Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Another Lifer!

This is a hike we did back in August. And when I say "we", I don't mean the usual "we". Laura was spending her last weekend at Camp Lejeune, so she was a no-go for this one. I finally talked a co-worker of mine, a fellow Airman, Dennis, into going with me. Anytime you take people hiking or backpacking with you, you can usually tell within the first hour of the trip whether or not they will ever go on another trip. Getting people to go backpacking is a non-stop effort. I go hiking probably every other weekend or so in the three warmer seasons, and probably once a month in winter. EVERY time I go I try to recruit anyone from work that I can to come with me. It's usually the same reaction I get when I ask. "Hey man, sounds pretty cool. Where are you going camping? Can we bring beer? No? Oh, I'm actually supposed to go to the bar with my friends this weekend. Maybe next time." And of course there is actually never a next time. So needless to say I was excited to hear that Dennis was going to come, and he was bringing a friend of his from tech school with us.

We prepped to camp for two nights, and made three stops. All three stops were in the Golden Corner. (The Golden Corner is what they call the three counties in the western tip of South Carolina). We got to Brasstown Creek just as night was setting in. We set up camp, cooked some food, and washed up in the creek. I was anxious to show the guys the Brasstown Waterfall Series that was less than a quarter mile from our tents that night. The next morning we packed up and went on down to the waterfalls. The guys were just as blown away as I was the first time I stumbled upon these falls. The first is a 30 foot wide cascade tumbling slowly down a rocky incline. Just 20 meters downstream is a 20 foot waterfall flowing over a cliff face. It's a very picturesque waterfall, one of the best I've seen (above). Then the third part, again just 20 meters or so down stream, is a sluice that drains into an awesome swimming pool, framed to the north by a beautiful cliff face.

((left to right: EVAN, DENNIS (kneeling), ME, & AUSTIN -one of my two dogs))

The next stop was just up the road (an old forest service dirt road) from our campsite. We walked to the top of Pine Mountain and caught some really amazing panoramic views (as pictured above).

After that, we headed up the road to the Chattooga River. If you are ever in this part of South Carolina, you have to go enjoy the views of the Chattooga River Valley. After driving through the rain on a questionable dirt road, we arrived at the trail head. We sat in the car for a few minutes to wait for the rain to stop. Sure enough the clouds rolled back. We loaded up and headed down the valley wall. We arrived at the river, and there was an awesome spot just across the river perfect for our three tents. We set up early and spent the rest of the day walking up and down the river soaking in the views.

After the trip, Dennis was already talking about all the gear he needed to be a fully equipped backpacker (he was using all my wife's stuff for this trip). I knew then I had found another lifer. He was hooked. We have tried to get some trips together since then, but our schedules haven't worked out. We do have dates set aside for the week after next. I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Virgin Falls, Tennessee

Well, now that I am back to the blogging, I have to catch everyone up on all those hikes you've missed out on the past year or so. This one was an all-around interesting adventure.

I had just had micro-fracture surgery on my left knee only a week ago. I found out later that I wasn't supposed to walk for six weeks, but those instructions were given to me while I was still drunk on meds in recovery. I still had the staples in my knee and everything. Anyhow! I was headed to Texas, from Augusta, for my cousin's wedding. I figured since I had so much time off for recovery, I would take a detour and hit up some Tennessee trails on the way home (even though it wasn't really on the way at all).

When I got to the trailhead and unleashed the hounds (my two dogs, Austin and Star)and let them get their usual pre-hike scamper over with, I got my pack on and laced up my boots and hit the trail. By that time the dogs' tongues were dragging the ground. "No big deal," I thought, "they can get some fresh water out of the creek we are supposed to cross in about half a mile." Sure enough, at about half a mile we crossed a footbridge over a completely dry creek bed. I had no water on me at all, expecting to use the creek as a source. I figured surely at some point we would find some water. Mile 1, nothing. Mile 2, nothing. At this point, I was very close to going into panic mode, because they were really panting hard, and I myself was getting quite thirsty. Thank goodness at mile 3 there was a decent sized puddle in the creek bed and they got a good (dirty) drink.

We reached the campsite and found this amazing, one of a kind waterfall. There is a small hill/mountain top, with water coming out of the very top. No really, just flowing striaght out of the mountain top. There is no visible river or anything feeding the waterfall. The waterfall splashes down about 90 feet to its bottom, where it disappears into the base of the mountain. It's so crazy. There in the middle of this wilderness is a mountain with a waterfall flowing down its side. No river at the top, no river at the base. Awesome.

When we got there I hike down to the slippery base of the waterfall, being extra cautious not to fall and slide into the abyss where the water disappeared. I filled my water bottle, took some pictures and got ready to climb back up to the campsite. On the way up I felt my leg getting wet. At some point I gashed a small hole in my bottle. So now, if I balanced it just right, I had half a bottle of water. The only way to refill the bottle was to hike down to the slippery base of the waterfall and hope not to slide into the abyss. Not cool. It was rough and thirsty night.

The next day, I finished taking my last set of pictures and soaking it all in. We packed up and got ready to hike out. Right when I shoved off, another hiker comes in with nothing more than a walking stick and a small backpack. We made small talk about the dry creek bed and the best time to catch the waterfall (he recommended December). I headed out, thinking he would stay, but he said he was headed out as well. As we talked along the trail, I found out that he comes out here all the time and hikes the trail as a workout (which explained why he didn't hang out long at the falls). At first I was slightly annoyed that he hiked out with us. The dogs usually act edgy around company. But he was very friendly and seemed to enjoy the dogs running up and down the mountain. Then, suddenly, I noticed my heart getting kinda fluttery and my hands felt really shaky. I looked in my pack, but I had only packed what I needed for supper last night and breakfast. I knew it was only a 5 mile hike and figured surely I could make it out. My new hiking buddy offered me some of his food, but I didn't want to take it. Also, my water bottle (or half water bottle) was empty after about half a mile. I did accept his offer for water (since the dry creek bed was in fact still dry...), but still just felt bad about accepting his granola bar. Sure enough, with just one mile to go on the hike, I simply couldn't take another step. I realized that the whole time I was using only my right leg to carry the load (due to the left knee only being a week removed from surgery). This drained me way faster than normal. So I took up his offer for the granola, which gave me the boost I needed to get back to the car.

To date, that's the only time I have had any trouble on the trail. It was close to being serious trouble. This guy I thought was going to be annoying ended up saving me from a world of misery. I think it may have been God's way of making me feel like a heel for judging someone. He ended up being a true Godsend.

**This trail also offers some cave hikes. I got in late, and was short on water and food, so I didn't stray to far from the main path. There is also a short spur trail to take you to a nearby river, but my new hiking buddy informed me that even the river was dry at that time; something he had never seen before.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Pine Mountain Sunrise

This sunrise we caught from Pine Mountain in South Carolina, near the town of Westminster. Laura and I drove up early and started up before sun-up. I stumbled upon this place during one of my many solo hikes I took while Laura was deployed. It was really fun to be able to take her back there and experience it with her. It was pretty amazing watching the sun press into the mountains and watch the fog lift from deep in the valley's cracks.

The other significance to this is, it was our first trip since finding out we were pregnant. Wow! What an exciting feeling. I have dreamed for a long time about the day when I would welcome my first child to the world. Its unbelievably exciting to know that it is coming soon. One day I will stand on this mountain with a new addition to the family, and we'll all catch this sunrise together.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Three Forks Junction With My Parents

The Three Forks Junction is a place where three creeks flow together to form the West Fork of the Chattooga River (The river where the movie "Deliverance" was filmed). From the north, Overflow Creek flows in. From the west is Holcomb Creek, losing elevation fast and flowing narrowly between two mountains before reaching the junction. From the east flows Big Creek. Big Creek carries the most water into the junction, and has some amazing waterfalls just upstream. Right in the middle of all this there is just enough flat and soft ground that allow you to set up camp with water flowing in all directions, surrounded by mountains. The amazing scenery combined with a fairly simple, yet rarely undertaken hike makes it my favorite camping spot. I wish everyone I knew had a chance to come and spend a couple nights out here. I had the pleasure of taking my parents on their first backpacking trip here. It was a great experience for all parties involved.

That very trip will be one that I remember for a long time. The biggest skeptic was my dad. We had to wheel and deal to get him out there. Part of the deal was we would find a way to get him an air mattress AND the pump to the camp site. And we would hike in real food, not trail food. Also, his pack had to weigh less than 20 pounds. I recruited Greg for the trip, and me and him stuffed our packs, including the air mattress and pump, so that Daddy's demands would be met. I could see that both my parents were really enjoying the scenery on the way in, even though the trail was in really rough shape. We ended up decending a mountain side completely off the trail at one point because the markings were gone. It ended up being one of the more rugged hikes I've taken. I felt bad about promising my parents an easy hike, then running into all the problems we did, but they laughed about it once we were at the campsite. We set up camp and then began playing around on some of the boulders and waterfalls surrounding the campsite. It was great to see Momma acting like a twelve-year-old, jumping across creeks and playing on big rocks. My mom talks all the time about that trip, and they plan on making another go at it next time they are in Georgia.

Here are some of our photos from the trip we made in December. The weather was nasty, but it was a rare warm weekend in December, so we headed out anyway. Enjoy!¤t=1884453d.pbw

In the Beginning

Ok. Take Two. I tried to start a blog last year, but it fizzled after only one entry. The blog was titled "My Weekend Adventures". At the time, my wife and I were stationed in separate places. Now that Laura is done with her fun in the Marine Corps and living with me in Georgia, it's only fitting that I change the title from "My..." to "Our Weekend Adventures". When I started the blog I had only been out hiking a few times. Since then, I have lost count how many times I have been out. Our focus for these rants will be our thoughts and opinions about the hikes. Of course, we reserve the right to go off on tangents about anything our mind wanders to, especially if it wandered there while hiking! Our weekend adventures are sure to take us more places than just trails, but trails are the most frequent (and my favorite).