Hike 1309 8/31/08 This hike was planned to celebrate my 83rd Birthday. It does not happen until tomorrow but this date fitted Peggy, Laura, Bob, Lisa, Charlie and Austin's holidays. It turned out to be a fine day for a hike. Motel rooms in Cherokee, NC were at a premium during the Labor Day Weekend. We all finally bit the bullet and made reservations at the Comfort Inn. Laura had agreed to pick up the extra over getting less expensive rooms farther away. She wanted the extra sleep. I suggested that picking up the dinner tab should also be her treat.
We met at Big Bobs in beautiful downtown Cherokee for dinner. I did have to grab the dinner check after Peggy had already convinced Joushia, our server that she should get the check. I had remembered correctly that Hardee's didn't open until 7:00 a.m. on Sundays so we met at the local MacDonald's at 6:00 a.m. We grabbed breakfast and food for lunch at the lodge before heading for the trailhead. There was a nice sunrise at the overlook before reaching Newfound Gap. I also zoomed in and got a close up view of the colorful sunrise. After taking the pictures we continued down the mountain to the Alum Cave Parking lot.
We arrived a few minutes before seven o'clock a.m. A nice crowd was on hand to greet us. Lisa took a picture of us prior to our departure for the lodge and Cliff Top. From left to right in the picture was Bob Wright, Tom Grubbs from Boaz, AL, Tillroe Smith from Moody, AL, Me, Connie Houk and her friend Elizabeth from Sevierville, TN, Gerri Trent, and her grandson Tyler from Bean Station, TN, Peggy and Laura Haythorn from Chapel Hill, NC with Bob and Lisa's sons Austin and Charlie from Stuart, FL. Cindy from Columbus, OH and Glen Weatherly from Pigeon Forge, TN were missing although we were certain that they would soon overtake us. Gerry and Nora Sturgeon from Indianapolis, IN were also missing but I knew that they would follow us later. It was about 60 degrees and my grandson Austin Wright wanted to wear his heavy coat. I convinced him to leave it in the car. He would not see temperatures this low in Florida until next February.
We moved right along at my slow pace. Bob grabbed a shot of Tillroe, Tom and me crossing the first footlog. We were one fifth of the way to the lodge. Bob and Lisa also got pictures of Peggy near Arch Rock as well as Laura. We took a break there and the boys started searching for monsters. Tyler caught a salamander and Austin caught a crawfish. On the trip down he also caught a salamander. Check out those hands. Cindy and Glen overtook us shortly thereafter.
We met a couple from New Jersey heading down the trail before we reached Inspiration Point. We took another rest at that location and took time for more pictures. The boys were having a great time investigating life on a stump. Climbing rocks, and just posing. Folks found places to sit or stand and take the views in.
The trip to the Bluff was hard because of the steepness of the trail. Bob and the boys found a spot to rest by hanging onto the rail. Charlie managed to get a collection of the dust on his trousers. When I finally reached my resting place under the bluff, I finally got enough extra energy to take a picture of Lisa, Peggy and some of the other ladies on our hike. After the break at the bluff we made our way to Gracie's Pulpit. I stopped above Little Duck Hawk Ridge, long enough to look and listen for peregrine falcons and to snap a picture of the ridge from above. I got the picture but nothing from the falcons.
We stopped for a snack break at the pulpit and snapped a picture of Cliff Top before pressing on. I noticed that Charlie picked up a big rock and carried it nearly a half mile before he finally threw it over the side.
We started meeting the overnight guests from the lodge at the top of the log steps. There were a couple of soccer players from Burlington, NC. They were followed by their dad and younger brother. They were followed by two groups of folks from Augusta, GA. The next group consisted o a mother and four children. Two of the guys were bare footed. Wow! I cannot imagine the pain from these sharp rocks. Lisa managed to photograph a butterfly pollinating White Snake Root flowers. I wish that I had taken this picture. I think that it is a Spicebush Swallowtail but I am sure someone will correct me.
Above the upper steps we were overtaken by Travis and his brother Tyler Holt from the University of Tennessee. Travis works for the Lady Vol's Athletic Department. I asked him to give my regards to Joan Cronan, the Lady Vol's Athletic Director. I have met Joan and her late husband Tom many times on the trail. Tom Cronan was the men's Athletic Director of Carson Newman College.
I took several pictures along Grassy Slide. On of them got me into trouble. I was taking close-up pictures of flowers. I shot a couple of Grass of Parnassus. A picture of the water at mossy spring, and even a shot of Clingmans Dome. All of these pictures went fine. I then stooped down close to the rocks to take a picture of the Mountain Krigia. It looks like a dandelion but it is a rare flower. Either before, during or after taking this picture, my feet flew out from under me on the wet rocks and I butted the rocks with my forehead. Fortunately no one saw the slip. I gathered my self up and wiped the blood with my handkerchief and overtook my hiking friends. Glen, being a good trail volunteer, had a bandage to tape across the abrasion. I took a close up of a skunk Goldenrod and a closed Gentian.
Cindy delivered her Sunday Sermon at Betty Jane's stairways to Heaven. She said a prayer for friends in need and wished happy birthdays to Mike Haythorn, 23 years-old today and my kissing cousin Anna Laura White of Oxford Ohio, who turns 84 today. Her mother and my father were first cousins. We met "Stan The Running Man" at the old horse gate. He gave us the details of his 20 minute delay by a stubborn black bear on the trail this morning. I asked him how long did it take him to do all five of the trails to LeConte, last September. He said eight and a half hours. That is truly unbelievable although I believe him. I noticed the first fall colors at the site of the old horse gate. A witch hobble bush was showing it's colors.
When we reached the lodge, I filled my CamelBak, and took the traditional picture of the dining room. While we were at the dining room area, I also took pictures of flowers blooming outside the window. I photographed Monks Hood. Cindy had been there about three weeks ago and made this beautiful picture of the flowers. I returned to the lodge office, signed the register, bought Peggy, Laura and Lisa Tee Shirts and visited with Henry Neel and other hikers as we ate our lunches.
When I finished my lunch, I was ready to head back down. It is a long drive to Lisa's folks home in Northern Georgia, our destination for the night. Cindy asked me to hold up a minute and then she came up with a surprise for my birthday which is tomorrow. Here it is in her words and Bob's pictures:
Bob and the boys including Gerri and Tyler headed for Cliff Top. I headed down the trail with most of the hiking group. Liz and Connie took off at a faster pace because they had to work and help pay for my retirement. Bob took a picture of Austin and Charlie at Margaret's Place. This is probably the most dangerous spot on the trail. They showed NO FEAR! This is the spot that spooks most folks that tend to get spooked at heights. We met Leland and a friend from Pigeon Forge, TN before reaching the upper steps.
We met Gerry and Nora Sturgeon below Grassy Slide. Nora is one of the folks that get spooked at heights. This is her first trip up this trail. She thanked me for the web site and all of the pictures. This helped her overcome some of her fear. Their write-up of the trip is listed on my web site, just below this entry.
We met Chris and Allyson Virden below the upper steps. They wished me a happy birthday. After visiting with these fine folks we continued on down the trail. We stopped for a usual snack break at Gracie's Pulpit. The boys found things to do and to point to above big Duck Hawk Ridge. Some of the ladies just found a nice place to sit.
We passed through the bluff and headed on down. Lisa took a picture of the round Eye of the Needle. I met a young man from Kennesaw State University near Marietta, GA, with his mother and dad. We stopped for a short break at Inspiration Point. I was able to get Bob and Charlie to pose but Peggy and Laura were too tired to listen.
Tom broke out the ice cold soda's when we reached the trailhead. Man those hit the spot. Thanks Tom. We said our goodbyes and I was most honored by such fine friends.