Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Maybe I Should Have Bought A Van

In recent posts I dropped a few hints that I am planning a big trip. I have been working through the logistics and finances of spending a few months on the road. The plan is to follow the spine of the Rockies through New Mexico and up to the central ski areas of Colorado. After I have sufficiently froze myself, I am planing to head west to Utah for canyon country. The time frame for this trip is open. I am not expecting to return to the Gulf Coast until March at the earliest. I will be departing on Monday January 5th.

Endeavor, my Jeep, has proved to be a great ally in my adventures. Over the past year I gained some experience in living out of the Jeep. In the process, I figured out, and fixed, many of the problems with the cramped quarters. In time I have learned to be a high class dirtbag.

The Cockpit:

My passenger seat acts as my kitchen:

The rear passenger seat folds down to accommodate my bed. The cargo space behind the rear driver works as my closet and gear shed.

 Rear driver side serves as my library and office, complete with solar power:

Oh, and my bathroom...

Catch me on the road guys!


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Saturday Night Movie: Rock Of Refuge

Over the years I have watched more than my fair share of outdoor videos. The short ones and the long ones. The ones that are epics of storytelling and the ones that are someones vacation footage. You can find some truly interesting insights into the lives of people. Sometimes you learn something subtly or by inference alone. In the case of tonight's feature the lesson is a bit explicit.

Of all the videos I have seen none have frightened me as much as this one. The personal GoPro footage is difficult to watch if you can read the signs that they miss. Give it a watch, but you might want to skip the first three min of time lapse though, the music blows.

Zion: Rock of Refuge from Eric Hanson on Vimeo.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

She Fell For the Lumbersexual

I got to the bar a quarter of an hour after our predetermined time. She was sitting on the far end of the bar in a cute red and black dress. Her dark hair had been straightened and the dress artfully exhibited her tasteful tattoos.

My approach was noticed and I was welcomed with open arms and a hug. We had met once before in a brief exchange, but this friendly reintroduction was nice. As we took our place at the bar we ordered drinks and started a conversation.

"So you are also from New Orleans?" I asked.

She proudly answered, "Sure am, Cabrini, class of 2009!" She took a shot of chilled Jameson and added, "But what are you doing here?"

"Oh, that question...", I murmured. "It's temporary right now." I assured while leaning back, stretching my arms and placing my hands behind my head. "I'm just waiting for my time to be back in the mountains! I have a big winter trip planned and I'm hoping to guide again for rafting season."I continued as to not have a lull in the conversation.

She looked genuinely interested, "That's so awesome that you are living the life you want. Camping is really cool, I wish I could go more often but no one wants to take me." Her eyes became glassy and focused on a point not in this room. She was dreaming, "I would love to do Machu Picchu one day or see Grand Canyon. Nature is so beautiful sometimes!"

I wanted to keep on that topic, but before I could add something a gentleman approached. The same greeting I received was also given to him. He had a well manicured beard, a beanie cap, and was wearing a nice classic flannel. His pants were heavy canvas and a warm beige color. He looked like my buddies out in Colorado, or me if I ever trimmed my beard and had clean clothes. I entertained a short conversation with him. He was from Los Angeles and working here in New Orleans as a manager for a Starbucks.

I looked at him and was puzzled about his choice of clothes and stated occupation. I asked "So do you do any outdoor recreation?"

He looked at me with the same puzzled look.

He finally responded, "Not really, I went camping once out in Big Sur, and that was awesome, and I used to hike around the Hollywood sign."

I cut him off, "Bourbon." I said to the bartender. "Turkey, 101"

We all took shots, or I should say I took a shot and they sipped. My fleece smelled of campfire from the other night's backyard fire and it complimented the whiskey well.

My two companions were now in a simple conversation. They were talking about new movies and music; all things I've never heard or seen before. Then they began to share videos on their phones, and show off pictures from their trips to Seattle, New York City and Miami.

I removed the battery from my phone, and found a way in the two sided conversation, "It really pisses me off to have people show photos on their phone. I mean, seriously, you are undermining yourself." My voice grew louder and I threw my hands towards the ceiling, "If this is a treasured memory, why trivialize it on a 3.5inch screen? Hell, I would feel my efforts wasted if the only way I could communicate my last backpacking trip was through my phone. I value the experience for what I learned about the world and myself. I can never convey that in a picture on a cell phone."

"Well, you know they make tablets!", he quickly joked. The two laughed. 

I was defeated. Their minds were in the pop, technophilic, culture of distractions and fallacies. They went back to talking and their phones. Shortly after I grabbed my fleece, it was covered with ember burns from countless nights by a fire, and said good evening to my new acquaintances. There were better things to entertain. I needed to find out how to take a shit in sub zero temperatures.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Martin Litton

Martin Litton

our flowing soul,
our dreams,
our hopes.

"Forget me not!"
It echoed through the canyon,
"Forget me not!"
A river can move the earth.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Save the Dinosaurs

It is not something I am quick to admit, but I do have a "real job" as a retail worker. Luckily, it is working for an outdoor outfitter; so there are a few perks. My co-workers also seem to understand my humor and that really makes the lack of wilderness "bear"-able.

We offer plastic bags to our customers (surprise surprise). A fossil fuel product. A fact that does not escape me and I often make a silly joke about it when a customer denies the bag. The other day my comedic exchange at the checkout went on a bit more than usual and, well, here it is: 

"Would you like a bag with that?" I asked the middle aged man in glasses standing across the counter.

"No, that is alright I can carry it", he said while shuffling for his keys and checking his wallet.

"Sweet! Save the Dinosaurs man!"

"It is a bit too late for them now don't you think?" he asked with an upturned brow.

"Yeah, and it is also probably too late for us now!", I quickly remarked and followed with a slight chuckle.

There was a short pause as the gentlemen reflected on what I said. He looked at me a bit surprised and confused, "You think so?".

"I think you should take the bag".

The man smiled at me, thanked me for my help and left our store without the bag but with his petroleum based fleece, from a massive publicly traded conglomerate that has it's hand in global consumer capitalism and cheap production labor. At least they were part of "1% for the planet". Yeah, we are going to save this place alright!


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Never Stop Exploring

Have you ever followed an expedition?

Who stokes the fire?

There are heroes in every generation.

Never Stop Exploring


Friday, October 17, 2014

It's Just A Shirt.

At an early age my family relocated to a new subdivision that was on a reclaimed swamp down here in south Louisiana. The area was drained, dried, partially cleared and eventually ready for development.  This re-purposed wilderness turned into my childhood neighborhood. Luckily we were in the first ten houses in the area. Parts of it were still slightly wild and yet to be denuded. Groves of Cypress interwove with Palmetto, there was Swamp Maple and Wax Myrtle, Bulls Tongue, cattails and Louisiana Iris.

I challenged the neighborhood kids to stop playing football in the streets and tearing up the empty lots with our dirt bikes and four-wheelers that were laid up from hunting season (this is growing up in south Louisiana guys). The way I got them to do it was through building trails in our grove of lowland swamp/forest. The trails were used for riding but also to eventually interconnect a number of tree houses and other forts. Out of this land we built a kingdom, but my unquestioned reign of this realm could be historically contested.

We were all in. It was coolin' off in the shade now. We had iron horses, trade routes and a number of outposts in our miniature wilderness. What was missing though was identity. Sure we were the neighborhood kids but identity? Solidarity?

On occasion, my father has bestowed on me some of his clothing that no longer fits. At this same age he gave me a collection of shirts. It was the whole rainbow of solid colors. They were collared and fairly soft to the touch. They really didn't fit me yet but they had a cool logo. It was something we could all relate to: An alligator.

What my father gave me was a complete collection of vintage Lacoste/Izod shirts (they were still the same company).

I gave them out to my friends and guess what. We had a club.

They got trashed.


It was glorious.

I had a closet a college kid would drool over but what did we care as a group of wild youths running around the woods? A quality wardrobe? Beliefs that it is our stuff that makes us? Attachment to physical, overpriced, replaceable, consumer possessions that have little to no real practical application?  Ha, no, we were kids and, hey, it's just a shirt.

* * *

Last week, for a special occasion, I went out with a few of my favorite members of the fairer gender for a night of dancing.  While dancing may be one of my weakest art forms (and far worse than my writing), it is still one that brings me physical and emotional enjoyment. It is social, sporadic and expressive. Every so often I "get down" and really have a good time. This was one of those nights.

Getting up off my thang', I just so happened to land the heel of my foot, ever so unintentionally, upon the shoes of a well-dressed gentleman in a nice sport coat. He had been trying to return to his party with drinks. The momentum from my uncalculated placement of an appendage caused this respectable citizen to lose the liquid contained in his glass. This resulted in the unfortunate consequence of wetting his coat. 

Appearing angered by the incident we had a visual exchange. His formal wear against my casual stained blue jeans and brand placement outdoor t-shirt must have been a sight of true contrast. Crowded bar? Walking through dance floor? Over dressed for the venue? Was he really unsettled? Should he have been irritated? Ha, no, we are adults and, hey, it's just a shirt.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Happy Columbus Day

It was not a recent development that I could be an outdoor curmudgeon. It has been a quality I have possessed for a few years now. Believe it or not, it has driven me to write, and offer critical judgment, on the way we live as Americans, Westerners and people who embrace modernity.

I personally feel the way we conduct our lives in modern society is a grave affront to our humanity and limits us in our full range of experience. In short, I feel the world homo sapiens-sapiens  evolved in has been left behind and, with that departure, we have also lost the deep wisdom humanity gained through, literally, hundreds of thousands of years of paleolithic history. It is the loss of this wisdom and way of life that ultimately disturbs me. How it has been almost wiped out from history. Sometimes, though, my thoughts on this can get radical and downright offensive to some. I try to limit the expression of these concepts but, when you write about the things I do, it is a hard subject to avoid.

In that light, I found this lovely piece in my archives I wrote for Columbus Day in 2010. It is a great example of my continued and historical disgust of the world mankind has built. Enjoy!


* * *

Today we celebrate  a great  day in American history. This is the day we set aside to remember when the first Europeans discovered the new world. It was a new world filled with beauty and bounty. A land with diverse ecosystems, flora and fauna, with wide expanses of plains, mountains, hills, rivers and supported great numbers of animals.

It is not only the remembrance of the discovery of this "new" land, but also the discovery of a "new" group of people. They had a significant population that possessed societies that were complex, pastoral, agricultural, nomadic, and some even remained hunter gathers. Today is the day we remember the discovery of these things but if you try to experience them today they can no longer be found in the quality or quantity they once were. This is a changed continent.

Oh you westerners who brought such great things to this land! How can you ever be repaid? You brought to this wild strange land order! You cut down the imposing expanses of forests and "controlled" those pesky native "savages". You did all of this so that we might have a newer, more complex, modern society. One of economic opportunities that did not simply use the land but exploited it for its deeper value. You brought to us systems of law that set our behavior in accordance with what is just  and right.  You gave us direction as "civilized" people. You took this foreign virgin land that no true "civilized" group of people could exist in and created the systems that afforded us the comforts of economic success. The trees alone would not bring me that kind of comfort so you taught me to cut them down and raise great dwelling places with their wood to keep all of my possessions that I had purchased from your economic system in. Because of what you have done I have become comfortable and so happy  in this great bountiful land.

Thank you so much for taming these wild lands. We surely could never have existed humbly or happily had you not brought to us modernity that has allowed me the luxury to be free from the "dangerous" wilds. I could never have survived with any degree of comfort in this land had I needed to live like those "savage" natives.  Never could I have used my days hunting in the forests with my kinfolk and friends or learning pastoral farming practices. How could I ever live in a civilized manner if my hands had to be stained with the blood of my meal for that evening? Never could I bear to have to learn to read the land to find the life-giving sources of water or if I had to dirty my hands in the soil of the earth hoping for a good harvest. No civilized person would answer to a tribal elder that bestowed wisdom based on experience and philosophical  reasons, no, civilized men direct their behavior by the logic of law. Oh how glorious is the authority of law and our western economic systems! No longer do I need to learn the skills to find and provide food  from the wilds or rely on my companions to make a successful hunt where I failed. No longer do I have to search for water! I am so thankful for the opportunity to learn  a better, much more useful, practical skill: making money. No longer do I have to deal with the burdens of an uncivilized state, now we possess the skills of making money to buy food, supply water ,and to purchase shelter! How grateful am I to have learned this!

So on this Columbus day let us remember and thank Columbus and the Europeans who wanted this kind of life for us in this great land. They brought this rich land a new order that gave the people of this land the skill of making money by exploiting the bounty of this place. Forever man has searched for the true meaning of existence. I think that what our modern system has done is allowed us to fulfill what really has to be the meaning of existence. That meaning of existence being making money.

P.S.  The Europeans called the native Americans  “Noble Savages” but I ask who really was noble and who was savage?

-MG 2010

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday Night Movie? Union Glacier

Antarctica holds a very prestigious place in the mind of an adventurer.



These are names that will be echoed for ages.

The southern most continent of our planet has held a reputation for extremes.The tales of severity and hardship endured in the exploration of this region have been told time and time again. Even with our advances in technology this place still possess a formidable threat. In the tradition of recounting the challenges of the Antarctic (and most other outdoor disciplines) the medium of modern outdoor cinematography has recently taken precedence. This is our fire side storytelling.

Enjoy this prime example of Antarctic legacy and amazing documentation:

Welcome to Union Glacier from Studiocanoe on Vimeo.


Friday, October 3, 2014

I'm Sorry You Have A Job.

It would be a lie to say I have not had difficulty adjusting to life back in a more civilized state. Over the past few years of travel and spending a substantial amount of time in the back country, I have experienced major changes in my personal perspective on modern life.  Many of these have come to a boil now and I no longer care to restrain myself from expressing them. I want to tear this dam down. Let the river run.

On a recent morning I realized how far I've come in this continued, subconscious rejection of traditional lifestyles. I spent a night in my Jeep that was everything less than pleasant. Intoxicated, I lumbered in after my neighborhood bar rounds and dropped my back seat. Giving little attention to details, the therm-a-rest and sleeping bag liner were prepared and my road trip bed was set up. The burden of hellish heat and unforgiving New Orleans humidity was complemented exquisitely by my personal cloud of mosquitoes. I got to work early, showered, and was still in a great mood. It was that morning that I realized I had one last thing to do before I became a true dirtbag.

* * *

We were at one of Mid City's illustrious watering holes last night and the gents restroom here has one of my favorite bar features: a chalk board above the urinals. I love to write stupid jokes or witty witticisms. Last night though I was caught in the act of psychological warfare. Halfway through committing my sentence to the destructive medium of the chalkboard another male entered the chamber to relieve himself. To finish my act of social terrorism or not?



Finally, Courage. 

The phrase was completed. Without lapse my random victim had begun to read it. Then after a brief pause, eventually, with complete eloquence, the man spoke. "That would suck!"



Monday, September 29, 2014

Dusty Equipment

You might be surprised to learn that I love gear. 


That is if you don't know me. I first became aware of my addiction to gear years ago. It was through my first true outdoor passion: Astronomy. 

It was some time back,when I was in high school, and I was deeply invested in the sciences. I enjoyed how they changed the way I viewed reality and enlightened me to the order of the world that surrounded me. The awesome power of natural phenomena and the complexity of our universe truly appealed to me. Astronomy, though, was my discipline of choice to see deeper, literally, into this cosmos.

Over the course of this hobby I devoted thousands in my personal expendable income into telescopes, eyepieces, filters, solar filters (for viewing sun spots) tripods, maps and all the other accoutrements you can think of to make one self respecting amature astronomer.  I experienced a number of amazing sights, for example,  routinely being able to manually find the Andromeda Galaxy or the time I used a green filter and a 2Xs barlow with a piece of string attached so I could see Phobos, a small asteroid captured and turned into a moon by Mars. A few weeks later I used the same method to see the even smaller Deimos.

Tonight I decided to bust it all out again for a small moon viewing sesh. I had a pretty rough day at work and wanted to see mountains. I thought it was impossible, but then I remembered that the moon was in a great phase and I realized I could see actual light from actual mountains all from my backyard in New Orleans.

After a short dusting of all the gear (and it WAS dusty) it was time to get to viewing.

Great night for viewing the Western hemisphere of the Moon.

The only real problem here is that all these "mountains" are formed by meteor impacts. On Earth, mountains are not only capable of being formed by meteors but they can also be formed by volcanism and the process of orogeny, which has only been observed on our planet.

Oh and for the record, I never spent the money on astrophotography gear. The photos of the moon here were taken hand held.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Down River

My summer of rafting has finally come to an end and I am now back in New Orleans. The major bit of adventure in my life will come exclusively through the swamps as I start guiding canoe tours once again. It is fine though, I am hashing out a big winter mountaineering trip but the more I think about mountains the more I realize how much I miss the river.

The river seems so distant now; her water and all the people I grew to love and respect. We were a respectable group of transients, vagabonds, and wayfarers. Money was only as important as it was necessary and there was always a good time to be had. What tied us together though, in my mind, was the environment. It provided an overabundance of opportunities to test our skills, learn more and, in the end, take bigger, more calculated, risks. It's like ole Jim Whittiker said: "If your not living life on the edge your taking up too much space."

Maybe now that I'm home I might be taking up too much space on the couch but it gives me time to reflect on my experience over these past four months.

The most prominent opportunity and risk I took this summer was my R2 trip down Chattooga Sec. IV.  If you know the river and you know her dangers, you are perfectly justified in having a healthy sense of caution approaching it. A fatal river in many places, Chattooga is littered with undercuts and sieves. As a designated wild and scenic river it has a natural flow and is isolated from roads making medical evacuation highly difficult. The challenge and gravity of consequence was there.

Chattooga also had an element of nostalgia for me. My father had taken me at 13 on a rafting trip with WildWater rafting down Sec. IV. This experience was actually one of the first outdoor memories I cherish and see as a defining moment in my love of the outdoors. It is funny though, it wasn't the river that got me. It was the first time I saw mountains. I still remember staring out of my hotel room at the distant hills and all I wanted to do was be on top. At that time the river didn't even register in my mind. It is funny how things turn around. That is one thing water taught me though, it is all ebb and flow.

I did a quick edit of our Chattooga run, enjoy it y'all!


Every year there is a world famous race on the Green River outside of Asheville N.C. The green does not play around and is almost exclusively a hard boat river. Some of the guys I had been living with are training for that race and they have been running it pretty regularly to learn the moves. Check em out.

Boof Ducks Green River Narrows Triple Crown from Alexander M. on Vimeo.

Happy to be back on the Blog-o-sphere!


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Saturday Night Movie: Waterwalker

Bill Mason is a paddling legend. If you just so happen to be from Canada or way up north in the States you may have heard of him. He was a standard outdoor figure on Canada's public broadcasting. He produced a number of short films and worked on a number of television shows bringing the joys of paddling to many. Waterwalker is one of his finest films and has been made available for free. This is a classic treasure. Canoeists will surely enjoy or remember this film. Enjoy the paddling and even, wait for it, the pallet knife painting.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Double Trouble

It is always some sort of fun and games for raft guides when we are on the river and one of our favorite rapids to joke around in on the Ocoee is called "Double Trouble". It is a prime location for making a fool of yourself or looking like a true rafting Jedi master. Double Trouble is a pretty sweet wave train. Basically, all the water in the river begins to pile up and the only place it can go is up by making huge waves. It is a straightforward run and risk is fairly limited, it is also a spot where we take photos on every run. So we do stuff like this:


Saturday, June 7, 2014

Equipment Failure

It brings me no joy to announce that my laptop has become inoperable.  This will hinder my ability to update this page regularly in the near future. The issue does seem capable of being repaired. I will try, at least to offer y'all, post smaller entries that may link to larger material.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Jacks River Trail

This campaign,
year, after year,
season, after season.

Through forest and swamp,
through hill and dale,
through mountain and canyon.

In all the places I have fought,
what rewards were given,
what rewards were sought?

through the snow,
through the rain,
through the burning sand.

In times of heat,
in times of cold.

This time,
this battle,
a river.

Flowing she was.
Gently at times,
violently at times.

I trekked on,
step after step,
crossing after crossing.

After while the boots were removed from my feet.
Bare flesh intimately upon the earth.
With the mosses and the leaf litter beneath me.

She pushed hard,
I pushed harder.

Through the blackberry bramble,
through the laurel,
through the ivy.

Until I found myself,
at length upon my reward.

A great waterfall,
brilliant the cascade was.

And from there I found myself
walking in a great circle.


That hopeful exit,
that vehicle of my return.

A return to civilization.
Where the mass of men carry on,
working, slaving.

Their misunderstood lives,
their misunderstood desires.

On their backs are carried the burdens of distinguished men.
The great ones being far and few between.
How they seek to be them.

But here in the wilderness,
one can be everything,
and nothing,
all at once.


Monday, May 19, 2014

Big Frog Mountain

Every day we drive to the river I can see this mountain watching over Parksville lake. It looms over all the others. Sometimes it is covered in the classic mist that is ever so recognizable in these southern mountains; the summit only known in imagination. Other times it takes the namesake of its home range, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and is paled to an azure color of the sky. It took me less than a week to find out it was Big Frog Mountain at 4,200' of glory. Before I knew her name, I desired to be on its peak.

My maps revealed that it was located in the Big Frog Wilderness, part of Cherokee National Forest. The other bit of information that I became privy to was that a trail went directly to the summit. That trail: The Benton MacKaye. A classic, shorter thru-hiker trail, a small section would prove my route.

The hike would take me up one of the forks of Rough Creek. I smiled when I saw the name "rough creek". Cartographers were highly creative back in the day. I have seen at least three other "rough creeks" in the Southern Appalachian.

I made my camp for the night at the start of the climb up the main ridge to Big Frog. It was gently situated near the creek and I continued with my current trend of tentless camping.

The following day's hike up the ridge was rather easy going. I would attribute this to my week of hard work and conditioning. My hike up Cheoha the previous week had been a smoker and really pushed my green legs. On this day I was strong, gaining over 1000 vertical feet an hour. The goddess Diana would bless me as I was fortunate to witness a black bear foraging on my ascent. The first I have seen in these mountains. Once back at the guide camp it was revealed to me that this wilderness area was a prime relocation spot for bears that had disrupted human activity in the past. I can neither fully confirm or deny this rumor at this point.

Once I had gained the main ridge it became a knife edge. Very narrow and rocky. At points I would have been unable to lay across it with all 6'1" of myself. I began to notice, much to my dismay, that I was forming a blister on my left heel. I never get blisters. In my entire hiking career I never had one. This day was different. I was wearing a new pair of boots, stiff boots and admittedly a size too small. I thought it would be fine but it wasn't. After applying moleskin and putting on two pairs of socks to cushion my overwhelming desire to summit pushed me on.

It was a classic experience in these hills. Even though I was precipitously placed high above the world I was enclosed in a dense hardwood forest and was given few opportunities to view the surrounding landscape. One spot, listed on the map as the "Chimney Tops" did have a decent rock outcropping that opened up to some reward. This, beyond finally reaching the summit, was the only reward given on that day.

The summit was equally unforgiving. If there had been a frog on the top of that heap of dirt, rocks and trees, it would have surely been huge due to the unfathomable quantity of black fly, house fly and myriad of other flying pests that called that place home. Promptly upon arrival I left. I spent a second to try to locate a USGS marker but deemed it not worth it. The confirmation of the trail intersection and my altimeter was enough to prove it was indeed the summit.

I possessed enough food, time and the ability to spent another night in the wilderness area but my blister had become quite poignant. I decided to rush the estimated 12-14 miles down and back to my Jeep. This proved a tiring endeavor. Once I reached my Jeep, the Endeavor, I was elated and comforted. But what was even more comforting was knowing that a hot meal and warm bed was only a 20 min drive away back to our guide encampment, and not 9 1/2 hrs back to New Orleans.


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Saturday Night Movie: Call of the River

So I have been on this quest to document the history of paddling. I found this gem the other day. Many of the people interviewed in this one have been friends of some of my current teachers who I am studying under. It is so cool to come to understand that I am playing a part in this story. My fellow raft guides and myself are the next generation. We carry this torch; this is our inherited legacy. I am also lucky enough to have met and paddled with a few of the people in here.  Uh? Stoke?

COTR 67 WIDE 2014-Large 540p from Kent Ford on Vimeo.


Friday, May 16, 2014


(The Author)
In case you haven't noticed over the course of my posts, I am fascinated by the microcosm. It is absolutely amazing what you can find if you get on your hands and knees and look at a patch of earth. There is so much going on. Sometimes it is hard to comprehend.

Hope spiders don't creep you out because I love them. And I love to get CLOSE to them....


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

In Bloom: A Hike Up Cheoah Bald

Last Monday the entire staff of N.O.C. had their seasonal orientation at the main campus in Wesser on the Nantahala River. It was a mild affair. We took a complementary trip down the Nanty with some of the founders of the company and this was the true highlight. Most of these guys had been on these southern rivers for over 40 years. The wisdom and insight they had was deep and fantastic. I hope to spend some time in the near future getting some interviews for my "history of southern paddling" post. ( I do feel that may be a long time coming)

Following the exhaustive second day of orientation, filled with talks about policy and behavior, I decided to hike north bound on the Appalachian trail for 8.1 miles to Cheoah Bald. That was a good decision.

I hit the trail by 1:30pm and reached the summit by 6:30. It was a pitiful hike on my part. This was my first hike with any major elevation gain (3200ft of gain) in months so I couldn't be too upset with my physical ability. I spent the night on the summit at 5200' with only three other hikers and descended in the morning. Sunset was fantastic and so was sunrise. I highly recommend this summit should you ever get the chance and time while visiting North Carolina.

The best thing about the hike though was all the wild flowers. Many were in bloom and as I gained elevation what was in bloom and wasn't changed.

Of all the flowers the most spectacular, and classic, was the Flame Azaleas. In the 1700's William Bartram (whom the Bartram trail in these very mountains is named after) stated:

"The epithet fiery I annex to this most celebrated species of azalea, as being expressive of the appearance of its flowers; which are in general of the color of the finest red-lead, orange, and bright gold, as well as yellow and cream color. These various splendid colors are not only in separate plants, but frequently all the varieties and shades are seen in separate branches on the same plant; and the clusters of the blossoms cover the shrubs in such incredible profusion on the hillsides that, suddenly opening to view from dark shades, we are alarmed with apprehension of the woods being set on fire. This is certainly the most gay and brilliant flowering shrub yet known." 

I could say it no better if I tried.