It’s a rare moment during the busy Alaskan summer when the stars align and two friends end up with a day off together. You have to make the most of it. So when it so happened back in June, my buddy Jordan and I commandeered a couple of packrafts from True North Kayak Adventures and hit the trail to the lake at the base of Grewingk Glacier, Alaska.
The sky opens up with a light rain as we head out out on the Lost Cove Trail around Fontana Lake. This short stretch of dirt will connect us with the Eagle Creek Trail, which we’ll follow into the remote stretches of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was 90-something degrees when we left the valley surrounding Knoxville, but here’s it’s pleasantly hovering in the mid-70s. I can’t complain.
On its face, a 30-mile hike in three days seems like a piece of cake. Equally divided, that’s only 10 miles daily–but as we’re about to find out, legs of this trip aren’t equal, campsites are sporadic, and there’s 5,000-feet of near-vertical mountain between us and the finish line.
When January gives you a 60-something-degree weekend (and just a week after snow at that!), you don’t ask questions and you go outside. My wife and I didn’t argue. We grabbed pit bull Peaches and set our sights on House Mountain, a pointy bit of hill just eight miles outside of Knoxville that also happens to be the highest point in Knox County, Tennessee, and off we went.
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.
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.)
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.