So, as you guys know from Patman's excellent report, he, Tipi, and I met up last weekend on Bob's Bald in the Unicoi Range of the Appalachians. I haven't gotten out nearly as much as I would like this fall, so I was stoked to be getting up into the mountain, especially since I knew there would be snow!
I had a few unexpected phone calls from family on Saturday morning, so I was a couple hours late getting started, but I arrived at the Beech Gap trail head on the Cherohala Skyway at about 2pm.
Sure enough, there was still snow around from the storm on Wednesday! So I mount up and hit the trail.
Ah, the glorious snowy trail climbing through the rhododendron!
A steady wind from the north gathers fog as it pushes up the highlands. Hiking though the fog in the snow was enchanting. It's about 3+ miles from Beech Gap to the Bob, and I know I am getting close at this point.
As I break out of the treeline, I see a tiny tent, perched like a tropical bird on the summit. It is Patman's 2lb wonder, the BA Fly Creek! So I know Patman must be close....
And so he was, with Tipi nearby, having just finished setting up his mighty palace, le Chateau Keron :)
I think Tipi is wondering if he's gonna' have to put up with these two grinning idiots the rest of the weekend...
About half way up the mountain, I realized I had made a total newb mistake: I accidentally left my sleeping pad at home. At this point, I am not going to bail, but I was quite annoyed with myself.
So I found a bare spot without snow, though it wasn't much help, as the ground was still frozen solid. One order of cold night, coming right up :)
After setting up the tent, I head down to the rest of the group to fix dinner. Evening comes on quickly, and the light is beautiful.
Also on the bald with us were John and Sean, two backpackers from Nashville whom Tipi had met before.
After Dinner and night falls, everyone heads off to their tents to retreat from the fast descending cold. It is a full moon out, so I decide to wander for a bit. I couldn't resits taking some photos by just the moonlight
In this one, you can see I captured a falling star to the left of the tree!
I've always wanted to get one of those cool "glowing tent in the snow" pictures, so I tried my hand at it before I head off to sleep.
To stave off the frozen earth, I laid out every piece of clothing, dry bags, jacket, and shell pants in a "pallet" on the ground. This worked ok until the temp hit 18F around 2am. At that point I put on my down jacket and fleece pants, then wrapped my improvised ground pad in my emergency blanket. Though a bit chilled, I slept alright from there on out.
Morning arrived early for me, and I do not linger in my cold berth.
Dawn steals in, pale and cold.
I really like this shot of Tipi's Keron
Patman peeks out at me as I intrude on his morning solitude.
Love the atmospheric light in frozen morning air:
Because he rarely lets anyone see his feet many do not realize why Tipi wears such large boots . In truth, he has suffered since birth with a condition called Phalangeal Distal Expansion. Though it was a source of ridicule in his formative years, such malformation has provided wonderful traction in the mountains
Patman couldn't quit staring and repeating "T..t...t..toes! Toes!"
It was really quite mortifying. ;)
Here we see the rare but violent event when a Hilleberg turns on its owner. Fortunately, he was able to escape and only required a few stitches.
Tipi and Patman compare their guns. You'd think they'd have heard here on trailspace: you don't need to carry that kind of hardware ;)
Watching this 90lb beast mount it's owner is not for the faint of heart. Parental discretion is advised.
Though the sun had been burning off the snow for a couple days, it was nice finding a few deeper drifts
Here I am at the trail junction for Naked Ground and Wolf Laurel. To my right is back toward the bob, to my left Wolf Laurel, and behind me is the drop that takes you along Naked Ground.
re there be turky! lots of turkey :)
But these tracks, now, they are NOT turkey. Here there be Black Bears as well.
We go THAT way!
Here you can really see how dramatic and lovely the trail is. The land falls away dramatically on both sides, and is like this almost all four miles between the Bob and the Hangover. Love it!
Don't trip here :) you won't stop for abour 500 or 1000ft, LOL! The Hangover is the prominence in the upper right.
I make it to the Hangover around 12:30pm, so I stop for a bit of lunch and to enjoy the view.
The solitude and expanse is tangible. Being the only person in these winter mountains for many miles around is a wondrous thing
I started the day a mile back on the other side of the peak in the upper right, and followed the highland ridges to here.
On the way back I come across a second set of Bear tracks. This time they are from a very large, mature Black Bear. I am almost certain I did not miss these on the way in, and he/she came through in the hour or so since my first passing this spot. I really wish I'd seen it.
Yeah, this is no spring chicken:
As I pass back by the Bob, I grab this parting shot.
Hello! and third set of Bear Tracks! There are thousands of them in these hills, so it really shouldn't be surprising, but it is still exciting to see they were just here and you just missed them.