Roan Highlands

An absolutely perfect weekend in the NC and TN mountains.  The Roan Highlands are gorgeous any time of year, but seeing the Rhododendrons blooming is a real treat.  This was taken near the top of Jane Bald.  On a lovely June Saturday, you are not going to be alone, but the (tons of) people we encountered were happy, nice, had great trail etiquette and I didn't see a single piece of trash all day.

 

On top of Grassy Ridge Bald -- about 2.5 miles from the Carver's Gap Trailhead

 

A rhododendron Tunnel between balds

 

A short drive up Roan Mountain from Carver's Gap takes you to the Rhododenron Gardens which were not yet in bloom, but the thousands of buds were quite a sight!

Hiking the Tanawha Trail, December 2015

A gorgeous weekend in December with temperatures reaching into the 60s and 70s, even in the NC mountains?  I'll take it.    A final big hike for 2015, the last one before work gets crazy busy with a little thing called Christmas in the mix.

A few photos from the day.  It was over 13 miles with hikers that are really too fast for me, yet I tried to keep up.  Four days later I'm still a little sore!

(Less Than) 24 Hours at Bear Island, October 2015

After finally camping at Bear Island last October, I promised myself I'd go every October for as long as I can.  So a few months ago, I grabbed one of the few available sites left on an October weekend and crossed my fingers that the weather would cooperate.  Thankfully it did.  I had Friday, 10/23 off, but ran into an unexpected conflict.  So instead of arriving in early afternoon, I made the final passenger ferry with 15 minutes to spare.   I think next year I will plan to spend two nights.

Dock on Bear Island after a quick 15 minute boat ride

A nice shell washes up as the tide goes out just before sunset

Sunset

plenty of light from the almost full moon, notice the shadows

illuminated tent with the marsh and glow of Swansboro in the background

the glowing horizon about 20 minutes before sunrise

sunrise

messing around with the remote trigger and self timer

campsite #8 (not my favorite) just before tear down and packing up

the walk back along the beach before heading inland toward the boat dock...so few people even at noon

and the passenger ferry arrives with visitors and will return with me to the mainland

Backpacking on the AT from Carvers Gap to Hwy 19E

My second backpacking trip was a complete success with great weather and great views and a great group of backpacker friends, old and new.

These are all taken with my Canon G12.  I really planned on taking my 7D, but with iffy weather and a backpack that was completely stuffed, I didn't want to risk a downpour while hiking with no where to put the camera.

I'm still not great at taking photos when I'm trying to accomplish other things (like hiking up steep hills, setting up camp, chatting with new folks, keeping up with fast hikers, etc) but there are a few to share.  

So here's an attempt to 'document' the trip.  First missed photo opportunity was our group of hikers (8 of us started our hike from Carver's Gap around 4pm and the next 5, a few hours later) waiting out the thunderstorm that arrived the moment we got dropped off by the shuttle service from Mountain Harbour Hostel.  Picture 8 of us huddled in the covered area outside the pit toilet at the trailhead.

Once the storm moved away, we started out.  It didn't take long to see blue skies again.

 

We went over Jane, Round, and Grassy Balds before dropping down into the woods for the rest of the hike to Overmountain Victory Shelter.  I clearly should have turned around to get a better photo, but my group likes to keep moving, so this one was taken while hiking I think.  The forest was filled with these flowers underneath the canopy.

We made it to the Overmountain Victory Shelter and set up our tents in the field next to the large shelter as it became dusk.  

Sights from the next morning.

We spent day 2 taking a few day hikes (Overmountain Victory Trail and a preview of the next day's hike over Little Hump Mtn) and relaxing on a gorgeous day.

Our final day left us with 8 or 9 miles up and over Little Hump and Hump Mountains before a nice ridge walk and then a descent down 4 miles or so back to Highway 19E.   It was gorgeous and perfect.   I started out solo as I'm a little slower than most in our group and also wanted some time to hike solo and not get behind if I decided to stop and take a few photos.  It's a nice climb to the top of Little Hump Mountain, but the short mile or so is filled with views, gorgeous forest, and ends with an open bald.  You can't ask for much  more in a short stretch of hiking. 

The view back down to the Shelter.  The tents are not from our group, but some of the 20+ tents pitched by additional hikers on night two.  There may have been 30 tents in a field, but it was the quietest 'campground' I've ever been in.

My only AT "White Blaze" shot of the trip

Looking back from near the top of Little Hump and then descending the other side. 

And a view that took my breath away (and then the climb literally did it), emerging from the woods to the gap between Little Hump and Hump Mountain.  I could have enjoyed the view for a long time, but I was already at the rear after stopping to shed a few layers.  You can see the group along the ridge in the center of the photo. 

A final shot of the ridge beyond Hump Mountain before we dropped down in the forest for good.





Philadelphia by iPhone

We headed to Pennsylvania last weekend to attend a wedding and decided to spend 24 hours in Philly before heading to the wedding site.   I debated taking my DSLR but decided to leave it behind.  Then I thought about bringing my G12 P&S but after being less than impressed with my photos from the last time I used it, I decided to leave that behind too.  So these photos are from my iPhone 5s.  

We had a blast in Philly playing tourist, walking (and segway-ing) around Old City, eating in different places, standing on the steps at the Philadelphia Art Museum and walking along Boathouse Row.  

These photos weren't edited at all EXCEPT some resizing and a smidge of sharpening.

 Ben Franklin Bridge from the Hyatt at Penn's Landing

Ben Franklin Bridge from the Hyatt at Penn's Landing

I didn't take these photos...they were taken by our Segway guide (they don't let you take your own photos for safety reasons).  

 One of the many large murals in Old City

One of the many large murals in Old City

 Perhaps my favorite photo -- showing that G lagged behind just a bit!

Perhaps my favorite photo -- showing that G lagged behind just a bit!

Bear Island

It's been two years since I've made a trip out to Bear Island and we finally got a chance to make the drive down after two very rainy Saturdays that washed out prior plans.  What a beautiful place.  We made the walk down the beach to find our site (#9) that we have reserved for October.  There were campers on the site, so we didn't bother them to take a peek, so we walked into site #7 and kind of peered down towards our site.  Climbing the dune and seeing the interior marsh is gorgeous and always makes us say "oh wow". 

Bear Island Interior, Hammocks Beach State Park, Swansboro, NC


Neuse River Trail: Sunflowers

Amazingly cool and comfortable mid-July morning for a bike ride!  We decided to drive out to a trailhead parking lot that's close to the Sunflower fields - we'd never seen them before.  We still can't get over how nice the Neuse River Trail is...what a gift to the people of Wake County.

 sunflower fields between mile 23 and 24 on the neuse river trail

sunflower fields between mile 23 and 24 on the neuse river trail

 

We saw a few deer and a small group of Indigo Buntings.  This section was much more popular with cyclists than walkers/runners. After taking photos of the sunflowers, I realized I hadn't gotten a photo of the "trail" itself.  So this quick one will have to do.

Last Minute 48 Hour "Vacation", Mt. LeConte

I have probably been thinking about making a hike to LeConte Lodge for 2+ years.  Actually, I'd probably been thinking about it longer than that, but thinking it was doable for the last few.  I actually made reservations for June 2013 back in October of 2012, but I realized how far out it was and that the odds of me picking a proper and doable weekend that far in advance (including the kids) was basically 0, so I let the reservations lapse.

Sometime this spring I realized that the Lodge announces last minute cancellations via Twitter and I thought that maybe this would work if we could be really flexible.  I decided if we could snag a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night, we'd somehow make it work.  Meanwhile, we had targeted the end of June for a few days off (with no particular plans since we'd postponed our Yellowstone/Grand Teton trip until next summer). 

I called LeConte Lodge reservations to figure out the best way to snag a cancellation that overlapped with our planned days off.  They indicated that 10-15 days in advance is a good time to start calling...that's when people need to get their cancellation in before they are charged no matter what.  They said the twitter cancellations are usually REALLY last minute.  I called every morning...to no avail. 

Around 1pm on June 25th, I learned that there had been a cancellation for the very next night (I had set the LeConte twitter account to text me so I'd know instantly).   After a quick call to G, I called them to say we'd take it.  Decision made in about 10 minutes and now we'd have to head out a few hours later to get closer to the trailhead for our hike up the next morning.

After quickly packing...we headed out.  We stopped at a motel in Maggie Valley, leaving an hour or so to get to the trailhead the next morning.   We hit the Alum Cave Bluffs trailhead at 9:50am and made it up to LeConte Lodge Cabins around 1:30pm. 

It's a great hike...from the shady wooded hike along the Balsam Creek to the rocky narrow path that peeks out from the canopy...just a beautiful, uphill hike. 

I really wanted to bring my DSLR on this hike, but realized I didn't have a pack that would accommodate my clothing needs (rain jacket, change of clothes, extra layer), my water, and the other small items we were bringing.  I could definitely have lashed it to my pack, but the fear of rain and no where to stow it made me decide to just leave it at home.  I grabbed my Canon G12 instead.  Except I didn't charge the battery.   So...the photos are somewhat lacking from the upper portion and top.

 Balsam Creek at Alum Cave Trailhead

Balsam Creek at Alum Cave Trailhead

 Balsam Creek along Alum Cave Trail (lower portion)

Balsam Creek along Alum Cave Trail (lower portion)

 Alum Cave Trail with Cables

Alum Cave Trail with Cables

LeConte Lodge is really a series of buildings and cabins that accommodate approximately 60 guests each night.  They provide dinner, breakfast, and clean bedding in your cabin.  There is no electricity in the cabin or main dining hall or office (which is supplied with tables/chairs/books/puzzle/games) so once the sun goes down, you are using oil lamps for light.  The fact that it didn't get dark until 9pm, coupled with a long day of hiking (we made 2 smaller hikes once we go to the top), left us going to bed pretty early.  We even forgot to go out and look at the night sky!

 Our Cabin, 2 queen bunk beds inside

Our Cabin, 2 queen bunk beds inside

Highly recommended hike and experience.   Again we found ourselves hiking in a hurry (maybe that's natural) both on the way up and the way down.   We definitely stopped many times on the way up to catch our breath, but we didn't linger anywhere very long.  Maybe one day we'll change that.

 View on hike to Myrtle Point, about 1 mile beyond the Lodge

View on hike to Myrtle Point, about 1 mile beyond the Lodge