Sunday, September 19, 2010

On the Trail, again, northbound from Watauga Dam Road

One of the nicest things about the southbound hike is it becomes a morning or afternoon getaway into the woods. Any time of the year, just about, I can drive up to the trail head (half-hour's drive from my house) hike out to the shelter (one to one-and-a-half hours at the most--one way), then back. Maybe on the outside three hours of the day. I (and you) can do this in the evenings after work. And reach a specific terminal. And, the trail doesn't change elevation (much. Mostly from the road to the top of the dam is the hard part.). From the top the dam to lake shore if you go the entire three or four miles to the other side of the lake. This is one of those rare places where the trail is road level.

The northbound route from Watauga Dam road to the Vandeventer shelter is the norm. It starts straight up from the road, keeps going straight up, and doesn't level off until 4.5 to 5.0 miles. I have started this hike five times in my life and completed it only twice. I have walked south from Vendeventer having done the 13-mile leg from where Tenn. 91 crosses the trail at the head of Stoney Creek, where the Johnson County and Carter County lines meet.

This stretch is one of those places where you learn just how much fun hiking is!

And this section seems to go on forever. It's a slow trudge up hill without much change in the scenery. It's all trees and trail and it's not like you can stop and take sweeping panoramic view of the landscape. There is no landscape. It used to be the trail went along the ridge which really did feel like straight up. Now, it has switch backs which is a bit easier on the wind but adds to the length and drudgery.

But, you do get this beautiful filtered sunlight. In the fall and spring, warm air, air with smell of heat to it, runs up the southern slope. This time of year the butterflies come out in droves seeking that last plant to live from and this same warm updraft brings them right to you. It's easy to work of up a sweat on this section and not go far but just stopping gets you to a different looking spot than the last break (which is why it takes me so long to do this section) and something new to photograph.

Where the southbound stretch is very smooth, the northbound (all the way to Iron Mountain shelter yet another 5 miles up) is a slow foot-at-a-time elevator. It will teach you the value of packing light and wearing the right-weight boots.

But, also I found this time a place maybe only half mile in that would be a great stop in the fall to put up the hammock and just enjoy the afternoon. Might even want to think about spending the night. (Gets cell reception, too.) 

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Comments welcome. Use the "anonymous" profile. Thanks.

<< Home