ODYSSEY 2021: Bama to Baxter-Hike On!

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Flagg Mountain, Alabama to Mount Katahdin, Maine.

Yes folks, Nimblewill has laced up his Oboz trekkers and is shouldering his Murmur backpack
one more time–for the last, last time!

This year’s odyssey will be known as “Odyssey 2021 ‘Bama to Baxter – Hike On.”  This will be the ultimate journey in this old man’s life, one of body, mind and spirit.

This trek begins at Flagg Mountain, the southernmost mountain in the Appalachians
Mountain Range. From Flagg he’ll follow the Pinhoti Trail through northeast Alabama into
Georgia where he’ll connect with the Benton MacKaye Trail–which leads to Springer Mountain
in north Georgia. On Springer Mountain he’ll pick up the Appalachian Trail and hike it on to
Mt. Katahdin in Maine.
Journal entries and photos will be posted often. Gonna be another predictively unpredictable
Nimblewill Odyssey – Bama to Baxter 2021 Hike On.

Sure be great to have y’all come along…

Journal 14-ODYSSEY 2021: Bama to Baxter-Hike On!

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Friday–March 5, 2021
Trail Day–014
Trail Mile–10.3/154.7

A cold night at Choccolocco Shelter. Huddled back in the corner in my 30-degree down Zpacks quilt on my Therm-a-Rest Neoair mattress, I slept very well.

The sun is up and the day bright as I finally get out and going–a little before seven. A short climb and I’m into the Dugger Mountain Wilderness. Climbing still, with more side-slabbing thrown in, along the trail, evident is the unbelievable and widespread destruction from Hurricane Zeta. Countless huge centuries-old hardwood and pine have been completely uprooted and are scattered in an impenetrable jumble everywhere. Sawyers have been in recently, their skillful work clearing the trail is truly a blessing. Had I gotten here before this gauntlet was cleared, little doubt I’d have been injured trying to get through. But the trail is clear; what amazing good fortune for this old man. To the skillful crew, whoever you may be, you have my utmost appreciation and gratitude!

Mid morning the trail drops to Turkey Gap–and Cranford Rock. Well, I know a Cranford! This must be Rick’s Rock. Hey, you rock Rick! Along the ridge and down from Red Mountain the sideslab continues, with views down and across to Piedmont offered all along.

Just before summiting Dugger I meet the only other hiker along the trail today, Matt from Piedmont. He’s out getting in shape for his planned upcoming Appalachian Trail trek. Hiked with him awhile. Looks like you’re ready Matt–all the best to you!

The Guthook Guide shows a loop trail that passes over the summit of Dugger, but it is neither marked nor maintained. I take the bushwhack anyway to find the only thing remaining on top is the tank and seat from the old outhouse that was used by the firetower ranger. The tower is long gone, the entire place totally overgrown.

Off Dugger, it’s a three-mile cruise down to CR-500, and the shuttle by Rick back to his home for the night.

A grand and glorious day in the wilderness…

One of the first conditions of happiness is that the link between Man and Nature shall not be broken.

(Leo Tolstoy)

Journal 13-ODYSSEY 2021: Bama to Baxter-Hike On!

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Thursday–March 4, 2021
Trail Day–013
Trail Mile–15.2/144.4
Location–Choccolocco Shelter

Another great stay with Rick and Martha Cranford! Took another hot soaking in their guest bathroom tub (for my tired old bones). Timing couldn’t have been better for finishing my journal entry before falling asleep.

We’re early at it this morning, as Rick has a shuttle to do before delivering me back to Pine Glen. Ahh, but Rick had planned it perfectly and finds time to prepare coffee and blueberry pancakes for us before we hit the road! Shuttle completed, Rick has me back to Pine Glen and on trail just after eight.

Plan is to shelter it at Choccolocco tonight, then trek it up and over Dugger Mountain tomorrow to CR-500 on the north side of Dugger where Rick will pick me up again tomorrow afternoon.

Another blue-perfect hiking day as I climb beside Shoal Creek. There are little riffles and rapids along, and as the sun sets the waters glistening, the gentle sound of the cascading water is so comforting to my ear.

Mid morning I stop in at the neat Laurel Shelter, to rest a while and to read the recent hiker entries in the shelter register. Ahh, and a note with kind wishes to me three days ago from Kanati. Good energy–thanks friend!

Late morning I arrive at the old hewn log Shoal Creek Church and cemetery. Here I walk among the graves, most of which are marked only with field stone. Below the cemetery is the old church. The door is open so I enter the sanctuary–to pause and give thanks. Coming here, visiting these sacred grounds in the forest brings pause. In this place there’s a presence of quiet, unassuming dignity. It emanates all about, from a long time ago, a very long time ago.

Late afternoon, and near the end of another long sideslab around the ravines feeding Choccolocco Creek I meet the only two people I see today; Ribeye & Stich. It’s Stich’s 12th birthday and they’re out to celebrate. Dad and son, big smiles. A happy time! Evening, I  arrive at Choccolocco Reservoir and the fine trail shelter.

Seems I have an ongoing problem with roots in the trail. Hung my toe on one this afternoon and did the most inglorious face plant! A minor nosebleed. A little mopping up. Then back on trail none the worse for wear. This IS day 13…

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
(Neale Donald Walsh)

Journal 12-ODYSSEY 2021: Bama to Baxter-Hike On!

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Wednesday–March 3, 2021
Trail Day–012
Trail Mile–14.0/129.2
Location–Pine Glen Campground, then to home of Rick and Martha Cranford

A pleasant night at Americas Best Value Inn, my third stay here (two others were also during Pinhoti Trail treks). Kind lady, Tammy Perry, City of Heflin, comes for us this morning (Braden, Little John, Swampwater, & Nimblewill). A short stop for breakfast carry out at MacDonald’s and we’re back on trail a little after eight. Thanks for your kindness Tammy! Heflin is a mighty fine trail town.

My hike today will take me mostly along and below the mountain ridge on cut trail (known as side-slabbing) as the trail winds the ins and outs of the precipitous mountainsides. However, there’s plenty of climbing that offers grand views.

Dropping to Lower Shoal Creek brings me to the shelter there. What a perfect spot to spend a night. Hikers have commented in the shelter register about the calming effect of the rippling shoals.

Spring might just be getting ready to go. I think I spot the least bit of color in some of the treetops, and a few dainty little wildflowers are springing up along the trail.

Lots of broken pine sprigs scattered in the trail today, some very big blowdowns across the trail too, the leftover result of recent heavy winds.

Evening now, the trail drops to cross Shoal Creek, then to follow along its clear, fast-rushing waters. Soon I arrive at Pine Glen Campground–where Rick is waiting for me.

I will be the gladdest thing under the sun!
I will touch a hundred [wild] flowers
and not pick one.
(Edna St. Vincent Millay)

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