Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Quick Trip to Flower Gap

Dara had an idea. "Let's leave after church and go backpacking overnight for Labor Day." She called Drew who is always wanting an excuse to leave Georgia to get a dose of God's country (the mountains). So we packed our backpacks in the Wagoneer and left after church with the dogs for the Shining Rock Wilderness in North Carolina.
By the time we got there, the sun was near the horizon. Our goal was to make it to Flower Gap and set up camp before dark. If one is daring enough, one can attempt to navigate the extremely rough 4x4 trail (once a silver mine rail spur) to bypass Black Balsam Knob and Tennant Mountain.
Yep. You guessed it. We took the Wagoneer on the trail. The good news is it performed perfectly climbing rocks and forging creeks (worn street tires and all!). This is quite a feat. Even trail rigs struggle with parts of this two- or three-mile trail. Spotters are required frequently, and damage is likely. The trail is so narrow, there are only two or three spots where you can possibly turn around—in fact, the laurel, blueberry bushes, and other brush scrape both sides of the vehicle more often than not. Thankfully, the only damage that occurred was that I broke a weld that holds my tailpipe and muffler, and now it rattles (I need a new muffler anyway). That's it! If you knew what kind of obstacles we faced, you would not believe it would make it at all, let alone finish it unscathed! I'll probably not do that again!
There were some others who braved the 4x4 trail, true rednecks (I say with all affection) who were much more prepared, with their lifted old beater 4x4 Blazers, Jeeps, etc. who made it to Ivestor Gap where they set up Tarp City. There were a couple of vehicles that were a bit newer, and the sight of the fenders and rocker panels of those vehicles struck fear in my heart! They were scratched, dented, and beaten to death! It's a minor miracle I got out of there with only a bit of tailpipe damage. Thanks, Drew, for a great job spotting and plotting my route (and thank God for his grace)!

I must admit, it was fun.

We finally parked the Wag and started hiking. I should say we started "hoofing it" because we had to walk really fast in order to beat the sun which was quickly setting.
We got to Flower Gap on time...but there were three or four groups of college students that beat us there. Not cool. The secret of Flower Gap is no longer...well...secret. Like Max Patch and several other great places that I have gone to all my life and could count on being alone all day, the word is out. I will reserve comment on the college students we saw there, except to say that some were stocked up on pot, some had their music playing, and several left trash laying around. You can probably get the rest. Stinks. Literally. But I'm sounding like an old man.

The campsite in a hemlock grove. Sparky
is wiped out! Mo is still ready to go.
The fact that we were now not going to be camping at Flower Gap meant we needed to really hoof it to find another place in which we could set up camp. We ended up going to Shining Rock Gap, another mile or so past Flower Gap. Along the way we saw several other college students with their ENOs or tents set up. After much searching, with darkness closing in, Drew found a suitable place under some huge hemlock trees. There was a little slope so it really wasn't an optimum place to set up tents, but it was the best we could find, and it worked ok.

Sparky, Mo, & Drew while supper is being prepared.
It was actually cold that night! After eating a dinner of tuna pitas, Jambalaya, and sausage, we went to bed. Dara, Mo, and I in one tent; Sparky and Drew in the other. I slept like a rock.
A spider's web with morning dew-drops
over our tents.

The next morning we ate oatmeal, packed up and headed back toward the Wagoneer through Flower Gap. Awesome. We ate blueberries and hung out there with the college students (some of whom had organized themselves into a 6-person massage line to rub each other down. Just weird. I'll probably not go back there on a Labor Day weekend). I've been coming to this area for around 25 years and haven't ever seen this many people. Not even close. I've been here before and not seen a single person for days. The secret is out. I'm a little saddened about it—particularly about people who are not considerate of nature, laws, and other people. But I'm monologuing again. There were some great people we met on the trail, including some nice college students.

Blueberries were still abundant at Flower Gap. The elevation is approximately 5800 feet there. Nearby Black Balsam Knob is 6214 feet and there are even more blueberries there in places.

After hanging out at Flower Gap and getting our fill of blueberries, we headed back. Drew had to get back to Berry (College). It was a beautiful day. Awesome scenes all around as we walked.

This is Dara at Ivestor Gap. 

Drew reminded us that there was an apple tree on the side of the trail when we were hiking in, but in our haste to beat the fleeting daylight, we missed it somehow. We found it on the way out and the apples were great. I think I could survive on just the food the Appalachians provide for those who look! 

 At Ivestor Gap, we realized that the rednecks (I say with all respect) were firing up their 4x4s to head out together. I was hoping to be in front of them so that we could get out in time not to stress Drew, AND because I was a little afraid that something could happen to my Wag (and that's when you really need rednecks, who are usually quite willing to lend a helping hand). So we had to hoof it again and stayed with the Jeepers (not an easy task) until we got back to the trusty Wag. No worries, it started and we followed the rednecks out. I must say, the Wagoneer is an impressive vehicle. What else can you take downtown to a symphony concert, and take to the mountains four-wheeling and be right at home at both?! The rednecks were impressed, too! It seems everybody loves the Wagoneer.

Sidebar: You must understand, rednecks don't consider that label a pejorative! Especially when the one using it is a redneck (me, as my kids frequently remind me. But I'm the good kind! There are two kinds, you know! Maybe that'll be another post.)!

Scenes along the hike. Click on them to see them larger.

Wagoneers are beautiful anyway, but never so much as they are after an adventure! After loading up the Wag, we followed our new friends out (they really were! They honked and waved at us when we parted ways down the road!). 
After a beautiful ride down the mountain to the hamlet of Bethel, we ate at Jukebox Junction, our favorite sit-down burgers-and-shakes place! We've been coming to this restaurant since 1999.  

What a great, quick adventure with two fantastic people (who happen to be my kids). I'm so thankful. God was everywhere one might care to look—in the beauty of creation all around us, in the conversations on the trail, and even in the small good things (pets, food, ride, people we met) along the way—reminding me of his grace and goodness. It was exactly what I needed!

1 comment:

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Appalachian Trail Partying Angers Longtime Hikers - August 30, 2015