One of the Best Views in the Smokies

This weekend was the Senior Guys retreat. The purpose of the retreat was to help the guys get ready to make the transition from high school to college. Originally we had planned on backpacking the Lakeshore Trail, but thanks in part to people’s work schedules, we had to plan something else. The first thing that got planned was whitewater rafting down the Pigeon River. Knowing that all the whitewater rafting places are off of Hartford Rd (exit 447), the best places to camp out would be either Cosby or Big Creek. I wanted to do a day hike on Friday, so after looking at the available hikes out of each area, I decided that we should camp at Cosby. The unfortunate thing about Cosby, is that most of the hikes out of it are very steep. The hike I picked was very difficult, but ultimately has the best pay-off. We would start out at the Cosby Campground, go up Low Gap, and take the A.T. to the Cammerer Spur trail.
Low Gap to Cammerer
Elevation Profile

The group started out as Hoss, Thomas, Paul, Landon, and myself. As we were about to get to the edge of the campgrounds, Hoss realized his hip and back would probably not be able to keep up. So he said he’d go back to camp and set up and get food. It was a good call on his part. I told him we should be back around 7:30 (we left around 2:30). The rest of us made our way up the mountain. After 2.9 miles, we briefly stopped at Low Gap for some food and made our way onto Cammerer. At the intersection of the A.T. and the Cammerer spur trail (2.1 miles from Low Gap), we ran into a group of folks doing work on the A.T. After a short .6 mile hike, we arrived at the Mount Cammerer Firetower. This is really one of the best views in the Smoky Mountains. You can see all around.
Cammerer Firetower
You’ll just have to look at my Album for the rest of the pictures.

We left the firetower at 5:30. On our way back, we ran into some backpackers that were making their way to the Cosby Knob shelter. They seemed a little down about how the trail just seems to keep going up. We assured them that there is only a little bit more up and the trail will be down or flat for the next couple of miles. This seemed to lift their spirits up. As we were making our way to Low Gap, it was getting darker and the temperature had dropped about 10 degrees. I knew this meant one thing. Paul and Thomas had gotten a few minutes ahead of Landon and me. At Low Gap, I advised that we should stick close together because a storm has rolled in and we are about to get wet. Sure enough, within five minutes, we were in the storm. It wasn’t anything severe, just mostly rain. Everyone had a raincoat or poncho, so we continued to make our way back down. We eventually arrived back at camp at 7:05. It took us 2 hours and 20 minutes to get up to Cammerer and an hour and 35 minutes to get back down.

By the time we got back, Hoss had setup camp and Benton and Bryan had arrived. Benton was sent to go pick up a tarp, which would turn out to be a good thing to have. It would continue raining off and on for the rest of the trip. We had dinner and then Benton wanted to hike up to the cemetery that is off the Snake Den trail. So we did that and then did our devo when we got back to camp.

In the morning, we had been told that we need to show up at the Rafting place at 9:30. The instructions Hoss had was for us to get our Tickets at their Gatlinburg office. I thought it made more sense to go to their river outpost. When we got within cellphone range, Hoss called and they said it would be alright for us to go to the outpost. We show up, but we were about an hour earlier. They don’t do their first run until 11:00, so we didn’t need to be there until 10:20. We were kind of hurried breaking down camp and getting ready to leave, so the extra 50 minutes would have been nice to have known that we had. The rafting trip was mostly fun. We got held up for about 45 minutes when one of the boats (filled with people that probably didn’t speak good English) had gotten stuck on some rocks in a class 3 rapid. There were also a couple of times when we had gotten stuck. We were in shallow water though when we got stuck. Afterwards, I ate at The Bean Tree right there by the outpost. It was really good. When the CSC goes whitewater rafting in about a month, if anybody is hungry afterwards, I’d recommend eating there.

MEGA Hiking

Trail Map
This past weekend, Michele had some free time so, we went hiking around her neck of the woods. I was just gonna show up at her place and we’d look at a map and figure out what we are going to do. This can be a fun way to choose a trail, because you don’t exactly know what the trail is gonna be like. Some of the ideas thrown around was Roan Mountain, the Appalachian Trail (AT) around Beauty spot, and a bunch of waterfalls around Hampton, TN. The weather report was calling for likely afternoon/evening storms. Because of that, we decided to do the waterfalls around Hampton, TN.

At first we started out on trail #39 (Laurel Fork). It looked like we could do a 8.5 mile loop and see 3 waterfalls. Of course the downside to our method was being unsure of what the creek crossings would be like. Sometimes they might be bridged, sometimes you might be able to rock hop, and other times you gotta go for a swim. Well about a mile into the trail, we approached the first creek, and neither of us was prepared to go for a swim, so we turned around. The water looked to be about 5 feet deep. There wasn’t any easily accessible paths upstream or downstream, so we just turned around.

We looked at the map again and decided to go MEGA along the AT. The AT is a 2175 mile trail that runs from Maine to Georgia. Thru hiker’s usually start out in Georgia and hike to Maine. This is the north bound route that is called GAME. The section we hiked was in a south bound direction called MEGA. We would follow the white blazes until we intersected with the blue blazed Coon Den Falls trail #37. I was surprised at just how few people we encountered on the trail. The only person we encountered on the trail had his dogs with him. His black dog was actually the first thing I encountered. It gave me a little jump. The trail had crossed a field and was about to enter into the forest again. As I was entering the forest, I see a black animal about the size of a baby cub running at me. I got startled a little bit, but soon realized it was just a dog. A baby cub would mean that mamma isn’t too far away. Along the way there were a couple of nice viewpoints where the AT reached the top of the ridge. We eventually arrived at Coon Den Falls. Here’s an odd thing… on the map we were using (National Geographic) they had this waterfall marked but Laurel Falls was not marked. (Laurel Falls is in the same area and is much more impressive.)
Coon Den Falls
After doing what was about about a 5 mile loop, we still had a lot of time. Again, we looked at the map and determined that we would go to Beauty Spot. Beauty Spot is a bald along the AT near Erwin, TN. Even though it was cloudy, the name Beauty Spot seems apt.
Beauty Spot
The second hiker we encountered of the day was on this trail. The funny thing about this hiker, was it wasn’t human. It was actually a quail. Instead of flying off like most birds would have done, this bird just kept going down the trail. We probably followed the bird for about half a mile. It was just funny how it stuck to the trail.
A quail hiking the AT
Finally to top of the day, we were both hungry and wanted to get something to eat. We had narrowed our choices down to American or Italian. Then Michele remembered a restaurant called Cootie Brown’s. I thought Cootie Brown’s would be fun name to have in a blog post, so that’s were we ended up eating at. They serve a variety of “Real Food”. Although we had both thrown away Mexican as a choice, we ended up eating Mexican there. If you’re ever in Johnson City, I’d recommend stopping by this unique restaurant.

Yes folks… It’s happened again

Another preacher candidate that Laurel was really interested in, has pulled his name out and taken a job elsewhere. This isn’t the first time this has happened. You may remember in the initial pool, the group had it down to two candidates. One of them accepted a position at another congregation and it was felt that the other guy wasn’t a good match for Laurel.

The committee has put in a lot of hard work, but have they perhaps put in too much hard work? With their continued involvement, are they being taken away from some other ministry where they could perhaps be more fruitful? Since the committee was initialed formed, I can think of a few members that have moved away from Knoxville. Some probably now attend a different church here in Knoxville (I’m not certain of this though). Also when people have been on something that long, they will tend to get burned out. I doubt there are very few people that have the same level of enthusiasm now that they did when the committee first started up. As the time keeps going on, those not on the committee will expect an even more exceptional find to come from this committee, but the reality usually is, that as time goes on, the members of the committee are ready for it to be over with, so they settle for less. Its an inverse proportionality. Since we haven’t hired a preacher yet, this is to be determined.

The old axiom still holds up… “The quickest way to slow something down is to put it through a committee.”

Cumberland Gap Hike

Overgrown a bit?

After using July 3rd to recover from the travels, what better way to enjoy the 4th than to go hiking right? Bryan, Chris Rowe, and I meet up to go hiking up in the Cumberland Gap area. I hadn’t done anything in that area, so I was game. Well as you can see from the picture above, the trails aren’t as well traveled as trails in the Smokey Mountains and were quite overgrown. The specific trail we took was up the Lewis Hollow Trial to the Ridge Trail to the Gibson Gap Trail back to the Campground.
Topo Map of Trail
Elevation Profile

We started out the hike from the picnic area and headed up the Lewis Hollow Trail to Skylight Cave. It is less than a mile to the cave and it is all uphill. Based on what we thought, it seemed this was the best way to go, because the majority of your elevation is gained in the first mile or so. The trail was in decent shape up to the Ridge Trail. About a mile into the Ridge Trail, the pathway gets pretty overgrown. As it would turn out, the next 2.5 miles would be overgrown. At one point, someone who was concerned about the itchiness one risks when tromping through overgrown paths wanted to turn around and find another trail to do. I agreed with the other person, we’ve already gained the elevation, lets finish this hike.

Gibson Gap trail wasn’t near as overgrown as the Ridge trail was, but it was pretty steep in places it would have made sense to use switchbacks. The path of Gibson Gap could have been designed better. While we were on this trail though, we noticed something in the air. It was the sound of thunder. We were still a good 3 miles from the trail head when we heard this. At about 2 miles out from the trail head, I decided that it would probably be better if I went on ahead at a fast pace since the car was at the picnic area and not the campground. So for the next two miles I trail jogged my way to the campground. Luckily I did have my GPS with me, because I really needed it. The maps that I had were from the park service website and didn’t really have everything marked (plus I didn’t know where I was going, only a vague idea). What I didn’t exactly count on, was there was about another mile and a half that I would have to walk to get to the picnic area where my car was parked. Luckily, it had only just started to rain by the time I got to my car. Bryan and Chris had gotten off the trail just a couple of minutes before I showed up in my car, so it worked out good for them. We were able to get back to the car before the storm hit.