Spence Field  2/22/14

It was a weather break unparalleled.  An entire weekend passed with highs in the 60s.  Grady called for Spence Field and the plan was hatched a month ago.

As I ascended Lead Cove on Saturday these interior views were as rare as the weather.  It has been a full on winter around here and this is a good thing.  It appears to be slowing the adelgids and that is good for the hemlocks.  Highlanders thrive on snow and the high country has certainly had no shortage.

There were small reminders of the season in which this area is still held captive.

I caught Chief Lodgebow about a mile from the shelter.  He had stayed at cs 18 on the West Prong with BC George, Slapnuts and...

One of our  guests of honor, Deidra.   She drove down from the snowy North, aka Kentucky.  It is always a rare privilege to have her join our cabal.  Later on Myers asked if she were a Highlander.  We explained that she was probably the second closest woman to ever achieve that status.  Remember we said close.  She is definitely one of us, though.  Any gal who can endure Highlandery for multiple backcountry nights should be backcountry Knighted.

That's Grady.  He will soon have a hypenated last name.

That's BC George standing in front of our other mystery Guests of Honor.   (by the way, BC does NOT stand for backcountry as some would infer, as a matter of fact, we haven't seen him in the backcountry all year long.  It was good that he could make it, though.)

Our other guests of honor were Frank and Rick Steves, aka Don.   Hailing from Nashville, these guys brought their own travel channel variety of fun to the party.  Frank is a new Daddy.  I suppose that is why he is making that face.  But his little boy, Braden is quite handsome despite that.

That's Slapnuts.  He bedded down really early.  Real early.  Like 6 pm early.  The reason he is so tired is sufficient, though.  He hiked 520 miles in the last two months completing the Camino del Santiago trail in Spain with Dr. Trail Bailer.  So we will let Slap catch up on his rest.  Not that we left him alone or anything.   But we let him rest a bit despite Dave pulling him out of his sleeping bag.

Women don't get a pass on camp chores, though.

When Myers arrived he needed to do some laundry.  It is a Hell Guy tradition that we Highlanders enjoy.

See this guy with the False Face?  That is Ricky Bobby Fisher.  He was scouting for skunk apes up there again.  The skunk ape scouter.

Grady's news came as no surprise.  June is right around the corner and Highlanders are dropping like flies.

I walked up to the bald next morning and was treated to great vistas of Nawf Kawlinya.    

And of course,  Rocky Top.  It will always be, home sweet home to Grady.  There is talk of him doing something very special up there in June.  I'm not sure what cause corn won't grow up there at 'tall.

When I got back down to this spot a guy was sitting there and we struck up a conversation.   When I introduced myself he said that there was a note for me on the sign, after recognizing my name from the note.  It was left by none other than my good buddy David L.  He is a true fee fighting phenom.  I suppose he saw my car at Turkey pen and did the loop.  Sorry I missed you David L!  You are our eyes and ears on the ground!

I was so discombobulated from the beauty of this day, weekend and great company that I missed my turn at that sign and ended up doing 8.5 miles instead of about 5.7.  I just kept going and going.  But it didn't matter.  I looped back down to Finley Cane and got into this patch of Cane, which is strange.  Why is there Cane on Finley Cane and nowhere else in that area?  I'm saying that if you didn't get out this weekend, and many folks did, you missed something special.  When the next round of winter hits next week, I will bask in the memory of this midwinter blessing.  By missing my turn I detoured into an area that I wouldn't have hiked.  Finley Cane is a horse trail that I generally avoid.  But as messy as it is, I enjoyed the walk and realized that life is full of unexpected detours that we often never envision ourselves taking.  I was taken into the muck of a horse rutted pathway that added miles to my day but it was a beautiful day and the scenery was nice.  Like many I was letting my head air out in the beauty of nature and channeling John Muir.  It was during Muir's battle over the Hetch Hetchy dam diversion process that he came to realize that " Nothing dollarable is safe".  I find that so very true in the Smokies. 

But we must be mindful of the detours we take and retain the lessons in each additional mile.  Muir knew that God spoke to him through natural wonders.  If ever I could roll back time and spend it with someone, Muir would solidly be number two.  I have little doubt what Muir would say of this backcountry fee that we fight daily.  Little doubt whatsoever.

We had a wonderful outing and Grady did an amazing job organizing it.  Our guests, Rick Steves, Frank, Deidra and Dalton were wonderful company as we enjoyed the starlit evening atop one of the best spots in the Smokies.   Great job!

I am leaving you with a video.  I think it is very interesting.  Below that I am leaving you with some music that you folks of my age range will appreciate.


And who says there is no good new music these days?  That is something old and something new.  Chromeo plays in Atlanta in May.  If someone wants to buy me a ticket and drive, I'm down!

Did you get a softbound copy of my book yet?  Here is the link to purchase. http://www.temptingthethroneroom.com Tune in to Live at Five at Four on March 5th.  They will be airing a segment on our Pakistan adventure.  I have been enjoying some European sales as a result of this review.  When the mountain gods are angry – Footsteps on the Mountain