Mountain Trip – June 2014

June 18, 2014 – Another trip through Linville Gorge. Got to the campsite at the bend just before a huge thunderstorm rolled past.  You could see the thunderstorms building as I headed up the ridge from I-40. Now I’m just waiting for the charcoal to get going so I can put the pork chops on.  I decided to grill each night that I’m Jeep camping – we’ll see how it goes.

I plan on driving up to a spot before Wiseman View on the right where the trees are cleared and see if the sunset will shot.  Tomorrow the plan is to hike to the bottom of Linville Falls.

June 19, 2014 – Tried to shoot the sunrise at Wiseman View.  I took a couple of shots, but no clouds or good color.  I went back to the campsite to see the sun rise over Hawksbill Mtn, but the sun comes up farther to the north this time of year.  I should have checked the Photographers Ephemeris before I came.

I hiked to the bottom of Linville Falls.  It’s not too bad of a hike.  15-20 minutes to the bottom.  A lot of rocky spots to scramble through though.  I met a hippy yoga instructor with a dulcimer.  Her name was Ann Marie.  She said that the good light is ~8am this time of year.  She also said to order the trout BLT at Little Switzerland.

I took a few shots of the falls from the shore on the right side of the falls.  I also climbed up to on a large boulder in the middle of the river and checked the angle from there.  I plan to go back down with the Hassy 1st thing in the morning.  I also “hiked” to a small falls on a creek near the visitor center.

I drove up the road to Roan Mountain State Park – it took about an hour or so from Linville Falls area.  I hiked the trail to Roan High Knob.  The trail head is at the back and it’s only a 1/2 mile to the lookout point.  It was too hazy for photos, but I got some good cloud shots if they turn out.  I was using the circular polarizer to get some dramatic skies.  I also tried some shots of a pretty fern.  Then I hiked through the Rhododendron Gardens & found placed to shoot tomorrow. Continue reading

Yellowstone

In July 2009, we flew from Huntsville to Denver to Jackson Hole and drove from there. The airport in Jackson Hole is spectacular – it’s in a field directly in front of the Tetons! We stopped off for a little while to walk around in Jackson Hole. We ate at some cool burger place called Billy’s Hamburgers that we definitely recommend if you happen to be in the area.

Here is a link to the Yellowstone Map that you can use to follow along.

Our first night was at a campsite between Tetons and Yellowstone called Lizard Creek. We set up our tent and drove up to the Yellowstone entrance to take the required Langley photographs. We didn’t really do anything else that night other than cook in the rain.

The next morning we broke camp and drove into Yellowstone.  We stopped off at Lake Yellowstone for breakfast and some pictures.  We didn’t eat at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel (the big yellow one) but ate at the lodge instead. It was nice to be able to look out at the lake while we ate breakfast.

The sky was clear and there was a definite blue cast to everything, partially due to the Velvia film. I converted some of the shots to a monotone, since the blue dominated them anyway.

There is a large meadow in front of the lodge, and I was able to catch this guy having breakfast as well:

Buffalo River 2010

This is a placeholder to remind me to write down all of the crazy stories from this trip.

What a trip! The river was up so much that we finished 4 days worth of floating in 2. So we hauled the canoe up to Ponca and floated to Kyles Landing again.

The best info that I’ve found so far are river level charts for Ponca:

and Pruit:

Marmot Aura 2P

When April and I decided to hike and camp our way through Yellowstone in 2008, we thought that it would be the right time to finally get a lighter tent. The tent that we normally use is over-sized for what we need and quite heavy. After a ton of research, reviews, and web browsing – we decided to get the Marmot Aura.

This tent is everything that we expected. Here’s a few items to note:

  • Price – ~$300 on the web including shipping.
  • Weight – this tent only weighs 5 pounds. Compare that to the 7+ pounds for the Eureka that we normally used.
  • Setup – It took a while to figure out how to set this tent up. After my first attempt I realized that the instructions are on the inside of the tent bag – much easier with the instructions.
  • Functionality – This tent helped us stay warmer than our Eureka would have in 30 degree temps in Yellowstone. There was a bit of wind, but nothing that I would use as a test of the tents wind resistance.

So far, I’m very happy with this tent. It seems to be well worth the price that we paid for it. The bent poles allow enough room for us to sit comfortably and gives the feeling of more space.

My wife is getting annoyed with me asking her questions about price for a review on my website. She thinks that it’s totally “LAMO”

Buffalo River 2007

Getting information together for a trip report – really waiting on the pictures to come back.

Day 1 – Saturday

Tim and I had a nice drive up to Jasper on Saturday morning. I should say that I had a nice drive – Tim pretty much slept until Russelville. We stopped at the overlook to make one last call to the girls before hitting the river.

We had unloaded all of our gear and were waiting for the next bus, when two couple started piling their gear next to us. The girls looked at our stuff and said that they didn’t feel so bad about bringing so much stuff since we had as much as they did. We told them that we were going for 6 days – “How long are you guys floating?” They were on overnight trip.

 

We finally got loaded and on our way to the river. The driver was the son of the owners. He said that they had bought the bus at an auction for $350. I think he paid too much. We passed a sign going down (and I mean down) the road to Steel Creek landing that said: “Not recommended for busses or RV’s” I really should have taken a picture.

Steel Creek was PACKED with people, canoes, and tents. We were lucky to get on the river before the crowd – that way nobody saw us flip when we got around the corner. I think we had the weight riding too high. We learned our first lesson of the trip at this point – DO NOT PUT YOUR FOOD IN A CARDBOARD BOX FOR STORAGE IN A CANOE.

  • Hike to Hemmed In Hollow
  • Campsite at Kyle’s Landing
  • The rest of the crew finally shows up

Day 2 – Sunday

  • On the river
  • Early to bed
  • Don’t remember much else

 

Day 3 – Monday

  • Jumping off the cliff
  • Best campsite ever
  • “Little Bastard” invades the campsite

Day 4 – Tuesday

  • Dropped the crew at Carver
  • Stupid rope swing
  • Best Campsite Ever 2

Day 5 – Wednesday

  • On the river at 11:00 am
  • Jumping out of the tree
  • Rain shelter
  • Hiking the Narrows
  • Church group
  • Camp site
  • Broken nose

Day 6 – Thursday

Pinhoti Trail 2006

April and I took a hiking trip on Section 6 of the Pinhoti trail during spring break in March. This is a photo journal of our trip. All photos were taken with a Nikon N80 using a Nikon 28-200mm lens on Velvia 100 film.

The drive from Albany GA up to Cheaha wasn’t too bad. We picked up US 431 in Phenix City and stayed on it until it crossed Hwy 281. This is the dead-end scenic highway from our trip to Chinnabee. The first photo is a panoramic from the first scenic stop we found on this highway.

We found a guy named Justin from another post who will provide a shuttle service to nearby trailheads. If you need his phone #, drop me a line. He gave us a ride up to the place where the Pinhoti crosses 431. The Pinhoti is blazed with a blue stripe and some kind of turkey foot marking (Pinhoti is an Indian word meaning “Turkey Home”). Occasionally there are blazes using the Pinhoti placard:

We hit the Pinhoti some time around 4:00pm and hiked for about an hour and a half before we heard the sound of water. On the way, we found crossed this bridge – the only bridge over the smallest stream!

The reason we picked this section of the Pinhoti was for the waterfalls. I think they rivaled the falls that we saw in the Deep Creek area of the GSMNP. The first waterfall (there are two) has an upper and a lower section. The upper section is almost vertical with the water flowing down a rock face.
I had read about a campsite at this first waterfall, but we had to look pretty hard before we found it. It looks like the trail used to run right by it but has been re-routed. It’s downstream a bit from the first waterfall.

I don’t have any pictures of this campsite, but is has a stone fire ring with some other flat stones propped up for back rests. It was a nice night – didn’t even need the rain fly on the tent. The next morning, we got up and took some photos of the waterfall.

We had breakfast, coffee, & hot chocolate and packed up camp. There was a cold front coming through, and the plan was to make it to county road 24 before lunch.

There were a good many ups and downs between the waterfalls & CR 24. I still haven’t figured out why the trail didn’t run along a ridge line like the AT does most of the time. It would run about 15 ft below the ridge – we never could get much of a view.

As I mentioned earlier, there were no more bridges on this section of the Pinhoti:

After the ups & downs, we made it to CR 24 around 10:30am. There was another small waterfall here that I had not read about. I wish that I had a trash bag to pick up some of the bottles & other trash that was all over the place. Apparently it is close enough to CR 24 to be a popular place to picnic.

We ate the rest of our trail mix (I really wish we had taken some more) and headed across CR 24. We passed another semi-established campsite near a stream. There were some chairs left here (near enough to CR 24 I guess) so we took advantage and filled up on water. Here’s a picture of me & my new hat:

After passing the campsite, the trail followed an old forest road for about a mile. After that, it was all up & down again. I wish I had an elevation profile of the section between CR 24 and Hubbard Creek – I don’t think there is a flat piece of land between the two.

In the mid-afternoon the clouds started rolling in so we decided to camp at Hubbard creek if we could find a good place. We knew that a cold front was coming through with a good bit of rain. We finally made it to Hubbard Creek about 4:00pm. Luckily there was a campsite on the other side of the creek so we wouldn’t have to cross it in the morning. This creek was knee deep at the crossing with moss-covered rocks on the bottom.

After playing in the creek for a while, we set up camp, filtered water, and got ready for the storm. The clouds were really starting to roll in by this time. For dinner we had angel hair pasta with herbs and lemon-pepper tuna from a foil pouch – not too bad.

Soon after we finished eating and cleaned up it started to sprinkle a little. We were pretty sheltered from most of the wind, but we could still hear the thunder as the front passed over.

The next morning when we woke up it was about 40 degrees. I’m really, really glad that we crossed the creek the day before! We made breakfast, packed up, and hit the trail.

 

Not too far after leaving the campsite, we crossed a power line. The trail is pretty hard to follow through here because of all of the tree tops laying around. After we found our way across, there were several more ups & downs along with more stream crossings.

We had a few spots along a ridge line where we could see a bit across the valley. I think I could make out Anniston in the distance. We came across this bus near an old road through the mountains.

After a few miles of not knowing exactly how far we had been, we made it to the CCC road. According to our map, it was only 2.5 miles to Blue Mountain shelter. The problem was that the marker at the CCC Road crossing said there were 3 miles left! A half mile makes a big difference when you’re climbing 500 feet!

After it is all said and done, I believe that the map is correct. It still adds confusion during the hike though. We had gone a bit past the CCC road and found this little guy sitting across the trail – it was pretty cold and he didn’t move much.

Besides two deer on a ridge across the valley, it was the only wildlife that we had seen on the trail (named after Turkeys at that!) We started the final climb up Cheaha mountain. This was the best piece of trail so far in my opinion. Every so often, we could catch a glimpse over the mountain tops. We came to a rocky ridge between Cheaha mountain and Blue mountain and rested for a while. It was quite nice to lay out in the sun on a mountain top. If anyone happens across that spot, please look for my clip on sunglasses!

After this, we passed another sign that said 1 mile to Blue Mountain shelter – We thought we’d already been 2 1/2 miles since the CCC road! Again, it was only a half mile (if that) to the shelter. They really need to take down those signs. The shelter is in very good shape, but I didn’t see any water too close to it. Now that I think about it, there wasn’t much water since we crossed the CCC road. We found a lot of small waterfalls and streams flowing down the mountain from the shelter to the park though. We also came across some views like this one:

All in all, I think it was a good trip – my wife may disagree. Though the trail sucked in most places, there were good waterfalls and streams to camp beside. We didn’t pass a single person on the trail.

Chinnabee Silent Trail

My wife and I always meet my Dad and other family at Talladega, AL for the Nascar race twice a year. This time, I thought it would be a good way to get a camping/hiking trip in one the side. After doing some research on the Pinhoti Trail, I decided we should check out one of the side trails in the Talladega National Forest – the Chinnabee Silent Trail. We needed a place where we could pack out early in the morning, and it didn’t hurt that the trail was blazed by a deaf Boy Scout Troop back in 1977.

This was my first camping trip with my wife, and we learned quite a few things. The most important being:

  1. Ants WILL eat through a zip lock back to reach the M&M’s in your trail mix.
  2. The phrase “I’ve got two water bottles” does not mean “I’ve got two bottles of water.”
  3. Even if the road’s on the map, “The dirt don’t lie…” – Thanks to Bearpaw at The Lightweight Backpacker for the catchy phrase.

We drove from Albany, GA up to Cheaha State Park on a Saturday morning. The drive wasn’t that bad except for the single wide trailer being moved down a two lane road, followed by a bunch of idiots who don’t know when to pass. We decided to eat lunch at the cafe in the State Park before heading on to the trail. It turned out to be a good decision – the food (buffet) was excellent even if it was a little pricey – $8.95 for a buffet? The view is what sells the place. Here’s a shot of the overlook from the Cheaha State Park Cafe, followed by a picture of the cafe itself:

Here’s a piece of literature that we picked up at the state park office. Pay close attention to the map, as it is the only correct map that I’ve been able to find (story to follow):

We rode around for a while looking for Turnipseed Campground. If you’ve been there before, it’s really easy to find, but we were looking off of FS 600 where our other map said it was supposed to be. Luckily there were several cars parked at the junction of the Chinnabee Trail and FS 600, so we parked and started hiking. The plan was to leave our packs at the car, hike towards the Pinhoti up the ridge, and pick up our packs on the way back to Cheaha Shelter. In all, it worked out pretty well for a day hike.

The trail was very nice – covered with pine straw for the most part until it became more of a “rock scramble” near the top. It’s almost flat with a few minor ups and downs until it gets to the ridge. We almost made it to the top of the ridge (where the Chinnabee connects with the Pinhoti) and ran out of time. I went on ahead for a few minutes, but lost the trail (and all blazes) after crossing a spring. A guy we met on the way down said that I was 300 yards from the top when I stopped.

Here are a few shots from the Chinnabee Silent Trail – mostly to test the color saturation of the Fuji Velvia slide film I was using:

We headed back to the car, grabbed our packs and set out for the Cheaha Shelter – a half mile from where we parked. We passed the falls on the way to the shelter, but didn’t have time to check them out. There was a small troop of Scouts from Sylacauga camping there, and a group of drunks camping closer to the falls. I’ve decided to add drunks to my list of wildlife – they can usually be found at campsites and trails within a half mile of easy access to a road. The shelter is situated on the ridge a good bit above Cheaha Creek.

The temperature was supposed to drop on Saturday, but it bottomed out in the mid-70s. It was a bit stuffy in the tent with the two of us. The wind was blowing about 10-15 mph all night long, but the tent didn’t seem to have any problems – other than keeping us awake with the noise. Much to our surprise, a wolf spider decided to join us for the night. After escorting our unwelcome guest out of the tent, we were finally able to get some sleep.

The next morning we ate breakfast, packed up camp, and headed back to the car. We stopped along the way to check out the falls. I wish I had spent more time photographing the falls, as these are some of the best photos I’ve ever taken:

As for the bit about the maps, here’s my post to the forum at The Lightweight Backpacker:

"I just returned from a weekend trip to the Cheaha Mountain
area of Alabama.  My wife and I had decided to check out the
Chinnabee Silent Trail and camp for a night before meeting
my folks in Talladega for the Nascar race.  The trails and
campsites were great (trip report to be posted later) but we
had some serious problems Sunday morning after we packed up. 

The plan was to drive down AL-281 as marked on our US Atlas,
to Clairmont Springs and then across to AL-77 into
Talladega.  We were driving south on 281 - it's a well kept
paved 2-lane road - better then most of the roads we had
driven in on.  This road just dead-ends at Porter's Gap
trailhead!!!  All that was left was an unmarked gravel road
- not something I'm going to try in a car (with my wife)
with no cell-phone coverage.  We had to drive back through
Cheaha State Park and around to Talladega, adding an hour to
 1.5 hours to our 30 minute drive.

I'm still miffed about it!  I looked up the area on all the
maps I normally use online, and none of them are correct.
On all the maps linked below, Skyway Mountainway is actually
the road that was marked as AL-281.

Google: Google Map of AL-281

Yahoo and Mapquest were difficult to link.  You may have to
click a link from the Url to get the map.

Yahoo:  Yahoo Map of AL-281

Mapquest: Mapquest Map of AL-281"

I’ll end this trip report with a scan of my atlas, and a photo of the road to nowhere.


Apex 3XTA Review

Tent Information:

  • Date Purchased: February 2005
  • Purchased from: Bass Pro Shop, Orlando
  • Purchase price: $160
  • Weight: > 7 lbs

I purchased this tent to use for camping trips with my wife and my dog – the reason for the 3 person tent. So far, the tent has been on two camping trips – on the Buffalo River and the Chinnabee Trail. The Apex is very easy to pitch. I had no trouble pitching it by myself in a little wind – just remember to stake down the upwind side of the tent first. I believe that it could also be set up to pitch in the rain. The fly can be clipped onto the tent before pitching. This may require 2 people though, as the poles usually need to be helped through the webbing at the intersection of the poles.

Here are some pictures of the tent the first two times it was pitched:

From my trip report on the Buffalo River:

It was still storming when I finally drifted off to
sleep. The tents held up surprisingly well through the
downpour. The only problem Tim and I had was that I had
forgotten to tuck the ground cloth underneath the edge of
the tent. There are a few other changes that I would make to
the Eureka Apex 3XTA if I had the chance. I would start by
replacing the tent doors with a mesh screen to allow for
airflow when the rain fly is zipped shut. It got quite
stuffy in the tent when it was all buttoned down. The other
problem that we had is that there is no way to reach the
zipper at the bottom of the rain fly without getting wet
from the condensation. Some type of dual zipper on the fly
would make it easier to unzip from the top.

Here’s a picture of the tent pitched on a rock bar along the Buffalo River:

Here’s a picture of the tent pitched on a ridge above Cheaha Falls.

Notes:

  • The footprint of the tent is bigger than you think
  • Unzipped the doors to help ventilation and a Wolf Spider moved in
  • May be able to raise the door tie-down of the fly by using a trekking pole
  • The weight is a bit much for only 2 people, it’s not as bad if the poles & stakes are carried seperately.
  • With some rigging of the groundcloth, it may be possible to only pitch the fly.

First Buffalo River Trip

Day 0 – Friday (Yazoo to Jasper)

Left on Friday morning (not sure what time) and headed for Arkansas. They’re building a new suspension bridge across the Mississippi near Greenville that should be pretty cool when it’s finished. On the way up there we had the theme song to Smokey and the Bandit stuck in our head for some weird reason:

	Eastbound and Down loaded up and truckin
	Ah we gonna do what they say can't be done
	We've got a long way to go and a short time to get there
	I'm eastbound just watch old bandit run

We stopped in Russellville, looking for a Walmart to stock up on some last minute groceries that we didn’t want to bring with us. Next time we’ll know that the Walmart is at the first exit for Russellville from I-40. It’s not a supercenter (they’re building one down the road), but it had plenty of lunch meats and other things we were looking for. Dad even got a hat.

From Russellville, we took Hwy 7 up to Jasper. Hwy 7 is a winding 2 lane highway that used to be one of the main roads for people vacationing in the Ozarks. There are these little tourist traps and souvenir shops on the side of the highway that have been closed for some time now. There are a few overlooks that are worth seeing. This section of the Ozarks seems to have meadows that break up the wooded mountainside.

After about 1 1/2 hours on Hwy 7, we finally made it to Jasper. We went by the Gordon motel and booked our room for the night. I knew I wasn’t in Florida anymore when the lady asked, “Well how much to you think the room should be?” We actually booked the last room they had available – it even had three beds. It wasn’t that bad of a room. No telephone, but it had a TV and an air-conditioner.

After we had put everything in our room, we headed for Pruit Landing to survey where we were putting in on the next day. The next time we’re in Jasper, we need to remember the Pruit Landing has a great swimming hole under the bridge if we need to kill some time. On the way back into Jasper, we checked out the restaurant that the motel lady recommended. It was called the “Point of View”, but it didn’t really have one. The food was decent, and the blackberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream that I had for dessert was incredible.

We ended the day back at the motel, packing up for the trip. We took all of the items that we didn’t need on the river (extra shoes, clothes, etc.) and put them in a box to leave in the truck while we were gone. Then we started putting all of our gear into the 5 gallon buckets that we had brought with us – this was the beginning of a 3-day bucket brigade.