Editor's note: the main text [regular font] is written by Will McElwee.The inserts [italics] are comments by Bob Laney, and Bob also edited the main text for readability and filled in some details.
During the first week and two weekends of August, 2007, a band of Wilkes County natives, Will, Bob (partially), Kelly Pipes and Andy and Brooke Johnston hiked the entire width of Glacier National Park, from Lower Kintla Lake in the northwest corner to Chief Mountain Customs in the northeast corner, with a z-shaped angle into the middle of the park south of Waterton Lake.
During the week of August 1 - 8, 2009, Jim Smoak's group of St. Paul Episcopal Church compatriots backpacked the Teton Crest Trail, south to north, on the west side of Grand Teton National Park. The campers were Jim, Chuck Forester, Bob Boettger, John Willardson, Dan Bumgarner and yours truly, Bob Laney. Kim Forester was there with Chuck a few days earlier for a visit to Yellowstone National Park. Then she returned home the day we hit the trail.
Over the long weekend of June 17 - 20, 2010, Kelly Pipes, Hank Perkins and Bob Laney backpacked the Appalachian Trail in the southwestern half of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, from the dam at Lake Fontana to US 441 at Newfound Gap. Thanks to Kelly and Hank for planning the trip. I invited myself to tag along as training for a trip we all are taking with several other guys to Glacier National Park this coming September.
Over the weekend of July 30 - August 1, 2010, I went on a solo backpacking trip to the Tanawha Trail and across Grandfather Mountain. It was about my sixth backpacking trip this summer to train for the upcoming adventure in September with Will McElwee and his crew to Glacier National Park, MT.
On a beautiful, sunny Indian summer Saturday in late October, 2010, Paul Anderson and I took a pleasant trip to the Virginia Creeper Trail. The trail was crowded with other bikers enjoying the likely last warm weather of the fall and the bright leaf color. This year was not the best ever for over-all color, but there were many bright spots none the less.
In their quest to hike the entire 2,100 mile Appalachian Trail in weekend and week-long sections, Kelly Pipes and Hank Perkins planned another hard weekend trip for April 9 - 10, 2011. Invited along were Jim Smoak and me, Bob Laney. Will McElwee and David Doyle had conflicts. All of us except Hank are using these spring and early summer trips to get in shape for a longer trip to the Wind River Range this July that Will is leading and Jim is hosting.
I purposefully waited until within a couple weeks of the vernal solstice - the longest day of the year - to do a double traverse of Grandfather Mountain. I had only done that kind of trip a couple times before, once in the late fall, and once in the spring. Both prior trips took about all day, leaving me no margin for error to get back to the parking lot before dark. This time I had a few hours to spare.
In late June, 2011, a month before a big backpacking trip with Will McElwee and compatriots to the Wind River Range in Wyoming, I planned a backpacking trip on Grandfather Mountain as training. Friday afternoon I left home and was at the mountain within about an hour. Arriving at the Boone Fork parking area along the Blue Ridge Parkway by early evening, I was surprised at the number of other vehicles still in the lot. I assumed they were other backpackers. It turned out, based on traffic on the trail, many of the vehicles belonged to day hikers who were late returning to their cars.