Closing the Gap – Iron Mountain, TN

I had been planning to take a hike over the 3-day Labor Day Weekend and complete the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I got a couple of quotes for a shuttle but they were way more than I was willing to spend. So I changed up my plans and decided to close a big gap that I had between sections and complete the trail over Iron Mountain in Tennessee. This section of trail covers 16 miles, following the ridge of Iron Mountain between Wilbur Dam Road and TN 91 at Cross Mountain, with no road crossings in between. Here is the map of the route covered:

The plan for the hike was to do an out-and-back going from the trail head at TN91 at Cross Mountain to the road crossing at Wilbur Dam Road and return to TN91. The first day I was going to hike to the Vandeventer Shelter – a distance of 11.4 miles. There were a couple of geocaches that I could grab along the way including a 5 difficulty / 5 terrain puzzle cache. Day 2 the plan was to hike to the Wilbur Dam road and return to the shelter. Day 3 was going to cover the same ground as Day 1 in reverse. Continue reading

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Back to Roan Mountain

I had not had a chance to go back to Roan Mountain this year. This is one of my favorite places – and I had many more miles of the Appalachian Trail that crosses it to explore.

My plan was to drive to the end of the Roaring Creek Road and access the trail via the Forest Service road that continues past the gate and up to Yellow Creek Gap. My base camp would be at the Overmountain Shelter – a barn that has been renovated and converted into a trail shelter. The shelter is one of the nicest on the trail and has one of the best views from any shelters that I have visited. Continue reading

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Phillies Progress – All Star Break

The Phillies have been having a great year so far. Here is a cool chart showing the NL East race so far this season. The biggest thing you can see on this is the big dive that the Florida Marlins took at the start of June. They seem to have recovered a bit the last few games, but are probably out of the race for this year.


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Pond Mountain, TN – 7/9/11

I have been scoping out additional opportunities to self-shuttle via bicycle and one that I really liked was the one that ties together both ends of the AT over Pond Mountain in Tennessee. 

A short 1.8 mile ride along US321 separates the trail head at the Shook Branch Recreation Area from the Laurel Falls Trailhead for the Hampton Blueline Trail. I parked my car at Shook Branch and rode up over the hill. The ride was pretty easy and just had to coast once I reached the top. In all, it took me only 15 minutes and saved a pretty long road walk.

I locked up the bike and headed up the Blue-Blazed Hampton Blueline Trail. This trail is heavily used by folks going up to the magnificent Laurel Falls further up the Laurel Gorge. The trail passed along side the Laurel Creek and there were some spectacular rocks, especially the Folded Rock along the creek a very large cliff with nice layers exposed. I reached the AT about a mile up the trail and started my ascent.

The trail followed many switchbacks up the side of the gorge to reach the ridge above. There were many rocks and the trail was pretty rough. This trail was not nearly as well used as the one in the bottom of the gorge. There were very nice views of the gorge as I ascended and it was a lot of hard work, even with just a daypack.

After nearly 2000ft of ascent, I finally reached the Pond Flats, a relatively level spot near the summit of the mountain. There were several nice campsites here with springs and water available. It would be nice to return here on an overnight hike. I decided to track down a Geocache that was located at the nearby summit of the mountain. This required travel off the trail but the bushwhacking was not bad an I managed to find the cache even though my GPS had decided it did not want to work. I think I was only the 5th or 6th person to log this one even though it has been in place for over 2 years.

The descent down the mountain was pretty easy and the trail was well graded and not too rocky. I am glad I decided to go the way I did, because it would not have been quite as nice to do it the opposite way – descending down the rocky side of the Laurel Gorge. There were some very nice views of Lake Watauga on the trail down. This hike would have been very nice later in the fall or during the winter without leaves on the trees.

The miles passed quickly and before I knew it I was back at the car and along the shore of Watauga Lake. I drove down to the other trail head and picked up my bike and headed home. A great trip today!

1.7 miles biked – 7.2 miles hiked – 6.2 new AT miles

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Fourth of July Hike – Humpback Mountain

After returning from Summer Camp with the Boy Scouts, our family traveled to Charlottesville, VA to visit my wife’s mother. We had a really excellent time and really enjoyed the great seafood and steaks that my brother-in-law brought to eat. There were great whole crabs and mussels and they were prepared in a great spice boil. Very tasty!

During the long weekend, there was time to get away and hike a new section of the AT. The trail is close and my wife agreed to do a shuttle for me to allow for a longer section to be hiked. The plan for the hike was to go from the Dripping Rock parking area to Humpback Gap.

The route would take me over several rocky summits and cliffs along the ridge of Humpack Mountain that had great views on both sides of the Blue Ridge. On the first part of the ascent, I saw a nice deer that did not seem the least bit afraid of me. We took turns looking at each other, but the deer just kept right on munching.  Continue reading

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Apple Orchard Mountain – 6/18/11

Been a few weeks since I have posted, so I am going to try and catch up on what I have been doing on the trail over the past couple of weeks.

I wanted to make sure that I got back on the trail before leaving for summer camp with the Boy Scouts, so I took Tommy and Abby up to Apple Orchard Mountain in Virginia.

We started north into Virginia and decided to do some Geocaching along the way. It was nice to stretch our legs after a bit of time in the car. We stopped along the way near Danville, Gretna and Altavista and got our first caches in Virginia. The drive was nice and we enjoyed some of the less traveled backroads on our way through Bedford, home of the D-Day Memorial and the Peaks of Otter along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The plan for the hike was to start at the Apple Orchard Falls Trail near Parkers Gap and follow the AT up and over Apple Orchard Mountain to the next road crossing with the Parkway. We would follow the Parkway and a parallel woods road back to complete the circuit. Continue reading

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Gooch Gap to Neels Gap

During the long holiday weekends, I try to go a little further out to complete section hikes. Last year I hiked from Springer Mountain to Gooch Gap. This year I hiked from Gooch Gap to Neels Gap.

I headed out on Friday morning, driving out I-40 toward the mountains. I got stuck in a traffic jam just before Asheville, which stopped traffic for over a 1/2 hour. Once this was cleared, it was good driving all the way to Woody Gap. The weather was partly cloudy, but there were a number of short showers as I passed through the Nantahalas.

When I reached Woody Gap, it was up in the clouds and you could not see more than a few hundred feet. As I got my day pack ready for the day’s hike, It cleared away and was a very nice afternoon. The first part of the hike would be an out an back from Woody Gap to Gooch Gap. I had planned to hike this last year but turned back due to weather. The trail was very nice, fairly level on a good path for the first mile. Then the trail went over a couple small knobs with nice views before descending to Gooch Gap. The trip back to Woody Gap was quick. I covered the 7+ miles in just about 3 hours.

Continue reading

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