Sunday, February 16, 2014

Ahhh, Deep Snow ~ A Winter Trail Hike~ Goshen Creek, to High Shoals, to Aho in Watauga

I had not gotten a good snow hike in this year.Truth is, we hadn't had a really good snow yet. This week delivered!

Friday morning was a wonderful day for a snow trail hike.
We had received about 10 inches of snow Wednesday
 The winds had died down, the sun came out and we were the first hikers on the trail. Can you see the trail?
It is just to the right of the photo, beside the straight birch tree. The contours of the trail were lost to the drifts and mounds created on the stream side boulders.
But oh the reward to be found along High Shoals Creek in Watauga County.

 These boulders were covered in snow and only the least bit of water was showing in the creek. Our hike began at the Goshen Creek Bridge off of Bamboo Road.
 My two hiking buddies Bob and Gary were game for the challenge
 And veteran trail dog Blue was eager to lead the way.
 The new bridge that was buuilt and installed this year made this passage possible. Before this, there would have been no way to cross High Shoals in the winter.
I enjoyed the patterns made by the snow and the structure.
 This photo is one of my favorites. The birches over the creek holding snow on the arch was inspiring. We supposed they might be portals, archways, streaming energy onto all who passed beneath.
 There are many forms the winter trail takes, the familiar foot tread becomes a bed of memory foam, footprints imprint and absorb into the soft cushioning snow. I tried to stay at the front of the pack, better to photo the untrodden tread.
The pack followed.
 One matter of concern that I was looking forward to encounter was this huge, ancient, birch tree arch. It has been on its side across this creek for so long its limbs have grown vertical at the top.
 This tree clears the trail by about four feet. It is a virtual nature microcosm with mosses, lichen, and air ferns growing on it well above the ground.
 Blue gives some thought to his passage ahead. A smart old trail dog hangs back to let the rest of the pack slip as we crossed the creek.
 There has been some discussion of removing the tree. But, as shown here, it is not difficult to pass under. That tree has anchored that eco system for a century. It is worth stooping beneath, humbly, in passing.
 I'll just let you enjoy some of the beauty and form of the winter trail in these few photos.
 and explore
 the familiar becomes
remarkable when transformed beneath ten inches of snow.
 After taking nearly 2.5 hours on a 90 minute trail it was rewarding to see our final bridge come into sight.
And the walk out at the end of the trail was inviting. But, not to rush along back to the modern world, time was spent reconnecting in the orchard.
Gary and Bob marvel at the memories of these trees.

 There are many old apple orchards to be discovered along the MST in Watauga.
 A mighty fine tree this apple be.

Until the next snowing, time to be going. Peace, Shelton Wilder

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


We have had torrential rains off and on all day today. 
The water level at High Shoals Creek was at flash flood stage and high enough to prohibit safe crossing. 

In this shot as you approach the bridge it is clearly not a creek to wade across.
Compare the above photo to the one shown below.
Just two days ago one might have pondered what is the need for a bridge at this creek? 
See that tiny trickle underneath the bridge?
But looking north from the bridge that docile, inviting, rock hopping creek has become a raging torrent.
This high water view is the same as the one which follows.
The rock in the center, yes, the green moss covered boulder is completely submerged in the previous photo. The cave and falls below it are covered by current with a swirling torrent back swelling nearly 10 feet below.
I'm happy to say, no hiker will have to risk their life, or walk back the 2 miles to Aho because they could not cross High Shoals Creek in a storm!
Looking south from the bridge toward the falls one notes the falls are invisible.
Just take a closer look,
it's not that they aren't there, 
just lost behind the raging tumultuous onslaught of thousands of gallons of water per minute.
This docile little stream seemed inviting for wading just two days ago. The falls looked like a nice place to visit off trail. 
 From beneath the bridge you can see where our former crossing had been established.
 Exactly where the shadow of this bridge falls is the point of the ford and rock hopping crossing of many years past.
This video clip shot from beneath the bridge gives a good sense of the power and danger of the high water at this crossing.
All hikers should take warning, 
NEVER seek shelter under a bridge 
or in a culvert when there is a danger of high water 
and flash flooding. 
I am thankful we have a bridge that will last and provide safe, inspiring, crossing 
for everyone on the MST Watauga. It will always be a pleasant crossing~ ~ ~

A New Bridge over High Shoals Creek Completed in Watauga County

The culmination of a 6 year project 
has come to fruition. 
Hikers may now cross High Shoals Creek and stay High and Dry!
 Thanks to the hard work of  John Lanman, Task Force Coordinator and Project Manager for this bridge, the newest addition to the MST has been completed.
 This bridge was constructed by Larry Hampton and his crew, a local contractor whose work has been exemplar of quality construction, environmental sensitivity, and a prompt, timely work schedule
 With ease hikers, walkers, or runners of all ages and ability can now travel from the start of the MST in Watauga at the Deep Gap 421/BRP intersection all the way to Blowing Rock at the BRP/321 crossing without wading through creeks or cautiously rock hopping across High Shoals Creek.
John Lanman stands proud and steady upon this new bridge.
We are all appreciative of the major accomplishment this bridge represents for Watauga County, for Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail, for the Blue Ridge Parkway and our National Forest.
 Our sparkling new shiny bridge adds another jewel in the crown 
of High Country Trails in Watauga County.
(this photo by John Lanman)
 To the north of the bridge High Shoals Creek is viewed as it shoots through a falls and boulder cave on the way to Goshen Creek and the New River.
 To the north of the bridge a waterfall is viewed from the bridge offering one of the prettiest views along High Shoals Creek.

Now, come on out and hike the MST in Watauga County!

This creek and trail maintenance has been an ongoing project for the Watauga Task Force for the last 3 years. For additional images of our volunteers at work follow the link below.
High Shoals Creek Work

For complete detailing of construction of this bridge please visit the five previous blog posts.