Sunday, April 26, 2009

Red River Gorge Geologic Area: Schoolhouse Branch & Crescent Arches

Even though Eric was pretty tired from his marathon yesterday, we decided the weather was just too nice to stay inside all day. We hastily packed a day pack jumped into the Civic and headed to the Red River Gorge. Our plan was not set in stone. We thought about possibly hiking Cloudsplitter or maybe hiking to some arches that Noelle had visited about two years ago. However, the first piece of business on our agenda was lunch at Miguel's. When we got to Miguel's there was note written on a paper plate posted on the door that read: Fire in Gorge, Sheltowee Trace Trail closed. That made up our plan for us.

After fueling up on some pizza with garlic, tomatoes, pepperoni, and green peppers we headed to find the arches with little more than Noelle's vague memories from two years ago. The first attempt at finding the arches saw us headed up a small drainage off of the gravel road that veers off from the steel bridge. After bushwacking for a little while through some fairly thick rhododendron we found no sign of our arches. We decided to drive to the Gladie visitor center to look at the map. Noelle remembered that in order to reach the arches she had headed up Schoolhouse Branch. We found the branch labeled on the map and headed to its location, near where the gravel road turns paved.

When we got to the location, however, we found two drainages that both looked promising. We tried the farther one, with no success. The third try was a charm, however, and we were finally able to locate the aforementioned arches. The first was a large limestone arch that may have at one time been part of a cave that collapsed. We think its name is Schoolhouse Branch Arch.
The other arch was of the sandstone variety. It was tall, but very narrow.
Noelle seems to remember it being called Crescent Arch. We had a good day of exploring and looking at all the spring wildflowers.
It was a good way to end our exploration of the Red River Gorge, a place that we have grown to love and hate at the same time.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Kentucky Derby Marathon

It was a hot day in Louisville, Kentucky. A bank thermometer at the finish line read 80 degrees and the high for the day was 87. I usually like running in warmer weather, but after running in 40 degrees temperatures just a few days ago, I just wasn't prepared for running in hot weather. I am pretty happy with my time, although I know I could have run faster. The first 18 miles went by without a hitch, then I started to get a little tired. However, it wasn't tiredness that really slowed me down, it was terrible cramps in my legs, especially the left one. There were several times when I had to top in the last five miles to try to stretch my legs out. Anyway, I wasn't far off my goal pace of 8 minute miles. My results can be found here.
Contemplating maybe doing another marathon sometime in the future. Maybe Grandma's since Noelle and I will be in Duluth next summer. We'll see though.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

John B Stephenson Memorial Forest SNP: Anglin Falls

Today Noelle, Eric, Mom T., and Dad T. packed up the ol' family truckster and headed south to Anglin Falls, which is located in a State Nature Preserve just outside of Berea. The location of the waterfall was clearly mapped on our trusty DeLorme Kentucky Gazetteer/Atlas. Unfortunately, it was mapped incorrectly. After driving back to Berea for a delicious lunch at Cracker Barrel, we headed to the Kentucky Artisan Center where we lightened our wallets and got some better directions to the waterfall.

Once we got there, we were rewarded with beautiful weather, brilliant wildflowers,
Wild Ginger
and of course the waterfall.
The temperature was in the upper 50s making for a great day to stroll around in the woods.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Highpoint of North Carolina: Mount Mitchell

It rained last night, hard. I woke up and listened to the local weather forecast on my MP3 player. The forecast, although for Charlotte, was not good. It called for rain all day. I packed up my campsite in a heavy rain and reluctantly hit the trail. I had considered just skipping the hike up Mount Mitchell, but decided that I'd driven way too far to wuss out. My rain jacket was soaked by the time I hit the actual trail in the closed campground. The hike started with an ascent right off the bat and the climbing did not let up. After about two hours I made it up into the spruce and balsam zone and knew I would soon reach the summit.

Conditions on summit were miserable.
The only positive was that I had the whole place to myself. No one else was crazy enough to brave the cold, wind and rain for no view. I quickly put on my hat and gloves, snapped the obligatory summit photo, then headed back down to more hospitable conditions. After a short while conditions improved. About 1/3 of the way down the mountain the sun even peeked through the clouds. Hiking actually became a bit pleasant and the downhill made for quick walking. I did have to avert the attack of a killer tree along the way though.

I made it back to the car just after noon. I changed into more comfortable (and drier) shoes then hit the road. Since I had some extra time, I had some investigating I wanted to do. Last night on my way to the campground I passed through a small town and noticed some forest service signs. One was for a campground, the other for a picnic area. Attached to the picnic area sign was another sign that read Andrews Geyser. A geyser in North Carolina? Why had I never heard of such a thing? My curiosity had gotten the better of me. I was headed to Andrews Geyser.

The geyser itself turned out to be an interesting surprise. It is not a real geyser. It is really just a fountain that shoots a spout of water high into the air.
Andrew's Geyser
It looks kind of like a real geyser though, and is certainly one of the more interesting offbeat tourist attractions that I've ever seen.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Mount Sterling Loop

My last day in the Smokies. I packed up a wet camp this morning and drove south to Big Creek. From there I hiked on an old railroad grade along the beautiful Big Creek.
Big Creek
Lots of water flowed over rocks and made me wonder if people ever kayak the creek in high water flows. I caught a quick glimpse of Mouse Creek Falls
and continued along the creek until I reached the junction with the Swallow Fork Trail.

The Swallow Fork Trail climbs pretty steeply and the going seemed a bit slow. When I finally reached the Mount Sterling Ridge Trail the drizzle seemed to stop and the sun poked through the clouds a bit.
When I got to Mount Sterling itself
benchmark MS
I climbed up the somewhat scary looking tower
Eric at Tower
and got some decent views.
Then I descended the Baxter Creek Trail into some great wildflowers. There was Trillium in bloom, more trout lillies, and even some Dutchmen's Breeches. The hiking down to Big Creek was pretty fast, that is except for when I stopped to look at the flowers.

When I got back to the car, I headed over to I-40 and drove east into North Carolina. Tomorrow I will attempt to conquer the highest point east of the Mississippi: Mount Mitchell. I stopped in Asheville for a quick dinner, then back onto I-40 to US-70 and state route 80. I should have planned out this portion of the trip better, because I had a difficult time figuring our where the Black Mountain Campground was. When I finally found it, it was not yet open for the season. I pitched my tent by a river just outside the campground and settled in for the night.