Today I hiked to Alum Cave with some friends. This was a short 4.5 mile hike, and we cruised through, getting to Alum Cave in 45 minutes. The roof of Alum Cave had large icicles that were rapidly melting in the sun. Every now and then a chunk would fall to the cave floor. Even though it is winter here, today was a beautiful, sunny day, but, because it is winter, there were not many interesting or colorful things to photograph. The only interesting thing was the patterns in the ice.
Today my friend and I sport climbed at South Clear in Obed. We only climbed Shadowhawk (5.9) and Best Seat in the House (5.9), both of which we’ve climbed before. This was a good re-introduction to outdoor climbing after taking December off.
Today my friend and I hiked to the sand cave and white rocks along the Ewing Trail. This was a moderately difficult 8.6 mile hike with 2,239 feet of climbing. The white rock bluffs stand imposingly over the trailhead. The hike is about 3 miles up to the ridge, then a 2 mile loop around the ridge and back to the trailhead. Even though a lot of the rock in the area is sandstone, the sand cave is unique. There is so much sand pouring out of the cave it feels like a beach. The interesting, small pillars in the sand were formed from small drops falling from the ceiling of the cave. The small pebbles in the sand protect the column of sand below from being eroded. They are similar to hoodoos like those in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah and Đavolja Varoš (Devil's Town), Serbia and conceptually similar, but different in detail, to penitente, a snow formation that is the result of the sun sublimating snow at different rates. Elsewhere in the cave there are exposed stones large enough to sit on. The white rock bluffs overlook the town of Ewing and surrounding mountains in another good example of the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians. I didn’t see any bolts or chalk marks on the cliffs.
My friends and I started 2019 with a 10 mile hike today. Interstate 40 winds through the mountains between Asheville and Knoxville, following the French Broad River. At the north end of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park the Appalachian Trail crosses the interstate. We parked our car there, hiked across the river, and up into the national park. From there we hiked to the intersection of Lower Mount Cammerer Trail and the AT. This hike was a bit more difficult than we were expecting because from the interstate to the national park is almost 2 miles. The weather was an unseasonably 60 with gray skies, great for hiking and photos. There were not any clear views because of the tree cover but there were many interesting looking fungi and lichen.
Today my family and I went to Asheville. My sister and I climbed a bit and we all had dinner there. Asheville is an interesting city with many shops, restaurants, outdoor activities, and breweries nestled in the mountains. The sky was overcast and the weather was warm (especially for December).
Today I caught the sunrise. This time of year is best to see sunrises because the sun rises quite late (~7:30) and the air is cool and dry.
The moon was full tonight. My sister, dad, and I took photos with my dad’s Meade ETX-125PE 5.0"/125mm Catadioptric Telescope, the same one we used to view the solar eclipse. The moon was so bright we had shadows.
Today my family and I hiked to the fire tower on Bays Mountain. This was a short 4.7 mile hike around the lake. This time I actually climbed the fire tower; it was just as rickety as all the others I’ve seen while hiking in the area. Bays Mountain is in the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians. This is most apparent when looking at the parallel ridges and the associated valleys.
Today my friends and I climbed at North Clear. Most of the routes here are trad routes, so I top roped all day (which was just as well because I was still tired from the half the day before). We climbed Buster Brown (5.8) and Alpine Dihedral (5.8+). Alpine was a pretty climb following a hand crack in the corner up 110 feet, using the entire length of the 70m rope. From the top I could see the the cliffs across the Obed river.