Friday, December 20, 2013

It's cold and its Christmas!....lets have some stew.

 Well.....we've tooled around so long its turned cold and Christmas....Actually Thanksgiving, we'll it was, but next week is Christmas---did anybody see Thanksgiving blow thru here? do fly...but I reckon we all know that don't we!
  This month, uh, month and a half there's been some traveling, a lot of eating, some deer hunting and a touch of backpacking. With all the cold and holidays, our big plans for a section hiked turned into a short cold gear test hike. If your not so much on reading you can see a summary of this trip on video HERE, also check out this place, for some serious outdoor education. anywho....this trip started on Jacks Knob Trail, it drops you on the A.T. at Chattahoochee Gap between Unicoi Gap and Hogpen Gap. I guess its worth noting when you get to the gap, LEFT will take you to Blue Mtn Shelter/Unicoi Gap, and RIGHT will take you to Low Gap shelter and Hogpen Gap. Its seems that after a body has been thru there 3 or 4 times they would remember that, but ya know....the outdoors aint for everyone. So, yup...Jacks Knob...LEFT at Chattahoochee Gap..up to Blue Mtn Shelter (hunt,eat,sleep,freeze) and down to Unicoi the next day. Sounds easy enough...leggo.

Jacket by Rab, beard by mother nature

 Saturday morning was cold and rainy...but hey, I got the weather channel so I was prepared, plus after all these years I finally scored myself some legit rain wear. Picked up this event rain shell  here for a price us pofolks can afford. Turns out this Rab Viper Jacket is crazy breathable, buuuut it also turns out I could probably break a sweat when naked in 20 degree weather....who knew?....well actually I knew, but for some delusional reason I always think, maybe the next "BIG" break thru in breathable material will work for me, boy am I a sucker. I will say I didn't feel like I was wearing a garbage bag tho...BONUS!!
 So we hit the trial...we climbed and descended...climbed and descended never seeing more than 20 ft ahead, the fog and mist set in pretty heavy but it was supposed to clear and get colder as the day moved about and it finally did.

spent most of the day hiking in this
   We had counted on getting to the shelter early, so we could hunt for dry firewood and squirrels. I had a large craving for a large bowl of warm, bushy tail stew. Blue Mountain Shelter would be our home for the rest of the day and that night, being at around 4000 ft we figured on it being a cold home at that. Firewood was gathered and cut by a dandy little workhorse of saw +Jason Byers picked up somewhere. after that we cooked up a little Ramen lunch and lit out on a squirrel hunt.

+Jason Byers @ Blue Mtn Shelter

hot coffee, cold day

 Now I'll be the first to admit that toting a rifle on a backpacking trip is not my idea of packing smart, but, you can always count on good ol bushman Byers to come up with a good solution. He brought a handy little AR-7 by Henry Rifles. Its a small pack able .22 and a strait shootin one to boot.

the man...the myth.......the legend turns out that with single digit temps just hours away, the wildlife had better sense than us and stayed holed up in their burrows, so vegetable stew it was. It worked out ok anyhow, we already had the tripod lashed and the vegetables cooking, and I had built up a hunger in my belly from all the wood cutting and "intense hunting", so we didn't have to wait on the meat to cook in before we could eat.

 This probably seems like a lot of pictures of stew, but typically we are walking all day, and well, there just wasn't much to do that evening around camp, so your gettin stew pictures....lots of stew pictures.

delicious and nutritious
 We did have one interesting visitor tho, this fella was tenting not far from the shelter....he holed up in his tent most of the day, once he smelled the stew he popped out every hour to "talk"...he asked us did we "partake" and I said "do-huh?" Byers got a good chuckle from my reaction, apparently that's hippy/homeless guy code for Im looking to score some free weed. After I realized what he was askin, I replied "that's out"...which is hard working/ law abiding/ tax paying guy code, for I don't have time for your silly shenanigans. I reckon all the pot smokers out there wont care for me much after reading this, but if you'll give me about 30 seconds I'll get over it.

 It was gettin late and by belly was full so I hit the sack. I'd never really backpacked in temps as low as they would be this night so I was excited and a bit apprehensive about my sleep system, but after seeing Byers set up I felt pretty sure he was gonna freeze to death before me, so I'd be able to use his insulation along with mine and be ok. Ha!...the hike was short so I loaded up for the just in case. I was sleeping on a 3 season pad, with a 40 degree over quilt inside a 20 degree bag. Also I had a 20 degree under quilt just in case. I also slept in a base layer, a down jacket and a some fleece pants. now I know that all sounds ridiculous, but every time I've been up on that ridge the wind blows thru there like its got somewhere to be in a hurry. I figured with the forecast calling for single digits and that kinda wind we might see sub-zero wind chills. turns out despite the cold and all the wind I overheated, no big deal to, i just peeled off a few layers and boom...I was good to go. Better to have then have not.
 So the ice cold night gave way to an even colder morning, I slept fairly well, but still prefer the comfort of my hammock over the ground or the floor of a shelter. morning was clear and the sunrise didn't disappoint!

wait for it.....

...wait for it....



 After soakin up the sunrise, I realized I had forgot to put my water in the sleeping bag with me and it was froze...the whole liter....solid. Don't reckon it mattered anyway because it was so cold my stove wouldn't put out a flame much bigger than a candle. I did manage to thaw out enough Ice chips to make some luke warm oatmeal that pretty much turned instantly cold after the second even froze to my beard. bummer. That left only one thing to do, get up and get moving. Anyone who has ever slept out in the cold knows you have to be in your insulation or up and moving, anything in between is almost unbearable. With frozen fingers and toes we packed up and pointed our hats down hill for the hike out, the wind was blistering and the day was beautiful as we descended into Unicoi Gap.

north side of Unicoi Gap
Its been a good year, made some tracks in some areas, and lost some ground in other, met some interesting people and some strange characters. I reckon that's what keeps life interesting. I hope you folks have enjoyed reading about these little adventures, they may not seem like much to some but  they sure do make for some good memories, and if nothing else they are good for a chuckle. If your ever interested in joining us for one of these scants shoot me or +Jason Byers an email. I don't care if you have climbed Mt. Everest, or never even camped in your backyard, you may teach us a thing or two, or you may learn a thing or two, but I guarantee at the least you'll leave with a funny story to tell.    I hope you all have a Merry Christmas, and the best new year ever!....

-saw em

Monday, November 25, 2013

Recovery and Rediscovery

Since the "bike accident" its been a slow process getting back on my feet...I reckon when you put it into perspective it really hasent been so long, but to go from wide open, strait to the recliner for a month it seemed like an eternity! I am however, thankful that I will eventually fully recover and am thankful for some good friends that didn't mind slowing down with me so I could enjoy some less strenuous activities for a while. I'm also thankful for my wife, who with the patients of Job, waited on me hand and foot, bringing me dinner and spit cups, debbie cakes, and  helped me in and out of the shower, and most of all listened to me gripe about only being able to squat here on by big butt, all while taking care of the youngins too...she is a saint!

Me and my Home Healthcare Professional..
Thanks Babe!

This little rant it gonna be a two -for....Ill try to go with more pictures and less babbling about if I can. Seemed it my present state, less would be more, so rediscovering a few places right here by the house was the thing to do. Now when I say by the house I mean that in the most literal sense, with the help of a few good ol boys my kayak was loaded up and we made the quick two mile drive to the lake. It was a short and uncomfortable paddle to the little Island we have visited before, but I knew the comfort of my hammock awaited.

Early Oct on Lake Chatuge

We settled in quickly to relax and enjoy the breeze off the lake, I didn't however, enjoy listening to Missouri beat the Dawgs in a key conference game!!!!...but atleast there were great views, and I was out of the house...BONUS!

Dusk at Brown Island
This is a great place to camp and relax....seems like it probably gets a lot of summer visitors, there's always  a few chairs, tiki torches and firewood someone has left behind. Time was even taken by one bored soul to build a privy back off in the woods.

+Jason Byers 

 After a great night sleep, it was early mornin coffee while I sat and watched the sun burn off some of the fog from the lake. The buffet bug hit soon after so we broke camp and made the misty paddle back to the truck just in time to make it to the breakfast buffet at the Georgia Mtn. Restaurant....I ate till I was gut bustin full!!!

.......................before I knew it Oct had turned to Nov and I hadn't hiked a lick. Being more than ready to hit the trail for some time now, we settled on a quick day hike to Georgias highest peak via the Arkaquah Trail. I've hiked this trail dozens of times...its my favorite trail to hit for some good old lung burning climbs. The Arkaquah Trail is a quick little 7 mile stint that runs from Trackrock Gap (2100) to the summit of Brasstown bald (4786') what it lacks in length it makes up for in elevation, Ill leave the math for you, but you'll cover about 75% of the elevation difference in the first mile and a half to two miles.

+Jason Byers and Jasonb on Buzzard Roost
first icicles of the year
There were still a few fall leaves hanging around under the north ridge, lots of big boulders and cliff overhangs. I had all but forgotten what great winter views this trail offered. Seems like there's always a chance for some wildlife viewing too...I have saw turkey, bear, deer, grouse and during the summer months, several timber rattlers.

Gossamer Gear Kumo

sunrise over Jacksonville

It turned out to be a great day...clear and cool. After reaching the summit at Brasstown Bald we rewarded ourselves with a hot cup of coffee. While I sat on top of that cold Mtn with a warm cup of coffee, I couldn't help but think about how grateful I was for a great family, and a whole bunch of really good friends. I guess you might say I had some "rediscovery during my recovery". I hope you  will take the opportunity to rediscover some places.....and just maybe some people too!

-saw em

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Cycling at its....not so finest

jasonb@Tsali commute or not commute, that is the question

Backpacking has been put on hold. There is a basic necessity in backpacking and that is the ability to walk, this is an ability that I temporarily no longer possess. In addition to backpacking I also take a liking to Cycling...
Growing up on a dirt road, there were no skate boards, or 10 speeds, only bmx bikes. Many miles I pedaled on a diamond back bmx with a free wheel, only my foot between the frame and back tire for brakes...this Flinstone breaking system was only for emergencies anyway, we prefered  the "power slide" method of stopping. My first long distance cycling event was on that very same bike. 73 miles in the cystic fibrosis bike-a-thon. Roughly 291 laps in a giant parking lot, that was middle school and I was to dumb to even relies  what I had accomplished but I was proud of that shiny first place trophy.
F fwd a few I got older I grew to large for bmx, basketball took the bikes place, It was more suitable for a fellow my size...eventually as those sports slipped away with the high School years I found myself on the bike again. Mountain bikes had came along way and I scored myself a used Schwinn. At the time I didn't know what mountain bikes were and I just saw it as a bmx bike with big ole wheels. Cycling has become for me, much like backpacking, a short break from the demands of everyday life. Even the short 10 mile commute to work on my bike has become something I really enjoy. Starting the day in the coolness of morning, working up a little sweat...smelling the smells of the outdoors and seeing the sunrise over the mountains has become for me the perfect way to start a day.

No matter how many times you take to the road, always In the back of your mind is the thought of getting hit. I reckon I've always been a touch more concerned with a dog running out and wrecking me to be hons
est, but maybe that's just the case cause that very thing happened to a good friend right before my eyes. I always have been extra careful, trying to pick routes and times to ride trying to minimize the amount of traffic I have to negotiate. I feel like I have been pretty lucky being incident free.....Well, a couple of Tuesdays ago my luck ran out!
Leaving work that day I took a shorter route home that gets me there a little quicker, this route includes a portion of the main hwy up Young Harris mtn. Traffic is not terrible through there, its four lanes and there are huge shoulders, not to mention myself and everyone else that rides around here have hit that mountain hard hundreds of times. I've always felt perfectly safe riding this stretch of road. On this Tuesday the unthinkable happened. Headed east up the Mountain a Tahoe crossed over all four lanes and hit me head on.. BOOOM!...It happened so fast I didn't have time to even be scared...let-alone react! 65 mph... No squealin breaks, no tire marks left, just wide open and right into me head on. 

after a little searching, they found all the pieces of my bike.
modified unicycle for sale

Let me just say for the record, getting hit by a truck feels exactly like you would imagine. After I finally hit the ground I sat up and looked around thinking, "well....guess I aint dead". I took inventory of my head and my guts and everything seemed fine so I directly jumped up and noticed I was considerably bloody but only from my arms and legs. I thought "well..guess broke bones aint to bad " ( It was crazy how calm I actually felt considering) About that time I looked up and saw a friend from work was stopped in the road just down the hill behind me, as he made his way towards me on foot he exclaimed "Man!!...I thought you were dead". I hobbled in his truck and he drove me to the hospital.

After a few Xrays and ambulance ride to Gainesville for the night  my outlook was good, not one single broken bone. I did have some major bruising and some serious swelling, but a couple of weeks on crutches should cure all that. They stitched me up and sent me home the next day. I cant even begin to explain how grateful I am that the good Lord spared me that doubt it was nothing short of a miracle.
 The question I've been getting the most is Will I ride again?...My answer is heck yes!!!...someone once told me "you are not defined by your past but prepared by it." I think that's good advice...
 I encourage you to grab your past and use it in a positive way to prepare yourself for the future, be proactive in where you wanna be and what you wanna do and don't let your past hold you back! Whatever the things are you like to do, round up your family or just a few buddies and have at it, none of us are promised tomorrow.

+Jason Byers +Gary Bradley +Ryan Anderson 
-saw em

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Rivers...rain and complacency

Toccoa River Canoe Trail

 No doubt we live in an age of complacency!...Folks live more comfortably now than any other time in the past. Everything seems to get bigger, faster and just mo-better in general by the week.  I feel like I lead a pretty modest life...we are a single income family, I burn wood for heat, have old cars and trucks that are paid for, I have to repair my washer and dryer about once every three months....don't get me wrong, I'm not poor mouthing, this is the life we choose to live. I could go out and finance a new and improve, front loading hi-efficiency, does everything, save the world kinda washer and dryer (this thing is worth more than my truck)....but why would I? I could just buy propane for the central heat in our home, not fool with the hard work of splitting wood for the stove...but why would I? ...hard work and hard times build character right? all that being said, before you click the X in the top right corner of your screen because you think I'm being a touch holier than thou, I'll have confess, I am not immune to the magnificent things modern society has to offer.
 Big ol flat screen...yeah, I got could I  watch them DAWGS play if It wasnt in HD?!!! lawnmower is self propelled, I do indeed have a smart phone in my hey...Im not a total neanderthal here....Reckon I took the long way around to say this...I like a challenge....sometimes I take the hard way just because...and I do not like complacency. Unfortunately it sneaks its way into  life from time to time unrecognized until booom!...out of nowhere it rears its ugly ol head...speaking of heads.. ..this thing is growin a head of its own here, so lets get on with about some pics.

 Toccoa River Canoe Trail....about a 14 mile trip down the Toccoa river, from Deep Hole Campground to Sandy Bottoms Recreation Area. This trip has been on the agenda for quite awhile now...a few of us at work have studied on doing this 3 or 4 times, even pinning down a date only to have it fall thru. Thinkin we may just stop along the way....pitch our hammocks and finish the trip the next day, we decided to just paddle it out and camp there at Sandy Bottoms where we would have chairs to sit in and a pick-nick table to eat at.
 Loading up the old trusty stead with the kayaks, dutch oven, firewood and a few dry bags, we fueled up and headed toward Dial to set up camp and meet ol Hugh.

3 things you can count on..Taxes, dying, and this old truck
                After all the shuffling about we arrived at Deep Hole and shoved off down the river.

Deep Hole just ask,  +Jason Byers

This is a great river for beginners or people who like the majority of their trip slow and steady. A few sections have some class 2 rapids, and maybe a class 3, but for the most part is was easily negotiated and allowed for plenty of relaxing and even some fishing.

Hugh murderin worms
Best I can recall there were about three blow we just stepped over another we were able to pass under and the third was the worst of em, we had to jump out and carry our boats about 50 feet along the bank, no big deal tho.

only place we had to exit the river
gettin back in the water wasnt to difficult
after meanderin for quite a while we found a great spot to have lunch and relax, not to far ahead we had some pretty decent rapids to negotiate.

Hugh the kayak guru and +Jason Byers the river rat
The Benton Mackaye trail winds thru this part of the country, hopefully we'll get a chance to thru hike it sometime next summer. BMT crosses the Toccoa on a high swingin type bridge, and there seemed to be quite a crowd growing to watch folks shoot the rapids just beyond this bridge.

Benton Mackaye Trail
 Making it thru the biggest rapids of the day unscathed, I had to take a few min to sponge the water out of my boat, not having a spray skirt I took on a little water in this section. For the next few miles the water got deeper and slower. From here the river would wind thru private land, public land, and some pastures...plenty of great scenery.

Old Dial Bridge

 It got pretty wet from here on out....the last hour or so of our trip a steady rain started, and by the time we reach the takeout at Sandy Bottoms we had paddled in a full on down pour for about 45 min, it was a great time tho, all said and done we had been at it for about 6 hours.

I shuttled Hugh back to Deep hole to get his van, when I got back to Sandy Bottoms we decided to load everything up in the rain and head back to the house...being wet and cold, the thought of a warm shower and a dry couch trumped a damp hammock and cooking in the rain. Yet again complacency has robbed me of another night sleeping in the woods..just like I figured, when my belly was full and I was good and warm, I got to thinkin how I wish we woulda just stayed. ...I think I may be getting use to the comforts of home, reckon I'll have to do something about that.

Next time you get a chance to step out of your "comfort zone", I hope you dive in and paddle your way to a little bit of adventure...don't be complacent...I know I wont!!

-saw em

Friday, August 16, 2013

Trip Report: Jumping Gaps and incidental slack-packing

Hogpen Gap to Neels Gap

Seems like lately these section hikes we plan as overnighters turn into incidental slack-packing trips. I reckon as the amount of mileage a man can endure increases,  his need to set up camp for a 15 to 20 mile section  decreases. Throw in an intense hunger, living close to the trail and a little missing the family and you have a recipe for slack packing. Sleeping out in the woods is one of the best parts about backpacking, and the last couple of trips I have missed it, but with a great desire to spend time with my family these trips will fuel my outdoor needs till our little family is old enough to go along with. 
This short little 6.6 mile jump from  Neels Gap to  Hogpen Gap is all that was keeping us from checking Georgia off the list (and had been for some time) Originally the plan was to shoot on over to Neels from Hogpen head back north to the half way point and pitch camp early, that would have left us with a short hike out just in time for some sausage, eggs and grits. Up to this point we have been northbounders on our section hikes, this time we decided to hike south...cant give you a good reason as to why tho.
Pulling in to Hogpen early that morning we were greated by a round fellow from "Atlanta"...he commenced to telling us all there is to know about backpacking, equipment and all other means of outdoor knowledge...I'm still convinced he would have a hard time walking to the mailbox, but I would guess he's way to important to do so anyway....guess I'll exit this topic, but it will never cease to amaze me about the "experts" from the city I run into on the trail that seem to think I know nothing about the woods where I live, hunt, fish and roam...maybe its my own fault for just minding my manners and hearin folks out. Hopefully one day I'll bump into to someone who can give me some tips and advice on grammer and thats something I could use!

This trip was fairly uneventful.....we ran into a couple of nice fellows that were also from Atlanta, they seemed pretty tired after just a few miles in, but were very excited this being their first time out. While we talked with them for a bit It was warming up and the black flies seem to be out in abundance.

We meandered down the trail taking our time hearing a boom of thunder every now and again and figuring on getting wet just about anytime. Next thing ya know we were dropping off into Neels gap just like that.

+Jason Byers Cowrock Mountain

Levelland Mountain View

Borrowing the picnicking tables at Mountain Crossings we sat down for a was kinda nice having a cold coke-a-cola with lunch on the trail for a change. Watching people come in and out of the store and parking lot was dang amusing to..this one poor kid was car sick from riding over the Mountain....he was standing next to his parents car gagging. A couple of dudes that work in the store were standing at the door chanting puke...puke ...puke!!!...I couldn't help but laugh, and at the same time I couldn't help but to feel sorry for the kid. Thinkin back it reminded me of my childhood, riding threw the smokies in 70 chevelle with a old starcraft pop-up in tow, sittin on hot vinyle seats with a coloring book in my lap thinking oh laaawd im gonna ralph..... I always choked it down tho, knowin my dad wouldn't be so happy with vomit all over that fine automobile.I sure do appreciate  the way that man put up with all kinda nonsense to get us outside and take us camping.

Jason B @ Neels Gap

Not long after lunch wrapped up the bottom fell out! was a bonafide  frog strangler! We duct under the breezeway and were no worse for the wear...still dry as a bone, dumb luck it happened that way..pure capitol D-umb luck. Talked to some good people waiting out the rain, a few hikers, a few bikers and even some cyclist riding the six gaps. After the rain slacked up a bit we donned our pack covers and took off back up the mountain. We stopped and studied on setting camp a couple of times but it was so early we just couldn't bare the thought of sitting around for hours on end with nuthin to do. Making camp at the shelter back where we started seemed like the thing to do. 

Wildcat Mountain

After coming back across Levelland Mountain and such, we took a right and headed down to the shelter, it was a mile and a half of the trail but it seemed like 10!...I will not be making that trip ever again, and I would advise such to anyone who asks my aint worth it! To ice the cake on this whole shelter soon as we walked up there were to old dudes snuggled up in the shelter by its 90 degrees in July in the south at 5:30 of the  afternoon...and here sets a couple of guys in sleepin bags zipped up to their ears. I may not be the smartest cat you'll ever run across but c'moooon!!!..GOOD GOD MAN!!!...if that's your thing great!...but keep it at the house, or a motel!.,..nobody wants to see that garbage. It didn't take but a min to decide there were no suitable trees for hammocks, so we were on our way, heading back out to the truck..and gladly so might I add. 

Whitley Gap Shelter

Back at the truck we loaded up and headed down the hill to Huddle House in Blairsville, not being satisfied by that we skipped across the road to top off the pattie melts that were just consumed with some Zaxbys chicken and a milkshake. It was a good day, met some great folks..good hiking and good fellowship.
This is a great section to hike, not to hard, but not to easy and you can make it as long or short as you like. hiking.. thru-hiking...whatever your method, get out there and get some dirt under your  feet!

-Saw em