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.
We have a water conditions report from an area hiker. This was in early November. Hopefully this will improve with the rain in the forecast this week.
Iron Mountain Gap to TN 19E Water Report. I hiked with a good group of people over this section on November 11-13, 2016.
Here is a report on water based on listings in the AWOL guide (going north):
Campsite 1.3 North of Iron Mountain Gap: Did not check due to being .1 off the trail
Greasy Creek Gap: Did not check due to being .2 off the trail
Clyde Smith Shelter: Had lunch here and took the time to walk down to check out the water source. No water available. Ground was not even damp.
Water .4 North of Hughes Gap: Damp ground by no water
Ash Gap: Very low flow of water. We had to build a dam and clear a path for the water. One of the crew used a piece of PVC to try and get the top water, but it was still sludge. Between engineering, low flow, filtering through a bandana, and then through a Sawyer, it took us almost two hours to get six clean liters of water. If it had not been at dusk and we were not tired, we would have moved on. I would not count on the water here.
Roan High Knob Shelter: Slow steady flow with good pool to dip from.
Footbridges/Streams south of Carvers Gap: Low flow. Would need to dig or find a hole to dip from.
Springs .2 North of Grassy Ridge Bald: Good flow running right across the trail. One was piped and the other could easily be dipped from.
Stan Murray Shelter: Did not check due to earlier reports of being dry and frequently dry.
Overmountain Shelter: Good flow
Doll Flats: Very low flow. Took almost five minutes to get 1.5 liters. There was good flow coming from a spring running across the trail about .5 south of Doll Flats.
Doll Flats to 19E: The next water we saw was the stream that was alongside 19E and that ran about .5 south of 19E.
This is the continuation of the “Hike the TEHCC A.T.” series. We made it to Hughes Gap last month. Now it’s time to hike the balds! If you’ve wanted to hike large sections of the A.T. but avoid the in-and-out, here’s your chance. We’ll need roughly half to help participate in shuttling. This leg will be from Hughes Gap to the Barn Shelter. We’ll take the Overmountain Victory Trail for trail access. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details. Past and future hikes are being detailed at Hike Plans:2016 TEHCC AT
Tim Schaefer is interested in section hiking the TEHCC section of the AT this year (Spivey Gap to the Virginia border). He’s looking for car pooling and hike partner(s). This way he won’t have to do it twice going out and back. It also fits in well with the National Park Service’s program this year to hike 100 miles of trail and earn a pin or decal (see February newsletter). Since time, and more specifically hiking days are limited, he’s looking at possibly doing this in as few as seven outings. If this sounds too aggressive, contact him anyway as he may be encouraged to tone it down to be able to accomplish this. There are also others interested in achieving this same goal in not such an aggressive manner as well and we can get you in contact with them. If interested email Tim at email@example.com for some discussion, to do some planning, and start to get some events on the calendar.
The National Park Service turns 100 on August 25, 2016. In celebration of its Centennial, several of the national parks are hosting 100-mile challenges. For the Appalachian Trail, everyone who hikes 100 miles or more — with at least one hike on the A.T. — during 2016 is eligible to receive a limited-edition Hike100 decal. Register by sending your name and email address to AT_Hike100@nps.gov to receive a simple official hiking log. Enter dates, where, and miles to reach the 100-mile goal, and then send it back when you’re done. Other national parks in the region announcing similar challenges include GSMNP and New River Gorge.
ATC worked collaboratively with the APPA NPS office to develop a system for assessing the value of the A.T. and its associated facilities. The results are to help the APPA (Appalachain National Scenic Trail) better compete for funding relative to other National Parks in our region by accurately accounting for the true worth of the extensive work provided by the volunteer corps. The monies help support A.T. relocations, trail rehab, and facility improvements.
Hiking with Tools! is an opportunity to enjoy a day hike on our beautiful section of the A.T. while helping out with some routine maintenance, such as breaking up fire rings, cleaning out waterbars and steps, lopping rhododendron, and painting blazes. All tools will be furnished and no prior experience required! Last year we typically had four to five people on each trip – with eight new volunteers making a contribution. Contact Kim for hike details, including meeting time and place.
The cold and rainy day prior turned into a beautiful autumn Sunday afternoon; however, I ended up hiking alone, although a dozen backpackers were seen proceeding north on the Trail and one south. The fall color was a few days before peak with some individual trees providing dazzling displays. The hike started as planned with the 0.8-mile crossing of the open farm pasture with views north up the valley. The cattle were ready to be let in from the middle field to be fed at the barn. The walk continued roughly another half hour into the woods, and then returned to the parking lot. I decided to check out the new trail relocation south of the Cross Mountain parking lot, so proceeded a mile south just past the bog bridges. The falling leaves allowed the tread to be less muddy. With the remaining afternoon, I visited two places at Shady Valley managed by The Nature Conservancy at Schoolyard Springs and Orchard Bog. The winding drive on US 421 was enjoyed in the fading daylight.
A bear was encountered at Double Springs Shelter. While it showed no signs of aggression, when hikers arrived it did not immediately leave the area. As always, use common sense when you encounter a bear. Most importantly, just because you think you’re a safe distance away, it doesn’t mean that the bear agrees.