Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Gregory Bald Azalea Hike 2014

Gregory Bald azaleas and butterfly.

Gregory Bald Azalea Hike

Sunday June 22, 2014

12 miles round trip

Dana Koogler
Jeff Cole
Mitch & Rhonda Reagan

Pictures are here starting with frame 86
 Gregory Bald 2014 Pix

      I hiked to Gregory Bald this azalea season with friends.  I mistakenly thought
that Jeff had been before.  It turned out I was the only one who had ever been before.
I have been to GB via every trail in an assortment of trips over the years.  I have backpacked it.
I have day hiked it.    We day hiked it this time. We met at the Townsend Wye and carpooled.
We agreed on Gregory Ridge Trail out and back.  We also agreed to a super early start at dawn to avoid making the climb during the heat of the day.   All good decisions.  It is a long, steep climb 
no matter how you go.  We managed to avoid the worst of the heat and the mud by going this way.
 I had a good time getting to know Jeff, Rhonda and Mitch better. They are great folks and the more I get to know them the better I like them.   They are all great sports about the pain and
suffering of a long, tough climb.    We just took our time and made the best of it. 

     Gregory Ridge is a gradual ascent which helps. The trail is usually in good condition and 
it was a lot better than the rutted, muddy, horse shit trough of Gregory Bald Trail.   We enjoyed
the roar of Forge Creek along the way. We got to see old growth, big trees!  The rosebay rhododendron was putting on a pretty in pink show down at the lower elevations.  Up high
we were met with every shade of color of the native hybrid azaleas.    Don Hyatt has written a good article about the hybridization process of the flowering shrubs up there which are like
no other place in the world!   Apparently the reason for the unusual amount of blending or hybridization which results in all the different forms and colors is that the necessary four species
are all present there. It has to be this way to take place.   You don't see this amount or type of 
mixing in places where there are only two species to mix.    I have over simplified the explanation, 
but that is it in a nutshell.     Hooper Bald was another place I visited and Don has written about his visit there.  It has hybrid azaleas, but not in the amounts and wide varieties as Gregory Bald.

        Rather than go into a long trip report I will post mostly photos.  I was glad I decided to go.
It really was nice to spend time with friends. It was fun to see their reactions to visiting this special
place for their first time!   I learned new things about each of them that made me value them as people more and admire them more.  I consider that one of the best things about the day.
I had never waited this late in the season to go up.  It was past peak for sure, but still worth it.
The NPS is going to have to do something about the abuse of the bald by horse riders and illegal campers and builders of fires on the grassy bald.    I found that to be very upsetting.  I did not let it
ruin my day though.   I had a grand time and I look forward to the next adventure with my pals!

Gregory Bald is a grassy bald with shrubs and stunted trees. 

Jeff Cole engrossed in his photography!

Butterfly on an azalea shrub

Big black bear at the end of the day.. 

     I even enjoyed cruising around in Cades Cove in the back of Jeff's pickup with Rhonda.
We were looking for stuff to take pictures off. It was very laid back and groovy baby!  :-) 

Its all about the company and the experience. Thanks for sharing it with me!

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