Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Black Mountain Crest Trail: After Action Report


Pisgah National Forest, NC
Friday May 27, 2022 - Saturday May 28, 2022


Not going to lie, this one was a total shit show from the very start that makes it even more disappointing as I was so looking forward to this hike for a very long time. I will start off by saying that I did do some research on the trail, but I don’t like watching videos beforehand as I like some sense of adventure when I go off on these hikes. I knew it was going to be grueling and tough, but I did not expect all the climbing and rock hopping I would be doing.  


I had planned to start his hike from the Bolens Creek trailhead get to the ridge and hike to Mount Mitchell then back. I was going to take my time with the first four miles as it looked to be a hard climb, and it was. Then I was going to pick up speed once I got to the ridge and get to Mount Mitchell then camp at Commissary Hill.  


I had multiple issues starting even before I left the house but did not know it until about two hours into my drive. I got up at 03:00 and left the house well before 04:00 that would have put me right on schedule to hit the trail around 07:00, but my GPS took me to Mount Mitchell State Park instead of the Bolens Creek trailhead. This re-route put me off my schedule by an hour. 


Once I got to the Bolens Creek location Google maps was off of course and I ended up in a backwoods neighborhood with tiny little dirt streets and no real good places to turn around. On a side note, there are some amazing houses back there literarily had waterfalls in their back yard. After my GPS failed, I got out my National Geographic topo map and after more driving around I could tell I was on the right road but still could not find a trailhead anywhere. I would eventually find out the National Geographic map did not have the next lower-level road systems on it. 

Now pushing 10:30 I decided on one last ditch effort and pulled the direction off my AllTrails app that I should had done from the very begging when I left the house. Turns out the trail head is down a “Private” road with a spot for maybe about two cars to park. National Forest trailheads are usually hard to find but with this being down a private road compounded the issue.  

Since it was so close to lunch I decided to go ahead and have a snack while gorging on some water. I knew the higher up the less likely I was going to be able to fill up. Around 11:30 I was finally on the trail and making some actual hiking progress. The first four miles of this trail is up, and I mean up. There are a couple of places the elevation because moderate but for the most part this section of the hike is steep around 700 plus feet per mile.  

Once you make it to the ridge the view opens to a magnificent view of where you can see all the peaks you will touch on the rest of the hike. Words cannot explain the beauty of it, and you realize just how much all that uphill was worth it. I was expecting to make up some time on this section of the hike but that was not in the cards. I knew with all the peaks there was going to be a lot of up and down but what I was not expecting was the rock hopping. It became apparent real fast that I was going to have to scramble, climb, and shimmy around rocks while facing some drop-offs in sections.  

Some places I needed both hands with not a good spot to set my tracking poles where they would not slide off the mountain. The wet conditions also made rocks a little slick and that slowed me down considerable. I came to a section where they placed a rope to help you climb and after shimmying around another rock then coming to another rope to climb down, I realized that I was not going to make this one.

I still had some distance before I would reach Deep Gap where I was planning to camp, then to get to Mount Mitchell and back to the car within the time I had allotted was just not going to happen. I decided to go back close to where I got to the ridgeline and camp for the night then make it back to the Jeep the next morning.  

 























I setup my hammock and tarp and as I started to warm up water for my meal a real dense, wet, misty fog set in. I ate dinner had some tea and did not even try to start a fire. I retreated to my hammock, laid down, and listened to an audio book. As I finally started to drift off the wind pick up and it sounded like a jet engine above me all night. The wind would blow and then throw down all the moister that accumulated on the trees above me. It even shook the trees I was attached to. 

In the morning when I woke up everything was just saturated. I did end up sleeping well as I was warm with the insulated pad and down sleeping bag. My body was never cold, but my hands froze with dampness from the equipment and the steady wind blowing through camp. I did not even try and make coffee I just packed and got started on the trail.  

Downhill was faster but still not an easy hike with the wet leaves made everything slick. Made it back to the Jeep around 11:00 and started the drive back home. I did not even get close on this hike, but I was safe, and I got to spend time outdoors so that was a win in the end.  

After thinking about this one the next time I try it again I need to get my pack weight down even more. Maybe just take a tarp, only take my cup and not a pot then cut town on some of my video/tech equipment. The other thing I will do is wait to fill up my water at the last creek stop about three miles up to cut down on the weight. Also, until I get the full scale of the whole trail, I will try to set up a shuttle and hike it only one way the next time. I still believe I can do a there and back, but I need to scout this out better.  

YouTube Video:



Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Bald River Falls Hike with Frank

Cherokee National Forest (Tellico Plains, TN)
Saturday, May 7, 2022 

Bald River Falls and its trail is located in Cherokee National Forest in the Tellico Plains area. The waterfall is right off the road so that area usually has a crowd but most of the people stick close to the falls itself. While the falls attracts the crowd the trail is very well traveled too so it tends to be well maintained as national forest trails go.  

I like to take Frank on this hike because it is not overgrown and has the river running with it the whole way. The first section is steep with some switchbacks but after the initial climb flattens out and becomes very steady. There are several places along the trail ideal for backcountry camping and/or stopping for a snack. Makes for a great day hike with a lunch stop, that is if your dog will let you stop for lunch.  

I knew this would be a quick hike since I had Frank coming with me, so we took our time getting to the trail. Started out around 10:30 AM and it was cool with a steady rain. The day went back and forth from rain to mist and then back again though I never felt soaked to the bone. I do enjoy hiking in rain from time to time and today was one of those days. Frank started out his normal hyper self as it takes him about a half a mile before he will calm down but then settles into a pace, usually a fast pace.  

With the rain Bald River was roaring though I have seen it angrier but not my too much more. The river could be heard during the whole hike. Did not see much wildlife at all, but birds could be heard often that would set Frank off on a frantic search going side to side on the trail trying to find them.  

When we are out in nature Frank loves to get in the water however today I kept him out on most of the hike as the water was just moving too fast. I did find a little cove where the water was calm, and I let him doggie paddle for a little while.  

The trail ends at a Forest Service Road, so after a quick water stop, we headed back up the trail. Frank was gracious enough to give me a fifteen-minute snack break and he even had a few treats and then back at it again. Got back to the Jeep around 4:00 PM and for the first time ever I think Frank slept on the way home.

Check out my website for more adventures
www.AlexHauck.Com  

Hiking Bald River with Frank (YouTube)


Friday, April 29, 2022

Hiking Gregory Bald

Smoky Mountains National Park
Saturday, April 2, 2022



I have wanted to do this hike for a few years now. I had not yet been to Gregory Bald but had heard it is quite the place to go and see. My original plan was to do this as a two-day hike but now that I am in better shape figured, I would tackle it in one day. I will eventually do this as an overnighter as I would like to spend some more time up top and the hike itself is just awesome.

I started at the Twentymile ranger station very early in the morning. I hiked quite a while in the dark on this one but one of my favorite times to be in the mountains is when you get that dark blue sky with the silhouette of the mountains when the sun first starts to rise. Below are the trials I used to make the loop and I hiked it this time clockwise.

  • Twenitymile 0.5
  • Wolf Ridge 6.3
  • Gregory Bald 1.2
  • Long Hungry Ridge 4.6
  • Twentymile 3.1 

The hike starts out very pleasant with several stream crossing with all having bridges to walk over. You will pass the junction with the Twentymile Loop Trail that is a nice eight-mile loop. Then once you get to backcountry #95 the trail becomes quite a bit more steep until you make it to the ridge.

Once on the ridge the trail does flattens again, and you are close to Parsen Bald. Paresen Bald is a small bald closed in with tall grass and while beautiful your view of the surrounding mountains is somewhat obstructed. Gregory Bald is less than a mile's hike from here and is a very pleasant walk. I love hiking ridgelines especially in warmer weather because you usually have a nice breeze. As you get close to Gregory Bald the grasses start to part and the world opens to an awe-inspiring 360-degree view.  

I took a good hour lunch / coffee break and just took in the views. Clouds started to move in and the sky went from a bright blue to grey overcast in what only seemed like mere minutes. After this nice break it was back on the trail and into the forest for my decent back to the Twentymile ranger station.  

From the Gregory Bald Trail you will take the Long Hungry Ridge Trail that is 4.6 miles long. It is on this trail you will transition from ridgeline back to  a downhill hike. It was here I again ran into small little white flowers that give the impression the ground is snow covered. I also saw these when I did my spring hike to Charlie Bunion when I was on grassy Branch.  

I took one last snack break when I reached backcountry campsite #92. At this point the trail again starts to follow a stream again all the way back to the start of the hike. You link back up to the Twentymile Trail and have several stream crossings mostly with the help of bridges. There are a couple you will need to rock hop. Close to the end of Twentymile there will be a side trail where you can go view the Twentymile Cascades.   

Now back to the Jeep it was time to battle the Dragon and in the Jeep it is no small feat. On my way in it was so early no one is out, but now it is busy. The Dragon is HWY 129 and at this point it has a bunch of sharp turns that draw quite the crowd of fast cars and motorcycles that absolutely fly. Jeeps just cannot turn as sharp as those high-performance cars, so it makes for a white-knuckled trip.   

While a changeling hike this one is awesome and I cannot wait to go again. Let me know what you think in the comments and if you have hiked this let me know how you liked it.  

Links:
Follow all my adventures on my website

Link to my AllTrails Recording
 - AllTrails Recording

My YouTube Channel 

Smoky Mountains National Park

Smoky Mountain Trail Map 


Youtube Video of my Hike
Hiking Gregory Bald (Part 1)

 Hiking Gregory Bald (Part 2)



 






Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Backcountry Camping & Decompressing

With all the stress, we carry around with us in our day-to-day lives I am sure we all have different ways to decompress. My favorite way to decompress is to go camping out in the backcountry. This past weekend I was fortunate enough to get a two night stay out in the woods.   

My friend and I had Friday off so we took off to Cherokee National Forest Thursday evening where we got camp squared away, firewood processed and then relaxed by the fire enjoying the beautiful night. The next morning we got up had some breakfast and rolled a large log over to the fire pit for a make shift bench. I then headed out to meet our wives at the trailhead.   


After lunch, we were able to mess around a fallen tree over the creek, and then actually hopped in for a chilling dip. The mountain water was cold but invigorating as a filled a little water fall. We headed back to camp and everyone decided to take a nap. I poured a little bourbon and took my kindle down to the creek and read a little, drank a little and dozed a little. Down by the creek I had the warm sun and then the cool air off the water for the perfect feeling of warm and cold. I think it the longest I have just sat and relaxed for a while. 


That even we had another fire and good conversation. Over the night, we had a nice little rain shower and between the noise of the rain hitting the tent and the running water from the creek there was not anyway I was going to have a bad sleep. The rain stopped by 9:00 in the morning and we packed up and headed out. I needed those two nights out, as my body and mind were able to reset. As always, I cannot wait until the next time! 


 

YouTube Video
Backcountry Camping with Friends

Video Highlights of my Backcountry Camping Trip

Tell me in the comments how you decompress...

Monday, November 8, 2021

Gettysburg Battlefield

November 8, 2021

I am not going to get into any of the history of the battle in this post as I want to reflect on my overall feeling of this place. I have always had a sense of guilt as I enjoy this battlefield so much when at the actual time of the battle there was so much carnage and suffering. It is hard to describe the sense of peace I get as I trace back through time, read the different stories, and stand at the exact spot where it happened. Peering through time and trying to get an understanding of what people were thinking and experiencing.


It also makes me happy to see all the cub / boy scout groups on walking tours. To think at least some of our youth enjoys are at least knows the importance of our past makes me feel past deeds will not be lost to time. To see the families there having an enjoyable time is important as well. That one can put a little bit of history into the family vacations can gratifying and rewarding. I am sure you get youngsters that do not really want to be there but at least they will have a memory to share alter in life.

I enjoy walking the streets of Gettysburg itself, while there are the “tourist attractions” history still can be found intertwined with it. Sitting at a beer garden planning our next steps to the table on our right is a group of people dressed in period military uniforms and dresses having a beverage as well. To see that adults can still play dress up makes me smile.

As with me and my friend Greg we return ever few years to visit the field but just to catch up with each other. As I walk the field, I can see other friends doing the same. Gettysburg is about the history, but it is also about friend ships and shared experiences too. If you have never been to this magnificent place, you really should go and take it all in. There is just so much to see and do here that I know I will be back to
experience it all again.

Related Links:

Friday, August 25, 2017

Smoky Mountains – Anthony Creek Overnight 



On Anthony Creek Trail heading towards Russell Field Trail
This adventure was my first solo overnight camping in the backcountry of the Great Smoky Mountains. Back in June of 2013 I did stay in the LeConte shelter with my friend but it wasn't a campground and it is quite a different feeling going into the wilderness overnight alone. With this being my first time I did make a few rookie mistakes which I have learned from and will hopefully correct on my next time out.

The first mistake was the hike I chose while still getting over a pretty nasty cold with an overfilled pack. It was a ten mile jaunt that had a high elevation gain, that I usually plan for but for some reason I did not research for this outing as it was somewhat of a last minute decision. However, when I am out I like to cover new ground and since just a month ago I hiked the other way off of the Anthony Creek trail I could not help myself and headed up the Russell Fields Trail. I had a late start while waiting for the morning rain to clear out and because of that and the steep climb I did not get as much time at camp as I wanted. In hind sight I should have went on a shorter hike and worked on my camp skills.

Heading up to the Appalachia Trail via Russell Field Trail
Of course my pack was heavier than it needed to be and not packed properly especially for a one night camp. I ended up with a lot of extra food that was not touched along with equipment that was never used. I also tried to pack everything in stuff sacks and I think it would have been better, especially with the clothes, to have squeezed them into the spaces between my other equipment. My cooking equipment should have been stored in the pack but I tried to carry that outside strapped to the back. The cooking equipment kept shifting around causing the bag to become unbalanced and I had to stop form time to time to tighten it.


Intersection of the Russell Field Trail and Appalachian Trail

Next time I need to be better prepared to get a fire started especially in wet conditions. I could get a flame going on a cotton ball with petroleum jelly but could not sustain it to catch the kindling. Probably bringing a piece of fire log or fat wood would help keep a flame until the wet stuff caught. While I did not have any problem setting up my hammock and tarp I did set the tarp up too high, which caused cold wind to blow over the top of me all night but my sleeping pad kept my backside warm.

There was still snow along the Appalachian Trail in the 
higher elevations.
The hike was a beautiful one that had some balds along the Appalachian Trail sections and took me through several different types of weather. It would have been much more enjoyable if I was still not somewhat suffering from the before mentioned cold that I had been fighting for three weeks. It had rained very early in the morning and did not stop till about 10:00 so I did not actually hit the trail until 10:30. It was cool and misty but once I hit the Russell Fields Trail Head the sun poked out and started to warm things up quite a bit. The sun was short lived and by the time I was about a mile or so out from the Appalachian Trail it started to rain again. Then as soon as I got to the Shelter at Russell Fields and the Appalachian Trail the rain turned to ice.

Hiking the Russell Field to Spence Field Section
of the Appalachian Trail
When I hit the A.T. there was still snow and ice in places and the trail itself was mud from all the melt and rain. At some places the mud was ankle deep and it made for some pretty slow going. On this section of trail there were places that had some actual grassy patches that I have not see in the Smoky Mountains all too often. These would make nice places to take a break if someone was through hiking the A.T. About half way through my section on the A.T. the sun came back out and warmed things up again and the blue sky made a stunning backdrop to the trees and grassy places along the trail.

Once I hit the Bote Mountain trail I was glad to have come up the way I had, because this section looked pretty steep. I ran in to a person coming up this trail and he looked winded from the incline and the thick mud. Since I was going downhill and had the late start I decided to pick up the pace in order to get to camp with some time before the sun went down behind the mountains.

At Anthony Creek Campsite #9


My home for the night at Campsite #9
The Anthony Creek Campsite was a beautiful spot tucked up alongside of the trail on one side and the creek on the other. There was a small waterfall that I could hear from my hammock to which gave me a ambient soundtrack to fall asleep to. After I got the hammock set up I had a type of a steak stew for dinner that I came up with a couple days before I set out. The night before I left cut up the steak and placed it in a Ziploc bag with some vegetable oil. Then I cut up onion, carrots, and celery and put that in a separate Ziploc back with vegetable oil. At camp I sautéed the vegetables and then added the steak to brown on all sides. Once I got the steak brown I added water and a beef bouillon cube and brought it to a boil then let it simmer for awhile. At the very end I added instant mash potatoes and for a backpacking meal it was great.

The next morning I planned on having breakfast but I was so cold from the overnight wind and all the wood was still wet so decided I would just pack up and go. Once I got going I warmed up and very much enjoyed the walk back to my car. I can say that I definitely want to hit this campsite again especially when it is a little warmer and I can get a fire going. For my first solo overnight it was a great experience.

Along Anthony Creek near Campsite #9

HIKE DETAILS

Hike Date:
March 18, 2017 – March 19, 2017

Weather:
Mixture of rain, ice & sun

Trails:
Crib Gap   0.25
Anthony Creek     1.6 
Russell Fields     3.5 
Appalachian Trail     2.9
Bote Mountain     1.7
Anthony Creek     3.5
Crib Gap    0.25

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Smoky Mountains - Mt. LeConte (Trillium Gap & Rainbow Falls)

This was the one. The hike I have been waiting to do since I moved down from Indiana over a year and a half ago. The hike I have been waiting to do since I climbed LeConte with my friend Greg back in June of 2013 for the first time. A winter hike up LeConte complete with snow, ice, and wind for what was a total adventure that did not disappoint. On January 29, 2017 I left the for the trail very early in the morning with the forecast of snow starting before noon. I parked at the Rainbow Falls / Trillium Gap trailhead with my headlamp on and started off in the dark.

Starting out on the trail early.
When I started hiking it was around 43 degrees so I started off just in a sweater and was plenty warm. There was not any snow yet on the ground and the headlamp gave the leafless trees long skinny shadows. As the sun rose and the headlamp came off I got to a section of forest that was hit hard by the Chimney Top 2 wildfire. This was my first experience with such a wide stretch of badly burned forest that the reality of the fire truly set in. It was amazing how the fire would leave spots untouched but then would totally burn another section out. There were also places where the under brush and/or ground cover was burned but the trees seemed not to have been touched. The whole thing felt very eerie.

A burn section along the Trillium Gap before the Grotto Falls parking lot.
Trillium Gap at this point basically follows Roaring Fork Mortor Nature Trail up until the Grotto Falls parking lot area where it breaks away and starts to really head up LeConte. This part of the hike was my least favorite when it came to views though you did get a good glimpse of LeConte but you will only get it when there are not any leaves on the trees. It does, however, really give you a perspective of the distance that needs to be covered to get to the top. Once I got to the Grotto Falls parking area I was on familiar ground having hiked this section of the trail many times up to the falls and to Brushy Mountain. It is always a nice walk and this was the first time I have been on it in the winter.

Ice forming on underneath the Grotto Falls.
By the time I got to Grotto Falls it was starting to get cooler and ice started to appear on the trial. I put on my microspikes when I got close to the falls and at this point they worked splendidly. There was a good volume of water running over the falls and it had started to form ice cycles underneath the rock outcropping. The sense of adventure always stirs when you walk behind the waterfall and in the winter with ice made it all the more invigorating at least for me. At this point of the hike I really felt like it is time to get down to business. During the busier touristy times of the year this is the spot on the trail everyone turns back but for me I feel like I am just getting started. I put on my stocking cap and made my way to the next landmark the Brushy Mountain / Trillium Gap junction.

Me at the Brushy Mountain & Trillium Gap junction just as it was starting to snow.
This was the fourth time I have been at this junction but the first time I stayed on Trillium Gap. The other times I have gone the other direction a short hike to Brushy Mountain that does have some fantastic views. I took a small water break and it was at this point the snow started to fall, light at first but then started to come down at a pretty good clip. I have said it before and I will say it again there is always a renewed sense of excitement when one takes their first steps on a new trail and it was with this feeling that I hiked on. My favorite environment in the Smoky Mountains is at the higher elevations where the pines and fur trees become prevalent. There is just something about that pine smell that appeals to me and when you add the snow on top of that I am truly in hiking heaven. This section of the trail got steeper and more icy so my pace got slower and slower. It was at this point I began to realize I may not have the time I need for everything I wanted to get in at the top of the mountain.

Snow along the upper portion of the Trillium Gap Trail.
As I closed in on the top of Leconte my legs really started to feel sore and knew it was about time for a nice break and some lunch, but decided to press on because of the time. Close to the summit along the trail there was a wire railing pinned into the rock face where running water had frozen to form basically a wall of ice. Nature always amazes and I feel privileged to be able to see such things. Around 13:15 I finally had made it to the top. I took some pictures around the Lodge and then made my way to the shelter to have some lunch. By this time the temperature had really dropped and I got fairly cold since I was no longer moving. I changed out of my sweater, put on my winter coat had lunch but decided I did not have time to spend taking pictures as I had wanted to do. My orginal plan was to have lunch and then visit the summit, Myrtle Point, and Cliff Top but the ice had really slowed me down and now I had to head down in slick conditions. I knew this was going to take some time.

A wall of ice along the upper portion of the Trillium Gap Trail.
I made my decent via the Rainbow Falls Trail which was the way I hiked up my first time back in June of 2013. The trail was fairly icy in spots but I had my microspikes. This is where I realized they did not quite work how I intended as snow would get in between the chain links and then compact. This basically turned the bottom of my boots into ice themselves. I was constantly banging the snow out of them on the way down as I would start to slide in spots that did not even have ice. Eventually I got into a rhythm and knew roughly when it was time to clean them out. Next winter I might have do a little more research and come up with a better pair. They worked well on just plain ice but when you added snow to the mix they became a little problematic.

Snow along the upper part of the Trillium Gap trail just before the Lodge.
On my way down I ran into the worst burn section that I saw all day. It was a large swath of land and appeared to have been mainly mountain Laurel and unlike the other places everything seemed to have been burnt from the ground up. At about 16:30 I ran into two hikers going up without true winter jackets, trekking poles, or spikes. They stopped and asked me about how much further it was to the top and at that point it was probably around two and half to two miles yet to go just to get to the top. They did not have any overnight equipment and it would be another six miles to get back down once they did get to the top. It always amazes me how many people are not really prepared for the hike they are going on especially in the winter conditions. I told them about how much further it was and we both continued on our ways. Apparently they must of thought better of it and passed me coming back down about ten minutes later.

A frozen Rainbow Falls.
I reached Rainbow Falls just  after 17:00 and stopped to take a few pictures. It was a tad bit warmer at the lower elevation and the snow had become heavy and wet. Just as I took my last picture there was a drastic change in light when the sun had gone down behind the mountain. I had about two and half miles left until the parking lot and made my way down as fast as I could. I feel that I am in above average shape, but this hike really pushed my endurance level due to the snowy and icy conditions. There was less ice at the lower elevation and I was able to take the spikes off and make better time. With just under a mile left I had to get my headlamp out and started dealing with snow, fog, and now darkness. Staying on trail became somewhat of a challenge but I was able to manage. I made it back to my car around 18:30 and thus ended my Mt. LeConte winter adventure. Next time I want to try and spend the night at the top so I have time to hit all the views and summit. I really wish I would have gotten to take a picture at the summit as it would of the perfect addition to the perfect day.


HIKE DETAILS

Hike Date:
January 29, 2017

Start Time:
6:30 @ 43 Degrees F.

Finish Time:
19:00 @ 32 Degrees F.

Trails:
Trillium Gap            8.80 Miles
Rainbow Falls          6.00 Miles