Webb School Cross Country Backpacking Trip:  9/19-9/22/13

When the opportunity arises to join the Webb School guys, I can't pass up an invitation.  Beginning at the dome, we drop down from the clouds to Double Springs Shelter.

I always love the views from the AT heading down towards Double Springs.  This day was not one to disappoint. Much like the sawteeth on the other side of Newfound Gap, the Narrows is a panoramic vista of the fir and spruce forests that comprise the higher Smokies elevations.  From the narrows, you can see all the way into Hazel Creek on the NC side and well past Leconte on the other.  The cool temps of 6400 feet were crisp and suggestive of Fall, which approacheth.

I arrive at the shelter and start looking through the logbook.  This was an interesting entry.

Another backcountry shakedown funded by your tax dollars and backcountry fee.  We were not on that plan, however, we were fulfilling our cross country permit secured through weeks of back and forth with the backcountry specialist at the NPS.  They don't really want folks going offtrail in the Smokies, that is apparent. But this fee is encouraging that very thing.  However, we applied for and received permission to cross country backpack and we did just that.  Here is a picture of the permit, since you will likely never ever see another one in your lifetime.  I have a friend who tried to get one.  He was turned down for the most ridiculous reasons imaginable.  I guess they didn't want to hassle with me since I tend to be persistent.  However, I encourage everyone to apply for one.  Go offtrail in the park.  You see, they charged me to backpack and sleep on the ground and not use any of their campsites.   None of their perceived amenities, nothing.  I paid $4 per person per night to tell them where I was going to be in the backcountry.  I believe you get the purpose and drive of this little exercise.

And who do I run into at Double Springs?  Its none other than fellow SFW board member, Frank Whitehead and the infamous Rick Steves!

Yes, I knew he was heading down to the Forney Creek drainage and we were going down Hazel. 

But it was great to see Frank, our newly expectant Dad to be.  He got a fun ride up Forney in the deluge Saturday.

Rick Steves may wish to cast his lot with the Highlander crew after that incident.  Forney is bad enough in good weather.

But Jerky Mike, High Speed Bill and  and I pressed onward to utilize our cross country permit by camping offtrail.  Let's just say that we found a beautiful little spot that we will not publish for fear of it becoming popular.   Jerky Mike renamed it the "Back of Beyond" campsite.  And that is a perfect descriptor.  We had a delightful evening camping in a private spot, legally in the Smokies with our cross country permit.

Look at this great little hidden gem of a swimming hole high up on Hazel Creek!  Gorgeous.


We were joined by George later on.  Here he is seen making the wet crossings so characteristic of Hazel Creek.  This is the first time I haven't had to remove boots for any portion, though.

We finished up at campsite 83 on Saturday.  Since we didn't wish to impact any areas up Bone Valley by setting up a legal cross country site and no one was at this campsite, we decided to make a low impact choice and stay here for the two remaining nights.  We had paid four dollars for the privilege of sleeping on the ground. The guys had reservations here anyway and so did I as a backup.

Things changed the following day.  Mike pressed on up to Bone Valley in the rain and Bill ascended Cold Spring Gap.  He made a very hazardous crossing at the bottom of Hazel and on his return, after two inches of monsoon, was in a precarious situation.

But he prevailed.  He is a Highlander, after all, don't ya know?  He climbed the nastiest trail in the park to climb in this weather and made a full on waist deep crossing that could have swept him downstream.  We were a bit worried and headed up to intercept him after several hours.  But he was fine and glad to knock out those miles.  I believe he will be finished with them all before we know it.  Same with Jerky Mike.  They are within the 100 mile ranges.

George and I walked up to the cemetery, then bushwhacked a bit.  Enjoyed the history behind the Confederate grave markers here.  We later realized that we were drinking water from the bottom of this hill.  Ergo, Dead Confederate water.

Good weather for these dudes.

Lots of rain from sunup to sundown Saturday.  Then it drizzled but cleared.

George fans a wet flame while Bill demonstrates the newest in Highlander Karate.  He can make the fire behave through focus and mind control.  Same with George.  George will behave through focus and Bill control.  Or else they will receive demerits.  That is the Webb School system.  As a matter of fact, they tried to get me to wear a Webb school shirt and go through an initiation ritual.  Even with the karate threat, I declined.

Sunday morning we had about 7 miles to finish up Hazel Creek and the day was glorious as evidenced here.

I ran across a small bear that bounded across this road trail.  Animal sightings were: a mink/weasel, grouse, billion frogs and billion squirrel.  We saw no one until we reached campsite 83.  That is a perfect weekend outing.  There was this German exchange student but that is a great story for another campfire.

A hiking we will go, a hiking we will go.  Hi Ho the Merrio, A hiking they will go.

This is at Proctor, sight of a formerly thriving logging community.

this is me wearing Bill's backpack.  I'm trying it out.  Actually, I wanted to see if I could con him into carrying mine the last mile or so up hill.   It worked.

You could never tell it was my pack, huh?  We arrive in time for our shuttle from Ollie's Cove back to Fontana Marina.

Mike relaxes on this perfectly gorgeous pre fall day.

As do I.

And the clan Playa.

And BC George.

A mere 20 minutes put us back at the marina.

(that's the shuckstack tower in the distance)

An excellent outing and I appreciate the invitation from the Webb School guys and Jerky Mike.   We missed El Presidente Sally Dumplin, Slapnuts and the other usual suspects.  But everyone had something happening.  It was magnificent, though.