Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bob Stratton Bald--The Misty Mountain Hop

Top Down View of a Turks Cap Lily

Bob Stratton Bald Day Hike via Wolf Laurel

Dana Koogler solo

Hike Distance 3.2 miles round trip
Saturday July 16, 2011

Pictures are here:

Videos here:
Turks Cap Lilies on Bob Stratton Bald

Wolf Laurel Falls

      I have not been hiking as much as usual and needed very badly to get out.
I wanted to hike up to Bob Stratton Bald to see the turks cap lilies and other Summer wildflowers.  There's been alot going on in my personal life lately. Better, but just when I think things may settle down... its time for another round.   I finally just stole away to fit in a dayhike. 

      I drove out to Wolf Laurel to start my hike. It is a very very remote trailhead. 
I was not surprised that even on a Saturday I didn't see any other vehicles once I turned off the main road.  I saw a tree sagging across the road and hoped it would stay put at least until I was able to finish my hike and drive back past it. 

Holy Schnikees! Stay up there tree!

     It had rained all night and most of the previous day.  It was needed and really cooled things off. I had looked at the forecast and figured I'd be okay , but  I was not surprised to find very foggy conditions along the road and trail.

Wolf Laurel Road at 10:30 a.m.

     Another reason for picking Wolf Laurel is that most of the  drive is flanked by a spectacular wildflower display.  I saw beautiful cascades coming down Cold Springs Branch.

Wolf Laurel Falls

Colorful wildflowers along Wolf Laurel Road

     I arrived at the trail-head and got started.  One thing that had really been doing a number on my head was the brier patches and tall grass along this trail.  The first time I went to see the lilies the blackberry brambles were over my head and so thick I had to press through them.  I just had to keep hiking even though I couldn't see my feet. Heck, I couldn't see past my thighs the first time.  The grass was high and thick and encroached the trail in places.  I had just cared for a copperhead bite victim about a week earlier at the hospital who was from the general vicinity and got bitten while hiking.  I was worried and wondering if I was going to be able to make myself do this thing?  

     I prayed it over and remembered "Thou hast not given us a spirit of fear" and "Fret not".  in the Bible.  I decided to try it.  My usual mental gymnastics to convince myself "there are no snakes at this elevation." were not going to work.  I had been hiking to Flat Creek Falls in the Smokies in mid Summer at this elevation or higher on a trail that covered my feet with the same high grass and had a snake crawl right over my ankles.   I could feel it. I could see part if him. I couldn't do a thing except put up with it.  Freaking out would not have helped. I never did see if it was a poison snake or not. I could only hope it wasn't.  I was just going to feel the fear and do it anyway.   I decided I'd pray before each briery or grassy section and "plead the blood" every time.  

      The trail is in a boreal forest.  It was in the clouds today just like the road had been.   I began hiking and the air smelled so sweet and fresh from the rain and the evergreens.  Before I knew it I was at the trail junction with Haeo.   I couldn't get over how quick and easy that had been.  I also could not believe that just a few steps more and I was tramping through Brier Patch #1.  It was easy.   I made it through the second one and it was short, but had lots of that deep grassy stuff.  I was hiking in Citico Creek Wilderness and it is managed as such.  Wilderness trails keep more of their wild character and are not manicured or marked as clearly as those of a state park or national park. 

This  section is great looking compared to what I had put up with.  I found I was too spooked to get photos of the really bad stuff. I just had to focus on being careful and quick.

     I began seeing turks cap lilies much sooner along the trail this year.  The bright burst of orange in the deep green misty forest was a sight to behold. 

Trail-side lily in the forest mist and gloom.

     I saw a spot along the trail that brought tears to my eyes it was so much like a dream.   Beech trees with ferns and pale pink rosebay rhododendron mingled with the contrast of bright orange lilies.  All of this in the mist of a cloud forest.  I stopped and just fell silent and thanked God for giving me the chance to see this place.

My favorite spot along the trail.

And then more briars to pick through.

I thought to myself how very like life this hike is. Some good stuff. Some bad!  Oo!

And after this third brier patch was more good stuff.

Boreal forest in the clouds right after the the briars. Good to see open ground!
But it didn't last long.  Next was Brer Rabbit being through in the BIG Briar Patch.

Imagine walking through that for 3 minutes. It seems like an eternity. You can't really see a "trail" there too easily. I made certain to orient myself for the return trip so I could find my way back to that opening. 

Lilies of the Field.  This made it all worthwhile.  I saw fields and fields of these beautiful flowers. 

All of these in one grouping!

    I also ran into other people up top.  They had just arrived from Beech Gap and were known to me. One was a ranger. The others were a couple friends of mine and some of their buddies.   I got to meet Slowalk's new dog. Good Dog passed away from cancer.  She now has Cowboy. He is a blue heeler.. one of my very favorite kinds of dogs.   He worked very hard herding them safely up to the bald.  He takes his job of herding people quite seriously. 

Cowboy playing fetch. He is so cute!

     In all my wandering the meadows and taking pictures of flowers it occurred to me:
Here you are wading around in knee deep grass and weeds totally unconcerned.  I laughed at myself. It was true. All that fuss over the briers which were truly not as bad as they had been the previous time. Someone has done a little maintenance.
And yet when I am wrapped up in doing something that is fun for me.. I am not one bit worried.   I sat down with bees buzzing all around me touching me and was not afraid.  It is all a matter of perspective.  I spent a couple hours roaming the bald.
I saw some new things. I saw some old favorites. I got to visit with some old friends.
The sun came out awhile!   I enjoyed my day. I was very thankful I didn't let fear keep me at home or make me back down.

       As I sat taking pictures and snacking.. the sun went away and the clouds literally rolled across the meadow.   I was enveloped by the mist.  I figured that was a signal to wrap it up and head back.   On my way out I encountered the only other people I saw on the trail all day.  A couple who was making their first trip to see the bald.
They asked me what it was like.  I just smiled and told them they didn't have far to go and that they'd love it. I told them I wasn't going to share any other details since it might spoil it for them.  They were tired, but that put a spark in them and they pressed forward.  I'm sure they weren't disappointed. 

     It was a beautiful day. The weather was not sunny like my first trip here, but it was made magical in its own way by the mist.   I wouldn't trade the experience.

Un-retouched image of the lilies and tall meadow rue with the mist rolling back in.

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