Into the wild at Slickrock Creek

Slickrock Creek Trail in Nantahala National Forest, North Carolina. Photo by Clay Duda.

We would have made it into the woods before dark, but instead we stopped at the Tapoco Lodge right over the North Carolina border to see an old friend there cooking pizzas. It was Friday night and we ate sandwiches and drank IPA until sundown, then we made for the Slick Rock Creek trailhead and headed in.

By the time my wife and I made it onto the trail it was nearly pitch black. For a few minutes we could see the fog rising thick off the Little Tennessee River, then nothing but the 40 feet of trail lit by our headlamps. The fog eventually made its way to the trail about 50 feet about the river and visibility dropped even more.

Arachnophobia on Sharp’s Ridge

A view of Knoxville's giant disco ball from Sharp's Ridge Memorial Park. Photo by Clay Duda.

Editor’s Note: Have I been slacking? It doesn’t feel like it. Even though I haven’t posted in nearly two months now, I’ve been busy. You may remember in one of my last posts I laid out our month-long itinerary for a trip across Europe. We made the trip, and as soon as we got back to the states we hit the ground running, officially making the move to Knoxville, Tenn. and starting work in a four-day window. At any rate, expect journal-style entries from our European adventure to start popping up soon, and for now there’s this: 

I can’t believe there’s nobody else on this trail. It’s 10 a.m. on a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning in Knoxville, Tenn. and the pooch and I are virtually the only ones out here at Sharp’s Ridge Memorial Park just north of downtown. What’s going on here, Knoxville?

This place is a mountain biker’s paradise. The first thing I see after finding my way onto one of the unmarked trails running the south face of the ridge is a sign for the expert-level mountain bike trail that cuts off to the right. “No foot traffic” it warns, so I go left.

Dispatches: Trucking from Redding, CA to Knoxville, TN

Red Cliffs at Red Rock Canyon State Park (California). Photo by Clay Duda.
Our Penske Big Bird in front of the Red Cliffs at Red Rock Canyon State Park in Cantil, CA.

It was a grueling six-day journey to pack all of our earthly belongings across the United States from Redding, California to our soon-to-be new home in Knoxville, Tennessee, but by some miracle of fortitude my wife and I managed to survive the roughly 2,700-mile trek. We lost four tires on the Penske Big Bird moving truck along the way and — while we aimed to just spend eight hours on the road each day — some days the sun beat us to our destination as our trip ran long. (See our full trip itinerary)

Inevitably the days start to blur together when you’re punching the pedal for 500+ miles every day, so I decided to keep notes each night (or most nights, at least) during our travels. Looking back it’s a great experience to remember, but at the moment you couldn’t pay me to be stuck again in that 16-foot box truck in the middle-of-nowhere Texas. These are dispatches from our misadventures and ultimate salvation, from camping on the road back east and some of the sights we’ve seen along the way.

Two months, 15,000+ miles — Part 1: The United States

NOTE: This is part 1 of a two-part series outlining travel plans for the summer of 2015. First we move across country, then comes Part 2: Backpacking Europe. Check back for updates.

I’ve got a two month window before I need to act like an adult again. Before starting a new job in mid-July, my wife and I hope to make the most of this adult summer vacation and cover some ground. By my calculations we’ll transverse more than 15,500 miles over the course of 60 days, from trucking our meager belongings back across the U.S. to spending a month backpacking around Europe. Here are plans for the first leg of that journey, driving California to Tennessee.

One last hurrah at Burney Falls

Burney Falls. Photo by Clay Duda.

My wife and I are moving to Tennessee in two weeks. More on that soon, but before we truck our stuff back out of Northern California we knew we had to have one last hurrah with some close friends out of Reno. So Friday night after work we headed for Burney Falls. It’s a place President Theodore Roosevelt once called “the Eighth Wonder of the World,” and I can see why.

Where the Sacramento River bends

Melissa and Peaches on the Sacramento River near Red Bluff, CA. Photo by Clay Duda.

It’s finally started feeling a bit like winter here in Northern California, and it only took until April to get here. Recent storms left a smattering of snow on mountain peaks around the North Valley and brought in a wave of cooler temperatures.

Hoping not to freeze our asses off overnight, wifey and I turned to the valley floor for a weekend hike-in get away. (Ok, I consider it a get away, she considers it a long walk that will keep the hubs happy and hopefully amount to some quality time. I can live with that.)

Out to pasture on Table Mountain

Cows at Table Mountain. Photo by Clay Duda.
I’m still not sure if it were the cows or the people put out to pasture at Table Mountain. Probably both.

If you’re trying to make it to the waterfalls on Table Mountain you may want to stick to the trails.

That sounds like a “no shit” piece of advice, but it’s easier said than done inside the expanses of the North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve near Oroville, California. The roughly 3,300-acre refuge maintained by the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife does have some trail segments, but many cut through ravines and other passes before fading away into open grassland and pastures in the Sierra foothills.

Butte Lake to Cinder Cone

Clay Duda on top of Cinder Cone.
Selfie! That’s me on top of Cinder Cone in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Butte Lake and “The Fantastic Lava Beds” can be seen in the background.

Treks into the woods are often hallmarked by the animals you encounter, from a majestic buck strolling along a ridge line at sunset to a mama black bear and her cub rambling down to the lake’s edge. But I’ll always remember this recent trek into a remote stretch of the Sierra Nevada Cascade Range for the animals we didn’t see.