1303 6/10/07 Grandsons Austin (8) and Charlie (6) were disappointed that they missed hiking to the lodge during 2006. They really wanted a T Shirt for that year. Our son Bob made arrangements for them to hike on June 10, 2007 and to be sure to not miss this year also. Our daughter Peggy and her son Mike plus his girl friend Megan also joined us for the hike.
Bob was slow in leaving home so we were about 37 miles from Cape Canaveral when the space shuttle Atlantis blasted off. He was in touch with our son Bill via telephone to verify that the shuttle was actually going to fly. We were near a rest area on I-95 northbound, when we saw the flames of the booster rockets. We stopped and took several photographs before it disappeared from sight. I got a picture of the booster rockets separating from the shuttle Atlantis and others of the contrail of the launch. I made my final photograph through the window as we neared the launch point.
Bob had his G.P.S route us the closest way to Cherokee, NC from the Georgia/Florida state line, where spent the night. We took all back roads from there to the trailhead except for about a mile and a half stint on I 85. It was an interesting route and time wise it was just about the same as if we had taken interstates. We arrived at the Quality Inn in Cherokee at about 5:00p.m.. Peggy, Mike and Megan were already there. The boys had to go to the Oconuluftee River, just behind the motel, to look for critters and to throw rocks.
We planned to meet at Hardee's at 6:00 a.m. Sunday Morning for breakfast. Unfortunately it did not open until 7:00 on Sunday, so off to MacDonald's we went. After ordering the boys had to use the rest room so we were therefore behind schedule. I took a picture of the morning sky as we neared Newfound Gap. We arrived at the trailhead a few minutes after 7:00 a.m., at least 15 minutes later than planned. A crowd of about 16 folks was waiting for us. Our 7 plus Tillroe made for about 25 hikers. This is a picture of most of the group. Others were wielding the various camera's.
The temperature was in the mid 50's and the sky was clear as we left the trailhead at about 7:15 a.m.. Austin and Charlie had to stop near the first foot log to look for salamanders under rocks. Joe Steele left us at Arch Rock. He has a new camper that he is spotting on a lot in Townsend, TN. I had to take several short breaks before reaching Inspiration Point. We took a longer break there and enjoyed the view and flowers. The blue haw was putting on a good display as was the rhododendron and mountain laurel. Steve Sturgeon was not feeling too perky so he and his mother, Nora, returned to the trailhead. Mike Williams from Stoney Creek, TN and Tillroe Smith enjoyed the rest stop at Inspiration Point. I took a couple of pictures at this location showing several of our hiking party and local flowers.
I took a picture in the rhododendron tunnel on the way to Alum Cave. I paused long enough to take a couple of pictures of the Eye of the Needle with a telephoto view and a normal view. We paused at Alum Cave for a short rest before heading on toward Gracie's Pulpit. I photographed the spine of Little Duck Hawk as I passed. We met a young couple from Knoxville, TN by the name of Peyton above Big Duck Hawk Ridge. Several of the hikers paused to wait for me before reaching Gracie's Pulpit. We stopped there for a rest and snack Break. Mike and Megan were enjoying Austin and Charlie's company and vice versa. We also had some nice views of Cliff Top and Paul's Face.
Tillroe has been telling me about a guy from the Oak Ridge National Laboratories who is doing speed hiking up the trail in preparation for a race to the top and back in September of this year. Tillroe said that his name was Stan Wellslinger or some other "Good German Name." He hiked the trail twice today before I got to the lodge for the first time. The rhododendrons were in full bloom or beyond at the lower elevations. Above the log steps, they were in an early stage of flowering, while others are in full bloom. Near Shirley's Rock, We met a couple from Austin Texas doing as many trails in the Smokies as they can do in a couple of weeks. I caught Bob explaining his G.P.S. to Peggy as three young ladies from Pigeon Forge, TN hiked down from an overnight at the lodge.
We stopped at Grassy Slide and took several pictures of Clingmans Dome, including a telephoto view. I also photographed Mike, Megan, Austin and Charlie acting brave at the rock slide. I even got a picture of some of the older folks acting in a daring manner. Some folks panic at this drop off and refuse to hike this trail. I met a bearded hiker from Auburn University at the edge of the slide. He could fill in for the Cave Man. As we hiked along the ledge, beneath Cliff Top, I photographed West Point and Paul's Face. A Methodist Minster from Morristown, TN overtook and passed me before I reached Betty Jane's stairway to Heaven. I took another picture of Clingmans Dome from Margaret's Place.
I met Kevin Price, Dan Max and Matt from Memphis, TN at the junction of the Bull Head/Rainbow Falls Trails. They left the trailhead as part of our hiking group. Man am I slow! It was 65 degrees and sunny at the lodge. We went into the office and I bought T-shirts for family members. I was pleased to see Margaret and Karl Reed from Birmingham, AL. I have probably met them 25 times or more during past hikes. Karl Told me that Bruce Newman, a former lodge crew member had died recently of congestive heart failure. Bruce was a winter caretaker for many winters. A nice guy and will be missed.
After buying 8 T-shirts, I joined friends and family on the porch for lunch. I stopped by the water spigot and visited with Chris Virden, the lodge manager, and filled my camel back as he was trying to stop a leak in the spigot. I asked about his wife Allyson and he told me that she was down the trail and that today was her birthday. Before heading down we stopped at the rest rooms for a "Rest Stop." That was a good opportunity to take a family hiking photograph.
Going down the mountain was much easier on these old bones than hiking up. On our way down we met two men from Hamburg, Germany and Allyson Virden with a friend. I wished her a happy birthday. She filled in some details on Bruce Newman's death We took a rest at Lu's Pulpit. A short time later I met Kyrie Walker, a lodge staff member. I first met Kyrie and two of her brothers', Chris and Adam on Thanksgiving day, 1994. I have met Chris and Kyrie many times since.
As we approached Gracie's pulpit, I saw an interesting growth of fungi on a dead, red birch tree. We made a short snack break at Gracie's pulpit before descending to the bluff. Charlie played in the dirt and stirred up a lot of dust. Bob found out later when we reached Inspiration Point that he was missing his CamelBak water system. Bob had to hike back and he did find it. I stopped across from the Eye of the Needle to take another picture plus a final picture near Inspiration Point. Bob picked an almost perfect day to hike this trail.
I appreciated the effort that folks made to join me in this hike. Although I didn't get individual pictures of everyone, Lynda Platone, Gail and her husband Earl, drove up from near Tampa, FL. Gerry, Nora and Steve drove from Indianapolis, IN and his college friend Larry Burgess came up from Harvest, Alabama. Kevin, Dan and Matt came over from Memphis and Tillroe and Joe Steele from Moody and Leeds, Alabama. Gerrie and Janet came from Morristown, TN. Cindy and Martine came from Columbus, OH. Mike Williams and his wife came from Stony, Creek, TN. I apologize if I missed recognizing anyone but thanks for the company on this hike.
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