It was a wilderness climb of sorts on Wednesday, March 22, just for the h of it.
I had commented a few days ago on another message board that one of my last wintertime climbs this year was made in a white oak along the Appalachian Trail in the north Georgia mountains that had been dubbed the h tree. The tree earned that nickname because many years ago one limb had apparently drooped downward and became rooted about eight feet from the main trunk. The arch created by the now-rooted limb looked just like the hump part of a lowercase h.
Several treeclimbers, including a notable forester type from the real Northwoods up in Minnesota, immediately demanded photographic proof that this tree really existed.
So, after breakfast on the morning of March 22, I headed out for the 30 mile drive to the Appalachian Trail with brother Joe of the Jungle in tow. As many treeclimbers know, ol Joe is a photographer extraordinaire, and his pictures have appeared for nearly three decades in newspapers around the globe.
We reached Woody Gap about 10:30 a.m. and found several groups of hikers taking breaks before they continued north on their 2,400-mile trek toward Mount Katahdin in northern Maine. March 15 to April 1 is when most serious hikers set out from Amicalola Falls and Springer Mountain in the north Georgia hills, and Woody Gap is their first major road crossing.
Joe ferried a couple of hikers about two miles to a nearby post office to pick up supplies they had mailed to themselves a few days earlier, then he and I headed north. It was one of those days in early spring when it had been cool overnight, about 35 degrees Fahrenheit, but the day was quickly warming up at least for me; Joe was complaining that it was nowhere near as warm as it was down at his favorite biological research station outside Bocas del Toro, Panama.
We climbed about 1,000 feet in the first mile, to the peak of Big Cedar Mountain, then continued north along the ridgeline for another three-quarters of a mile of so. There was the h tree, about five or six feet off the west side of the Appalachian Trail.
I had incorrectly identified the tree in a previous report as a white oak. It turned out to be a mature northern red oak.
It took a few minutes to blast through low-hanging branches from other nearby trees to get a line into a safe spot in the tree. I then made a tremendous DRT climb of about eight to 10 feet to reach the top of the hump. It took only a few moments for Joe to snap a half dozen shots with his trusty Nikon digital camera, and only a minute or two longer to descend and pack up the equipment.
We had wanted to be through with the photo shoot before any hikers came along, since we were breaking one of the cardinal rules of treeclimbing by climbing almost directly over a trail. We made it and were 50 yards back south on the trail before a solo hiker passed us. In the next 45 minutes we passed at least another dozen hikers.
Four more hikers were waiting for us in the parking lot at the gap, hoping for a ride to a nearby trail hospice. Joe was glad to oblige.