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Whiterock Ridge to Cammerer—SMHC hike October 19, 2014

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
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The first open view from the ridge.

The first open view from the ridge.

This was a wonderful hike. There were only four of us, but that was a nice size for a challenging off-trail adventure. I was the substitute leader on this Smoky Mountains Hiking Club outing, as the designated leader had a conflict come up with his work schedule. I’d done this route before, so I was happy to fill in.

My companions were Steve, Ken, and Clayton.

We met at the Cosby hiker parking lot because it’s a little hard for folks to find where the actual starting point for the hike is, along the twists and turns of Hwy. 32. So I drove us over in my car to the start of the Groundhog Ridge manway. Our route was to take Groundhog Ridge to the Lower Cammerer Trail, do a short jog to the west, and then go up Whiterock Ridge nearly to the top. At about 4600′ (300′ short of the summit), you run into a big sandstone bluff. So that’s where we jogged a very short distance around the bluff and reconnected with Groundhog Ridge manway for the last stiff grunt to the top.

The weather forecast called for clear, sunny skies. Well, for most of the day we were in fog. There was so much moisture in the trees and brush that whenever a wind gust shook the leaves, it almost felt like it was raining.

Whiterock Ridge, which is sort of a half-ridge that doesn’t really start until above the Lower Cammerer Trail, isn’t too bad in terms of brush, when you compare it with its neighbor to the west, Rowdy Ridge. There are patches of rhodo but they don’t go on very long, and there’s some aggressive greenbrier that you have to just force your way through. It helps to have gloves and long sleeves.

As you continue up the ridge and it starts getting steeper and steeper, you start running into small rock bluffs. Anyone who’s spent time bushwhacking in the Smokies knows this pattern.  It’s one of those fun rock-scrambling challenges where you step onto rhodo or rock and pull yourself up.

I remembered from the time I did it before that there was a Tricky Spot. You go up into this narrow slot between vertical rock. I actually had problems with it on the last trip. Well, this time I had it “sandbagged,” as rock climbers call it. I knew that I had to put my right foot in a certain spot, put my left foot onto a really narrow piece of rock, and hold onto the one available rhodo branch for stability.

I’m going to pat myself on the back here, because that was the “elegant” solution to the climbing problem. Two of the three guys with me used a different approach using a longer reach (being taller than me) and more upper body strength. (Clayton did a variation of what I did.)  My solution to the puzzle did not involve strength, only intelligent placement of hands and feet. Sorry, guys!

This photo shows you what the upper ridge was like.

It's a bearway with a lot of greenbrier.

It’s a bearway with a lot of greenbrier.

We reached the big sandstone bluff. Having seen me get up the lower bluffs, the guys with me teased me about how we should just go up it. Well, I’m sure it’s possible to do that, but it ‘s much easier to go around to the left and hit the upper Groundhog Ridge manway. So that’s what we did.

Big sandstone bluff.

Big sandstone bluff.

Lots of polypody ferns grow there. I think they’re beautiful.

A garden of ferns.

A garden of ferns.

So we went up the manway and before long got onto the open rocks where you have a view of the tower.

Most people approach the tower from the opposite side.

Most people approach the tower from the opposite side.

We had nice views into the valley of Big Creek.

This is the divide between Chestnut Branch and Big Creek.

This is the divide between Chestnut Branch and Big Creek.

When we reached the top of Cammerer, it was damp and windy. We retreated to the inside of the tower. Many other folks had the same idea. I have never seen so many people inside the tower!

Every square foot in the tower was taken up with hikers.

Every square foot in the tower was taken up with hikers.

I expected to see the other SMHC hikers, the ones who came up by trail, but we only met one person from that group, who was puzzled about what happened to the others. Funny that they would get lost instead of us folks who bushwhacked up to the top!

I was ambivalent about descending Groundhog Ridge manway and suggested a trail descent. There is a certain section in the middle of the manway that has become a slippery, slimy mudslide. I don’t like going down that kind of crap, and there’s also an environmental rationale to avoid making those places worse by further use. However, the rest of my group wanted to go down that way, so that’s the way we went.

There’s one open spot on the manway which has nice views.

Clayton at the open spot.

Clayton at the open spot.

It was a great day with a wonderful small group of people. This is the sort of outing I really love.

Looking back up to the summit.

Looking back up to the summit.

 

Sawyer Pond September 30, 2014

Posted by Jenny in grief, hiking, photography, White Mountains.
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Looking across Sawyer Pond.

Looking across Sawyer Pond.

This past weekend I traveled to the White Mountains of New Hampshire for a memorial gathering in honor of my longtime companion Bob Parlee, who died of kidney cancer in March.  Seven of his close friends gathered near the summit of Mt. Washington, at the Great Gulf headwall, to remember Bob.

If you are interested in helping with a donation to the Kidney Cancer Association, please visit the  fundraising page for the Great Gulf Hike for Bob.

I will not post a blog about that experience, but I did want to share photos from a short hike I did the day before. I visited Sawyer Pond, a beautiful pond located in the Sawyer River valley near Mt. Carrigain.

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Worlds upon worlds.

Worlds upon worlds.

My stay in Stockholm – 2 September 22, 2014

Posted by Jenny in art, Life experience, travel.
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Stockholm is a city of islands and bridges.

After enjoying the Lunchkonsert, I walked over to Gamla Stan—the Old City. I crossed on the Strombon bridge.

Looking toward Gamla Stan.

Looking toward the Royal Palace.

Looking west from the bridge.

Looking west from the bridge.

Rijksdaghuset (Parliament Building).

Rijksdaghuset (Parliament Building).

Streets of Gamla Stan .

Streets of Gamla Stan.

You notice that people are wearing clothing for hot weather. Stockholm was experiencing a heat wave—the temperature was in the upper 20s Celsius (mid 80s Fahrenheit), far higher than the summer average high of around 22  C (71 F).  The sky shone like a burnished piece of blue metal, utterly cloudless; the low humidity made the sun seem very bright and unrelenting. Everyone sought out patches of shade. I was glad to have a hat to shade my eyes.

Gamla Stan is the location of the Royal Palace, an enormous complex which has been divided into ten different attractions for public viewing, ranging from the Royal Apartments to the Hall of State, the Royal Chapel, and the Treasury. I decided not to tackle it this day. I was not in the mood for crowds and standing in line.  Even the streets of Gamla Stan seemed crowded and touristy to me, its store windows packed with souvenirs.

I recognized that I needed to retreat to my hotel for a short nap. I made my way back along busy streets. Once back there, I noticed something for the first time: although the common areas of the hotel were air-conditioned, the rooms were not. But I lay down and did get a bit of sleep.

I went back  out and walked around. I passed the modern  sculpture at Sergels Torg.

Sergels Torg.

Sergels Torg.

I found myself gravitating back to the grassy surfaces and refreshing pools of the Kungstradgarden. I picked out a restaurant at the northern end of the garden for dinner and sat outside under a canvas awning.  After eating I wandered into the garden and saw that once again free music was on offer—this time at a pavilion  in the park. A couple of musicians were playing what sounded like traditional Swedish folk tunes.

Musicians in the park.

Musicians in the park.

But for me the real attraction was not the music but the dancers. I could see that people came here to dance as a regular routine, and most of them were quite skilled. A couple of young girls  romped around, and the rest—of all ages—moved in a circular pattern, twirling and spinning each other expertly.

Dancers of all ages.

Dancers of all ages.

I found the sight strangely moving and stayed watching quite a while. The couples seemed so happy; they were clearly enjoying both the dancing itself and the bond that it created. I saw how some of the more athletic dancers put in extra little spins and variations.

Happy couple. How lucky they are!

Happy couple. How lucky they are!

I went back to my hotel and explored the TV channels a bit before going to sleep. The Swedish channels featured nature programs and documentaries. I watched BBC—a lot of news about the WWI centenary.

In the morning I decided to go to the Museum of Modern Art. I thought about the Royal Palace, but modern art appealed to me more than a lot of ornate chambers crammed with rococo or baroque knickknacks. I walked to the museum, which is on an island called Skeppsholmen.

Boats everywhere!

Boats everywhere!

I believe this is the boat that serves as a youth  hostel.

I believe this is the boat that serves as a youth hostel.

I knew I was close to the art museum when I spotted these curious sculptures.

A whimsical sculpture garden.

A whimsical sculpture garden.

When I reached the museum, I found that the current special exhibit featured a painter named Nils Dardel, with whom I was not familiar. I was in for a treat! He is as impossible to categorize as Paul Klee. His paintings feature bizarre dreamlike scenes, but they don’t resemble the polished canvases of Surrealists like Dali, Magritte, or di Chirico. His style is both naive and humorous.

Nils Dardel (1888-1943).

Nils Dardel (1888-1943).

His most famous painting is titled “Death of a Dandy.”

"Death of a Dandy," 1918.

“Death of a Dandy,” 1918.

Such a strange combination of feelings here! The dandy looks quite satisfied to have died!

"Dreams," 1922.

“Dreams,” 1922.

"Cocktail Party," 1930.

“Cocktail Party,” 1930.

I saw the museum’s permanent collection as well, then repaired to the restaurant for lunch. I had a lovely table with views of the waterfront. Then I visited the other museum at the site, the Architecture Museum, and wandered over to the little island next to Skeppsholmen, called Kastellholmen. I had views of the amusement park.

Amusement park.

I walked along the edge of the islands, admiring the many pleasure boats moored there.

By now it was getting time to think about catching my train to Lapland, known as the Arctic Circle train. Departure time was supposed to be 6:17 p.m, but train service across much of Sweden was nearly paralyzed by an electrical problem, and the train departed quite late. I have told this story in my post “Sarek National Park: Day One.”

Those of you  who have read my series about Sarek also know that on Day Seven of the nine-day expedition, I discovered that my backup camera battery didn’t work. Therefore I took no pictures when I returned to Stockholm. I arrived sleep-deprived after not having caught more than a few winks on the overnight train ride. I felt tired anyway from the long backpack, I had strained my knee toward the end of the trip, and I had gotten a pretty bad sunburn on the next-to-last day. So I was not in the best shape that day. I decided, more out of a sense of duty than anything else, that I would “do” the Royal Palace.  The unusually warm weather had continued, and many rooms of the palace were absolutely stifling—except for the few areas that were below ground, such as the Treasury.

I toughed it out until afternoon, had lunch at a Thai buffet, and went to my hotel (the same one I’d stayed at before). I slept for three hours before venturing out for dinner. The next morning I got up very early to catch the airport bus.

So my stay in Sweden ended with more of a whimper than a bang, but I was buoyed up by my memories of Lapland, an incredible experience that will always stay with me.

The skies---the  snow---the peaks---the rivers---a place I will never forget.

The skies—the snow—the peaks—the rivers—a place I will never forget.

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