Carvers Gap and Who Lost Shemeah?

Carvers Gap and Who Lost Shemeah?

It was about time for a good adventure and the weekend didn’t fail us. Leslie, Still Waters, April and myself rolled on down the highway at high noon on Friday, heading toward the big town of Erwin, Tennessee. The plan was to spend the night and get up early to meet at the trailhead Saturday. I have to say the drive was absolutely a blast. We all talked nearly non-stop and laughed equally as much. At some point the words “fried fish” came out of someone’s mouth and a quest to find a littleElsies...Eternal lunch.... café with fried anything began. It ended at Elsie’s Steak and Seafood,home of “All You Can Eat Fried Catfish” and the local Optimist club. Obviously we all had been on some kind of fried food fast because everything that landed on the table had seen Crisco and was not long for this world. Stuffed and satisfied, we over tipped Elsie and headed toward the great town of Erwin and the Holiday Inn Express.
A friendly check-in, settling into our clean room, a quick trip to the local Wal-Mart, (Always interesting,)dinner at Clarence’s Drive In and we turned in early. There was little movement and no snoring as we all dreamed of the trail ahead.
After a fascinating breakfast at the Holiday Inn, (Who knew there was an automatic conveyer belt pancake maker?!!!) we packed up at sunrise and headed toward the Hostel to meet our group.

The Mountain Harbor Hostel /Bed and Breakfast was delightful!IMG_2857IMG_2886

For $15.00 a night, hikers can stay in a clean bed, have access to a shower, stocked frig and small kitchen. There was a small General Store that operates on the honor system and for $9.00 a full breakfast at the main house can be had. A member new to our group had stayed the night and greeted us with enthusiasm. Patty aka Dream Believer would prove to be a tireless hiker and cheerleader sharing her wisdom and love of nature.
Soon we were joined by Hemlock, Cindy, and Sweet Pea and were IMG_2891shuttled up a bumpy, curvy route to the trailhead atCarvers Gap.The hike began on a beautiful, blue sky, 80 degree treasure of a day, and slipping through the gate we began our hike. Almost immediately we were embraced by a Balsam Fir forest that can only grow at 5000 feet.( I looked around for Ewoks, but saw none…..) Delighted, we wandered along and soon began our ascent up Round Bald, picking our way past a mile long bucket brigade of young people restoring the trail with rocks. (One of the girls commented as we went by, that we were the pretty hikers!) highres_50264351
The climb continued up, as we topped Round Bald passing masses of Rhododendron bushes with the wind whipping around us. We stop periodically to spin 365 degrees and burst into the Sound of Music ,which will be our theme song for most of the trip! On we go over and up Jane Bald surrounded by magnificent mountains and valleys, numerous plants and flowers and goats grazing beside the trail, guarded by a ferocious “goat”dog.
Jane Bald proves to be the perfect lunch spot to languish in the warm sun and chat with other hikers as they pass through this intersection. Nourished, hydrated and rested we head down the AT back into the forest. Our hard work rewarded by an amazing sea of wildflowers blooming all around us. Much of the trail barely wide enough for our feet, it is like we are walking through a carpet of colors. The surprising and pleasing display included Yarrow, Daisy’s, Bee Balm, Echinacea, Dodder, Turtlehead, Phlox, Gentian, yellow and purple touch me nots, Beech Drop, Queen Anne Lace and Angelica. I can hear Joan swooning in the distance……

We pass the Stan Murray shelter, do a quick Keen Hiking boot commercial….IMG_2977and follow the rolling trail down to the Overmountain Shelter, a two story red barn structure housing several college students. This proves to be a good place to regroup and watch the clouds rolling over the valley like waves in the ocean…We made the decision not to camp here, but to press on UP and over Little Hump Bald.
and this……is where we lost Shemeah……….
Almost everyone needed to replenish their water and this was IMG_2933the last source before we would camp. Still Waters and Hemlock had filled up while the rest of us were airing out our toes at the barn. Hemlock waited with April while the water bearers loaded up and Still Waters decided to head on to scout out a site.

The mighty climb up Little Hump began…..Hemlock, with her long legs and natural gait soon became a distant pinhead as I followed, Fabs and Leslie not far behind and April and Patty bringing up the rear. To an overhead observer, I think we might have looked like one of those slinky caterpillar toys, starting and stopping, getting closer together and stretching back out, as we made our way, our breathing heavy and labored up, up and more up.

The views are breathtaking as we go, making the pain worthwhile, majestic mountains with tufts of white clouds rising out of them, waving grasses along the trail, rocky outcrops and the sun breaking the clouds providing us with “God Rays” and more layers of blue mountain ridges.
Catching up with a waiting Joan, Leslie, Fabs and myself reach the top and go up and over trying to outrun a rain cloud with April and Patty being pursued by a rolling fog beneath us. Confident that Shemeah is ahead of us, we laugh that she has already started a fire….. Just as we hit the shelter of the scrubby trees, it starts to rain and we quickly cover out packs and put on our jackets, all the while looking along the narrow grown up trail for a place to hang four hammocks and place three tents.

Not far into the woods, I manage to once again step in a yellow jackets home and feel stinging on the back of my leg. Tearing down the trail with Leslie right on my heels feels all too familiar! Sprays and cream is applied and Joan and Fabs meet up with us after waiting for the nest to die down and suddenly we spy the perfect campsite!!! The heavens openmusic plays and we are practically delirious with joy……until we realize…..there is no Shemeah……….

Warbonnet VillageWe are joined by April and Patty and begin the work of setting up camp before darkness falls, all the while worrying about our hiking partner. A cell call is placed with a single bar and a message is left. There is discussion about sending Hemlock out to look for her but it is decided that we will all stay put, that Still Waters is a competent hiker and will be fine. We speculate that she might be eating Spam with the Boy Scouts when suddenly we hear her entering camp with a shout!
IMG_2869She receives a heroes welcome and we are all relieved that our group is once again complete. Apparently, she hiked an additional 4 miles, while exploring a new trail and making a wrong turn headed back toward the Stan Murray shelter . She did indeed meet up with the Boy Scouts, but they did not have Spam. ….
Relieved, our dinners are prepared, bear bags hung, business is done and we all retire early, exhausted from the days adventures. Thankfully, I sink into my hammock, cocooned by my borrowed Yeti, (thank you KP) andfaithful Ethel, slipping off to sleep to the night chorus of critters and campmates….
to be cont.

Stone Mountain

From the North Carolina Trail Dames….

The views were stunning. We spent a while just sitting, chatting, contemplating, relaxing, and enjoying the view. After 30 minutes, we decided to push on and continue down the relatively flat trail to another outstanding view. After another quick break, we continued on, going down hill to hike along a stream that soon became a huge waterfall. When we got to the bottom of the falls, we took a snack an water break and indulged our feet by taking a dip in the cool refreshing water. It was perfect. We continued on to finish up with an amazing view of the mountain we had just climbed. By this point we were all hot and sweaty and ready for our reward. ICE CREAM!!! We all headed for the local general store for some home made ice cream and cold drinks. This was an awesome ending to a beautiful, warm day.

Posted at 08:12 PM in Appalachian

Inaugural Hammock Trip

Inaugural Hammock Trip: Kimsey Creek, White Oak Stamp, Muskrat Creek, Raven Rock Trail and an aborted trip to Standing Indian…

Guest post by Sandi Adams, August 2011

Whoopeee, the first trip for the Southeast Women’s Backpacker Meet Up group and I was on it!! My hiking buddy, Salt and I met up with Hemlock and Margaret in Clayton for a weekend adventure. The weather was gorgeous with beautiful blue skies as we made our way toward Franklin and the Nantahala forest. We load up and head off into the lush green forest. I am extra excited because this will be the trip that I get to try out sleeping in a hammock!! Kellye, has been so generous to loan me her hammock and tarp, (which is kind of amazing, because to us our gear is like loaning out our Maserati!)


I always enjoy hiking with Hemlock, as she shares with us all of her wonderful knowledge of all things growing!! We have plenty of flowers to keep her happy as we travel along this trail and wander through a nice field, (which I am sure had IMG_1347some stealth snakes in it) Pretty soon, we come to the creek, which we will follow until we intersect the AT. I love this kind of trail, sometimes the creek was on my right, sometimes the creek was on my left, sometimes the creek was on both sides, (STEREO!!) and often we found ourselves hiking up the creek bed itself!

We all eased into a similar rhythm, of hiking, stopping now and again to take photos of the beauty around us stopping for a short break for a snack and continuing until we came to the Appalachian Trail intersection and headed up to our destination of the Muskrat Creek Shelter. I wandered ahead a bit, savoring the quiet of the forest (Rare, I know, but sometimes I am quiet!!) and enjoying stretching out my legs and thinking, until I come to the perfect lunch spot with a great view and a nice rock formation for us all to sit on. I have found the perfect jack-in-pulpit and pink ladies slipper and can’t wait to show Hemlock my photo!!IMG_1405IMG_1436





We move along and about half a mile before we reach White Oak Stamp, we pass a couple of hikers who tell us that Muskrat Creek Shelter is filled with a Boy Scout group. We easily make the decision to set up camp at White Oak Stamp, which is perfect for the 3 hammockers, (YAY) and Margaret who has a bivy.
Hemlock and Salt, my hammock mentors assist me with my set up,Joan demonstrates the importance of selecting a stable tree and everyone gets their space set up.


After scouting for water, we determine we will need to hike on to Muskrat Creek and greet the scouts….We take a side trip down Raven Rock Trail to a beautiful overlook and watch the sun go down. It is a beautiful spot and my only regret is that we can’t sit and watch it until dark.
We make it back to camp, decide it is too warm and not necessary to have a fire. The highlight of my meal was the dessert. Instant jello SF FF cheesecake pudding with some Nido instant milk with water added. I shared……
As darkness falls, the 12 miles we hiked begins to sink in and we all retire to our sleeping quarters. I enter my hammock, praying that the velcro holds and does not birth me in the middle of the night, wiggle around a little and quickly fall asleep….I have to admit, I did wake a few times but immediately dozed back off and when I woke and it was morning, I was already mentally placing the order for MY OWN hammock!!
The plan for the morning calls for more high mileage as we head back down the AT , climb Standing Indian, descend and then head down the rocky Kimsey Creek Trail. Sometimes plans change, my foot has begun to throb with what will turn out to be a summer long irritation, Kristen is not feeling well, Joan’s knee is bothering her and Margaret is nursing a burn from her stove. We all agree, to skip Standing Indian and enjoy the hike back along the creek.
We stop for a leisurely, foot soaking lunch, chat with some students heading to the AT, observe a little mole scurrying about and enjoy what is left of the trail.
We end our trip with a visit to the Spring Ridge Creamery for some guilt free homemade ice cream which we eat while overlooking the river.
Another perfect trip……and I did order the hammock…..

Hiking in Hades

August 2011

Very cool post from Dame Sandi Adams….check out her blog at

Overnighter on the Chattooga….aka Hades

Anxious to try out my new warbonnet hammock, I accept an invite from the Southeast Women Backpackers for an overnighter on the Chattooga River. Kellye, who I had met on a previous EXTREME Appalachian Trail hike, where we defied every law of common sense and hiked in some of the worst rain I have ever seen.( see previous post) and KP who I have not met, are my trail mates. (along with their dogs Sammy and Cowgirl) We meet early morning in Clayton and caravan to the end of the trail. As we pass the bank I notice that the temperature is at 93 on the bank sign and it is not even 11:00…..
We all pile into Kellye’s faithful Honda and bounce down some forest service road. We come to what appears to be a RIVER crossing in the road and Kellye makes us get out, backs it up and guns it through the water!! Woohooo! We wade across and jump in.
IMG_1732We finally locate the start of the trail, make the usual last minute adjustments to our packs and head down the trail. I am excited to hike on the Chattooga River and keep humming dueling banjos as we make our way.

It takes me all of ten minutes to realizeIMG_1748 that it is HOT, not the oh, I need a glass of ice tea hot, but HOLY MOSES, it is flaming inferno hot!! and at the fifteen minute mark, I am drenched from the inside out. KP and Cowgirl lead the way, with Kellye, Sammy and I lagging behind. We drank often in an effort to stay hydrated and stopped periodically to catch up. About three miles in we stopped for lunch and the dogs took a swim… this point, I am wishing I was a dog….in a nice air-conditioned house…
IMG_1854With some effort we pack up our lunch and head down the trail another 3 miles. Between the heat and a nagging foot injury, I started to FEEL it!!! About the time that I was consideringfalling over into the bushes, we arrive at a nice campsite right on the Chattooga River. (da da dadadadadada da)

IMG_1762We all have been affected by the heat and are a little slow setting up camp. I am soo anxious to hang my hammock that I go and stand in the almost tepid water willing my body to cool itself before beginning. Interestingly all three of us are in hammocks. Kellye, actually loaned me herHennessey hammock to try out on a previous trip, (I obviously loved it) and KP and I have a Warbonnet. I find two trees and with KP’s help, get my Warbonnet Blackbird andBig Mamba Jamba tarp hung.
Everything seems to take twice as long, due to the fact that the air is not moving,IMG_1771 the sun is blazing off the river and the temperature is climbing at 98according to my iphone and the weather channel (thank you Jim Cantor). But we keep the faith and after a bit, camp is set up and things cools down a little. We sit and share ideas and food, listen to a little Rascal Flatts and friends compliments of KP. Once it cools down enough, KP and Kellye have a fire building contest as I annoyingly hum the banjo theme from Deliverance.

Night falls and we all just enjoy the company of the river and admire KP’s hammock set up complete with sparkly lights, (I am sooo getting some), it finally cools down and not long after dark falls we each retire to hang in our hammocks. I slept great until sometime in the middle of the night when Sammy, (the beautiful German Shepherd) starts barking like a maniac and Cowgirl starts growling….I lay very still waiting as usual to be eaten by a giant bear. This does not happen and I slowly relax and slip back into a wonderful sleep swaying by the river as the frogs croak on.
Tuesday morning, found me the LAST out of my hammock, (WHAT!!) weIMG_1837 took our time with breakfast and breaking camp. It was around 5 miles to our cars but not an easy journey. We seemed to be going up and down a lot, though none of the climbs was terribly steep, it was still hot as Hades. We had to climb over, around and though many blow downs. (This Spring was tough on all of our southern trails.) We finally made it to the end by early afternoon and said our goodbyes. My first stop was theBurger King at the corner of 441 in Clayton where I used their bathroom to change into dry clean clothes and had a whopper and an Icee,which I had been fantasizing about since the night before. I made another stop at 23 and 441 at a Burger King and order another, a cherry AND coke icee. When I got to the window, the girl handed me TWO Icees!! LOL, I drank them both!!
IMG_1803One of the things I have loved about my meetup groups, the Trail Dames and Southeast Women Backpackers, has been the amazing people I have met and now consider friends. Women that I would never have encountered, much less spend enough time with to really get to know them. I have met, structural engineers, paralegals, retired military personnel, moms, girl scout directors, scientists, a whole slew of teachers and everything in between! All drawn together by a love of hiking and our gorgeous trails and mountains. I really treasure this special group of friends and always enjoy it when we can get together, (although I doubt any of us would recognize each other if we met dressed, with makeup and out of the woods!)


Maryland Dames Hike…..SNP

Awesome hike report from our Maryland Dames…..
Four of us set out on Wednesday, July 27th, for Shenandoah National Park to take on the 7 1/2 mile Rapidan-Laurel Prong -Hazel Top hike. We all went in my van and left Frederick at noon so that we could arrive at our lodge shortly after check-in time. We had reservations for two rooms, 2 queen beds in each room, at Big Meadows Lodge in the central district of SNP, mile marker 51. The drive went well and we had a wonderful time just chatting as we enjoyed the scenery along the way. We were at the lodge by 3:15 pm. We had hoped for, or actually assumed really, adjoined rooms but that was not to be. Barb K and I shared a room on the first floor of the Rapidan building and Barb M and Katrinka shared a room on the far end of the second floor. We did try to get the rooms changed but the lodge was already booked up and there was no way to manage it.

We settled our bags, checked out our rooms and the lovely views they had, and went to the lodge’s New Market Tap Room for drinks and appetizers. Not a bad way to start a hiking trip, aye? Winking smile We enjoyed cocktails, spinach dip and quesadillas while carrying on a nice long discussion about the books that we enjoyed and the possibility of a Dames book group in the future. Then it was upstairs to the lodge dining room for dinner and wine. Lovely! Afterward Barb K went to our room to relax and read while I went up to the other room to join Barb M and Katrinka on their balcony and watched the sun set. We watched deer silently stroll out of the woods to begin their evening browsing and we think we may have caught a glimpse of a black bear cub, still quite small, as it waddled out of the woods and into the safety of some heavy ground cover. It was a gorgeous evening of peace, towering pink edged clouds, and companionship. Off to bed as we had an early morning start planned.

Always an early riser, I was up first around 5 am, showered and sitting on the patio of our room drinking coffee as the sky lightened up. Birds called and sang, deer wandered out, and soft breezes rose along with the sun. We met for breakfast at 7:30 am, again eating in the lodge dining room, and then drove the 2 miles south to the trail head at Milam Gap parking lot. There was a short-lived panic attack on my part when I thought I had left my wallet in the lodge’s restroom. I raced back, searched around, found no one had turned it in, went back out to the van and searched again….to find it in the glove compartment. HUGE relief, but sorry that I had delayed our hike start.

We set off across the road and into the woods, hitting the Mill Prong Trail first. This part of the hike descends gently deeper and deeper into the woods toward Mill Prong Creek. The creek eventually joins Laurel Prong Creek and these two cold, rushing streams form Rapidan River, which drew President Herbert Hoover to the area with the dream of building a fishing camp as Presidential retreat – the first of it’s kind. Two miles in from the start of the hike, Rapidan Camp is the predecessor to Roosevelt’s Shangri-La in Thurmont MD, eventually renamed Camp David by President Eisenhower. We crossed the creek and picked up the trail again as it paralleled the water until we reached Rapidan Camp. The original Brown House (designed by Mrs Hoover as the residence) is still there and is often open for tours. There is usually a caretaker there to answer questions and explain the camp’s history. One other building, the Prime Minister’s cabin, is also open to the public and contains self-guided displays from the era. We spent about half an hour exploring the camp and chatting with the caretaker before picking up our poles and packs and setting off once more. The day was warming up but still much cooler than the heat we knew would be building in the Frederick area by then.

We hiked along about another mile or so on easy terrain, crossing creeks, and eventually reaching the beginning of a 3 mile ascent that would take us up to Hazel Top, the 3rd highest point in SNP. The first mile of the ascent is a long, steep, switchback. It tops out on a ridge line, takes a hard right turn, and continues up and up and up the side of the ridge. Enormous, ancient rock formations form a wall on your right and the steep descending hillside and valleys are on your left. The trail grows quite rocky and narrow as it takes you the 2 miles to it’s junction with the AT. We identified wildflowers along the way – native red columbine, turk’s cap lily, joe-pye weed, trumpet vine. There were many others that we could not identify in spite of the book I was carrying – “Wildflowers of Shenandoah National Park.” For a few seconds we found ourselves frozen in place as the unmistakable whine-roar of low flying fighter jets approached. We caught a glimpse of them through the tree cover and they were gone in a flash.

I had done this hike with my husband in May 2010 and I truly did not recall the long steep slog from the junction of the AT to Hazel Top! From the start of the ascent on the switchback to Hazel Top we gained 1000 feet of elevation. That’s a lot of continuous gain. The day was definitely getting hotter and more humid. We found some rocks to sit on (before reaching Hazel Top) and sat down to rest and eat our lunches. Huge flies clung and bit, no doubt feasting on our salty sweaty selves. We swatted, ate, cursed, ate, swatted, cursed…….pretty much any typical lunch stop on any summer time hike in the northeast! We finished up, stood up on sore, tight leg muscles, and continued on to our goal of Hazel Top summit.

There is a short side trail leading to the left off of the AT to the rock formations that give the best panoramic views of the mountains and valleys. As each person climbed up onto the rocks “Oh my, look at that.” “Oh my God” “Wow, just wow.” could be heard. Ridge after ridge after ridge of mountains dipped, rose, and dipped and rose again in the distance in multi-colors of greens, blues, grays. We took it all in, deeply grateful for the opportunity to be out there. With deep sighs, it was time to move on. From this point the AT is described as taking an “incredibly delightful descent”, and delightful it is. The trail heads down and down in a very gentle slope, through trees, grasses, huge stands of turk’s cap lilies, ferns that were 3 – 4 feet tall. We encountered a pair of deer on the trail and stood still and silent. They did the same and gazed back at us. As we slowly moved forward they would also move away from us, but never very far nor very fast. They stepped into the woods and grass and let us get within about 30 feet. We took pictures, thanked them for their cooperation and patience with us, and continued on back to Milam Gap and the van.

We made a stop at Big Meadows Wayside to use the restrooms, buy some cold drinks and blackberry ice cream, piled back into the van and took off for home. It was agreed all around that our time in SNP was perfection and that we definitely want to do it again. It is well worth the time and expense to get there the day before a long hike and spend the night. We also realized that it would have been very well worth the cost to stay one more night after the hike, rather than make a 3 – 4 hour drive back. The lodges feature live music in the evenings and it would have been heaven to go back to our rooms, shower, change into non-hiking clothes, and enjoy another night of cocktails, dinner, and some good ol’ mountain music.

The photos of this hike can be found on the Meetup site. Enjoy!