Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Thunderhill to Ravens Rock ~ A Winter View

A quiet moment spent still, standing, looking for the trail... can you see it?

There in the center of the photo, an uninterrupted moment ~
not yet a trail
awaiting validation, confirmation;

a trail becomes a trail only when footsteps follow its' course.

At times it seems almost an intrusion to stomp across nature uninterrupted.
We begun this hike at Thunderhill near Blowing Rock. This section was built by volunteers and students from Georgia Tech during the Big Dig in the fall of 2009.
To see more click here

The rocks on this section are magnificent. Lichen covered, megaliths stacked a millennium ago by forces beyond human perception.

And yet, they continue to gently evolve; providing many unique seasonal wonders.

A close-up reveals the color available even in the heart of winter. This rock lichen, (Tripe?)gives a glowing purple tone to the stone. As an artist, I have used this lichen to create colored dye for making purple paper. By the way, in the lush of summer, this would be a fine soft, subtle, green and purple form.
Oh, yes, one should note that the previous lichen study was take from above this rock formation and can be spotted in the upper center of this photo. Just to give you photographic scale Gary paused a minute beneath this outcropping to contemplate the many others who had passed this way many thousands of times before.

After exploring the shelter rock it was time to get back on trail. It was not unusual for our ground flags to be completely buried under the snow. At times we could walk across the crust. But mostly we knew that at any step you might punch through and drop 18 inches deep.

None the less, there was always interesting form to be seen as redefined by the blanket of winter.

Contours shaped by shadow

Massive marshmallows
and snow cones align the trail.
Finally arriving at Raven Rock my friend Gary caught me clowning out on top. Yep, that's me up there in the center, the tiny black shadow in the trees.

Taking time at the split rail fence to take in the Raven Rock view.

That is the Parkway behind Gary in all its winter glory.

Is there any wonder why the signs say

"Avoid using the Parkway in snow and ice"?

This point provides a magnificent south side profile of Grandfather Mountain.

The horizon pan from this point provides a view of several notable peaks.

Sugar Top Condos on Sugar Mountain... (this is why North Carolina now has a Ridge Law)!

From Raven Rock you can also see Beech Mountain, Rich Mountain, Snake Mountain, and Elk Knob; quite the panorama of notable mountains.

Flat Top Mountain on Cone manor can be seen in the foreground. This saddle-back field is in front of the Cone family cemetery which is just behind the split evergreen trees.

Even the Cone manor can be spotted along the ridge across from Raven Rock.

Walking back along the parkway still covered in snow and ice

with the Yadkin Valley to the south

a dazzling moment in light sparkles one last reminder

of winter


Saturday, February 6, 2010

February ~ Winter Trails ~ deHart Step ~ de Heartworks

Heart Powder
Winter Hiking

Hard crust on the snow
break through, stand up, new mission:
Carve light into ice.

swhaiku 02-2009
There is always time to stop and play along the way.
I am trying to make sure I mix more parts hope

and less parts despair

as I share MST images from Watauga and the Winter of 2010 This is what we love to hike in the winter forest. A nice wide level foot tread, good grade, and crunchy soft steps. But around each bend there awaits a plethora of obstacles.
Some of them minor, some quite the challenge. This rats nest of maples and oaks fell into the switchback at deHart Step crossing.
There is a large heart shaped stone at the creek crossing.
You can spot it just below the center of this photo.
Here is a view of that same heart step crossing taken during trail construction.
Somewhere beneath all of the winter debris,
lies this beautiful cascading waterfall.
To venture back to the summer click here...

My Friend Gary and I worked our way through the downfalls
and across the creek.
Nothing was easy in this traverse.
In an entanglement like this it is good to know you are hiking with a friend. Its a good idea to never hike alone in severe winter and on dangerous trails.
Completing the climb and stepping out into the valley is worth all of the trials.
And knowing this familiar trail will again look like this in the spring
puts winter in perspective.
I am reminded of why we continue to make the effort
to explore nature in all of its breathtaking forces.
The nature experience when taken to heart transcends beyond the moment
into the light
flowing within the river of life.

Happy Valentines 2010
Heartworks created by shelton wilder