

I used the excuse of this being the 30th anniversary of my first solo backpacking trip to the Joyce Kilmer and Slickrock Wilderness areas and motivated myself to a "reunion" of sorts.  So, I headed out with my Corolla full-up and a little trailer I put together myself from parts (got my 8X10 Cabela canvas tent, fold-up couch & easy chair on it for the "car-camp" part of the deal)...

Plan was to go through Atlanta during the middle of the night (only way to even HOPE to change lanes) and then up Georgia hwy 19 through quaint Dahlonega and the beautiful forest north of there leading to a scenic ridgetop where the AT intersects hwy 19 at an old, stone homeplace long ago converted to a resupply store and hostel for through-hikers (nice gift shop for tourists, too):  Walasi Yi.  It was a "smoky" morning, but this is a picture of the front of the hostel part (notice all the discarded hikers' boots that have been thrown up into the tree limbs over time--hmmm?)...



I was hoping to get trail maps at their store, but they were limited to local maps, so it became pretty much a "dead-reckoning" trip after that.

As I got to Robbinsville, NC, I discovered that the section of hwy 143 that runs to Tellico Plains, TN, is relatively new and is called the Cherohala Skyway--very popular with motorcyclists this time of year and a truly scenic and high ride...

Near the road that leads off 143 to the Horse Cove campground, close to the trails near the entrance to the Joyce Kilmer Memorial forest (old growth poplars, especially), I wandered around and came across numerous car-camping spots on Forest Service road 81 where I found an old log cabin not too "haunted" with tourists...

I settled on the Horse Cove campground and set up my "base camp"...


...near the Little Santeetlah Creek...



I spent a day just to get in the frame of mind the woods can teach, then did a dayhike on the Jenkins Meadow trail...

Nice woods, and the 30 years have been much more graceful to them than to me.


...that's my 4 foot hiking stick to give you perspective.

Next day I hiked around the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Trail to get a picture of the plaque on the rock in the middle of the place memorializing the poet...

...not a hard walk, even for us "30 years older" people.

Finally, I got ready for a couple of nights in the woods, packed up my Big Agnes, and wandered down the Cherokala towards Tellico ("flat" in Cherokee) Plains till I happened upon the Citico Wilderness trail towards Bob's Bald...

Not a bad walk either and mostly along a ridgetop...
...thick with big, old birch trees and handy water supply about a quarter mile down from Bob's to the Northwest--got to use my First Need XL Purifier which worked fabulously.

Finally got to the top, hung my stuff...


...and set up Agnes under the triad of Silver Maple clusters--grass so soft it was like a cushion (good snooze those two nights)...


...then, enjoyed two days of exploring the surroundings, startling what I think was a grouse family, a young adult bear ran off surprised, and entertained by a host of finches all the day long.  Some pictures I took around there (I refer you to many reports done on that spot, just enter "Bob's Bald" in the search bar)...






...lovely, dark and deep, but I had promised myself a visit to the Bald River Gorge waterfall down the road apiece, so, I reluctantly fell off the Bald to the Northwest (143) back to the Corolla (in the wide-open, but unvandalized).

Regretfully, I don't have any pictures of the Bald River Gorge and parking was hard to find at the waterfall, but it is a trout fisher's dream and well worth the drive off hwy 143 to see.  Numerous car-camp spots along the stream there, some more primitive as you can drive for miles up the creek into what becomes a lush forest (if you don't mind traveling on gravel, Forest Service roads)--you eventually come back up onto hwy 143 at a higher elevation.  Not many trails to be found--that I was able to see--in the Gorge wilderness, though I WILL have a map next time.

I went into Tellico Plains and found the place a peaceful, quaint little town...



old, famous bakery and sandwich place worth the trip all by itself (closed on Sunday and Monday)...


...rooster free-roaming around the bank downtown...


...the famous Tellico river which is a highly rated fly fishing stream--they have a section well-stocked just for grandparents and grandchildren, I'm told (see the fly fisherman back behind and below the covered bridge)...


...and I stopped for one of the famous hamburgers at...

...where the owner was gracious enough to tell me what a holy city/area this place was to the Cherokee nation back before the gold-rush days (which largely prompted the Trail of Tears).  Apparently, many of the Inter-Tribal Councils were held here here at the "flat plains." 


...good food, good people.

So, I drove back to Horse Cove and spent a day reading and preparing for the culture shock of returning home after 9 days in heaven...


Thanks for taking time for my report.  Don't let "Someday Mountain" keep you on the couch!

P.S.:  here are some photos I took of various flowers, the first is a climbing rose bush in the campground--I've never seen it growing anywhere in the woods, so I imagine it was planted by a tourist?!










...and a couple of tree canopy shots:






9:00 p.m. on May 27, 2012 (EDT)
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Looks like you had fun. Dreaming about doing is one thing, but doing the dream is fantastic. Thanks

1:50 a.m. on May 28, 2012 (EDT)
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Nice to return to visit your loyal friend for a 30-year anniversary celebration.  I like your tent (Agnes?) and love your photos, especially the one of the covered bridge, and appreciate your report.  The "cushioned" grass reminds me of someone I know who takes off her shoes to go outside and feel the grass beneath her feet.  Thanks for sharing.

2:03 a.m. on May 28, 2012 (EDT)
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Yeah, once I got moving, it turned out pretty well.  Thanks, Mike, for taking a look.

9:28 a.m. on May 28, 2012 (EDT)
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A most excellent narrative, and one I can relate to.

I have camped and fished in the Tellico area a few times and each time I always wanted to go back.

I live a five hour drive from (south of) the nearest mountains, and another two hours to get up into the area you were in, so I don't get to visit as often as I did when I lived closer.

I have always done a mixture of campground camping & backpacking and I think that any day in the wilderness is a great day.

Heck I have even slept in my truck alongside trout streams in parking areas just because it was more expedient than setting up a camp.

I'm very glad you got to go on a cool trip like that! Good for you and thank you very much for all the photos & descriptions.

Tellico doesn't look like it has changed much.

Mike G.

1:52 p.m. on May 28, 2012 (EDT)
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Excellent trip Bunion.  I used to spend summers in NC and this picture

reminded me of Rosmon. I'm looking forward going up this summer.


4:47 p.m. on May 28, 2012 (EDT)
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Red, Trout, Ocal

Thanks guys for the positive reinforcement--lazy as I tend to be, I'm more likely to repeat a positive behavior when affirmed.  I hope you all have some good times this summer!

7:14 a.m. on May 29, 2012 (EDT)
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I really enjoyed the report; well done!

That is a great area indeed...


12:44 p.m. on May 29, 2012 (EDT)
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Forgot to add: that's pretty bold to venture in to the Citico with no map! I get confused in there with a map!

5:06 p.m. on May 29, 2012 (EDT)
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Good point, Pat!  It is sooo easy to find oneself lost and confused even in what appears at first to be a "casual stroll."  Fortunately for me, the trip in from the roadway was a short one, just enough to get away from the motorcycle noise.  I agree wholeheartedly:  taking off without a good map is NOT a wise thing.

8:06 p.m. on May 30, 2012 (EDT)
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That looked like a really fun trip!  Nice combination of road trip, car camping and packing. Peace and quiet with time spent for visiting good people in cool locations.

Ive done several trips like that in the past, load up the truck, camp, fish and hike my around for a couple weeks. Very enjoyable.........its been way to long since my last trip like that so you brought back many good memories.


8:22 p.m. on June 3, 2012 (EDT)
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Very nice trip! Proven, sometimes there are beautiful things to see, that aren't in the backcountry.

Love the pictures of the old cabins in the fog. Nice photography overall, very inspiring. Looks like you had a great time, better than what I've been doing the last several weeks & weekends... Working  :(.

3:20 p.m. on June 4, 2012 (EDT)
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what a great trip and an excellent report. I am glad you were able to make your pilgrimage once again to that section of mountains! 

11:11 a.m. on June 6, 2012 (EDT)
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Thanks, fellas; I appreciate your appreciation.  I shouldn't have let so much life-time go by before getting back to that Appalachian experience of Mother Nature where I first made the "connection."  But, each "hiker" has a "treasure" SOMEWHERE near where s/he lives--e.g., my mother used to bribe the nursing home staff with candy bars (I'd sneak in to her) to take her outside so she could put her feet in the grass and smell the flowers)--she was a hiker.  Make the pilgrimage wherever it is!

June 21, 2018
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