October 2017: The A.T. section between US321 (NB Mile 427) and Wilbur Dam Road (NB Mile 431.4), including Watauga Lake Shelter, is still closed to camping due to bear activity. A temporary campsite (no water) has been set up at coordinates N36.29847, W82.12701 (NB Mile 426.5) just outside the Pond Mountain Wilderness. Also nearby is Boots Off Hostel along Bear Branch Road on the south side of the closed section. Vandeventer Shelter is open to the north of the restricted section.
April 2016: Two nights of bear encounters have been recently reported at the Watauga Lake Shelter. The bears were seeking food, thus destroyed a pair of tents, able to shake a bag off the bear pole, and climbed trees for hanged bags.
The US Forest Service has reinstated a Closure Order similar to the previous one which now covers Oliver Hollow Rd./Hwy 321 to Wilbur Dam Rd. – approximately four miles of the Appalachian Trail along the west side of Watauga Lake. No picnicking, lingering, or overnight camping. Hiking, only, allowed on the named four mile Appalachian Trail section. BEARS ACTIVE IN THIS AREA. Help us protect you and the bears. Please hike through the area without stopping. Closure Order: April 15, 2016- Until Further notice.
For TEHCC members, the best recommendation is to avoid this “Oliver Hollow” area and enjoy another section of the Appalachian Trail. For thru-hikers, the word is being gotten out so that they can properly plan their distances. The temporary campsite located south of Hwy 321 above Shook Branch is available for use.
July Update: Reports have been received of half dozen hikers being ill with source possible in the area around Nolichucky River, Curley Maple Gap Shelter, and Cherry Gap Shelter with the results showing in the Roans. Don’t lay food directly on open surfaces – and follow proper sanitation to avoid adding to this number!
Prevent outbreaks of norovirus (or even passing around a stomach bug) at campsites/shelters along the Appalachian Trail. Proper hygiene — especially hand washing with soap and water — is key to preventing the spread of the disease. (Hand sanitizers may not be effective against norovirus; however, vigorous rubbing of applied sanitizer has been reported to improve performance.) Also, be aware that most water filters do not filter viruses.
Rebekah’s quote regarding the interview was: “Wish I could have spent the day hearing more of Bob’s stories. When Bob Peoples tells a story, books write themselves.”
Hampton resident and hiking legend Bob Peoples, 72, returned this Fall from a venture of Biblical proportions. Hiking through Israel, he followed the Yam el Yam (Sea to Sea) trail and then took a bus to Nazareth and hiked the Jesus Trail, each of which ended at the Sea of Galilee. He covered about 100 miles by foot and visited over 25 churches and numerous historical sites. The high temperature was below 100 degrees Fahrenheit on only one day of his three-week journey.
Amy received a B.S. in Biology from Armstrong Atlantic State University in 2006. As a graduation present to herself, she decided to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. During her hike, she witnessed the dramatic devastation of the forest caused by the gypsy moth invasion. This experience inspired her to pursue a M.S. in Entomology from Virginia Tech. Since graduation in 2011, she has been working towards forest protection in the natural sciences and natural resources fields. In her free time, Amy enjoys hiking, whitewater kayaking, and mountain biking. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Rogers Ridge Horse Trail is an in-and-out 6.87 mile long ridge line trail. It’s a long hill climb trail for a day hike but near the end, the 360° views of the surrounding ridge lines all make it worth it. A side benefit of this hike is being able to reach the Tri-State Corner Knob junction of TN-NC-VA. The trail begins in the Horse Ridge Scenic Area of the Cherokee National Forest past Damascus near Laurel Bloomery, TN. Horses are allowed, but on a recent October 2015 trip, there was little evidence of them. Although clearly marked at the trail head that ATV/ORV vehicles were not allowed, signs of their recent presence was along the entire trail. The hike begins with an immediate creek crossing that has neither a bridge or decent rocks to hop across, but this will be the last time you see water. Although guide books mention some camp sites along the way with water access, we didn’t see them. The trail wastes no time in getting to your 3,201 feet of climbing as it’s nearly a consistent slope up to the summit. The trail itself is very well marked with Yellow rectangle blazes, but several unmarked and well worn trails connect along the way. It may be possible that one of them connects to the Gentry Creek Falls trail that would make for a nice loop trail. The trail itself is wide with a clear “two-track” appearance with the occasional water logged rut to walk around. While not noticed on the ascent, the descent can be challenging for the ankles as there are several sections of loose rocks fist sized and smaller.
After hiking for 5.33 miles with glimpses through the trees of mountains and neighboring ridge lines, you finally enter a clearing to enjoy the views. The trail may “officially” end here as the previously well blazed path now lacks markings, but you can continue on to enjoy the views. From here you can take a side trip to the south to get an early view of the surrounding ridge lines and valley including Grandfather Mountain. Continuing on the trail to the north, you reach another bald clearing that could suit well for camping, especially large groups. The only reservation I myself have about camping here is the apparent frequent use of ORV’s here. From this higher elevation, there are views of Whitetop Mountain and Mt Rogers Mountain to the northeast. Throughout these tree bald clearings, blackberry bushes appear to be growing rampant. If you can tolerate the thorns, the blackberry picking in the summer must be unlimited! In a bald clearing to the east towards the state line is the trail high point in the final bald clearing. Although various sources differ on the exact measurement, we measured by GPS at 4,900 feet. The ridge top home seen to the south appears to have been severely vandalized. Although unfortunate for the owner, one can only hope that one day this majestic ridge line and profile can be returned to its original natural glory. After the high point, the trail begins to consistently descend for the first time, and ends at a trail/road. Turn left to continue the descent to find the Tri-State Corner Knob, the (at least at one time) terminus of this trail.
When visited in October of 2015 the hike was an enjoyable day of near complete solitude. The only encounter was a couple in a truck near the trail terminus. Unexpectedly we found the tree colors to be apparently in their early stages to the south and west, and finding only bare trees to the north and east. Regardless, the day of fresh air, views, and exercise was more than enough to make this a great trail to visit that you should consider as well.
A special screening of this film, created by local Sam Henegar, will be shown Carmike 14 in Johnson City (1805 N Roan Street). Tickets are $10 reserved with this link. The website also has a trailer for the film to see its excellent photographic quality. Enjoy!
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