I’ve haven’t made a single entry in over months, it has been a long and hot summer in the south. October 4th is written in ink for me to return to the Blue Ridge mountains and enjoy another backpacking trip! I’ll make the pilgrimage to Twenty Mile section of the Smokies and enjoy a 15-20 miles loop. Posts will be coming soon about what gears I’ll be taking, detailed trip report, etc.
On a beautiful Sunday morning in west Alabama I decided to ventured out to Lake Lurleen State Park for a mountain bike ride. It was the first time I’ve been able to check out the local mountain biking scene since I have arrived in Dixie. To my surprise, I discovered the mountain biking scene is alive and well in this area. Well, to be fair, it not real mountain biking, but it trail riding nonetheless. It not what I’m used too in Tennessee, North Carolina, etc., but Lake Lurleen did kicked my butt riding the Tashka Trail. Lake Lurleen totals 23.47 miles of trails. You could spend a few hours riding and enjoying the natural high your body produces during high intensity fun time. (I don’t call cycling exercise, I call it play time or fun time.) I think Tuscaloosa County and I will get along fine since there a decent mountain biking paradise just down the road from I’m living!
Many thanks to West Alabama Mountain Biking Association and Druid City Cycling, and any other organization(s) that may have been involved with trail building in Tuscaloosa.
For those of you that have been following me waiting for some posts related to mountain biking and backpacking, I apologize for not honoring my commitment. I recently made a life changing decision that caused me to leave the mountains of east Tennessee and western North Carolina and return to my birthplace: Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I miss the mountains already and cannot wait to return one day. After I graduated from college things started to change, and I felt unhappy here if I wasn’t on a mountain but I couldn’t stay on it forever. I didn’t have the cash to move out west to the Rockies or the North Cascades. So, I went back to the heart of Dixie and I killed the shadow of yesterday, clean shirt, second chance, and a new job. (Yes, I some what plagiarized that from a song by Monsters of Folks.)
I may not be here long, maybe I end up uprooting and going out west. I’m just living day-by-day in the search of happiness. The past can be both sad and happy, but all I can do is look forward to the next day. May everyone find what they’re searching for and hold on it to as long as possible.
I’ve been reading Our Southern Highlanders by Horace Kephart. I have less than three chapters to go until I finish the nearly 500 pages book. I’m excited to get everything I need to do out of the way, so that I can finish this book that tells a narrative story of life in southern Appalachian before the Smoky Mountains became a national park. Horace Kephart was a librarian for better part of his life. He rose to become the director of a library in St. Louis. One day, he found his career lacking satisfaction and he left his wife and children. (not a legal divorce, just a separation.) He wanted to travel and write about something that other people have not wrote. During his research, he discovered that there is very little known about the folks who live in southern Appalachian. He made his way to western North Carolina and eventually into a camp in the Hazel Creek area of the Great Smoky Mountains.
He had one purpose: to write about life among the mountain people who lived on the highlands of the Smoky Mountains. He came to the Smokys in 1904 and he lived alone in a cabin in the Hazel Creek area for three years. (The cabin no longer stands today, but the tract of land is still visible and the park officials have a designated campsite not far from where it stood.) He writes that the mountain people were poor, but respectful and generous people. Due to their lifestyle, they were always skeptical of “outlanders” visiting their highlands, but they never treated them with hostility unless they were defending themselves.
They lived a harsh life, and many times walking bare footed in the snow. They had to walk 20 miles carrying a 110 pounds sack of grain on their bare shoulders. (Keep in mind, this is very rough country.) Many of them were too poor to afford a wagon, or hire someone with horses to do this kind of chores for them. They lived so far from the nearest market, and lived in places that were cutoff from the outside world that they had no way to sell excess corn, or make decent income. They used the excess corn to make moonshine. They were descendant of Scottish-Irish heritage, so they learned whisky making from their ancestors. They weren’t trying to disrespect the government’s laws regarding moonshine. Their argument was: if I grow my own food and eat it myself, it’s not taxed, so how come I have to pay taxes on liquor that I make for my personal consumption when I’m too poor and too far from the outside world to buy legal whisky?
The mountain people showed extreme generously. The author writes that one time, he was exploring an area far from his cabin and he ran into another cabin and he didn’t know the man or his family that lived there. They invited him to stay, and the man of the house walked in the pitch dark without a lantern to get some grain and meals. The family could BARELY feed themselves and yet they told Horace to help him selves to whatever he please. The next morning, the author tried to pay the family for their meal and they did not accept the money. They nearly considered it an insult to accept such fare. Unbelievable hospitality from poor folks who lived in isolation to not accept money when they could barely feed themselves. He debunked a lot of city folks’ perception at the time on the highlanders. He simply wrote the truth about the people, he didn’t judge their lifestyle, he wasn’t trying to insult them, he just simply wanted to write about how they lived with 100% accuracy. There are books on the Indians, the Colony, and many other cultures and civilizations throughout times. Horace just became one of the first to write about the folks in rural southern Appalachian highlands.
These are just a few examples of what the book is about. I find it very fascinating how these people lived before the Smoky became a national park. Horace would become one of the founding fathers of the national park and, sadly, he did not live long enough to see it become official. If American history interests you, I highly recommend this book. You will find the stories entertaining and flat out unbelievable, and have new respect for those that “kindly” left their land for it to be preserved and become a national park. If it hasn’t became a national park, they would have lost their land to the lumber industry. (In my opinion.) From now on, when I hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, especially in an area that the book has mentioned, my mind will see the mountain people and their ways those 100 years ago.
I was curious about this: why would anyone pay $450 for a pair of cycling shoes? Yeah, I understand there a lot of high dollar products in our hobby, but what does a pair of shoes do that warrant such high premium price? I’ve been wearing my shoes since 2010 with no sign of tear..(I paid $85 for it due to a discount by purchasing pedal and a new bike.) I personally rather spend $450 on a new hydraulic brake set. My shoes and socks are both breathable to prevent moisture/sweat from soaking my feet. I’m not trying to knock on Sidi or anyone who purchases it, I just can’t seem to justified spending $450 on a pair of shoes whose only job is to prevent moisture build up, keep your feet in the shoes, and keep the cleats attached to the shoes. This is the product I’m referring too: http://www.sidiamerica.com/sidi/mountain/drako_blk.html I wonder if it just the currency exchange rate that causes such high price? Even then, it’s still pretty darn pricey in local currency. (If I’m not mistaken, this is an Italian based company. Thus, they want to be paid in the local currency, assuming it Euro, Euro is usually appreciated to the U.S. Dollar.)
Anyway, I feel, in our hobby, that there is a fine line between getting what we paid for and being a bunch of nuts. 🙂 Ha!
I went for a super short hike today. I almost made it to Mt. Sterling before unexpected road condition forced me to turn around. Apparently this road isn’t on the Park’s website as it’s not owned by them… Oops. Anyway, I changed my plans and decided to hike to a waterfall I have never been too. A beautiful hike, no matter how short, is better than no hike at all. I also saw two bull elks roaming near the Big Creek Ranger Station. It was my first encounter with an elk and I’ve heard they are pretty content with staying in the Cataloochee area of the Park. Anyway, just a few pictures:
My laptop is 5 years old and I’ve put it through some hell over the years in college. As a result, my backspace button is not working at the moment… This will hinder my ability to post blogs in efficient manner. I can post from my phone, but that will take awhile. I have plans for day hiking but the Smokies has been closing roads due the weather before I can even get to the trail head!!!! Soon as my schedule and lack road closures get on the same page I’ll get out and take some pictures of snowy mountains. 🙂 Happy trail, everyone!
I’m not a lawyer; I’m educated in accounting. It has came to my attention that a non-profit organization has threaten to sue the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The basis is that the new fee imposed on backpackers is highly illegal. This is the organization: http://www.southernforestwatch.org/ . They mentioned on their site that the fee is an “entrance fee.” They are indeed correct about the deed stipulation and the Smokies continues to not charge such fee. I have done some reading and I believe I have found the legal cause for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to legally collect fees from backpackers. Here a link to FAQ for the GSMNP: http://www.nps.gov/grsm/parkmgmt/bc-reservation-permit-faq.htm and here a quote from the same link:
“6. Will I be able to purchase an annual backcountry camping pass?
Backcountry fees will be collected under authority of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA). FLREA permits the creation of annual passes for park entrance fees but not other fees, such as backcountry use fees. Great Smoky Mountains National Park does not have an entrance fee.”
So, that lead me to reading about the FLREA, again here the link: http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/Recreation/recreation_national/recreation_fees__/rea_info_page/rea_summary.html
Here the key quote from FLREA:
“Expanded Amenity Fees are fees that provide direct benefits to individuals or groups. They include things like developed campgrounds, cabin rentals, highly developed boat docks and swimming areas. They may also include services like hookups, dump stations, special tours and reservations services.:”
The keywords from the above quote is “reservations services.” Which is essentially the primary purpose of the fee. I believe this is will be the government main argument and they did indeed follow through with a lot better reservation and planning services that were resulted of the fee.
The previous reservation system wasn’t broken, but it could have been improved and I actually like the new system. So, I will be gladly pay the $4 to enjoy such convenience service. I also live in an area where there are much more places to go backpacking that doesn’t cost money other than gas and food.
Feel free to share your opinion in the comment section.
Okay, this is going to be one of these rare post that I make about social issues. Let me preface: I believe in the 2nd amendment to an extent. I believe hunting rifles & shotguns, as well as handguns should remain legal. I’m for the ban of assault rifles and other automatic weapons. My dad has a CCW license here in Tennessee. My family has lived off hunting and fishing for a long time. I believe hunting and fishing in legal manners should be preserved for generations to come. What I cannot stand is: some prick telling me I’m Anti-American for saying assault weapons should be banned. I’m going to get this off of my chest.
I want the NRA, gun advocates, insensitive assault rifle owners, etc., to all give me legit stories of how an assault rifle, that fires ungodly amount of ammo in less than a minute, was the perfect defense gun. You need a gun that can unload 100 rounds in less than a minute to defend your home from a burglar? Wow, you must be a better shot than the LAPD. There are law enforcement agents and security guards that has giving 30 years of services without firing a single round. And you tell me you need an assault rife that you cannot take out in public to defend your house? You see, here in Tennessee, my dad isn’t allow to carry his conceal handgun at the mall, school property, or even the movie theater. If you don’t understand this point, it’s because there has been shooting sprees in schools, mall, movie theater, and other places you cannot even carry a gun. So, let put assault rifles in the hand of an insane man with a clean record and wonder where the next public shooting will take place. And a law abiding citizen with guns will be powerless to help because he will respect the laws of where he can and cannot carry. You don’t NEED an assault rifle, you WANT an assault rifle. You were conned into a marketing scheme to sell more guns.
So, now, do you understand?!?
I sit here daydreaming where I want to go next as far as backpacking is concern. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has now imposed a $4.00 fee per person per night for anyone who wish to backpack here. I can live with the fee since it’s not completely outrageous, but it will take some getting used too. The only fees I think about when going backpacking in the Smokies is food and gas money.
Anyway, I want some idea(s) for my next trip. This trip can be in the Smokies on the southern side of the park around Thunderhead Mountain, Gregory Bald, etc. Or the next trip can be at any of the following locations: Roan Highlands, Nantahala Headwaters Loop, Shining Rock Wilderness, and Panthertown Valley. The last three are located in Western North Carolina while Roan Highlands is on the Tennessee and North Carolina state line. I already have the Nantahala Headwaters Loop mapped out, but the other three areas I have no idea what loop to do. If I go back to the Smokies, I want go somewhere I haven’t been. I have not explore the southern end of the park other than Cades Cove and the Little River Trail. I may leave Gregory Bald alone until June when the rhododendron are in bloom. Of course I’m not the only one who is thinking about this. There is a lot of places within two hours of driving from my house and I have no idea which locations to explore next, so help me out bloggers!!! 🙂