Monday, January 31, 2011

The South Mountains Game Lands

Sunday, January 30th, 2011
Rutherford County, NC

For this weekends hike, Andy, Bob, Boone, and I decided to explore a remote area of the South Mountains. We have all been to the developed side of South Mountains State Park, but that only encompasses a very small area of the roughly 100,000 acres of the South Mountains.

Our goal for the day would be to reach the summit of Buzzards Roost, the highest peak in the South Mountains Range.  Most of the hike would be through the Game Lands, but since hunting is illegal on Sundays, we figured we would be safe.

We got close, but never did reach the summit of Buzzards Roost. With the shorter days of winter, we would have been cutting things close if we tried to push on any further than we did.

It was still a great day of hiking. The views were better than I expected and the weather was absolutely perfect.   We had the place to ourselves as we didn't see a single other person the entire day!

Overall, I estimate that we hiked about 14 miles and about 2,000-feet of elevation gain. I'll let Andy cover the details in his trip report!  I'll just share some photos:

The Fellowship Baptist Church



Bob taking a Nap


Old Chimney Ruins

Bob and Boone

South Mountains View

The full set of photos is posted here::

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hiking Buddy!

I went hiking today!  Here is a shot of one of my hiking buddies:

Friday, January 28, 2011

SSPBDT Poker Night Report

SSPBDT Poker Night Report

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

The Players:
Jack Thyen
Jeff Martin
Steve Jeffery
Tom Weick
Pete Knapp
Ron Wise
Ken Carr
David Crowe

For this months Poker Night we ended up with a record number of players include three first timers. This offered up a few challenges. The only table in my house large enough to accommodate (8) players is the Pool Table. So we took the game downstairs to the Man Cave and played on the Pool Table.

The other challenge is that with (8) players there are not enough cards in the deck for some of the games we like to play. So for the first time ever we had to use two decks in order to play games like 7-card stud.

We overcame these challenges and had on of the best poker nights ever!

For the evening's meal, we had a Chili fest with three different varieties of Chili. Ron also brought along a batch of Pizza Rolls and nobody went away hungry. The only bad part of the meal was my corn bread which turned out lousy!

Back at the Poker Table something strange was happening! Steve-O seemed to be winning an unusually high number of hands. In fact, for the first time ever Steve-O ended up the biggest winner of the evening with a total of $9.00 in winnings!

Steve-O raking in another pot!

Ken was having a bad night of poker. For the first three hours of play he didn't win a single hand and came very close to having to buy more chips. However, he came up with a couple of huge pots near the end to put him in second place with a total of $3.00!

Also on the plus side was David (+$2.00), and Jeff (+$1.00).

On the losing end were Pete (-$1.00), and Ron (-$4.00). And the biggest loser award for the evening was shared with Tom and me who each lost $5.00!

As always a great time was had by all!

Mark your Calendars!
The proposed date for the next SSPBDT Poker Night is:
Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Last of the Snow

It has been almost two weeks since we were hit with a rare South Carolina Snowstorm.  All the snow is now gone, except for one remaining pile alongside a shady section of our driveway where we piled the snow when shoveling the drive.  Rather than just taking a photo of a nasty looking pile of dirty, leaf encrusted snow, I tried to get a little creative with the wide angle lens.

Iggy posing on the Hokie Stone in front of the last remaining pile of snow!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A couple of Photoshop examples

One of the gifts I received this Christmas was Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 software.  So for the last batch of photos I posted from this weekends Linville Gorge Hike, I experimented a little and did a bit more editing than I usually do.  Here are a couple of examples.

In this first shot, shows a snow covered forest that was ravaged by fires several years ago.  I felt most of the foreground was underexposed and much too dark.  With Photoshop, I was easily able to adjust the brightness and contrast to bring out the details in the foreground without causing the clouds and sky to become overexposed. 
Original Shot

Photoshoped version

This second shot, I liked the fact that I was able to catch Boone in action, but the Rock Jock trail head sign, but Boone was a bit underexposed making it hard to see the expression on his face.  Again, this software makes it easy to brighten up and show more detail in the dark areas without causing overexposure to the bright areas of the photo.  I also cropped out the distracting downed limb at the bottom of the photo to put more emphasis on Boone.

Original Shot

Photoshoped version

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Land of the Lost!

Linville Gorge Wilderness

Rock Jock Trail Hike with Andy, Boone and Bob
Burke County, NC
Sunday, January 16th, 2011

The Land of the Lost!

Photos are posted here:

My favorite hike from last year was our winter hike into the Linville Gorge Wilderness with Bob, Andy, and Boone. One year later, we would return for another winter time Linville Gorge Wilderness Adventure.

This time, we would head to the West side of the Gorge and hike the Rock Jock Trail.

I met the others at one of the Lake James parking areas and we combined into Bob's truck for the remainder of the drive to Linville Gorge.

Lake James

Kistler Memorial Highway (the dirt road on the West Rim of the Gorge), was in pretty good shape. We probably could have made it with a 2WD vehicle, but I would not recommend trying it this time of year. There were definitely several spots where we were glad to be in Bob's 4x4 pick-up!

Since there is not a good place to park at the South End of the Rock Jock Trail, we decided to park at the Pinch-in Trail parking area and hike up the road about a half mile. Once we arrived at the Trailhead, Bob proceeded to lose the first Lens Cap of the day!

Boone at the Rock Jock Trailhead

It was definitely a bit chilly starting out, but we were expecting cold weather and all came prepared. The trail starts descending steeply and even though we were going downhill we warmed up quickly and started shedding clothing.  The weather forecast called for highs in the 30s, but I am pretty sure it got up to and stayed at close to 50 for most of our hike!

The Rock Jock Trail

The first part of the trail travels through a forest that was decimated by fires several years ago. While these fires were devastating, it definitely helped open up the views and create some interesting features along the south end of the Rock Jock Trail. We stopped every chance we could to enjoy the views and take plenty of photos.

Burnt Forest

We broke for lunch at a spot called T-Shirt point. While exploring around T-Shirt Point, I dropped my hiking pole off the side of a cliff. Fortunately, it got caught in some brush on a lower ledge and I was able to carefully retrieve it. Bob's hiking stick also mysteriously disappeared, but after about 20 minutes of searching, I finally located it leaning up against a burnt tree.

view from T-Shirt Point

In the shady areas there was upwards of 6" of snow on the trail. Based on the lack of footprints ahead of us, we were the first humans to venture this way since the snow fell a week ago. A rocky snow covered trail makes for some very slow hiking. At times it was difficult to spot which way the trail goes.

Boone and Andy hiking the Rock Jock Trail

Since Bob was taking the lead, we just followed his footsteps which soon proved to be a mistake. When Boone started whining, we should have taken that as a clue that we were off the trail. Not to mention the fact that we were now bushwhacking through undergrowth of mostly briars.

Following Bob as he makes a worng turn with Boone looking confused

We spent a good bit of time scrambling around in circles trying to find the trail again. We eventually gave up and retraced our steps back to spot where we originally lost the trail about an hour ago. Here the trail crosses over a huge downed hemlock and descends steeply downhill. Our mistake was that after we crossed over the hemlock we followed Bob uphill into Briar Hell.

Even with long pants on, I still managed a bunch of briar scratches all over my legs! Another casualty of our scrambling around was that Bob managed to lose his second lens cap of the day!

Ice along the trail

Andy is usually very good about knowing exactly where we are on the trail at all times. As a result, I get a bit lazy when hiking with Andy and just trust he knows where we are going. It was getting late in the day, and according to Andy we still had a good ways to go.

Andy pinpoints our exact location on the map  (LOL)

We were starting to get a little worried that we would be pushing daylight by the time we finished up, so we kicked it into high gear and gave up on any additional side trail exploration.

I decided to take over the lead since I didn't want to risk following Bob on any more wrong turns! I quickly won the days award for the most times falling on my Ass! Did I mention that rocky snow covered trails can be very slippery?
Slippery Trail

Eventually we arrived at what I thought I recognized as Hackers Point near the end of the trail, but Andy was certain that we were on some other viewpoint about a mile back. Rather than confirming our location on my map, I assumed Andy was correct and was actually very surprised to see the road up ahead. I think Andy was even more surprised than I was, and felt pretty stupid about his rare navigational lapse.

Me at Hackers Point

Since we were now ahead of schedule, we backtracked a few hundred yards to explore a spot called Lost Dog Pond, an interesting little mountain Top Bog, which was almost completely frozen over. As Boone decided to run across Lost Dog Pond, I wondered if it got its name because a dog fell through the thin ice? Fortunately that didn't happen today.

Boone at Lost Dog Pond

Our original plan was do the hike as an Out and Back, but earlier on we came to the unanimous decision to make a loop and return to Bob's vehicle by finishing the hike along the road.

Roadside view from Kistler Highway

While this hike definitely had its share of mishaps, it was still very enjoyable! Even though we didn't always know exactly where we were, were never actually lost to the point of not knowing how to get back.

The Rock Jock is definitely one of my favorite trails anywhere. The scenery along the trail is always spectacular and there is plenty of opportunity of off trail exploration for even more spectacular vistas! There is still a bunch we missed and we will definitely be back!

View along the Rock Jock Trail

Additional Photos are located here:

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A few photos from todays hike

I had a great hike today with Bob, Andy, and Boone into the Linville Gorge Wilderness.  Here are a few shots from our hike!

Boone excited to be at the Rock Jock Trail Head

Iggy checking out the view

Bob and Andy on the Rock Jock Trail

Andy pinpoints our exact location on the map
Note:  We were never lost, we just didn't know where we were

Boone - King of the Mountain

Ice is Nice!

One of Many views

Boone on mostly frozen "Lost Dog Pond"

Roadside View

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Lingering White Stuff

Growing up in the North, it was not unusual not to see the ground for weeks at a time after a good snow storm.  However, here in the South, what little snow we do get is usually gone after a day or two.

The snow started falling late Sunday Night.  What followed was one of the coldest weeks with night time temperatures in the teens and day time temps barely creeping above freezing.  As a result, almost a week after the snow, there is still a good bit lingering around. 

Here are a few shots from today of our lingering snow.

Welcome Winter

The shady side of the street

Our Front Yard

Even the street still has some remaining snow and ice

Small stream running along the edge of our property

Our Back Yard

Rock Ice

The Backside of our House

Burn Barrel