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September marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the National Wilderness Act. Join the Wilderness Society’s Southern Appalachian Wilderness
Stewards (SAWS) program and the US Forest Service in celebrating! Two events will mark the occasion. Both will convene at the Watauga Point Recreation Area in Hampton TN on September 6th. Trail maintenance will be from 9am to 4pm at which point it will become the actual celebration of food, crosscut sawing, storytelling, games, etc. See the two attachments for the details.
The Wilderness Society’s Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS) program (almost!) completed a reroute project of the Appalachian Trail at Turkey Pen Gap, which is located between the Vandeventer and Iron Mountain shelters near Hampton, TN. Read their complete story here – SAWS WCC Big Laurel Field Summary 2014
Tim McClain Reporting
Sunday July 13, 2014
The first thing we saw when arriving at the Rocky Fork parking area was a whole lot of cars – a rare sight for this area! The second thing we saw, and the explanation for all the parked cars, was a church group gathered at the creek bank for a baptism surrounded by some of the prettiest scenery for many miles. After finding our own parking spots, five of us made the relatively short but steep trek to the top of the first high point inside Tennessee’s newest State Park. The weather was hot and muggy, but rhododendrons were still blooming in the shady forest. A branch trail, which is on the right about 1/2 mile up the main trail from the parking area, leads up the White House Cliffs. The route has some flags marking the way, but it is by no means a well-established trail. Vic Hasler turned this hike into somewhat of a work trip too as he brought clippers and a GPS to get the trail route recorded in his GPS (to be posted on our Trail Wiki). Vic also was able to locate 3 or 4 geocaches along the trail. Those participating in the hike were Vic Hasler, William Werner, Jianhui Zhou, Xiaofang Dong, and Tim McClain. This hike would also be a great fall color hike as the destination provides a very rewarding 360 degree view from the top (approximately 3300 ft elevation).
We were blessed with a very comfortable Sunday afternoon for our 2.6 mile round-trip hike to Laurel Falls. This is a very family-friendly hike with the only somewhat challenging part being the actual walk down and back from the waterfall. This path is make of large stepping stones some of which are easier to navigate than others. But with reasonable care the route is well worth the reward.
There was a decent amount of flow over the falls, but the water level was lower than I had seen it before. Lydia and Paul enjoyed cooling their heels in the creek and several other hikers at the falls were swimming. Extreme care should be taken in the water below the falls since a father and son tragically lost their lives here in July, 2012. There is a small plaque in their memory attached to a rock at the bottom of the steps. Probably the most excitement today came from watching some swimmers (not part of our group) try to capture/kill(?) a small water snake of some kind. We weren’t close enough to tell what kind it was, but they were approaching it like it was a man-eating python. The snake eventually made its escape swimming on down the creek.
Our hiking group consisted of Chris Garrett, Patti Garrett, Lydia Garrett, Paul Garrett, Leticia Brock, Beverly Griggs and Barry Griggs
US 321 to Wilbur Dam Rd. (approx. 4 miles) – All activities except hiking along the Appalachian Trail are prohibited due to recent bear activity.
Hikers are asked to walk through the area without stopping. Preparation or consumption of food, lingering, and camping are prohibited in the area known locally as “Oliver Hollow” by a U.S. Forest Service closure order.
The Watauga Lake Shelter in this stretch is also closed. Even though a “closure order” has been issued to restrict usage of the area, the A.T. is not closed to hiking. These orders are in effect for an 18-month period from June 3, 2014 until December 1, 2015. The official U.S. Forest Service poster can be found here. (June 17, 2014)
On some signs the Forest Service is now using definition of closure area as “Shook Branch Rec area/Oliver Hollow Rd. to Wilbur Dam including Watauga Lake Shelter- Closed”