The Ultimate Adventure Report

Great pics of Florida. Amazing how interesting it looks when seen through the lense of someone who doesn't see it all the time. I have been out on the Daytona Pier, boardwalk, bandshell so many times. But it looks different and neat when seen in your pictures. I guess all the homeless, runaways, filth and trash doesn't get picked up from that far away. Definitely a great place to grab a slice of pizza, a cold beer, and people watch. Just don't try to solve everyone else's problems.
 
Spent some time Tuesday at Red Top Mountain State Park. Did the 5.3 mile Homestead loop. This loop starts at the visitors center and drops in elevation before heading back up the ridge and out toward the Etowah River. Mild elevation gains and the sub 90 degree temps under the canopy of trees made this a nice hike. Saw plenty of squirrels, 4.3 million chipmunks and a very hungry king snake (he was chasing chipmunks). Unfortunately people must feed the chipmunks as they're not afraid of people at all. Was also able to pick up some trash and a blue bag of what I assume was dog poop. If you're going to take the time to bag it you should take it with you!

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The trail is wide and very well worn. It intersects several of the other trails so the yellow blazes are still helpful.

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Some of the chipmunks were still somewhat scared of humans.

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I took the loop starting on the west side and working my way around to the east. If you didn't want to do the entire loop the east side certainly has the best views.

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People have created their own trails down to the lake at several points. I can imagine this can't be good for run off and these trails are going to quickly deteriorate without some erosion control.

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Closer to the beginning of the loop there are several areas where the trail goes right along the water's edge. Here where the sun is able to penetrate the canopy there's an abundance of wild blueberry bushes. There were some neat natural features on the eastern side of the trail as well.

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Today I decided to head up to the John's Mountain WMA to visit the John's Mountain Overlook. @Scott B. and I had attempted to check this out during a previous trip, but the government shutdown at the time meant the gate was closed. After a couple miles of dirt I made it to the top of John's Mountain (I want my own mountain) and took in the views from the observation deck.

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That's Alabama over there in the distance somewhere.

While I was soaking in the sights there were two gentlemen setting up a mobile ham shack. They had a 14ft V-nose trailer with multiple transceivers, antenna tuners and other equipment neatly built into a cabinet and workbench along one wall. They had the whole setup running off a small honda generator and they were preparing to handle communications for a foot race happening this weekend. They planned on being up there all weekend and using 2M along with packet radio to send information on runners back down to other relay stations along the route. Very cool.

I set off into the woods to check out the John's Mountain Trail loop and the Keown Falls. The trail is quite wide...jeep wide in fact and there were fresh tire tracks present. Interesting...

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There was evidence of controlled burns from the past several years everywhere. The forest fires that hit NE Georgia several years back helped to feed some additional money into the budget for these burns across GA.

Roughly 3/4's of a mile down the trail there are several places where the foliage opens up to views to the east.

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If you're looking for a good place to roll or sprain and ankle...this is it.

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A little further down the trail I found the source of the fresh tire tracks. The FS had a crew out working on the trail along the bottom of Keown Falls.

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From what I could tell it looks like the falls here are only active during very wet weather, and we haven't had that in awhile now. I didn't do any research before heading out but looking online it appears this isn't a frequently used trail and there has to be significant rainfall for any water to be coming over the falls.

This is the area where the creek bed runs that feeds the falls. Very overgrown:

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Just up the hill from the observation deck overlooking the falls area there are some more good views to the east.

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Stairs lead down to the base of the falls and this would be an incredible spot to cool off when the water's flowing. The work crew had staged their packs here under the area where the falls would be.

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Back at the top of the falls the trail crosses what would be a creek during wet weather. This appeared to be next up on the FS work crew's list.

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After poking around and enjoying the breeze for a bit I headed back up to the parking area and got in enough elevation change that I shouldn't need any cardio for the remainder of my life. I stopped to checkout the natural bird house and it's Pileated Woodpecker inhabitants:

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I like Pileated Woodpeckers when they're not destroying the eaves of my house. Grabbed a wildflower photo for my wife and headed home.

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Fall is here...right? I mean it's 90 degrees outside but technically it's fall. That means it's time to head for the mountains before the roads and forests are clogged with leaf peepers and tourists trying to get those Fall Instagram shots. A buddy and I loaded up the Jeep and headed for Linville Gorge just north of Marion NC.

Old NC 105 provides access to the western side of the gorge and is a well maintained gravel road. We saw a very wide variety of vehicles; everything from modified 4x4s to a convertible Mercedes of the AMG persuasion. Immediately after turning onto Old NC 105 from Hwy 183 you're greeted by the parking area for the Linville Falls. A short walk drops you into one of several viewing areas for the falls. The falls are made up of three drops with the twin cascade at the top, a cutout chute dropping the water down just below that and then a 45 foot waterfall at the bottom. The trails give you access to different view points of each drop and the gorge as it extends away from the falls.

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There were a number of people at each viewing point, most being very respectful of one another and just enjoying the scenery. One couple, who we dubbed the Instagram Twins, was more concerned about positioning themselves in precarious positions and in front of other visitors to get the perfect photo. It's hard to get away from people on the east coast.

We continued down Old NC 105 and found a nice campsite that sat down below the road a bit on top of one of the ridges.

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We spent a bit of time fanning out from camp and gathering downed wood to maintain the fire for the evening and cleaning up other people's trash (including that can in the photo...cans don't burn). Then we sat back and enjoyed the fire and emerging colors around us until night set in.

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The next morning after a hot breakfast we packed up camp, drowned the fire ring and headed down the road to Wisemans View. This area sits atop a rock outcropping on the opposite side of the gorge from Hawksbill Mountain and Table Rock. If you're there for sunrise you get spectacular shots of the sun breaking over the mountains. If you're there shortly after sunrise the views are still incredible.

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There are warning signs everywhere for visitors to mind their children...it's easy to see why as there are no guard rails here.

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We backtracked a bit from here and hiked down Bynum Bluff, a 1.25 - 1.75 mile hike down to the bottom of the gorge to the Linville River. It had rained heavily the day before and with the limited day light the gorge sees the trails were wet and slick. Most trails in this area are listed as being quite difficult. It's not because just because of some of the steep elevation changes, but because many of these trails are slick, covered in roots and rocks and quite narrow. Good place to slip and injure yourself if you're not careful. Bynum Bluff trail winds down the side of the gorge and after a few other trails drops you out next to the river in what is probably one of the best campsites I've ever found this side of the Mississippi.

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Situated directly next to the river the walls of the gorge and the sounds of the cascading water block out the rest of the outside world. There were multiple trees for hammocks and an established fire ring. Trout fill the river here and I'm already itching to go back and spend some quality time with a fishing rod in my hand. From here we headed back up the trail and proceeded toward the eastern side of the gorge.

On the eastern side we sat out a brief pop up thunderstorm and then struck out for the peak of Hawksbill Mountain. On my trail map this was incorrectly listed as being a .6 mile "more difficult" trail. It is in fact a 1.5 - 2 mile trail that will steal your lunch money, insult your mother's virtue and then beat up your Dad. The first 3/4's of the trail aren't too bad and will lure you in to a false sense of security. The last 1/4 consists of almost vertical scrambles up the back of the mountain using mountain laurel roots for steps and pine trees as hand holds. The payoff at the top is well worth it though.

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That picture contains some of the greatest parts of NC and TN. We sat and watched the thunderstorm we had sat out as it progressed across the ridges and helped the sun put on an amazing light show on the peaks below.
 
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After spending part of the afternoon hanging out on top of Hawksbill we headed back to the Jeep. The remainder of the afternoon consisted of a little backtracking and a detour to Table Rock mountain. We ultimately ended up on the Blue Ridge Parkway and got to Mount Mitchell just before sunset. Mount Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi and is now on my short list of places to return to. It is home to a very unique variety of plants that aren't seen at lower elevations. Fir and spruce cover the top of the mountain in groves so deep and dark that even during the middle of the day they block out almost all light to the ground under their bows. Everywhere you looked there were scenes that would be right at home in northern Maine or areas of Canada, but are unheard of this far south. Combined with the sunset and the crescent moon this was a fantastic way to end our trip.

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Back to work I go! Posting this from a hotel in Stillwater OK after leaving Atlanta yesterday morning. I've hit Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas and Oklahoma so far. I'll end up dropping south into Texas tomorrow before heading back home.

Corona virus has certainly lightened interstate traffic. Most of my trip from Atlanta into Arkansas looked like this:

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It was interesting to see the difference in Corona guidelines as I progressed from county to county and state to state. I made a stop for gas near Tupelo Mississippi at a gas station where I didn't see a single person wearing a mask or gloves. There was no signage calling out social distancing and really no indication at all that a pandemic is occurring. In comparison a gas station in Oklahoma this evening had hand sanitizer at every pump, they were offering disposable gloves and an employee was sanitizing the pump handles. Immediately down the street was a taco place with a patio packed with folks standing practically shoulder to shoulder. We, as a nation, seem to be all over the place right now.

I'm limiting my human interaction and taking photos from the car...I really like the western portion of Arkansas.

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Nothing that interesting but it's nice to be out of the house.
 
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