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.
The week of July 23 - 30, 2011, Will McElwee planned a backpacking trip through the Wind River Range of west central Wyoming. At this altitude in the northwestern Rocky Mountains, there is a short, three week window in mid-to-late August to get in your trip after last year's snow melt-out, when the mosquitoes are gone, and before the next fall's snow flurries start. It turned out we were about two weeks too early.
The week of August 11 through 18, 2012, Paul Anderson and Dave Smith led our intrepid group of Wilkes County scuba divers to Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles, Caribbean Sea. Also on the trip were Joan McCord and me, Bob Laney. I car pooled us to Charlotte. We flew direct on InselAir from Charlotte, NC, to Curacao; then we took a puddle hopper flight to Flamingo Airport in Kralendijk, Bonaire. Dave and Paul had been to Bonaire about five times each and provided our directions without us having to hire a professional guide. It was my second trip to the island, and my fifth trip to the Caribbean (counting Key Largo twice). It was Joan's first dive trip beyond Blue Stone quarry in piedmont North Carolina.
Over the weekend of March 16, 2013, I (Bob Laney) went solo backpacking in Doughton Park, on the south side of the Blue Ridge Parkway, in northeast Wilkes County. The goal was to get in a winter trip before the vernal equinox; and to brush up on my winter backpacking skills, which I had not exercised in several years. I called around for companions, but got no takers. Most of my friends expressed concern about their lack of skills and / or gear for winter camping. Ironically, the weekend of the trip the weather was unseasonably warm (temperature to the low 70's) and sunny all day Saturday. Sunday was cooler and wetter, but no more so than a typical spring or fall outing.
The weekend of May 18 - 19, 2013, I went backpacking on Grandfather Mountain. Due to lack of lead time in planning, I did not have any companions, so the trip was solo. On the way driving up to the mountains, I saw several wild turkey on the Blue Ridge Parkway. After getting on Grandfather Mountain, at least four grouse flushed near me in a staccato drumbeat of wings.
The weekend of June 15 - 16, 2013, I went backpacking in Boone Fork bowl. This high mountain valley is the headwaters of the Boone Fork, which is best known as the creek feeding and exiting from Price Lake in Price Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The bowl is located south of Price Park and north of Grandfather Mountain. Boone Fork Trail in Price Park also follows this creek part of the way from Price Lake cross country to where the creek joins the Watauga River just west of Hounds Ears Golf Course at the downhill end of Shulls Mill Road.
Well, I officially ran 'The Bear' last night. At least, I ran all but about 200 feet where it was so doggoned steep that I had to stop and walk. In case you don't know, the Bear is a run that starts in Linville, NC, at the Hwy 105 and US 221 intersection. From there the course goes five miles, all uphill, along a gravel road for the first 2 - 3 miles, then crosses over into Grandfather Mountain property and climbs to the top of Grandfather Mountain. The finish line is at the Swinging Bridge parking area. The reason I'm writing about this is to tell you what a really unique experience it was.