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Archive for the 'The Early Years' Category

Visiting Linville Falls (from the bottom)

We had another great Youngers trip this past weekend. We night-hiked with headlamps down the Bushy Ridge Trail (one mile and flat) into Linville Gorge Friday night and set up our base camp near Bull Branch. From there, on Saturday morning, we hiked all the way over to Linville Falls where we ate lunch, dipped and rested. Back to camp Saturday afternoon to take it down and pack up for the hike back to the bus. The round trip hike to the falls was challenging, but everyone made it. Everyone agreed that the effort was worth it to see Linville Falls from the bottom. Wait ‘til you see the pictures at the Annual Recognition Dinner.

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Cancer Research Canoe Trip

We made it! Eleven people for eight days covereing 170 miles from Camden, S.C. to Hwy. 41 and everyone had a fantastic time.

Expedition members were Olivia Gage (TAASC graduate/Medical school student), Monika Lesch (TAASC gym owner and mom of two past graduates, Nathaniel and Zachary), Will Wilson, Luke “Thunderbird” Carlisle (age 10!), Molly Franklin, Cassidy Mull, Laurin Jennings, Cody Memmel, Jacob Cioffoletti, Livy Franklin and Mike Fischesser.

At the Recognition Dinner we collected $1,300 in pledges toward colon cancer research. Our goal was $3,000. It is time to send in the amount you pledged.

Please make checks payable to: Climb For Colon Cancer.

Send them to us at:

P.O. Box 69
Jonas Ridge, NC 28641

We will gather them and send them to Matt Hardy in Boulder, CO (Past TAASC member and founder of C4CC. I will forward the email from Matt that he sent us in July – in case you would like to refresh your memory. If you are able to contribute a bit more, that would be great!

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Younger’s Weekend at the Kettles

The Youngers and their mentors had a great trip to the Kettles of Steele’s Creek on May 15 and 16. Everyone played hard, like river otters in the freezing cold water, for hours, until their teeth were chattering hard!

We wore PFDs and helmets at all times to be safe on the slick rocks. Everyone did well with the 1.5-mile approach hike. We camped along Gingercake Creek on Saturday night and the next day hiked to the summit of Hawksbill Mountain, which was really cool.

Thanks to the mentors who helped out.

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27 Miles on the Broad River

We had an absolutely perfect canoe/camping trip this past weekend. We camped beside the Broad River Friday night and completed 27 miles of the Broad River Expedition to raise money for colon cancer research.

The river was beautiful. It was clear, swift, “wildernessy” and fun. Everyone had an incredible time running lots of mellow Class 2 rapids.

We will have a one-day, 27-mile, make-up day on Sunday, April 25 for those who couldn’t make it this past weekend, but you must let us know by Tuesday night.

Thanks to TAASC graduates T.J. Weller and Thomas McCombs for running the shuttle for us!

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Annual Appalachian Trail Backpack Trip

We left the gym on Monday, April 5, with 22 TAASC folks in the bus and drove to Watauga Lake in Tennessee.

Around 2 p.m. we began hiking in really hot weather up a steep hill to gain a ridgeline that was 16 miles long! For the next two days we plodded along in the heat ‘til we reached the monument and gravesite for Uncle Nick Grindstaff who died in 1924 and according to the marker, “lived alone, suffered alone, and died alone.”

On Thursday the weather changed to a cold, windy, hard-at-times rain. Over 14 years of AT trips in April the weather continues to always throw us a challenge. In 2000, we had to abort five miles into the trip due to a freak snowstorm that dumped four inches. The cold, challenging weather on Thursday really drove the point home of the importance that ALL TAASC members must do at least one trip per month for the experience and training to deal with serious situations such as the weather we had this year. People were getting cold, wet and tired after nine miles of hiking that day (and a total of 31 miles over four days), so we grabbed the first campsite we could find and got everyone in the tents and into warm, dry sleeping bags.

The next morning, Friday, was our last day and everyone was eager to reach Damascus, VA our final destination. We chugged along the remaining five miles that morning and ran smack into Mike and Karen Ayotte at the edge of town. Karen had baked fresh cookies for all and you’ve never seen cookies consumed so fast. We hiked on into town with visions of pizza and “real food” on our minds.

Congratulations to all the kids who completed the 40 mile trip and especially four amazing Younger members who did a truly awesome job of handling this tough challenge in good style: Zach Ayotte, Connor Brazinski, Luke Carlisle and Spencer Memmel. Thanks to Molly Franklin for planning the trip and being the overall leader and to all the other kids who served as daily leaders.

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Another Full Weekend!

We had an incredible weekend of experiences! Here’s a summary: on Friday afternoon we had a really cool tour of Appalachian State University’s Outdoor Programs. I think it made a big impression on a lot of our TAASC kids. Some of them are now seriously considering ASU as a potential college
to attend.

After that we ate supper at Black Cats, then on to the Banff Film Festival. Banff continues to be a real highlight of the year for all the TAASC kids.

We finally arrived at Cedar Rock Campground around midnight. At 7:30 a.m. Saturday we drove over to Stone Mountain State Park and began the approach hike to the summit at 8:30 a.m. It was a tough one-hour hike because only six kids showed up to help with the Rappel-a-thon and we had to hump in 150 lbs. of ropes (4,000’), rigging gear and our personal equipment. But everyone did great with no complaints. We rigged our brand new 1,000’ ropes in record time. Usually it takes hours, but this crew completed the task by 10:30 a.m.!

We only had two Rappel-a-thon guests (Bonnie Wilson and Sheila) so it didn’t take too long to get them down the mountain and hike back up.

At 2 p.m., 17 staff and kids from the Asheville TAASC program arrived. Our kids taught them how to descend and ascend 400 feet and at the end of the day, three of their 10 year-old girls got to do the 1,000’ rappel. It was a real highlight of their life and they were very appreciative and thankful for the opportunity. The three girls were best friends since age three and had joined TAASC together two years ago.

Our newest member, Will Duncan did great on his first TAASC trip, as did two brothers from Charlotte, Austin (age 16) and Davis (12). They are moving to Morganton soon and are very excited about joining TAASC. They got to do the 1,000’ rappel also.

We pulled up and coiled all the ropes at the end of the day, then went to our favorite local restaurant, Mazzini’s, to celebrate the day. Since the weather forecast was for 90% rain on Sunday, we decided to head on back to Morganton and arrived at the gym at 10:30 p.m.

Thanks to all the kids who helped out with the Rappel-a-thon. They really worked hard and did a great job of teaching others, monitoring safety and humping loads of gear!

Thanks to Bonnie and Sheila for having the courage to brave the 1,000’ rappel and raise money for TAASC.

Thanks to Mike and Karen Ayotte and Morganton Federal Savings and Loan for their generous contribution, which allowed us to purchase 4,000 feet of new rope to make the Rappel-a-thon much easier to manage (no knot passes).

And thanks to all the other parents and kids who raised money for the Rappel-a-thon, but weren’t able to attend.

According to pledge reports and funds received, it appears that we raised about $2,000 for TAASC this year. Not bad in tough, economic times. Last year we raised about $5,000. Our budget continues to run in the red, so please help us recruit new members.

This will help a lot towards the purchase of canoe and kayak paddles that we desperately need. Thanks to Greg Franklin for arranging a generous deal.

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Weekend Packpacking Trip

We had the perfect spring backpack weekend trip. On Friday night we were star gazing off The Pinnacle (across from Shortoff Mountain at the southern end of the gorge); then we hiked to a nice campsite on Yellow Fork. On Saturday we backpacked further towards Dobson’s Knob. Some of the gang were able to get in a bit of climbing at a new area called “Black Fork.” Sunday we woke up at 7:30 a.m., backpacked back to the bus and made it to Wendy’s around noon. It was a great trip to get everyone thinking about the annual Appalachian Trail trip.

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Winter Mountaineering in Roaring Creek Valley

We had an incredible snow camping trip this past weekend! We snow shoed into the Roaring Creek Valley Friday night, pitched camp on 12”+ snow and finally crawled into our warm bags at 1 a.m.!

The goal of the trip was to be comfortable and warm at ALL times and everyone did an outstanding job of doing so. Everyone learned a lot about the art of cold weather camping. Everyone wore our Mouse Boots, so we didn’t have to ever worry about cold toes or frostbite even though the nights were
down to 20 degrees F.

On Saturday some folks played on Jacob’s snowboard and Jo and Will built a Quincy snow shelter (like an igloo). We had snow saws and snow shovels. Alyssa pulled Mike’s Mt. McKinley expedition sled, which kept the weight off her bad shoulder.

In the afternoon we snow shoed up to the summit of Little Hump Mountain which was even more of a winter wonderland with 360-degree views.

After supper Saturday night we lay (lie lay lain!!!) (lay laid laid!!!) out on our foam pads and watched the stars for hours.

On Sunday we broke camp and snow shoed 1.5 miles back to the bus and were back to the gym by 1:30 p.m.

All in all it was a magical snow journey. Everyone had a ball and stayed comfortable at all times and are eager to further develop their winter mountaineering skills!

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Stone Mountain “Goat Hole” Explored

We had a great time at Stone Mountain on Saturday. A large group of Youngers turned out with a handful of Olders to help. Molly Franklin, Heather Duffy and Will Wilson did an outstanding job of guiding the Youngers through some exciting rope-work experiences.

The Youngers traveled down a 350-foot rope with two prusiks, transferred to another 350 and climbed back up Stone Mountain. It was a great taste of the exposure of the 930-foot rappel. Some of the Younger members prusiked all the way down to the mysterious “goat hole” at 530 feet from the top. Mysterious because for decades the locals wondered where the wild goats would disappear into on the face of Stone Mountain. It was a depression, often containing some cool pools of water, where the goats would go to get a drink.

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Four Days Just Isn’t Enough

We had an incredible four-day climbing trip in Linville Gorge that began at my cabin Wednesday night and finished at Sitting Bear Rock Sunday afternoon.

Everyone who went learned a lot of new skills and all agreed that we would’ve liked to have kept the trip going for four or five more days. There was so much more left to do. We climbed at Table Rock on Thursday afternoon and a newly developed area named “The Pirate’s Wall” on Friday and Saturday.

Rachel Gage, Ehrin Irvin and Zachary Lesch-Huie (Original TAASCS members from 1996) joined us on Saturday.

Our kids had the unique opportunity to climb new routes and even work on first ascents!

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First Climbing Trip for Newest Youngers

The first, official climbing trip for the new generation of Youngers was a hoot, literally!

The Saturday/Sunday trip arrived at my cabin on the edge of Linville Gorge where the Mentors and Trip Leaders taught the Youngers how to select and pitch camp in the woods. Then Nina gave a wildlife talk that included saw whet owls, barred owls, a great horned owl, flying squirrels and a bobcat.

The rest of the day was spent on a long, four-hour loop hike in the gorge that included an old, moonshiner’s still, a bear wallowing hole and lots of other interesting things. After cooking dinner it was dark and pretty cold, so everyone turned in early.

After breakfast on Sunday we hiked to Amelia’s Cave (the site where Amelia Clark spent her three-day solo). Then back to the gym and a hilarious and very wet bus washing. It was a great trip and everyone is looking forward to the next one in November. Big thanks to the trip leaders and mentors for a good job!

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Collecting Old Glass Soda Bottles

The weather was pretty cold and windy in the mountains on Sunday, so we decided it was too cold to climb and we went to Short Off Mountain instead to retrieve a huge pile of old 1960s era glass soda bottles.

We hiked to the top, stashed our climbing gear (in case the weather changed) and continued north for another two miles. It was a perfect day for a hike – cold, windy and sunny with tremendous views of Linville Gorge and Lake James. The pond was full on top of the mountain!

We had seen the pile of bottles on one of the gorge hikes last year and had vowed to return. It was nice to check that small service project off our list. Apparently, there was quite a hunting camp on the north end of Short Off back in the 1960s when a four-wheel drive vehicle could work its way up from Wolf Pit Road and travel along the top. We ended the day back at the bus at about 5 p.m.

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Big Sweep on Wilson Creek

Well, we had another weekend of great activity. On Saturday, about 30 TAASC people turned out to help with the Big Sweep. Luckily Wilson Creek (No kin to Will Wilson!) wasn’t as trashy as past years, but the teams still managed to collect a pickup truck full of garbage.

Then on Sunday we went climbing on the North Ridge of Table Rock and a cool, secret area called “Dragon’s Lair.”

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