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.


No comments:

Post a Comment