Friday 2/08/19 (Atlanta/Waynesville) – Sunny with temps to low 50’s H, low 30’s L.

Worked for an hour this morning in the basement office before hitting the road to Waynesville. Had a 12:30pm lunch meeting in historic downtown Waynesville at the Panacea Coffee Cafe with Mark Goodman which was our last meeting in the area. He is moving to Reidsville, N.C. next Wednesday and this was my last chance to catch him within striking distance of Atlanta. Had lunch with Mark and talked business until about 2pm when I drove to the Waynesville Golf Resort & Inn to get a room.

The elderly clerk gave me a cottage room for $85, but there was a dog on both sides of it – with one barking frequently. So she moved me to the main lodge for the same price where the room was smaller but quieter. I have to say the wing where Roger/I stayed previously is the best of the three. Pay the extra $15 for the wing in the future.

Debated making the hour drive to the Hemp Top Trailhead to do some recon for future trips, but decided to make the 20 minute drive in to Maggie Valley to kill some time. Roger was due at the Inn by 6pm which gave me two hours to explore.

Picked up cough medicine at the K-Mart then returned to have a beer and respond to work emails from the rocking chairs on the back patio. The sun was setting at the #1 golf tee – and despite the cool temps it was nice to be outside.

Roger arrived on time and we promptly got his gear to the room and caught up over a beer. Moved to the restaurant/bar by 7pm and had two nice steaks with potatoes, salad, and a few beers for $80. A great deal for what we ate/drank.

The bar didn’t close until 10pm, but it was quiet and Roger and I opted for free beverages in the den upstairs where a gas fire and couches were waiting only a few steps from our door. Roger said the vacant lounge and hallway reminded him of the hotel in The Shining and kept hinting that a kid on a tri-cycle would ride up to us at any minute. Hung out until about 11pm, then sacked out for the night. Saw no ghosts.

Saturday 2/09/19 (Wayensville/Bartram Trail) – Mostly sunny with some clouds and temps to low 50’s H, upper 20’s L. Temps were lower with wind chill. Increasing clouds in late evening but stars out until midnight.

Pat King sold his house in Roswell, is still living in Asheville, and was excited to meet Roger/I for breakfast this morning at the Inn. We invited him to hike, but he couldn’t pull it off this weekend with a business trip planned for Buffalo on Sunday. He arrived at 8:20am at the Inn, and we had the breakfast area nearly to ourselves as we ordered from the menu. The place normally does a buffet – but there were only about 5 other people eating here this morning.

Pat checked out Roger’s new F-350 pick-up, then we checked out and headed caravan style for Franklin, N.C. to meet the crew. Pratt was the only one in the Burger King parking lot when we arrived early around 10:40am. He had a new dog named “Ridge” with him that he’s only had for three days – about 1 year old from the pound. Pratt walked him around, but the rest of us had time to kill – so went to Subway and got sandwiches for the drive to the trailhead.

The rest of the group arrived close to the 11am meet-up time, and we all headed to Wayah Gap for the hike. Arrived at the base of the mountain to find a Fox News truck unlocking/locking the gate so they could pass, and discovered the road is now closed Dec 15-March 15 each year. That’s a new one – and it caused a major audible on the trip. Not the first time actually. The Fox News dude never confirmed, but we suspect he was working on the communication towers at Wine Spring Bald.

So we drove to the parking area for Siler Bald and debated the climb to the summit. Pratt let Ridge off leash and he immediately sprinted up a forest road. Pratt and Scott chased him down and were able to get him back on leash in about 15 minutes – crisis averted. Then the group voted against Siler Bald (and surprisingly for more mileage/elevation), so we hit the trail for a remote field on the Bartram Tail near Wine Spring Bald.

Hiked some of the A.T. northbound, but we mostly followed the forest road until we hit a wide fork. Spotted the campsite in the distance, and Roger, Charlie, Mahan, and the Weasel opted to follow an old logging road to it. The rest of us took the road/A.T. route and hiked an extra 1+ miles. Turned out this was a good call as the rest of the group got thrashed with briars – but still managed to beat us to the summit by about 15 minutes. Roger had blood work to photograph, but the rest of the group had long sleeves and survived the “briarfest”.

Spent the next few hours setting up camp, collecting firewood, and enjoying beers/cigars. Firewood collection here continues to be extremely easy, and it looked as if no one camped at this site and used the firepit since we were last here in April 2018.

Had fairly warm temps this afternoon, but they quickly dropped once the sun set. Managed to catch the last few rays from across the field and snapped some great pics – then returned to the campsite to ramp up the fire. We got an early start tonight which was big – because the temps dropped rapidly at dusk. The stars also came out in force and it was a beautiful night on the bald.

Scott/I went for water before dark, so Roger offered up a hot dog in exchange for the water run. I gladly accepted and didn’t cook my Mountain House Chili Mac until around 10pm this evening.

All of the group made it until 11:30pm, and most made it until 12:30am this evening. The fire helped significantly in the effort as the temps dropped near freezing and we burned most of the wood that was collected earlier in the day.

Sunday 2/12/19 (Bartram Trail/Atlanta) – Mostly cloudy with rain increasing during the day. Temps to low 50’s H, low 30’s L.

Woke by 7am and heard Roger and Pratt moving around. Was cozy in my bag, but had to take a shandy and walked down the field to take care of business. Roger/Pratt were mostly packed up as were the Snyders’ when I returned.  And the rest of the group was still immobile. So I decided to lay back down briefly although I never fell asleep.

Around 8:30am it started raining and at ~35 degrees it motivated the group to get moving. We all packed up and were on the trail by 9:30am. Hiked the Bartram to the A.T. then followed it to a blue blazed trail that took us to the Wilson Lick Ranger Station. Charlie’s knees were hurting and he decided to follow the forest road for the entire hike out – but the rest of us used a combination of the road and trail to cut down on the distance. Passed a few northbound hikers in the effort and made it to the truck by 11am.

We had cold rain in the last 20 minutes of the hike, so the Ken’s jumped in my truck to wait for Charlie. He was only 13 minutes behind and followed us in to Clayton for some food at Bojangles. Mahan road the rest of the drive with me but Charlie was close behind and we all met up at the Hampton Inn at the Mall of GA to swap cars.

The Ken’s picked up their vehicles, then I headed home solo to Roswell. Will was home alone with the ladies out for gymnastics. Cleaned up, rested up, then we all went to Will’s final traveling basketball game at St. Jude tonight. They won and finished the season at ~500. Ordered pizza when we got home and sacked out early tonight.

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