1295 7/27/05 I left Jensen Beach, Florida about mid morning Monday July 25, 2005 and drove to my favorite Ramada Inn motel in Walterboro, SC. I had a nice dinner at Shoney's, just across the street. After a good night's sleep and partaking of Ramada's free hot breakfast, I headed toward the mountains. At about mile Post 56 on I 26, I saw the sign for the Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC. During World War II, I joined the Army Air Corps and after a tough basic training assignment in Miami Beach, FL, my class was sent to the Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC to be schooled in subjects that would help us become pilots, bombardiers and navigators. There was no Air Force back then. The Army, Navy and Marine Corps had their own air wing. Each trip that I made to Mt. LeConte via this route, I kept telling myself that I should stop by and see the college. I had plenty of time so I returned after a hiatus of 61 plus years.
The big oak trees had grown a whole lot and many new buildings and facilities had been added. The gymnasium, old athletic field where I once ran track and the obstacle course were pretty much the same. The obstacle course gadgets were gone of course. I met a couple from Atlanta watching their class of young ladies doing cheer leading drills on the old field where I once worked out. The Administration Building looked the same except it was harder to see due to all of the large trees. The dormitory, where I stayed in 1944, looked the same from the outside but the old cotton field behind the building is now covered with new buildings. Back during that era, we ate in a dining hall in the gymnasium. I remember that we had a food strike because we were tired to the food that Howard Johnson. the caterer, was serving. We all took our trays through the line, got it filled and proceeded to our assigned tables and sat rigidly at attention until we were dismissed. We all dumped our food in the garbage on our way out. As I remember we were punished but the food service improved.
I then drove over to the new stadium and by many dozens of new buildings including a new mess hall. It was a delightful drive down memory lane. I should have done it sooner. The drive to Cherokee included a stop at a fruit market in Hendersonville, NC. where I bought a peck of peaches and a peck of apples. I stopped at a Wal*mart near Waynesville to pick up underwear that I had failed to pack. I also ate at Shoney's next door to Wal*mart. Five days wearing one pair of underwear might qualify me as a thru hiker of the Appalachian trail.
I checked into the Holiday Inn in Cherokee and after dinner retired for a much deserved rest. I awoke the next morning and consumed my breakfast in the room. I made a pot of coffee, to go with my Pop Tarts, banana, apple and peaches. I put a couple of peaches in my pack to give to Alyson and Chris Virden at the lodge. I wanted to be on time for my meeting with Cindy Wisnieski at the Alum Cave Bluff Trailhead at 7:00 a.m. Cindy had promised to be there at 10 minutes early. If I stopped for breakfast in Cherokee, I would be hard pressed to arrive at the appointed time. In addition. I wanted to try and catch a sunrise from near Newfound Gap. Sorry to say, the sunrise was a disappointment at 6:30 a.m. so I continued down the north side of the mountain to the trailhead. I arrived at the trailhead by 6:45 a.m. and Cindy was nowhere to be seen. I collected my gear and waited. I have been hiking this trail for perhaps 20 years and the warmest that I have noted when I was ready to hike from this trailhead was 63 degrees F. This morning it was 64 degrees. A new record for me. When Cindy did not show up by 7:00 a.m. I figured that she must have had a problem in her drive from Columbus, OH. I prepared to write a note to put on my windshield and head out but first I walked down to the lower parking lot. I met a couple from Dayton Ohio preparing to hike to the lodge. Cindy showed up before I actually finished the note. She had arrived early and drove to Newfound Gap to try to catch a sunrise but she didn't find one either.
We headed up the trail at about 7:10 a.m. The Rosebay rhododendrons were at their peak. Margaret Stevenson always remarked that they peaked for her July 17th birthday. Cindy and I were both taking pictures and I have liberally mixed them in this write-up. We both took a picture of crimson bee balm with white asters at the fourth footlog. This is what my picture looked like and Cindy's was almost identical. Before reaching Inspiration Point we were overtaken and passed by Steve Mathias, Trail Maintenance Crew boss. He told me that Darris Clabo took Ed Grooms position as Trail Crew foreman.
The Dolly Parton Peaks were partially obscured by the morning haze from Inspiration Point. Cindy and I took pictures of each other. We both took pictures of the Eye of the Needle. We did not see or hear any peregrine falcons as we continued our climb to the bluff. After passing through the bluff area. I took a picture of the bluff thru the trees. Cindy busied her self by trying to make the flower of Rugel's Indian plantain look good. This flower is just UGLY and cannot be made to be beautiful. I snapped a picture from above Little Duck Hawk Ridge as we continued our climb from the bluff area.. Cindy asked me to allow her to write the section at Gracie's Pulpit. So here you go Cindy:
I took several short rest stops after starting to climb out of the saddle. Cindy and Cheryl didn't seem to object. Before we reached the upper steps, we took pictures of filmy angelica, cone flowers and immature cone flowers. We started meeting the overnight guests heading down the mountain. Many of the folks I should remember but alas, I draw a blank when I try to put a name on the face. In one group, they had a print out of my map of the Alum Cave Bluff Trail. Ronnie continued to take his pulse frequently but he was not experiencing any problem.
The view of Clingmans Dome from Grassy Slide was extremely hazy. The mountain krigia was blooming in profusion at Grassy Slide. We paused below Cliff Top and Ronnie pointed out Paul's face and Betty Jane's stairway to Heaven. Tim Line, the lodge manager and part owner, overtook and passed us before we got to the top of Betty Jane's stairway to Heaven. Just before reaching Paul's face, we found a growth of Beaked Dodder (Love Vine). The Cherokee called it "Love in a tangle"
The lodge was warm and frequently socked in. I walked over to the dining room and took a picture confirming the date. While over by the dining room, I took pictures of Monks Hood and more immature cone flowers. I returned to the water spigot and filled my CamelBak before going into the office and registering this trip. I returned to the porch and held a nice rocking chair down while I ate my lunch. Cindy enjoyed the view and Ronnie made several phone calls before we started down. I contacted Chris Virden and gave him the two peaches that I had brought up for him and his wife.
Ronnie and Cheryl had business to attend to so they took off at a faster pace than Cindy and I did. We chatted with a few hikers and made our way down past the log steps and stopped for a snack at Gracie's Pulpit. We had a nice view of Cliff Top even though it was still some clouds and hazy. There were several hikers at the bluff but we did not tarry there for long. We did stop to take a picture of the crimson bee balm at the first foot log and a shot of the mini waterfalls on Alum Creek. Cindy conned someone into taking a final picture of us on this hike.
It was a great hike with friends. It took us about 8 hours to complete the hike.Cindy headed for Columbus, Ohio and I headed for the Holiday Inn in Cherokee to rest for another hike tomorrow. Thanks for the company folks.