JAN 9-10, 2010

                                                          This is Spruce Flats Falls in winter, where we began our trek.

This is yours truly with his newly repaired backpack by Gregory.  Why the plug?  Because Gregory backpacks are the finest outdoor product on the planet.  This is the second time I have had to get my pack repaired from usage trauma and both times Gregory has fixed it at no charge.  At Gregory, they manufacture a pack and stand behind it.  That makes me proud to stand in front of it.  Thanks, Gregory Mountain Products.

Leaving above Spruce Flats falls we follow the old manway for the following stats provided by Umberger:

 spruce flats falls manway  4.0>
meigs mountain trail          1.6>
campsite 19>
meigs mountain trail          1.6>
lumber ridge trail               4.1


The manway follows an old railroad grade and you make a few creek crossings, someone says 11.  The fun part is finding the creek under the ice.  No wet boots yet.

You've got to be careful in the backwoods, though.  There seems to be a PLO terrorist that lurks in SouthernHighlander shadows.

By the time we popped out onto Meigs Mountain, the established trail system was looking pretty good.  Jacqui sure isn't arguing.

I was having an Alaska flashback.

That guy is George Hailey.  Manway Man extraordinaire.

We put all the newbies to work on Highlander ventures.  Here, Andrea takes a swing or two with the bowlegged hatchet.  Fires are critical when the temps are single digit.  Speaking of snow,....

We had a couple more inches as we night hiked to the cemetery.  Look at all that powder.  Polly Huskey always enjoys our company.

Jerky Mike administers the last sacraments and ritual of meat board.  This is our shout out to our brethren in the Muir Faction from Ohio.  We could have used a God of Hell fire on this round for sure.

After our frigid but fun evening during which reverend Grady dispensed a special present to President Dumplin, we awoke to a winter wonderland.  The sun didn't reach our little spot until late in the morn which caused me to debate the virtue of returning via the manway or descending Lumber ridge as planned.

Needless to say, by the time I had turned around, guess who I ran into that tipped the scales in favor of the manway?  By now he is thinking it is too late to retreat.

This is a view over towards Meigs Mountain.

Sometimes you come across something that reminds us of the cycle of life in the forest and here is a prime example.  Although I have never seen a bear carcass in the backcountry, I was initially suspicious that it may have been poached for the gallbladder, given its proximity to the trail.

As my friend Steve Corbett pointed out though, you don't get much choice about where you drop dead and this guy was feeding the entire forest that night as a great deal had been carted off by the next day.  Good job on this find, George and Umberger.

I see no signs of discouraging looks.  This winter group is darn glad to enjoy nature in its rawer of forms.

I am off to Colorado for some more ice fun and skiing.  Please check the Highlander Guest comments for next week's hike as President Dumplin has promised to post it and respond to inquiries if you leave an email for him.