Mountain solitude…

I have taken on a new volunteer experience this summer by adopting a backcountry campsite. This is in addition to patrolling Laurel Falls each Friday. I or should I say we (grandkids and parents) are cleaning and maintaining campsite #27 for the foreseeable future. I thought maybe it would be a good idea if I did a preliminary recon mission before taking the family. I arose early on Saturday morning, arriving at the trailhead to Jake’s Creek Trail at about 8:00. There were a number of cars already in the parking lot, but apparently everyone else was hiking Little River or Cucumber Gap Trails. As I hiked up Jake’s Creek I marveled at all the beauty surrounding me. The trees were turning green and I was surrounded by a multitude of wild flowers. As I walked my mind began to wander back to my first experience hiking alone in the park. It was late fall and most of the leaves were already on the ground. I was walking up a strenuous uphill section Indian Grave Gap Trail. I became a little concerned as I began to see evidence of recent bear activity. Granted I was a greenhorn to these mountains, but being a good Iowa boy with farm roots I could identify bear scat when I stepped in it. The more I walked, the more scat appeared on the trail. I figured that the noise of my feet in the leaves piled on the trail would provide plenty of warning to the bears that I was in the area, or at least that is what I was telling myself. After about a mile, I stopped to catch my breath and grab a gulp or two of water. That’s when I hear it. There was a distinct sound of something above me shuffling in the leaves. Then it stopped. I listened for a while and not hearing anything began moving up the trail. I traveled about 100 yards and stopped. Again above me I heard the shuffle of leaves. Then it stopped. This went on for nearly a mile. Me stopping every 100 or so yards; all the while intermittent shuffling. Finally I reached the top where the ridge above me met with the trail. I quickly ducked behind a tree and waited. It didn’t take long for the shuffling sound to appear. Then it stopped. By this time I was just sure a 400 pound male black bear was stalking me for his dinner. Then the shuffling appeared to come just out of my sight. As I was racking my brain trying to think what Daniel Boone would do the noise came towards me. I braced myself for battle when all of the sudden a skinny turkey stuck its head out from behind a tree. I had to laugh thinking back on how leery I was of being alone in the woods back then. Fast forward 8 years and I relished the solitude Jake’s Creek provided Saturday. I only met 3 other hikers (and 3 turkeys!).

Weekend Hike…

Weekends are always great times to hike, but springtime, holiday weekends just scream for a walk in the park. Even better when you can bring along family. This time my two grandsons and son-in-law accompanied me on this adventure. We found a perfect rugged seldom used waterfall hike. It didn’t take long for me to realize that on this hike, I would be the one having to “catch up.” My idea of mountain hiking is to pace myself and stop often to take pictures or just take in the view. The two youngsters on the other hand had a different method. Theirs was to race up the trail, then stop, wait impatiently for Pop to “catch up”, then race up the trail again daring the old man to keep pace. It was a great hike, the waterfall was spectacular, but alas I didn’t get nearly as many pictures taken as I had intended. The next hike is only a week away.


It’s springtime in the mountains. That means the bears are coming out of their winter’s hibernation. Mother bears will be introducing their new cubs any day now. With an estimated 1,600 bears in the National Park you would think that one or two would photo bomb you just about every time you pulled out your camera. Sadly that’s not the case. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other things photo-worthy. Wildflowers are blooming all over the park. Yellow, white, pink, lavender and blue. Big ones and small ones. And the great thing is that they don’t move or ask for food. They may not be car stoppers, but I think we did slow up a few people on the trail as we tried out our macro on this beauty.

Rue Anemone.Watermark

Rue Anemone

Trials on the Trails

Always be prepared for the unexpected.  I never go anywhere without at least one camera because you never know when you are going to get that perfect shot.  I took this shot a couple of years ago on Laurel Falls Trail. The bear had been foraging above the trail and was communicating that it wanted to cross to the other side of the trail. I took my camera out of my backpack and waited.  Sure enough, on queue she bolted across the trail right in front of a group of startled hikers. I hit the shutter at exactly the right moment – bear in full stride and hikers with mouths open in surprise.  Unfortunately my camera had been stored in my backpack next to my water bottle.  My COLD, SWEATING water bottle.  When I removed it from the pack, the lens immediately fogged up.  I never noticed since the point and shoot doesn’t have a view finder.  By the time I got home and viewed the picture, the storyline changed dramatically.  “It was a cool-very foggy day when this bear…”

Bear in the Fog