Rocko and I took a trip "around the block" on Saturday, which is something like 40 miles; down Cruso Road (Route 276) to Bethel, left on Lovejoy Road, left again on Lake Logan Road (Route 215), up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, head north on the Parkway, then head north on Route 276 when you get to the Cold Mountain overlook.

That little outing - which passes by countless hiking trails, waterfalls and remarkable vistas - made me feel a lot better. I've been trapped in my head lately, in my little world. I got out in the wilderness nearly every week but after a while, the same trail by the same river gets a little old. Things change every trip; water levels change, rocks move, trees and branches fall, the plants of course change with the seasons. But we've hiked the same river for the last nine months.

Yesterday we headed straight up to the Parkway from my house, with the goal of climbing the Devil's Courthouse again. By the time we got there, though, it was mid-afternoon and the parking area was crowded. We had gotten sidetracked, and very nicely so.

Rocko and I climbed our first 6000' peak, Black Balsam Knob. It is actually only about a 400' climb from the trailhead, but still. The ascent was Rocko's idea. I had pulled in to the trailhead, which connect a half-dozen or more trails, and was just taking in the view, but Rocko wanted to go so I grabbed my pack and walking sticks.

We climbed to the peak and headed north on the Art Loeb Trail, along the treeless peaks, but I didn't know the area and didn't want to go too far. I wasn't prepared for a day hike anyway, so we turned back. At the bottom of the trail, Rocko didn't want to go back the car so he headed north on the Ivestor Gap Trail. That trail runs below the ridge tops; it's wet and rocky, lots of springs, seeps and creeks crossing the trail; that's good for Rocko. The Art Loeb Trail was pretty dry and I don't usually carry enough water for Rocko.

Well, there's a lot of story to be told here, and I'm itching to get back up there, so I'm going to sign off for now. Rocko and I are going back up there today and I'm hoping to do Sam Knob or, as I call it, "Mount Humpy." It has a dual peak and yesterday it was dominating one aspect of the horizon as we hiked. I'd look up to get my bearings and see that distinctive peak; "Yep, there's Mount Humpy. We're good."

As I said, a lot of trails connect at the Black Balsam trailhead. Mount Humpy's the goal, but we'll see what happens. My camera is fully charged now (it ran out of juice yesterday) so I don't have to worry about that, and I've studied the maps a bit so I'm not too worried about going too far.

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