Sunday, November 28, 2010

Devil's Nose Tradition: 11/27/2010 Hike (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 from 2001 forward. To make up for not going after Thanksgiving in 2001, Doug, his wife, my next-to-youngest brother, Arthur, and I hiked in February of 2002. Since then, at least Doug and I have hiked every year, except in 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.

My youngest brother and I hiked “the Nose,” on Saturday, 11/27/2010. The first two photographs show Devil's Nose from the south. Can you see the hawk in the close-up of the east bluff?

The next two photographs are from the southwest side, which 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!

The following photograph 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 mostly find your own way. Isn’t that true in life too?

The next three photographs are on the east bluff. A persimmon tree was still ripe, and we enjoyed its fruit. Just don’t eat it 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 photographs look toward the southern valley, below the mountain. What views! The camera does not well capture 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!