Tag Archives: Photography

Half Light of the Canyon

On the evening September 14, 2015, I fished alone.  The silence was broken only by the sound of the running water.  Looking upstream, the water reflected the sunlight shining off the mountainside, above the small gorge through which the creek runs.

I was able to recite the most famous fly fishing passage:

In the . . . half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the . . . river and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise.

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. . . .

A River Runs Through It, Norman McClean

Whitetop Laurel Creek, Late Evening, Monday, September 14, 2015
Late Evening, Monday, September 14, 2015

Tennessee’s Most Spectacular Hike

Several years ago, I wrote an article about Virginia’s Most Spectacular Hike.  While I acknowledge that a superlative description like that is subjective, I still stand by that description these years later.  In Tennessee, I believe the most spectacular hike is probably the section of the Appalachian Trail up on the balds near Roan Mountain, sometimes called the “Balds of Roan,” even though the main balds–Round Bald, Jane Bald, and Grassy Bald–are all to the north of Roan Mountain proper.

5.2.15 View of Black Mountains
Looking South from Jane Bald, May 2, 2015

On May 2, 2015, we drove from Abingdon to Carver’s Gap and hiked the AT, which runs across the crest of the first two balds with a short side trail to the top of Grassy Bald.  The temperature was around 60° and mostly sunny, with relatively clear skies.  The mountains above 4000′ were still mostly devoid of foliage.  By late May, the hills will be verdant with hues of green, and by mid-June, the famous rhododendron gardens on Roan Mountain will be in full bloom.  This time of year—late April and early May—the AT is full of thru-hikers, those who are attempting to complete the entire AT on the traditional south to north route.

Backpacker on the crest of the AT on Jane Bald, 5820' above sea level. This view is looking north, back towards Bristol VA/TN and Southwest Virginia.
Backpacker on the crest of the AT on Jane Bald, 5820′ above sea level. This view is looking north, back towards Bristol VA/TN and Southwest Virginia.  Note the AT marker on the wooden post.  If you click and enlarge this photo you can clearly see the white mark on the post.

This section of the trail is relatively easily accessed from the Tri-Cities via Route 19 and Tennessee State Highway 143, which climbs to Carver’s Gap at 5512′, where there is a parking area next to the trail.  Because of the easy access and great views, this section of the AT is highly traveled and is busy on most nice weekends.

Camping on Grassy Ridge Bald, 6165'
Camping on Grassy Ridge Bald, 6165′

 

Grassy Ridge Bald is the highest of the balds.  It requires a short, moderate climb off a side trail to reach the top.  The round-trip hike from Carver’s Gap to the Grassy Bald area and back is approximately 5½ miles.

The top of the bald is roughly the size of a couple of football fields, with 360° views depending on where you walk.  There were some overnight campers on the mountain the day we were there.  The views on a clear night are probably phenomenal, although there is most surely some light pollution from Johnson City and Bristol on the western side.

5.2.15 Laid Back View
Laid back and relaxing at 6100′

 

The two above photos show the immense views of the Black Mountains and surrounding peaks in North Carolina.  This is one of the best views in the South.  On the other hand, the views to the west aren’t too shabby, either.  Below is a view looking southwest, where the smaller mountains create layered views that are so appealing and distinctly Appalachian.

5.2.15 J and K on Grassy Bald
The view west towards Johnson City

 

Looking to the northwest, there are views as far as the Cumberland Mountains in Kentucky.  The photo below shows the view more directly north, into Virginia.  The larger massif on the right side of the photo is Whitetop, Mount Rogers, and possibly Pond Mountain in North Carolina.

5.2.15 looking north from Round Bald
The view north from Round Bald, 5826′

We were not able to stay until sunset, but came off the mountain just as the so-called Golden Hour was approaching.  The shadows grew and the colors softened as sunset approached.

5.2.15 Black Mtns
Looking into North Carolina, about an hour before sunset

 

This hike is not only accessible by car, but is also moderate in nature.  While there is some climbing, the fact that you start at 5500′ means most the climbing has already been done in your vehicle.  So the hike is also more accessible to individuals who are fit but not extreme hikers.

Because of the accessibility and great views, this hike is one of the most popular in region.  If you are here on a weekend, be prepared to have company.  Sometimes finding a parking spot is a challenge, too.  Those minor considerations notwithstanding, this is a truly spectacular hike that will take you into territory that is unusual for the South.  These are the largest contiguous balds in the Appalachian Mountains, and the above-treeline views are extraordinary.

Having hiked in the Smokies and most of the other better known spots in Tennessee, it’s my opinion that the balds here make up the most spectacular hike in the Volunteer State.

5.2.15 Coming off the mountain
Heading off the mountain. The views don’t let up until the final steps off the trail:  What a spectacular hike!

 

Whitetop Laurel Eye Candy

Sunday, April 26, 2015, it was unseasonably cold and overcast–it almost felt like a fall day.  We had bad thunderstorms to the north, but the rainfall was scattered across Southwest Virginia.  So late that afternoon my son and I decided to go head up to Damascus and see how the creeks were running.  We fly fished Whitetop Laurel Creek, and while the water was on the higher end of optimal conditions, the fish were hungry.  We caught a number of brown trout in the special regulation section of the creek using large Parachute Madam X flies.  We figured because the water wasn’t crystal clear, we’d give the trout something that would catch their attention with the heavier than normal flows.

Wild Brown Trout - Check out those perfect fins, buttery yellow belly and the brilliant spots
Wild Brown Trout – Check out those perfect fins, buttery yellow belly and the brilliant spots.  Photo by K.J.T.
Brown Trout 4.26.15
Dark Bronze Beauty. “Selfie” by E.R.T.

 

 

Afton Mountain Morning View

On April 20, 2015, I traveled from Southwest Virginia to Richmond for business.  The prior evening there were terrible thunderstorms all across Virginia, but the remnant moisture and fog in the valleys made for some beautiful scenery on the Blue Ridge.  The following photos are from Interstate 64, coming off of Afton Mountain looking south.

Afton Mountain View 4.20.15 closer
Misty Mountains

This panorama shows the extent to which the clouds and fog enveloped the lower ramparts of the mountains:

Afton Mountain View 4.20.15
Nelson County Mountains Panorama

 

 

Jackson River at Hidden Valley, Bath County, Virginia

The Jackson River is one of the most renowned trout streams in Virginia, flowing south until it merges with the Cowpasture River forming the beginning of the James. There are two generally known sections of the Jackson River—the lower Jackson, below the dam at Moomaw Lake in Alleghany County, and the upper Jackson, a free-flowing river in Bath County with headwaters reaching almost into Highland County.

Jackson River in Hidden Valley
Jackson River

The photos in this article are about the upper Jackson.  This section of the river flows through a lengthy, roadless section of the George Washington National Forest, about three and a half miles of nothing but river with a walking trail.  For Virginia (and most any Eastern state), this is a lot of pristine riverfront without road access.

In October 2013, my sons and I traveled here, and we walked and fly fished most of the river.  The fall colors were at their peak, absolutely stunning.

Special Regulation Section
Entering the Special Regulation Area

 

Footbridge
Footbridge Crossing at the Special Regulation Area

 

14" Naturalized Brown Trout
14″ Naturalized Brown Trout

 

Jackson River downstream of the bridge
Beautiful Clear Water

 

Clear Water
Good Pools and Submerged Boulders

 

Sun Over Jackson River
Upstream within the Special Regulation Area

 

The Mountainside Aglow with Color
The Mountainside Aglow with Color

 

Brilliant Orange Colors
Brillant Orange Colors

 

Hidden Valley Colors
Yet More Colors

 

Not a Bad Day Fishing
Heading back to the car after hiking and fishing in Hidden Valley

 

Memorial Day 2014

One of the places in Southwest Virginia that most ardently celebrates Memorial Day is Marion.

The courthouse square becomes a memorial to those men and women from Smyth County who have served the United States in the Armed Forces. Hundreds of flags and crosses are placed to recognize their service to our country.

Smyth County Courthouse, May 22, 2014
Smyth County Courthouse, May 22, 2014

On Thursday, May 22, 2014, the Town of Marion and Rolling Thunder held an outdoor ceremony in front of the Smyth County courthouse to memorialize those soldiers who have been missing in action in each of the U.S. military conflicts since World War I.  The weather outside was perfect for the ceremony.

Panoramic View of the Rolling Thunder Ceremony at the Smyth County Courthouse, May 22, 2014
Panoramic View of the Rolling Thunder Ceremony at the Smyth County Courthouse, May 22, 2014

The grounds in front of the courthouse were literally covered with flags and crosses.  The historical marker on the courthouse lawn, seen below, provides some history about Smyth County and the courthouse.

Grounds in front of the Smyth County Courthouse
Grounds in front of the Smyth County Courthouse

 

 

 

Leafing Out

The emergence of an abundance of foliage in the Appalachians is the surest sign that Spring is in full force. Every week the hues of green change on the mountains and in the valleys as the leaves grow on the hardwoods. These photos were taken today, Sunday, May 11, 2014, during a hike in the area where Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina meet.

Appalachian Hardwoods Leaf Out, May 11, 2014
Appalachian Hardwoods Leaf Out, May 11, 2014
Leafing Out, May 11, 2014
Leafing Out, May 11, 2014

A Wintery Walk in Old Abingdon

This has been a cold winter in Abingdon Outdoors country, yet thus far we have not had the big snowfall that neighbors to the north have had.  That was remedied on Wednesday, February 12, 2014, when we finally got hit with a blizzard.

Come Thursday, school was closed, court was closed, public offices were closed, and most businesses were closed.

My wife and I walked through Abingdon around noon, and usually busy downtown was largely abandoned, allowing for unobstructed photos of the snow-laden historical buildings around town.

Sinking Springs Presbyterian Church
Sinking Springs Presbyterian Church

Walking west on Main Street:

United Methodist Parsonage
United Methodist Church Parsonage

 View of the Abingdon United Methodist Church.  The exterior of the church was renovated in 2013.  Note the freshly painted white parapets on the bell tower. 

United Methodist Church
Abingdon United Methodist Church

Continuing west, we climbed snow-covered stairs to the “Barter Green,” the area across Main Street from the Barter Theatre.

Main Street Viewed from the Barter Green
The Barter Green

We continued towards the Barter Theatre and the Martha Washington Inn.

Barter Theatre
The Barter Theatre
Frozen Fountain at Barter Theatre
Frozen Fountain at Barter Theatre

The LOVE sign in front of the Martha Washington Inn, appropriate for Valentine’s Day, February 14:

LOVE at the Martha Washington Inn
LOVE at the Martha Washington Inn
Martha Washington
The Martha Washington Inn viewed from Town Hall
Martha Washington from Town Hall
Town of Abingdon, Town Hall sign, Circa 1778
Martha Washington Panorama
Martha Washington Panorama
Abingdon Sign and Wrought Iron Fence in front of Federal Courthouse
Abingdon Sign and Wrought Iron Fence between the Martha Washington Inn and the Federal Courthouse
Abingdon Sign
Town Historical Sign with Snowflakes

Walking through the snow past a former employer:

Federal Courthouse
United States District Court, Western District of Virginia, Abingdon Division

The Martha Washington hotel driveway was empty (except for the shuttle that is used to drive cyclists to the Virginia Creeper Trail):

Martha
The Martha

Walking through town, we had the winter wonderland to ourselves:

Abandoned Main Street
Desolated Main Street

Turning back east, we headed towards “courthouse hill,” where the county courthouse is located.

Abingdon Episcopal Church
St. Thomas, Abingdon’s Episcopal Church
Red Episcopal Doors
White snowflakes dot red doors
Federal Style Private Residence
Federal Style Private Residence
The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy

Empty courthouse:

Washington County Courthouse
Washington County Courthouse
Washington County Courthouse Side
Washington County Courthouse – Side View

Snow-covered hat makes for a cold soldier:

Confederate Memorial at Washington County Courthouse
Confederate Memorial at Washington County Courthouse

Headed east on Main Street:

Private Residence named The Bank
Private Residence known as The Bank
Sidewalk east of Courthouse Hill
Sidewalk east of Courthouse Hill
East Main Street
East Main Street