Monday, December 27, 2010

Ten Years Ago Today (published 12-27-2010)

Ten years ago today, at 5:15 PM, Mom went to be with Jesus. She was the best mother that I could have ever had. Taken at only 68 years old, Mom could still be alive today, touching the lives of family and friends in her unique way. Mom’s absence has been felt strongly these past ten years.

Mom, I miss you, but I know that you are in a far better place. Tell everyone, Granny, Papaw, Uncle Bobby, Dad, and so many others, that I will see them someday. Life goes on here, until we are all reunited there.

I love you, Mom, bunches and bunches!

See Happy Birthday, Mom (published 11-24-2009).

Sunday, December 26, 2010

House Mountain #75 on 12-26-2010 (published 12-26-2010)

Hike number 75! The Appalachian Irishman is three-fourths of the way toward requesting that House Mountain be renamed after him!

The date is Sunday, December 26, 2010. I love it when a good snow falls on the weekend! Temperature – mid to upper 20’s. Attire – long sleeve T-shirt, sweatshirt, long sleeve shirt, flannel insulated shirt, old patched up blue jeans, rugged hiking boots, quart canteen, trusty camera, old baseball cap. Heck, no! I didn’t wear gloves! It wasn’t cold enough!

The first three photos are taken along the west trail, near the west bluff. I’ve passed this tree trunk that grew out of this rock formation many times. That tree, once alive, now dead, teaches me defiance and survival against the odds!

The next three shots are from the west bluff. A strong, cold wind was blowing snow in from the north. I put my top layer back on and stayed a while. The camera doesn’t capture the view that the eye will always remember! Yes, that’s Leak Rock! Yes, I did! Of course, as I headed east along the ridge, I had to write (with my finger) “Appalachian Irishman” in the snow on a large, smooth rock! Advertising is everything!

The first of these next two is a communications building that is located about half way along the ridge. Could someone give me a job running the equipment? The next shot is what is left of an old two-seater outhouse, which has been hit with buckshot several times over the years. It leans near the base of where the old fire tower used to stand. Remember, the purpose of a two-seater outhouse is so you can encourage each other!

These next three photos are taken along the ridge toward the east bluff and at the east bluff. The snow draped the mountain and the trees in brilliant white. The cold north wind blew snow from the laden trees onto the ground – and down my back. The old oak tree has stood proudly many years.

The final four shots are from the two north bluffs. One, where the flag stands, is just east and higher than the other. I have not taken before a shot of the small cave opening, near the lower northern bluff. Looks like a good place to take shelter!

Hum! The Appalachian Irishman wishes he could hike, camp, photograph, and write for a living! Thank you, House Mountain. I needed some exercise and some time to think alone. I’ll see you again, but for tomorrow, it’s back to the old grindstone.

House Mountain #74 on 12-5-2010 (published 12-26-2010)

Russians count the seasons from the beginning of the month. For instance, winter begins on December 1st. Since the Appalachian Irishman is part Russian in heart, he adopts that practice also. Algore and his global warming crowd must be, pardon the pun, cooling their heels, since this winter has started out colder than usual.

December 5th marked the first flurries of the winter. Falling on a Sunday, the Appalachian Irishman wasn’t chained to his work desk (as he was during the wonderful snow that fell, later, on Monday, the 13th – and what a Monday the 13th that was, but I digress!) What did he do, on the 5th? Of course, he headed for his mountain, House Mountain, for the 74th time!

This first photo is from the west bluff, looking southwest. Notice the highlights in the clouds. Of course, the Appalachian Irishman had to take his traditional leak off the rock toward Knoxville! Should I name the rock Leak Rock?

The next two photos are taken along the ridge heading west. Does the rock formation look like a dragon’s head? Looks like a good place to camp to me!

The last four photos are from the north bluff. I practiced my close up photography on a red leafy thorn and on some wild blueberries. Yes, they were ripe and delicious—the blueberries, not the thorns!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Devil's Nose Tradition (published 11-28-2010)

My grade school and high school friend, Bill, had an uncle Walter, who lived and owned land at the southwest base of Devil’s Nose, in my beloved and native Hawkins County. Bill, his brother, my brother Clark, another friend Randy, and I went “up the Nose,” from “uncle Walter’s” land, back in those days a few times.

Some things change. Some remain. “Uncle Walter” is gone, but a descendant still lives in his old homeplace. Now, at least, my youngest brother, Doug, and I “hike the Nose,” on the Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving every year, as a tradition, since Mom’s passing in December 2000. I have kept records for 2001 forward. To make up for not going after Thanksgiving 2001, Doug, his wife, and our next to youngest brother, Arthur, and I hiked in February 2002. Since then, at least Doug and I have hiked every year, except 2003 and 2008. Well, I hiked alone in 2007.

Devil’s Nose stands alone, rising about 2,300 feet, with a ridge running west to east, south of the Clinch Mountain range. Years ago, I heard two origins for the name. Viewing the mountain from the east, it looks like a craggy nose coming out of the ground. Another option is that a man, long ago, went into the mountain and never came out. When asked, “Where did he go?” Someone replied, “The devil knows.”

Regardless of how named, Devil’s Nose calls, at least once a year, and my brother and I must answer. I enjoy the woods and the solitude. The east bluff unfolds a spectacular view of the valley below. Hiking in the woods clears my mind, heals my soul, and rejuvenates my body. Looking down from above, my mind expands, and the minute issues of daily life take perspective. A man needs to answer the call.

The first two photos are taken from the south side of the Nose. Can you see the hawk in the close up of the east bluff?

The next two photos are from the southwest side that we go up to get to the west side of the ridge. Make your own trail most of the way. At one point, climb over the rocks, pulling and crawling your way up! Do you see the icicles? The valley temperature was in the upper 30’s in the morning. The ridge was colder!

This photo is facing east, near the east bluff, along the ridge. We’re almost there! You can follow an animal trail part of the way, but you must find your own way mostly. Isn’t that true in life too?

The next three photos are at the east bluff. A persimmon tree was still ripe, and we enjoyed its fruit. Just don’t eat before it’s ripe! I made a small fire from damp leaves, pine needles, and twigs. Of course, the Appalachian Irishman had to strip down to his T-shirt in the cool weather!

The final two photos look toward the southern valley, below the mountain. What views! The camera does not capture well the view that the mind retains!

You know, if the weather allows, I might just need to see who will “hike up the Nose” with me around Christmas this year!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Four Hikes in Four Days! (published 11-14-2010)

The Appalachian Irishman was on the verge of insanity! He was overworked and over stressed. He needed a week off. Instead, he took two days, Thursday and Friday, October 28 and 29. He had a plan. De-stress. Unwind. Free his mind. Let nature, the woods, and the ridgelines work their healing. Four days off, counting the weekend, equaled four hikes, in four days, in four different locations!

On Thursday, the Appalachian Irishman hiked his nearby and beloved, House Mountain, for the 72nd time overall and for the eighth time this year. Some years ago, on the north bluff, a true patriot planted an American flag. Enjoy the views!

On Friday, I chose Panther Creek State Park, in Hamblen County. Regrettably, I had not hiked in the park before. I don’t know why. One trail led down to Cherokee Lake. Another followed an inlet. Walk along with me. Yes, I found a cactus in the woods!

The Saturday hike was at Norris Dam Park, north of Knoxville. This was my fifth hike there this year. I didn’t have many good opportunities to photograph, but I found the backcountry campsite, for future reference. The gravesite marks the earthly remains of those, who once called the area home, many years ago. My mind dwelt on how those folks must have lived back then. (I should have been born 160 years before I was!) I made my own trail along a ridge, near the campsite, and stealthily photographed the boat through the trees. The foundations of two structures indicate where a Civilian Conservation Corps camp was located in the 1930’s.

Well, on Sunday, Mrs. Appalachian Irishman braved the wilderness with me, on a hike in Cumberland Gap State Park. Last year, we visited the park around our birthdays, but we didn’t hike. We trekked along a trail that led past an old Civil War fortification. Signs of the earthwork lines are still present. A large hole, not photographed, marks where powder storage caught fire and exploded many years ago. I stood on the spot, where the “guvermint” bureaucrats say that three states meet. Again, I didn’t choose many photograph opportunities. The image of yours truly is on a knob, near the cross roads of the Wilderness Road and the Daniel Boone trail. The large rock is called Indian Rock. Yes, I had to climb on it!

The time in the woods, over four days, restored my soul, rested my mind, and energized my body. It is my calling to hike, explore, camp, photograph, and write. Does anyone need an enthusiastic trail/camping guide or a nature photographer/writer? May the dream become a reality for the Appalachian Irishman!