The cold was penetrating when I entered the woods. The temperature had been down in the teens the night before. There was ice in the creek. After hiking up the ridge awhile, my body temperature became effusive. Soon the heat over came the cold, and I shed several layers of clothes. I continued up the trail in bright sunshine under blue bird skies.
On Saturday February 1, 2014, the weather was cold and clear. I returned to the Widows Creek Trail in Stone Mountain State Park. My goal today was to take the north fork of the trail that is the Mountains to Sea Trail. This fork of the trail runs from Widows Creek almost straight north to the Devils Garden Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
On Sunday, February 2, 2014, in the mountains, the weather was still cold and clear. I went to the Blue Ridge Parkway to attempt to reach the Devils Garden Overlook. I was trying to hike the upper portion of the Mountains to Sea Trail and connect with the lower portion of the same trail that I had hiked from the bottom just the day before. Unfortunately, parts of the Parkway were covered with ice and the Rangers had closed some of the barricades. I could not get to Devils Garden Overlook, so I stopped at Doughton Park and hiked the Bluff Mountain Trail, starting at Alligator Back Cliff.
Eustace Conway's Turtle Island Preserve is staffed by interns, who enter a contract and work for 14 months in return for teachings and experiences in the natural ways of doing things. One of TIP's current interns is Brian from Connecticut. Besides being adept at nearly everything mechanical, he is a gunsmith.
The location was Grandfather Mountain. The date was April 19, 2014, just a week before MerleFest when Wilkes Community College will be full of people running around in short pants and tank tops. The weather report was for intermittent rain and temperatures in the 50's. When I got to Calloway Peak, the trail was covered with ice, the wind was spitting snow and I was suffering from mild hypothermia.
Every year Wilkes Community College hosts MerleFest, one of the biggest and reputedly the best bluegrass music festival in the USA. There are several dozen stages playing for four days. The show was founded 27 years ago in honor of the legendary flat picking guitarist and mellow vocalist Doc Watson, and his recently deceased son and band mate Merle. I have been supervising the Kiwanis food booth, selling Philly cheese steak sandwiches and apple desserts, for 17 years. I love the energy and excitement and am happy to do the work in exchange for a four day pass to the show.
This past February 1, 2014, I hiked the Mountains to Sea Trail in Stone Mountain Park, attempting to link the Widows Creek Trail with the Blue Ridge Parkway. Due to short daylight hours, a long steep trail and icy conditions, I did not make it to the top. I turned around about the northern Stone Mountain Park boundary. Today, May 3, 2014, I started hiking at Devils Garden Overlook on the Parkway and followed the Mountains to Sea Trail into Stone Mountain Park. Success! I linked up the trails about 3 miles from the Parkway.
Two teen age boys from Charlotte, who I met on the mountain, leap frogged up the Cragway Trail with me. I would pass them and they would pass me. I was hiking as strongly and steadily as I could. They would stop every 100 yards and climb the rocks. Yet, despite their large extra expenditure of energy, they were keeping up with me! That proves the strength of youth. Wonderfully, they were also polite -continually referring to me as 'sir' - and they had boundless enthusiasm for the magnificent scenery and sunny weather. I called them billy goats. They liked the appellation.
The scuba dive was my second of this trip, deep on the Palancar reef, which runs for many miles north and south off the eastern coast of Mexico and Belize - the longest reef in the Caribbean Sea. I was watching my computer for the three main items a scuba diver has to monitor under water: air consumption (how fast is the tank emptying), nitrogen loading (how much out of balance is the blood) and remaining bottom time (how long can the diver stay at this depth before risking the necessity of a decompression stop upon ascension). If any of these factors become a problem, then one solution is to ascend in the water column - which slows air consumption, reduces nitrogen loading, increases bottom time remaining - and also makes the diver closer to the surface and fresh air.