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.
My nephew Robert Parker joined me (Ranger Bob) the weekend of July 13, 2013, for a backpacking trip to Linville Gorge, NC. The gorge is a designated wilderness area in the Pisgah National Forest, bisected by the Linville River, north of Lake James. Linville Gorge is known for being a rugged place to go, and it really is. The trails are littered with steep, slick rocks, mud holes, grown over with bushes and briars, huge fallen tree trunks that have to be clambered over or squeezed under, and in many places the route simply disappears over long stretches of rocks and roots due to the lack of traffic. Most of the trip it was a nerve wracking effort to see and keep on the trail.
Most of the time, when I go to Grandfather Mountain, I park at a Parkway overlook, or at NC 105, or US-221, and hike to the top. Last year, a law office client of mine who was a Grandfather Mountain employee gave me a pass to the main entrance, entitling me to drive in the front gate and park in the main parking lot at the Swinging Bridge like I was somebody. So, on Saturday September 7, 2013, I did.
A year or so ago a client gave me two vehicle passes to the Grandfather Mountain front country. I used one pass for my trip earlier this month. The other one got used up today. It was a pleasant hike from the Swinging Bridge parking lot to McRae Peak. The trails were not crowded but had a decent number of other persons. The hikers were a diverse lot - from about ages 10 to 70 years, slender and heavy, tall and short, men and women, Caucasian, Oriental and African American.