Adventures in Pisgah

Friday, August 22, 2014

Chimbric Ridge


After being defeated by the mighty Linville River last winter I had been wanting to go back to finish the route we had planned on doing and August is the perfect time to be crossing a  big river so I recruited Jon who recruited Ryan and we headed out last Saturday for a nice run through the Linville Gorge. Back in January I thought for sure I had located where Chimbric Ridge trail intersects the Linville River trail so we headed straight down Pinch In, took a left on the river trail and went straight to where I thought Chimbric Ridge was. We forded the river and then stopped on the other side to stock up on water for the long, dry stretch back up to the rim of the gorge. When we climbed up the bank to where the trail was supposed to be but it wasn't there.

I knew Chimbric Ridge was going to be hard to find but didn't realize just how hard it would be. We spent the next hour fruitlessly searching the East bank of the Linville River for the trail. On the National Geographic map it is one of those particular spots where the exact GPS coordinates are actually printed on the map so we used Jon's smart phone to go to the exact coordinates where the map said the trail would be but it still wasn't there. We talked about continuing to look but decided to actually do some running instead and continued on up the river trail.

The river trail makes for some very challenging trail running and somewhere along the way, as I hobbled over boulders and wrestled my way through downed trees, I realized our only chance of doing a different loop and finding Chimbric Ridge to approach from the Mountains to Sea at the top of the rim. So after a brief swim at the Spence Ridge river ford we headed up to the top of the East rim. At the top of the climb Table Rock was right there in front of us so we took the brief detour to the top.

The Mountains to Sea trail across the Chimneys was an incredible stretch of trail but at that point we were four or five hours in to the run but since PRAR I have not been doing long runs and was starting to feel it and was getting worried about finding Chimbric Ridge. Not finding it was not an option. Any other way back from where we were would be more miles than I could do. Bailing would be hard an complicated. We had to find the trail.

We encountered a SAWS trail work group along the way and if there is anyone you think might know how to get to a lightly used trail in the gorge it would be them and one guy was able to confirm that he had been on the trail and roughly described its location, which matched the map. That was reassuring. We then encountered an Outward Bound group whose leader did not know of the trail but did have the USGS quad which confirmed Chimbric Ridge's location. But based on our experience down at the river I was still a little skeptical.

The mind blowing stretch of trail across the top of the rim burned up almost all of our water and I was threatening to cramp. We had to get back down to the river as fast as possible. After passing through Chimney Gap we started to climb and then there was a trail right where our trail was supposed to be. Hallelujah. There is a God.

And down we go. Chimbric Ridge turned out to indeed be lightly used but it is used and it is there. It is steep and littered with downed trees and not necessarily a lot of fun. Or maybe it is and I just don't know it because I was hurting so bad. But at the bottom there was a great big huge and cool river and we were saved.

After cooling down and hydrating in the river we pulled up our location on Jon's phone and saw that we were nowhere close to where the mapped to show the trail to be. Instead of being North of Pinch In trail we were South of it. The map is way wrong. If you want to find this trail from Pinch In go right at the bottom and then ford the river at a campsite a short way down stream.

While Pinch In gets you into the heart of the gorge in a pinch getting out up Pinch In isn't nearly as easy. We made it down to the river from the car in just fifteen or twenty minutes but climbing up it took over an hour. I was out of food but had water and the end was so close it was blinking like a green light at the end of a novel and I couldn't fail to grasp it.

We finished the thirteen mile 'run' in right around seven hours. My legs still hurt.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Tuckaseegee Gorge

Last Sunday Dennis and Stephen joined me for a trip down the Tuckaseegee Gorge trail #438, commonly called Bonas Defeat, in the Highlands district of Nantahala National Forest. I made a trip up this trail last year and thought I knew exactly what to expect but Bonas Defeat is a  place like no other and managed to really surprise me once again.

I thought going up was very hard and expected going down to be much easier but was wrong. Down climbing is much harder than up climbing and we found ourselves pulling out the ropes we brought as reluctant hand lines several times. The landscape is exotic and dramatic but unforgiving. Going down canyon it was harder to see what lay ahead and we frequently had to backtrack and try yet another shoot or crack or cave before being granted passage downstream.

Near the end we hit the crux: a boulder problem of immense proportions. This is the cave we had to swim into last year and then climb out of. I didn't recognize it from above and after much scouting we found a slab that was just steep enough to not be safely down climbed so I set up a hand line as added protection and went down first. Halfway down I slipped and went down hard, teetering just above a precipitous. The entire right side of my body took the fall but I did not let go of that precious hand line. Once I regained my senses I continued down and saw that the ledge I presumed was just below the slab wasn't there and instead there was the mouth of a cave. We just had a hand line set up and only had 70 feet of rope to work with but needed a bomber rappel anchor and 150' of rope to work with. And even then we would have a very hard rappel down a rock slab into an awkward cave and then into water. That wasn't going to happen this day.

So, I ascended back up and we took the walk around. But I'll be back. What an amazing place!

002

005

007

010

014

015

016

017

018

024

026

033

 034

039

041

>045

047

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Redefining Epic

This blog is called Adventures in Pisgah because that is what it is about but often I wonder just what that means. What exactly is an adventure? Is there some sort of criteria or set of standards one should follow?

Sometimes I'll set out with the intent of purposely having an adventure. I'll have some sort of grand plan involving mountains and rivers and dragons and maidens that is certain not to disappoint but that isn't always the case. Sometimes the trail or trip will not be as challenging as I expected or the weather will be too good or whatever  and Ill wonder if it even counts as adventure. Whatever that might be.

Other times I'll set out to not have an adventure. Sometimes it is just as good to have a nice and relaxing simple outing to the woods. But things never go always as planned and adventure looms behind every door.

Last Saturday I headed out with Terri and a few friends for what was supposed to be a nice and leisurely  three mile tour of the Davidson River via river tubes. With sonic tracers from the night before's Phish concert still ringing through my head we put in just below Coontree on what couldn't have been a better summer afternoon for a lazy river float.

We are only ten minutes in when I flat on a log jam. A brand new tube too,  and just my luck. But sometimes that is just the way it goes and nothing can change what already happened.  I was content and resolved to walk my limp tube back to the car and the then fish while waiting for everyone else to finish the float, but Terri really wanted me to continue on so after much prodding and insistence from our friends I pretended to be convinced that sharing a tube with Terri was not only possible but also a good idea I hopped aboard with my wife.

It was an impossible distance fraught with many dangers we managed to cover. Around every bend there were either impossible rapids or not enough water to float. And only one tube for two people. It always goes to show...

005

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

living the good life

Summer has come to the mountains and I have fallen into a lazy days pattern. There is nothing to train for. Nothing to worry about. Plenty of work. Plenty of daylight. It could always go wrong, but for now it is all perfect.

I'm not doing much. Just a little bit of everything. Getting ready to run again. Trying to make the bike silent. Sleeping late and eating a lot. Hanging from ropes and reading in hammocks. Learning trees and contemplating waterfalls. There is a kayak in my garage I have hardly touched.

My tenkara rod is going almost everywhere I go. It has even accompanied me up to the top of Mt. Mtichell. Tenkara + Everything and I'm catching tons of fish!

>018

023

035

032


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Having a High Time

Last weekend was perfect. An extra day meant I could do everything. Friday was Canyoneering. Saturday was mountain biking. Sunday was kayaking. And my tenkara rod joined me on all my adventures.

Most notable was Friday's canyoning with Joe and Edmund. We did the same route I had done solo the week before except we did it the opposite direction, descending the big watercourse. There were indeed four waterfalls right after each other near the beginning which meant there were three rappels and a sketchy hand line.  This was a really good canyon, but after the week before's epic ascent  I was left feeling like it was a little too easy. What the rappels lacked in technical difficulty was offset by the amazing beauty of this remote stretch of forest. We are calling it Left Hand Canyon, in honor of my dislocated thumb. (Right Hand Canyon soon to follow).

004

005

012

017

022

024

029

038

049

059

074


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Shower Climbing Pisgah

When Daniel was here back in April he asked if we ever go up our streams and waterfalls. He had done so in Japan where they call it Shower Climbing. I wasn't sure I knew just what he was talking about but was sure it wasn't something we do around here. His question sparked my interest and since his visit I've been dreaming of a route where you go up one watercourse and then down another. Ever the reasonable type, I figured my best option would be to go up something easy with no waterfalls and then down something a little harder with a couple of small waterfalls. After scouring my maps I picked two streams that diverge into one and whose headwaters are somewhat easily accessible by a common trail. I headed off alone on Saturday morning to see what I could find.

It took a little work to identify which stream to go up but I found it and up I went. I had my Tenkara rod, of course, and fished as I slowly worked my way upstream. Things started out rather overgrown but the canopy opened up into Carolina blue skies and around every bend was yet another perfect pool. I kept thinking okay, now is time to put up the rod, but there was another bend and another pristine cascade and another perfect pool.

009

Cast again. And again. and again....

At first I was little worried the route was going to be too easy and too boring. But then things started to get a little harder. Huge log jams appeared. Wherever I stepped the driftwood caved in. The upclimbs started to increase in difficulty. The margin of error decreased exponentially.

011

014

I was carrying full technical gear and decided if I was carrying a helmet it was now time to use it. At least my head might be safe. I stepped up onto a big stone on a dry oasis in the middle of the stream to have a bite to eat, sip of water and to put on my helmet but when I went to step off that large stone it shifted under my weight and tossed me four feet down to the creek. My knees and shins banged the boulders and I stuck out my arms to catch me. My left thumb caught the brunt of the fall and I watched it bend back to touch my wrist. Pain coursed through my body and after grinding to a halt I assessed the damage: and while it hurt really bad I could still make a fist, grab my fishing rod and flex my fingers.  Not quite tragedy narrowly adverted but also far from worst case scenario.

019

As if to wash away the pain from my stupid accident and injury around the very next bend I was greeted by a perfect 100', three tired waterfall. There weren't supposed to be any waterfalls on this creek so I considered myself lucky. The sides of the creek were narrow and the waterfall had just enough of a gentle grade and vegetation off to the sides to tell me I could climb it. Now was time to put away the tenkara rod. With a lot of work I manage to scrape my way all the way up it.

025

027

Climbing that beast was exhilarating and exhausting and once I topped out I was happy for it to be over but there to great me above the horizon was yet another large waterfall. It was as if I just entered canyon heaven but instead of going down on ropes I was headed up alone instead. I didn't take long to linger, I just focused and went up.

034

036

This one was a little harder to get up. It was vertical in many places and there weren't as many reliable holds. I scraped and clawed my way up. While this snail makes it look easy my grip was not nearly as good.

041


Now by my count there had already been tow major waterfalls where there should have been none so imagine my surprise when at the top of this latest waterfall I looked up to see two more waterfalls waiting just upstream for me.

043



047

At this point I was just going on pure adrenaline. My left thumb and hand were throbbing almost as hard as my chest was pounding. There was nowhere to go but up.

This one was the hardest yet. Halfway up I decided I wanted to go down but couldn't. I wanted to just traverse off to the side but couldn't. I couldn't find a decent handhold. Things were getting sketchy to say the least as falling was not an option. I finally found a large crack above me, stuck my mangled left hand in it, made a fist and held on with all my might. After a seemingly impossible amount of time I managed to slowly work my way over to a slight ledge. From there I retreated off to the side through some vegetation.

Tragedy narrowly adverted indeed.

050

From there luckily the waterfalls ended. It had been a very hard stretch and I was glad to be out of that gorge.

At the trail where I had planned to go left and then down another stream I stopped for lunch. I was beat and felt like going down a similar stream to what I had just been up might be pushing my luck so I did the smart thing and went right instead.

There was still another stream to go down but this one was flatter and near a trail and not too technical at all.  Perfect for a little more tenkara fishing before calling it a day.

053

055


Monday, June 23, 2014

hidden giant

Deep in the heart of Shining Rock Wilderness there lies a very large and very elusive waterfall. It appears on some maps but the remoteness of the area means that few people manage to view it close up and in person. Last summer Joe and I caught a fleeting glimpse of it but were under roped and over watered and could not rappel it. Last winter I managed to see it from afar while searching for a train.

A few weeks back Edmund and I succeeded in reaching this waterfall and rappelling it and then descended the rest of the watercourse. It was hard to reach. We tried to go straight to the top of the waterfall by hiking much further up on the mountain before bushwhacking down to the creek but were stymied by impenetrable thickets of briars and rhododendron and ended up reaching the creek at the lower fall where I have been many times before. From there we worked our way up the creek, stopping for a little Tenkara fishing along the way, in search of the giant, hidden waterfall. Just when we had resigned to give up the search and turn around there it was shining like a beacon.

The rappel itself required every inch of the 200' rope we had brought for the job but wasn't overly challenging. Instead of technical difficulty this trip was all about the splendid beauty of true wilderness. Standing atop the precipice looking out over the lush green expanse of nothing but mountains and it was all worth it. Halfway down the waterfall I paused to soak in the miraculous splendor of it all and  took comfort in that we still have such wild places where our souls can be nourished and replenished.

050

052

054

057

066

068

081