Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Quick Hike After the Rain.... Plan B. Little Greenbrier Trail and Little Brier Gap

Tangerine colored flame azaleas along the trail.
Little Greenbrier Gap and Little Brier Gap Trails
Thursday June 12, 2014
Dana Koogler solo
4 miles round trip
Pictures are here: Little Greenbrier Trail Pix

I had originally planned to hike to Spruce Flats Falls with my daughter, grandson and granddaughter.
I had been eager to show Michael and Tessa the wonders of the mountains close to home ever since realizing
he was capable of making a longer hike. I was eager to see how she responded to the things she would encounter. She seemed to like the trail thus far. I went out to the jeep to pack it up with our stuff and realized it was raining steadily. The forecast called for rain all morning and into the afternoon. I called Crystal and after a short discussion we chose to wait. The hike we picked was close to the house and short so it was not going anywhere. I did not want them to have a negative experience on the trail. I was a little
disappointed, but it was no big deal. I always have plans A, B, C, D, E and F.
I did some things around the house and after eating a quick lunch I noticed the rain had stopped.
I tried to call Lydia and Crystal but did not get an answer from either of them. I decided I'd get out for a
short leg stretcher. My muse was calling me again. I could hear the siren song of native orchids calling to me from the mountains. I had to go see for myself. I love Summer hikes in the Smokies.
June is the month of too many wildflowers to see them all.

One point along the trail where it is pine straw under foot.

The trail goes up and up but it levels off eventually. The ascent is gradual. The tread under foot
is very even most of the way and changes from gravelly to pine straw. The woods here today were cool and the air was fresh. Along this hike I was treated to the scent of rain, earth, pine needles, citrus, flowers, and curry spice. Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains in any season is grand, but
Summer has its own rewards. I climbed steadily upward with the path winding and switching back. I was treated to partial views from the trail in a couple directions. The Little Greenbrier
Trail is a boundary trail in the park. It sits right along the line between what is public land and private. Markers differentiation the border. Along the part that is private there are a number
of side trails leading off to the left heading in. I check them all every time I hike this trail.
It turned out to be a good thing. You'll see later.

I was going along and enjoying myself when something strange caught my eye.
A dead pine tree with a knothole had something weird happening. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. Something was oozing out of the tree. A snake. The tree was oozing snake.
A copperhead was pouring itself out of the tree and into the brush. His head was already out.
His body flowed out after it. I tried to videotape it but the viewer on my camera and my own

nervousness made that attempt unsuccessful. I chose instead to get past him quickly while he was occupied. I dashed past him and stopped to look back. I got a good eye to eye contact with him.
I then looked around for landmarks. I wanted to be aware where he was on this trail for my return
trip since I was doing an out and back. My mind was thinking later on the hike of ways I could avoid hiking back past him. I considered hiking down to the Walker Sisters and the old school and either seeing if I could get a lift from someone back to my car or walking back out that way?
I quickly dismissed that idea. I reasoned that he might not even be there by the time I came back.
Spreading pogonia along the hike.
I began seeing beautiful wildflowers along the trail and that certainly helped take my mind
off snakes. I was watchful, but I relaxed and enjoyed my hike. I saw lots of flame azaleas but
they were past peak. Some of the azaleas looked positively melted. I saw the first of the Rosebay rhododendron of the season just starting to bloom. It was not in a position where I could get any sort of decent shot of it. I could smell it before I saw it!

Flame azalea along the trail.

A huge chestnut oak spreading its limbs out over the trail.

I continued on toward the trail intersection with Little Brier Gap. I had planned to turn and hike
down the trail toward the Walker Sisters for a short distance. I probably added another mile to the hike in total by doing that. I was seeing that the mountain laurel and flame azaleas along this stretch of the trip were done for the season. I saw a few bold yellow star grass flowers and some yellow composites. The sun was coming out bright and bold. The sunbeams filtered through the tree canopy in some spots. Other places were deep green and dark from the forest gloom.
I have learned to appreciate all of the various aspects of the light in these woods.

Sun coming out.. skies clearing to blue!

I love looking down the trail and seeing the various hues of blue and green in Summer. The same spot may change appearance drastically in the course of an out and back hike! As KT's Momma would say "Learn to Love It!" I know she's right. She don't play! :-)

I love the red dirt trail and the sun filtering through. Subtle changes along the way.

I sat down at the intersection to cool off a little and take a break. I rested and ate a snack and had something to drink. I just enjoyed the quiet. I could hear only the birds singing and the bees buzz. It is worth mentioning to watch out for yellow jackets. I saw that the banks along the trails in this area are just full of yellow jacket nests. Seeing them today brought back to mind that I have seen them here before and they are even thicker down toward the old school and the Walker Sisters home place. I saw goats rue in white and pink like an old housecoat of mine!
I began my return hike and was admiring the deep green coat of velvet moss along the edges of the trail.

Mossy Trail

I hiked real slow and watched closely for Mr. Copperhead. I was super careful.
I saw a turkey, a groundhog, dragonflies, butterflies, moths, a cardinal, a goldfinch, and a wood thrush so far today in addition to the snake. I recognized the area where the snake had been
without a single moments hesitation. I knew this was it. I checked around to see that I did
not step on or surprise him. I first thought he was gone, but a second later I spied him. He was
sleeping in the same spot by the trail. He was very content in the sun and never stirred.

Sleeping copperhead

Once I had passed the snake spot I was more at ease. I still watched for all his brothers and sisters since I seem to be the Snake Goddess. I am like a magnet for them anymore. I did stop at the side trails along the hike out. I was rewarded for my efforts with this!

Newly constructed viewing platform on the private side of the trail. Whoever did this did a marvelous job. There is a path coming to it. Below it are benches for sitting. It is very cool.

The view out across Wears Valley from the platform. It reminds me of a Currier & Ives painting
on my mom's china plates. Scenes of pastoral life. I sat here enjoying the breeze and the view for awhile. It was lovely. It feels good to enjoy solitude and not have to be in a hurry or be anywhere!

I resumed my hike out and heard a puffing sound. I saw something in the trail ahead of me.
It was a cute terrapin. He was puffing air to scare me. I acted real scared.

Box turtle in the trail

I cruised on out to the jeep. I unlocked it and stowed my gear. I got in and sat down and turned the air conditioner on. I took two or three minutes to cool off and review my photos before I planned to head home. Everything had gone along pretty good today thus far. I had a grand hike and was real tickled with it but things went south quickly. My jeep began idling rough and
grew worse and worse. I turned it off to see if that would help smooth it out. It did not help it.
It did not want to go. I could not get it to go in gear or anything. I got to thinking about Joel Osteen's mom being a woman of faith. I put my hands on the dash after many attempts to get the jeep to go I decided to pray for it. That is what she would have done. So I tried it.
It did not work. I tried it again and it did not work. I reached for my purse to call for help.
No cell phone. I had forgotten and left it at home. I had known I would need to stop and put gas in the jeep before I drove home. I planned to do just that in Wears Valley. The tank had gas, but I was parked downhill. Could that have anything to do with this problem?

No worries. I was not far from homes here. I could hear someone cutting the grass with a riding mower. I locked the jeep and walked toward the first house. I drew near it and saw a man sitting flat on his behind in the weeds and I was going to have to walk past this dude. I was uneasy.
He was watching me head his direction. A van was approaching with a couple in it. I stuck my thumb out and waved them down. I explained to them what was going on and asked them for help.
They took me in their van the few feet back to my vehicle. I used the ladies cell phone and called my family. They were going to send help for me. The lady asked me if I had tried praying over the jeep. I told her I had. She decided we should try that again so I humored her. Long story short ... my daughter got hold of my son in law Adam. He was nearby anyway. He came and helped me. The jeep would not go even after putting gas in it. He rescued me and took me home. My husband Kenny took me back over to the jeep later that night and we put more gas in it and finally it was enough that it could pick it up in that position. We used the night time trip to enjoy the fireflies in Wears Valley!

Later I was somewhat in the dog house with my family. I told them about praying over the jeep. I also told them of course it did not work. I told them what the Lord had to say to me.
He told me (imagine the voice of Hank Hill's Korean neighbor Khan) "You ASS! I not fix jeep.
You put enough gas in jeep! You no park down hill no more! You tell somebody where going! You take along cell phone! " So the take away on this is be prepared!

Below is a short video of the view of Wears Valley from that platform.

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