“The mountains are calling, and I must go” -- John Muir, in 1873.
One of my T-shirts has the quote by John Muir (1838 - 1914) on it. The quote is from his letter to his sister, Sarah Muir Galloway, on September 3rd, 1873. (Source: “Get to Know the Story Behind Muir’s 'The Mountains Are Calling' Quote,” on Basin and Range Magazine, by Charles Watkins, published seven years ago.)
Greetings, dear reader, to my four hundredth article and to my forty-eighth article on hiking! I trust, in the Lord, that you are doing well. Mrs. Appalachian Irishman are doing well enough. As I've said many times, “A day in the woods adds a day to your life,” and “any day in the woods is better than not!”
The seventh anniversary of my near-death experience was on Wednesday, March 29th, 2023. What else could I do, on a clear and sunny day? I hiked House Mountain for the 179th time (so far)! (The title of my 3/19/2006 article is “My Mountain!”)
This article begins with brief sections on my “bionic” anniversary, my hiking sabbatical, and my hiking records. The main section -- including ten photographs and one video -- brings you along with me, on hike 179. The conclusion anticipates the heavenly view.
Seventh “Bionic” Anniversary
It happened about 5:15 PM, on Tuesday, 3/29/2016. My 8/26/2016 article is the initial expression of the tragedy. That was eight years ago. My 3/29/2021 article describes the four stages of my recovery. I am still in stage four. I am still recovering.
This year, I started calling March the 29th my “bionic” anniversary! Happy anniversary to me! Yes, I feel the muscles and tendons -- in my left shoulder, left side, left hip, neck, right knee, and right foot -- as they still try to recover fully. Lately, the “crossover reaction” (as the medical folks call it) into my right, non-bionic shoulder has become a bit of a mystery. I'm still like a fine-tuned truck that has plenty of power and stamina. The frame, however, is a little warped, so the ride isn't as smooth as a man would prefer!
I'm still standing here. I ain't breathing hard! I still think that Mr. Antonov was correct, when he examined me, on 12/3/2017, on House Mountain (my hike #141, #5 “bionic”). My 3/29/2021 article mentions his examination and my recovery time estimate.
My Hiking Sabbatical
The last hike on “My Mountain” was on 4/18/2021. The 4/25/2021 article includes details about that hike #178 (#42 “bionic”). The hike was in memory of a high school friend, Hal Trent, who had passed to the next life, at age 61, on 4/17/2021.
Unknown to me at the time, my “hiking sabbatical” started the next day. It lasted one year, eleven months, and nine days. Why did I take a hiking sabbatical? I don't really know.
Apparently, my focus shifted to writing articles on other topics. The hiking sabbatical includes the publication of 190 articles (after the 4/25/2021 article to the 399th article). Twenty-five of the thirty articles on Corona Myopia were written during my sabbatical. (Thankfully, Corona Myopia Obsession lingers in only a few areas now.) My retirement started, after my final work day, on Friday, May 13th, 2022 (as the 5/15/2022 article mentions). I endured several “crossover reactions,” especially from my “bionic” left shoulder to my right shoulder, which would not have forestalled hiking.
“My Mountain” must not have been calling me. It has starting calling me again. I had to go!
Hiking Records: Grand Total of All Hikes, Since 4/23/2000
My record of all hikes started on 4/23/2000. I don't know why I started that log, but I'm glad that I did. Several hikes included Mrs. Appalachian Irishman, other family members, and friends.
The record shows, as of 3/29/2023, 230 total hikes, so far. House Mountain has, as stated, 179 entries. Forty-nine hikes on “My Mountain” included Mrs. Appalachian Irishman, other family members, friends, our ol' puppy, Molly, and two other dogs. I hiked alone 130 times. Of course, I've met and conversed with several hikers, when hiking alone.
The other 51 hikes were as follows: 21 in Norris Dam State Park, 12 in Hawkins County, Tennessee (including ten on Devil's Nose, with the summary in my 11/15/2020 article), Five locations in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and 13 other locations, which include Big Ridge State Park, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Panther Creek State Park, and, both in North Carolina, Grandfather Mountain State Park and Chimney Rock State Park.
The mountains were calling, so others and I went!
House Mountain Hike #179, on 3/29/2023
Please come along with me, as we hike House Mountain together! This main section includes ten of the eleven photographs that I took, with my comments, and one video. Are you ready? Let's hike! The mountain is calling.
Upon arriving at the parking lot, my '06 Nissan Frontier clocked 186,929.7 miles. Leaving the parking area, I touched the sign post, to mark the start of our hike, at 1:05 PM. After our hike, I touched that same post, at 4:24 PM – three hours and nineteen minutes in the woods! The sky was clear and blue, with only a little warm weather haze. The temperature rose from the lower 50's to the lower 60's Fahrenheit. It was a good day for a hike!
Let's start up the mountain, on the east trail this time. (The usual west trail is steeper and more cardiovascularly challenging.) We want to get to the upper middle bluff first, which is quicker on the east trail. Being “lame mountain goats,” very careful, and meeting five groups of hikers going down, we reach the middle bluff in 52 minutes (about 12 minutes slower than our “pre-bionic” average time). There were a few muddy areas, in the usual places.
The Treacherous Switchback
After hiking up the various switchbacks and seeing the views, we reached the final switchback, just below the ridgeline. I took the following three photographs, over four minutes, at that final, wet, muddy, and treacherous switchback. Do you remember? I do.
We had just reached the point, in the above photograph, which faces southeast. We were standing on a small, flat rock, at the center of the most treacherous spot. The next photograph, standing at the same spot, but looking northeast, shows where we had to go next.
Yes, I know. The photograph doesn't show the almost vertical and wet steepness that is to the lower right of where we were standing. That was the most treacherous spot. Our “lame mountain goating” was at its maximum!
The above photograph, looking south and down, is after we'd made it safely above that most treacherous spot! The image -- with the ridgeline behind us, while still on the south face of the mountain -- looks down to that almost vertical challenge.
Photos from the Upper Middle Bluff
We decided not to photograph the bench, on which we sat, once we reached the ridgeline. We touched the sign post, at the ridgeline, at 1:57 PM. That's 52 minutes from base to ridgeline. After a brief relaxation, we headed east, toward the upper middle bluff. It took us the usual about ten minutes. I took the next three photographs, while at that bluff.
The above photograph looks northwest, with the west bluff of the mountain visible. Do you see where I'd placed my cap, canteen, knife, and phone carrying case? That was a nice view. It had been a while!
In case you missed them, the above photograph is the close up. My cap has a stick figure of a hiker, getting struck by lightning. The caption is “Life is crap!” A sister-in-law gave me that cap as a Christmas present, many years ago. Occasionally, while wearing it, I meet folks, who laugh and inquire about the caption. That often opens the door to a spiritual conversation!
The above photograph shows the relaxing and beautiful view, looking northeast. About three hawks and a couple of turkey buzzards were circling around at times. I wish that I'd been able to photograph at least one hawk. I'm glad that no one else was on the bluff. It was just you and me – and God.
Podcast from the Upper Middle Bluff
Photographs, from the upper middle bluff, are in several hiking articles. Your patience was appreciated, while I filmed my first video there.
Please see Appalachian Irishman - Podcasts (on YouTube, since 5/26/2022), where I published that podcast. The podcast is titled, House Mountain Hike 179, 3-29-2023: My Sabbatical is Over! (published 3-31-2023; episode #6). It is a three-minute production. Please turn up your speaker volume, once I switch to the panoramic view. For some reason, the audio has less volume than my actual voice did. I may have had a finger over the audio input!
After a brief conversation with the Good Lord, we decided to hike across the ridgeline, west, toward the west bluff. Let's go!
As we hiked westward, on the ridgeline, we passed the “picnic rock,” as I call it. Thanks for allowing me time, to take the photograph below.
West Bluff – Three Young Ladies & Two Hammocks
Hiking along farther west, we passed several well-known locations, such as the cistern, to our right, just before where the old fire tower used to be. The old two-seater outhouse, still damaged by shotgun blasts, is still just below the fire tower footings. Of course, we saw the cell phone tower and the “dinosaur rock,” as I call it. Yes, we saw some well-known and very nice views!
Upon reaching the west bluff, I decided not to take a photograph. Three young ladies were relaxing, with two hammocks tied to trees. We conversed for a few minutes. I'm glad to know that they, as Christians, have the biblical worldview! Perhaps other young folks and they can help restore this once great nation, to its founding principals. They seemed glad to hear the brief snapshot stories of my life.
The hike back down on the west trail saw well-known and wonderful views. We passed the “defiance tree,” as I call it. I touched it, as usual. Thanks for waiting on me, while I moved carefully, at the steep and rocky slope area. I'm a “lame mountain goat,” as you know.
My “bionic” right foot and knee didn't “talk to me” much, as we hiked down the six main switchbacks, the lower switchbacks, crossed the small stream, and hiked out. Of course, my right foot “talked to me” that evening enough, but it got over it, as usual.
At 4:24 PM, I touched the same sign post that I'd touched, when starting our hike. Three hours and nineteen minutes in the woods is better than not having been there! We had another very good hike.
I wonder how long that the new information board, in the above photograph, has been there. The old one had my photograph of snow on the mountain, with my name under it. Unfortunately, hooligans had shot the old board with a paint gun, leaving yellow streaks, and shot it with a pistol or rifle. I'm glad to have seen the new information board.
There he is! My '06 Frontier, with 186,929.7 miles on the odometer, was waiting patiently, as usual. He likes to have his photograph taken! The photograph looks west. We met a few other folks, on the ridgeline and on our hike down – but not too many. Weekday hikes are better, since the parking lot wasn't full, and not many others were hiking.
Let's pack up and drive home, shall we? It's only a ten-mile drive, one way.
North Side of House Mountain
I may have taken the above photograph before. I may hunt for it, if I did. The good neighbor was mowing his yard. We stopped and asked to take the photograph. He replied, “Sure! People do it all the time!” As we were leaving, I honked the horn and waved, in appreciation. He waved back and smiled.
The photograph shows the entire north side of House Mountain. The west bluff is the western most part (or to the right in the image). The upper middle bluff is east (or left in the image) of the high middle. From the middle bluff, if we'd hike another five minutes or so, then we would have reached the east bluff (or to the left in the image). I've hiked all three bluffs many times. Maybe I'll take you with me, and we'll hike to the east bluff, next time!
In 1873, John Muir wrote, “The mountains are calling, and I must go.” On 3/29/2023, House Mountain was calling me. I had to go! Thanks for hiking along with me!
As my podcast of earlier today records me as having stated, while on the middle bluff, the hike up the east trail had some dangerous areas. Three photographs, above, are of the treacherous switchback. The view from the middle bluff, however, was worth the hike!
My hiking theology is that life has good points and treacherous points, behind and ahead of us. We see several good points. We endure several bad ones. We, however, continue onward and upward.
The heavenly mountain is calling, and I must go! The ridgeline is closer than it was. I see the good and bad spots behind me. I can't see what's ahead of me. By faith, I shall reach the heavenly bluff. The everlasting view there will be spectacular!
Dear reader, if you have not already started, please go to the mountain. It should be calling you. You must go.