Wednesday, January 27, 2010

HATCHER MOUNTAIN TRAIL


 click on photos to enlarge

Hatcher Mountain Trail is located off Caron's Jeep Trail approximately a thousand yards up Carson's out of Abrams Creek Campground.  I have the GPS with me today just in case.  The weather is predicted to very nasty starting Friday through the weekend so I thought I would do a little hiking instead of uncovering and re-covering the boat for only a couple hours use. The day, however, turned out to be beautiful.  I am over dressed and, as usual, do not have water with me.  My usual intentions are to mill around the streams and hills without serious thought to an aggressive agenda.  But, the intended lackadaisical wanderings usually changes to exploratory desires that ignite my curiosity about whats over the next hill.   We turned off the old jeep trail onto Hatcher Mountain Trail and immediately crossed a small stream.

I hoped the old 4 year old Danner boots were still water proof.  They are old TWRA issue boots from when I lived another life.  They remained dry.  This little trail is a twisty trail that instantly climbs the mountain.  And, it is indeed a steep little avenue.

The trail itself can be described as being charming.  It is neat and clean.   There are no pieces of plastic or any reminders that civilization lays just outside the boundary of the National Park.  I did mention that the trail is steep.  That is an understatement. 
The inclination of the trail to go more vertical increases as we continue on.  I'm not sure how one would rate the degree of difficulty for a trail like this.  It is clean and smooth with some water crossings but it is a steep one for sure.  I would think a person would want to be in at least fairly good shape to hike it with any degree of speed.  The views are beautiful.  I'm not talking about spacious grandiose visions of a spectacular nature.  I refer to a beautiful, lush forest with adult trees.  Rhododendrons line the path on both sides.
There exists a very steep drop off at the edge of the trail.  It gives a person that "goes on forever" feeling.  Even Douglas would not venture off the trail in that direction. 

I started this little walk at a brisk pace of 3.5 mph and have been reduced to a 1.2 mph pace.  I'm in no hurry and could maintain a much faster cadence but, I'm not out here for exercise.  I'm out here to get away from the real world and enjoy this place before the tourists arrive in the Spring.  Funny thing I just said about the real world.  Do I really think the real world is "out there?"    No.   It was a slip of the tongue.  THIS is the real world.  This, out here, is the real earth.
We all came from this.  And, the other world and we, will eventually all return here.
It is difficult not to photograph this trail.  I haven't enjoyed a trail with such character and beauty in a long time.  It beckons me to continue on and find what lies around the next corner.  We have been out here for three hours now and we should be returning to the truck.  We'll just go a little ways further, just to see.

I am getting warm now.  The constant uphill climb is causing the warmth under my Woolrich over shirt to become uncomfortable.  I'll take it off when I reach the top of the mountain.  I am assuming this trail will reach some summit eventually.  I am carrying a photography backpack with a couple extra lenses and asundery equipment.  It isn't heavy but, I don't feel like taking it off just to remove that wool over shirt.
I am amazed at the cleanliness of the place.  I doubt there are too many tourist who will climb this high and far.  Hikers obviously will but, they are skilled and have good habits while in the woods.  People who love the wilderness treat it with respect.  People who come to the wilderness once a year to escape their loud, obnoxious existences in the cities sometimes bring their city habits with them.   I don't care to dwell upon those thoughts further.  I don't own the wilderness so I can't make the rules.  But if I did and could.  Oh boy!
An old hollow log is a good place to live, if your a rodent.  I can tell this log is used frequently by some woodland denizen.  How can I tell?  Look closely.
Lots of droppings at the entrance of the log. 


It's really nice to see large, older trees.  This trail is winding through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and the trees are protected.  Many are blown down and have to be cut in order to remove them from the trail.  If one looks carefully, one  can see signs of logging from another era.   Thank heavens this park was formed.

Where is the top of this hill?  We have been going "up" for the past hour. 

We are nearing the top now.  The sky is opening up and the breeze is blowing.  We'll take a break up there.  Wherever up there is.




At last!  The top.  What a great view!  Now we'll take a break.  I can slip off this pack and get rid of the wool over shirt.

A quick glance ahead shows the trail going downhill at a radical angle.  I wish we had time to go on down there.  Obviously Douglas is ready.  Where does he get his stamina?

Simply a super view.  I could stay right here for the entire day.  This is one of the most wonderful trails I have ever been on.  I'll have to get a map of it.
I mentioned my photography back pack earlier.  It isn't very large and does not present a problem when  hiking.  The interior is well padded and the equipment can not move about.  I carry lenses, extra batteries, cleaning equipment and the entire camera with long lens attached.  It is a shoulder pack with a waist belt and is very comfortable.
The interior is equipped with all types of slots and zippered compartments.  My writing pad and pens are conveniently stored where I can access them easily.
The shoulder straps are wide and comfortable.

Camera and lenses are easily reached.
Of course the GPS resides in there somewhere too.  Oh;  the brand of the pack is DAKINE.  The quality is excellent with double stitching and even a tripod strap on the back of the pack that grasps the tripod in two places around the legs of the tripod and a third strap that attaches at the camera mount area.  I like it and it is serving me well.

What should I do?  Douglas is no help.  He always wants to move on.  The trail pulls like a magnet.  I have a case of the "wonders" so off we go down the other side.
I know there are a lot of trail pictures here but, the thing is so beautiful and perfect that I can not resist photographing it.  I guess you would have to be there to understand.

"Douglas;  wait up."

We are now nearing the bottom of the mountain.   The waters of Abrams Creek are getting loud.
Just look at this little path.  Delightful.
There it is just up ahead.  This is super!  I can only imagine the visual delights that must lay further on down the trail.

Douglas is in his glory.  His face lights up when he's happy.  In reality;  today is all about him.  He is the primary reason I hike.  I place myself second in priority.

The water is roaring.  Douglas better stay on land this day.  I don't know how I'd ever get him out of the water if he would become swept away.  But then,  he's one smart dog.  He learned some valuable lessons on Slick Rock Creek when he was washed over a small falls there.  He was in fast moving mountain water and had never experienced the forces that moving water has.  He is used to calm lakes.  He never forgot.  I see him eying this stream and he will not venture in.

We'll walk along the stream for awhile and then head back up the trail toward Abrams Creek Campground.

Time to go.  "Douglas;  Come."

Ok;  just a minute to cool off and get a drink from a cold mountain stream

While Douglas refreshes himself;  I look about and notice a tree that has served host to a woodpecker.  Its interesting to note that they don't always poke holes in the side of the trees.  This one has driven his sharp beak into and under the bark and has lifted it up and away to reach the insects residing there.  Woodpeckers are really interesting.  Someday on a camp I will spend time photographing them.

Now that Douglas is back on the trail;  we'll be off.

One last scenic view as we go over the top on the way back.    Simply put;  this place is magic.
I hope this little walk didn't make you tired or bored.. I can get carried away with the camera at times.  You may have noticed the different look to the blog.  The pictures can be clicked upon to enlarge them and they will enlarge to a more practical size than previous entries.  I should have addressed the issues of photo enlargement long ago.  Ignorance is bliss they say.  It's a new look for a new year.  I hope you like it.  Until next time;  love your dog and don't give him grapes or chocolate.