Grand Views Near and Far

A day hike on June 2nd, 2019

Near White Rock, Overlooking Unicoi and Surrounding Area

I live in such an amazing city! I cannot believe what this town has to offer, and so close to my door! Johnson City has some real natural treasures – Buffalo Mountain being it’s crowning jewel. It’s hard to believe that this mountain lies within the city limits. I was initially put off by this mountain by the park at it’s base. There are some sketchy folks prowling around the parking areas. My one word of advice would be to avoid the parking areas near the lower bald – aka Huckleberry Knob, that overlooks Johnson City. Old men sit in vehicles and lurk. (I’m not kidding.) This is the most heavily trafficked area of this spectacular park. Don’t let perverts ruin your adventure though.

Vistas will be had.

Get yourself on the White Rock Loop. I have read varying distances, from 3.1 to 5.1 miles. Who knows exactly? My GPS malfunctioned yesterday on the trail, so I only have a time – 5 hours, 29 minutes! You can basically walk around the mountain, with spectacular views on all sides. Be prepared for some grueling elevation gains! This mountain is fairly strenuous to hike. There is a lot of gnarly root and rocky sections, with plenty to slip or trip on. Take it slow if you are not in the best shape. There are many peaks, and several ridges with some quite spectacular vistas; however, if you pay attention and look closely, you can find some amazing wildlife in close quarters. Slow down and take time to notice the little things around you as you ascend and descend this majestic mountain.

I imagined this bug biting me and giving me some rare disease.
“Not that it matters… but… yes.

As my lungs begged for air on my ascent, I took many breaks to let my beating heart catch up to the elevation gains. Sit still and look around you, quietly. You may be surprised at what amazing wildlife there is.

Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
The color contrasts are amazing
“Eww. Don’t eat the green one’s. They’re not ripe yet.” (Please don’t eat any of them!)
Galax – Galax Urceolata
Rosebay Rhododendron – Rhododendron Maximum, with what I believe are Aphids.

Speaking of being up close and personal with nature – want to see something scary? I did not notice this danger noodle right below me. Be vigilant and aware of your surroundings! Vipers like to hang out under rocks and beneath fallen trees! Normal snakes don’t bother me – but only a fool would mess with these things being so far isolated and from help!

Buffalo Mountain has it all. Nature’s best – in the spectacular panoramic views, as well as the intimate close up surroundings. I highly recommend this amazing retreat! Here is a handy reference guide to some of the flowers you can see out here!

But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee:Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this?” -Job 12:7-9


Yeah, yeah – It’s the “Nolichucky”. But it’s also a “ham sandwich” and not a “hem sendwich”. These are the stupid things that run through my head daily. I’m definitely not right in the head. I’ve always wished I could plug a cord into my brain and let people see and hear what runs through there.

Nolichucky River – Erwin, TN

I’ve always been the sort of guy to just go out and attempt to do things on my own. I don’t seek training, professional advice, classes or certification; much to my detriment. I consider myself wildly independent; which is a two-edged sword. I enjoy being alone. I enjoy solitude. I enjoy spending time thinking to myself and talking to God. On the other hand, there are times where I long for community and companionship.

I learned to surf by buying a board, going out there and paddling into waves. I learned Photoshop and video editing by grabbing the mouse and clicking away. I just do, typically without much thought.

I have owned several kayaks in the past few years, most of them in Alabama. I have only ever been in calm lakes and slow moving, muddy backwaters. I moved to Johnson City, Tennessee with the aim of getting out and exploring more, and with the idea that I had to get out on some white water. I grabbed an older Perception Pro-Line whitewater boat off of craigslist recently and figured I’d just hop in the water, no problem. As my zeal waned, I started to think about the logistics of this notion of going it alone. How would I get picked up or dropped off? How would I even know where to launch and get out from? What if I got into trouble? I had watched enough whitewater rescue videos online, that I knew it wasn’t safe to go it alone.

I met this guy at a local church I affiliate with who told me about a kayaking group he was involved in. We have never hung out, nor seen each other since, but he linked me up with a contact and that person introduced me to the group. This is one of the few times I am so glad that I didn’t try to tackle this adventure alone. I had no idea how awesome and dangerous white water kayaking can be.

My first day of pool training.

So the group I was introduced to is a veteran’s group. If you know me, you know I don’t really like to be associated with veterans. Maybe I will write about that one day and explain why. The group is called Team River Runners, and they offer a truly valuable service. Even though I have my own kayaking gear (which is well used and kind of crusty), they provide everything to those in need free of charge! The skirt I bought used doesn’t fit me. My PFD is more of a 1960’s The Parent Trap summer camp life vest than an actual white water, river-running vest. This group has all the gear you need, and they charge nothing! I even used their boat to train in, so I didn’t need to ferry mine. How about that!

I arrived late to the party; their last pool session before the summer season and subsequent move to the river. They graciously accepted me into the fold and gave me a quick crash course. My first lesson was on wet-exiting in case of a rollover. This is a procedure I have become all too familiar with! You must complete this procedure before being allowed on the river with them.

So, yesterday was my first day out on the river, and boy was I in for a surprise! I have white water rafted several times, no sweat. Kayaking, by yourself, is a completely different animal. You are at the mercy of the current. The feeling of being swept by the current is magical. It’s so much more powerful than you could ever imagine. It doesn’t look fast or powerful… until you’re out there paddling in it! They kept us noobs in one spot of the river, and we got to play at the base of a class II rapid. What an experience!

At the base of a class II rapid

The flow of the river is mighty. it’s powerful. It’s awe-inspiring! The current carries you where it wills. You can only manage the situation, you cannot control it. I have found a new respect for God’s awesome creation. “And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters” -Ezekiel 43:2

Draining the boat

I cannot wait to get more proficient and explore more dangerous waters, however, this is one time I am not ashamed of taking my time and waiting for proper instruction. I implore you to get proper training before trying this sport out. Find a group of seasoned professionals to teach you, to watch over you, because the river is a mighty opponent. I found myself upside down numerous times, still unable to right my capsized boat; something that look so easy in videos online.

Check out Team River Runner’s site. They may have a chapter in your area. I highly recommend them! Until next time, Ciao!

Buffalo Mountain “Speed” Run

Last year I ran my first sub 7-second mile. It was a milestone in my life. I get it – it’s not exactly fast to motivated people, but it sure was fast for a fat kid like me.

Fast forward to 2019, and I am facing a timed 1-mile run in two weeks. I’m a little nervous. I need to be able to run this mile. It’s one thing to run a mile with no consequence, but another thing when your future depends on it!

Winters are always brutal to me. I do not fare well during cold months. It takes an act of God to get me moving after the winter season.

I figured what better way to get moving again than getting out in nature and heading out to some of my favorite places? I determined to get a baseline of my time on this mountain, and whittle it down from there. Anything I need to run on flat top will seem monumentally easier on level, paved ground. So, here is my 1st official timed event. It’s my first “speed” run, without actually being super speedy.

Be forewarned – fat, old guy breathing helplessly abounds.