Sep 27, 2016

Grayson Highlands Fall Hammock Forum Hang and Festival

Not long after my accident I set a goal to make it to the Hammock Forums Hang for the Grayson Highlands Fall Festival. Although I don't attend many of the hangs anymore, this is one I've always wanted to do.

 I have done a few car camping trips in Linville Gorge and at my buddy's Loki's spot in Mills River, but this would be the 1st "big" event I have done and the 1st time doing any type of camping in over a month. In previous camp outs, I have had major issues with being able to sleep comfortably in my hammock for multiple nights. There have been a couple where I have left and drove home in the middle of the night. Recently I came up with a plan to take my big Camp Rest therm-a-rest
 and lay it out in the back of my Subaru. This allowed me to sleep comfortably through the night. With that in mind I was all set to make the four hour pilgrimage to Mount Rogers, and Grayson Highlands State Park
In the days leading up to the 23rd, I set about getting things together as it wears me out to get the car loaded with the necessary gear for a weekend of car camping. I must admit, As the day to go drew near, so did my excitement.

I left Greenville, SC around 3:30 p.m. on Friday the 23rd Driving up through Western North Carolina, into Tennessee, before entering the highlands of Virginia. The drive was filled with spectacular views which continuously plastered ear to ear grins on my face. I hope that as I got into the higher elevations I may see some signs of Fall. This was not to be as most of the trees appear to be holding their leaves for a later show. The drive was enjoyable still and before I knew it, I arrived to GHSP.

My Good friend Hickery  texted me earlier in the evening to let me know they had arranged for me to park in the disabled parking spot right near the campsite to cut down on how far I would have to walk to and from my car. I pulled up into the spot they had reserved for me and I see another good Friend Rockdawg. We conversed for a minute or two exchanging traditional pleasantries and such. Afterward, Rockdawg recruited a small army to carry my gear and get my hammock set up in some nearby trees they had saved for me. I kind of felt bad having, Slow Hike, Mac, Rockdawg, Hickery, and the guys going everything as I stood there but I was most appreciative.

Once I was all set up, We ventured down to the rest of the group at the community fire ring. I was greeted by many of my friends that I have come to know and love like family over the years as well as some new faces that I was meeting for the 1st time. As I expected there would be, a lot of conversations turned to my fall back in May. I personally enjoyed listening to Hickery talk about the day from his point of view.

I really enjoyed this time around the fire, but after the long drive, my knee was bothering me some so I retired to my hammock, but 1st letting others know that I may end up in the car so as not to get alarmed if they do not see me in my hammock. Sure enough after two hours in the hammock, I woke up and had to go to the car for the rest of the night.


The rising Sun Saturday morning brought with it beautiful weather and fall like temperatures as I was awakened by the all to familiar "Are You Sleeping!" cry from Hickery with his face pressed against the window of my car. I arose, made coffee, did my morning exercises and stretches for my knee, then made my way down to the group area. Everyone was a buzz about the festival activities and the wild pony auction. For the festival, Members of hammock forums demo and educate people on hammock camping. Personally, I was most interested in seeing the wild ponies. The ponies can be found all along this section of the Appalachian Trail. Once a year, some a herded up and auctioned off to keep the population healthy and sustainable. The proceeds of the auction go back to protecting the ponies.

Most of the group decide to hike the 2 plus miles to the festival grounds. Really wished I could join them but I would have to settle for a nice drive through the parks as my means of transportation.

I was lucky enough to get into the disabled parking area when I arrived at the festival grounds. This put me close by the stage and right in the middle of all the festivities. As I exited the car, the hills were alive with some good bluegrass music. I made my way through the wooded path into the field among the vendor tents. I worked my way over towards the stage and surveyed the grounds. It wasn't too long before I spied where the HF members had the hammock demo set up, so I made my way there stopping for a few to take it some of the music...

I hung out at the Hammock demo for a spell enjoying the company of my friends, the music and the nice autumn weather. Afterward, Hickery and I perused the vendor tents before jumping in the car to make our way up the road to the pony auction...

...We arrived at the pony auction and joined the countless others viewing the ponies and awaiting the auction to start. Being my 1st time there, I was inquisitive as to how much the ponies would go for. Hickery informed me they usually go for around $100 but there were normally a lot more of them. This year, there were only eight up for auction. The auction stater off big with the first pony bringing in over $500. It was a treat to watch

After the pony auction, I drove the park, enjoying the nice afternoon. I came to the conclusion I really have to get back up there to do some hiking as soon as I'm able. 

Saturday evening brought the group meal and all I can say is "WOW!" My hat's off to everyone who cooked up something for the group. It was truly an awesome meal!

Afterward, we had our gear raffle. there was all kinds of cool stuff donated by individuals and vendors alike. I believe we raised over $750 that will be donated to the Friends of Grayson Highlands. It always feels good to give back to those protecting such beautiful areas. Plus the shenanigans that ensue during the raffles are always a hoot!



It's always bittersweet when a fun time comes to an end... again some of the guys gave me a hand getting my gear together and packed which was most appreciated. I joined some of the others at The Log House Restaurant for lunch before heading out. I decided I would sneak down to Linville Gorge and surprise some of my Gorge Rat brethren with some cold beers as they finished up some trail work there... It's always nice to be in the ditch, so any excuse will do ;)

It was a fantastic weekend! I really appreciated all the words of encouragement I received from folks I met over the course of the weekend!  Seeing the beautiful area just gave me that much more motivation to keep working hard at Physical Therapy  so as to get back to doing what I love!


Sep 12, 2016

A bit of a stressful day...

Went for a follow up appointment on my knee reconstruction. After being taken back for X-rays the physician assistant came in with a flurry of questions. This was abnormal to my previous follow ups. She then told me the Doctor had ordered new X-rays and he would be in the X-rays room with me. At this point I was getting really nervous and was asking repeatedly of something was wrong. The only answer I got was, Dr Large will explain during X-ray.

Once I got to X-ray, he explained that the fibula had shift forward at the knee joint and the previous X-ray was showing bone on bone contact... They took a second X-ray and saw little improvement from the previous X-ray.

At this point he began to work the knee to check for stability issues. He then told me he was going to order a CT scan. I was nervous to the point I was physically shaking... I was not this nervous during the fall or the six hours I spent waiting to be rescue...

At that point, I was basically given the different ways this would play out:

Worst case. I end up having full knee replacement now

Most likely my knee will never be quite aligned right which will cause issues down the road

Best case it's nothing serious and will correct itself as I continue with PT

After having CT scan, I headed home and awaited the call from the doctor....

The knee actually looks better on the CT scan. The inside of the fibula has shifted forward 2mm but the outside part is in the correct position. He does not see any reason for surgery. He foresees arthritis  issues being a big possibility. But he said I could possibly improve as I get the leg stronger. The Doctor told me after reviewing the CT that it was not something to get overly worried about but it sure was a scare as it was happening real time today

.... Crazy way to start the week

Jun 15, 2016

The Fall and the Rise: Day 39

It has now been 40 days since I was last home. 39 since I have been in the hospital and rehab. I have made huge progress in these days. Although I am still not allowed to put weight on my right leg, I have regained 103* range of motion, I am no longer in the brace, and can make a pretty good distance hopping with the assistance of a walker. This has led the staff here to coin the nickname Cottontail for me. The biggest news of the day is I will be discharged from the rehab facility tomorrow and heading home!!! Next Wednesday I will be clear to begin actively bending my knee as well as using a stationary bike and water exercises. I will also continue rehab as an outpatient there. I will return to the doctor that did my surgery on July 11th. At that point if everything is going to plan I should be begin weight bearing and “learning” to walk again.

There has been so much outpouring of support during all of this that I don’t know how really to express my thanks and gratitude. Although I have a ways to go yet, it is made easier with the support of my friends and family. You guys are what has kept me strong through all of this and I thank you from the bottom of my heart!
So on to the next phase……


video of rescue:


Apr 14, 2016

Lessons Learned on The Foothills Trail

I first completed the FHT as a "shakedown" thru hike in the summer of 1993 as practice for the 12 days I would spend in Philmont Scout Ranch the following summer in 1994.

I fell in love with Long Distance backpacking on that trip. I had been on many weekend outings in the past but this trip ensuing with the following summer at Philmont was a game changer for me.

One of the main things that stands out in my mind about the '93 thru is it's the only time I've ever seen a Bear in the wild....

I have done some sections of the FHT many times since. Some the most visited have been OSP to Burrell’s Ford Road, Bad Creek to Hilliard Falls area, Gorges State park area, and Laurel valley Access to Laurel Fork Falls.

Flip flop Section hike 2009-2016:

In October of 2009, my brother and I did Sloan Bridge to bad creek of the course the weekend of 10/9-10/11. The first night we rode out a pretty good storm in our hammocks. The next day, a lady at Whitewater falls told us there had been a tornado in the area.

That trip was highlighted by the unfortunate twisting of my knee at the bridge on the Whitewater River just below the overlook. It was quite the painful walk to the car at bad creek from there.

The next section was 4/18-20/12, Table Rock State Park to Laurel Valley Access. Just days earlier, I found out my grandfather had stage 4 terminal cancer. I set out on the trail to just clear my mind more than anything. Among nature I found peace and acceptance  with the fact that my grandfather, a man I looked up to and admired, would not be there for much longer.
Between 2012 and 2014 I spent some days and weekend along the Chattooga River, usually entering at Nicholson ford road.

In 2014 I started to think, I might as well finish out the trail as a section hike. So Easter weekend of 2014 (4/18-20/14), I picked up where I began in 2009 with my brother. I started at Sloan Bridge and proceeded to Oconee State park over the course of the weekend. It was quite rainy for most of this trip but spring was in the air and as I observed the liveliness of the song birds and the neon greens of the new foliage of the trees, it felt as if I was breathing in new life with every breath.
Unfortunately shortly after completing this section, I began having issue with my ankle due to the cerebral palsy I have had since birth. Hiking and backpacking took a back seat to getting myself healthy enough to get out on the trails pain free or at least mostly.
Spring of 2015, I began to see significant signs of improvement and by fall, I was full blown back on trails.

Thanksgiving Weekend of 2015 (11/26-27/15), I did Frozen Creek Access in GSP to Bad creek as an overnighter. There was quite a bit of traffic on the trail those days as the weather was quite pleasant for late November from I what I recall. I met a lot of nice folks but I primarily just pushed myself each day to see if I could do the miles like I use to. Although somewhat painful at times, it was at least pain I could tolerate. So for my next long weekend with decent weather was Easter weekend of 2016 (3/25-26/16).

This weekend, as an overnighter, I did my final and toughest section of the FHT. Laurel valley access to frozen creek access in GSP.

Those were some tough miles from laurel fork falls back to Gorges State Park. I ran into a group of FTC members on Saturday the 26th at Rock creek. Had a very pleasant conversation with the group before tackling the infamous Heartbreak Ridge and on tho the car.. Most memorable thing about those two days, other than just the awesomeness of being out in the wild, was how bad my feet hurt. I had cheapened out on some insoles for my boots and I paid for it anyway LOL.

As I was finishing up the last five miles up the canebrake trail. I began to think about the trail and my experiences out on the path. I found myself quantifying the trail with life and what I have really learned after all the years is that the trail, any trail, like in life, there are going to be good time and bad. Joy and heartache. You are going to have your ups and downs. There will be days when you feel like you can go on forever and days when you want to throw your hands up and say I’m done. But on the trail as in life, the only thing that really matters is taking that next step….

Apr 17, 2015

Foothills Trail: Bad Creek to Hilliard Falls

Easter Weekend, I was joined by loki and Running Feather for an overnighter on the Foothills trail.  We started at Bad Creek reservoir and hike to Hilliard fall in Jocassee Gorges. The weather was great and so was the hiking. I think I can safely speak for all of us when I say a great time was had by all! there's no real easy way to get to the falls that I know of, but it is worth the trek I assure you.

We set out saturday the 4/4/15 around 10Am hiking roughly north east. First crossing the Whitewater river almost immediately, then came the first clime of the day. We then dropped to the thompson river which was followed by another climb. After about three hours, around 6 miles,  and a little trail maintenance,   we found a nice grove of trees .3 miles from Hilliard falls. We set up camp, lollygagged a while, and then took in Hilliard falls before closing out the day around the fire.

FHT: Bad Creek to Hilliard Falls Part 1

Sunday morning was brisk and we were in no hurry to hump back up the hill we had descended the day prior. so we had a little fire and took our time getting going. Starting out was 500 ft of elevation gain in about a half mile. that'll get the heart pumping first thing after breakfast! We set a nice pace heading back to the cars but stopping at a campsite on the Thompson river for a nice break by the river before finishing the last couple miles back to Bad Creek

The hike was followed by a good cheeseburger and rejoicing in the thrills of the weekend!

FHT: Bad Creek to Hilliard Falls Part 2

May 13, 2014

Linville Gorge May 10-11 2014

Met up with my good pals Loki and RF at the official restaurant of the Gorge Rats. As an added bonus Artie from the Jolly Rovers Trail Crew out of New York was with them. I met Artie a couple months back doing trail work at Bat Cave. He had returned to help out with some more trail work at Hickory Nut Gorge and decided to stay the weekend to take in some of the southeast finest wilderness

After a nice dinner a Louise's Famous Rock house, we journeyed back to Hawksbill Trail head were the fellas were camped for the weekend. Being this Artie's first trip to the gorge Loki and RF had been trying to get him around to the most popular sites around the gorge. At this point Artie and I decided to hike up Hawksbill to take in the views and the sunset. Hawksbill did not disappoint. We had a great time taking in the views 

We returned to camp and enjoyed the fellowship with Loki and RF around a small fire before retiring for the evening after a couple hours.

Sunday morning started off with a traditional breakfast at Louise's. We then returned to Hawksbill, broke camp and prepped to do a short hike for the day. Met Justin, who was up to do a photo shoot with some climbers. Had a nice conversation with him. Our friend Kayah showed up around 11 am to do some climbing with her friend Nick. We decided we'd hike up to Ledge trail and venture down to see if we could watch them climb. We did not venture far down Ledge before turning back as our pal Artie needed to get back headed north around three. Although not a long hike. It was really great for me as we visited George's point which has great sentimental value to me, as well as a hell of a view...

We took a break at Ledge camp for some hammock time at a snack. I must say, I enjoyed the view from the hammock...

A little goofing off....

Back at the trail head....

A nice gorge tat....

GPS track of the hike overlaid in google earth looking North to South...

Linville Gorge April 25-27

Arrived a Sitting Bear parking around 5:30 PM Friday . Made the short hike up to the "saddle" along Jonas ridge. Here I found Loki, Running Feather, and Hangin' Burrito. The winds were absolutely howling and it took the assistance of my com padres to get my hammock set up rather than sail away in the vortex of shifting gust. We hunkered Down huddled under Loki's tarp to avoid the gust as best we could.
There would be no camp fire that night

Saturday we woke to much better weather. Of course we went to Louise's for breakfast before we our morning hike up Sitting Bear.

The hike up Sitting bear started off easy enough but we would find that it becomes increasingly steep as you climb towards the summit.

After a stop at the "sitting Bear,"
we made the final push to the summit of the mountain. Once at the Top we stopped at a nice camping area with some great views to have a snack and catch our breath. We saw and conversed with a few fellow hikers, all of which were quite drained from the hike to the top.

We decided not to go back the way we camp opting instead to hike Jonas Ridge to Halfway Trail and road walk back to Sitting Bear parking. A pretty walk along the ridge led us to the Halfway Trail. It's a pretty good decent along this trail and steep in spots but no where near as bad as the Sitting Bear trail is.

As we were making our way up the road, our friends Shutter_Bug and Cooldays came in to join us for the rest of the weekend. Once back to the saddle camp, Cooldays Shutter_Bug and I decided to hike the Devil's Hole trail down to the river. The rest of the guys opted for lolly gagging at camp. I would know why in a couple hours...

Devil's Hole Trail descends roughly 1100 feet in about 1.4 miles along the fall line. Needless to say, you are going down or you are going up. You won't find very many level spots along this trail, however there is a nice place to camp down by the river.

We hung out at the river for a spell and then made the ascent back up the trail to camp. All I could think while grinding up the hill was the trail laughs at you on the way down, it laughs even more on your way back up, but I am glad I hiked it. To me, it's one that every Gorge lover has to do just to have said they have done it. I don't see myself doing it again unless it was part of a bigger circuit of trails I was doing.

After meeting back up with the rest of the fellas at camp, and getting some much needed rest, we headed off to Louise's for some dinner. We returned back to camp where we had a nice fire and told some lies before heading off to the hammocks.

Sunday morning we finished off this trip with our traditional breakfast at Louise's before saying our goodbyes and heading our separate ways

It was another great trip to the big ditch.... Can't wait for the next time!!!