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Laurel Falls – Smoky Mountain National Park – Gatlinburg, TN

by JP on Feb.22, 2009, under Tennessee Hiking Trails

Laurel Falls, Smoky Mountains Trails

Distance: 1.3 Miles (one way) to falls

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

The Laurel Falls hiking trails is one of many beautiful waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains, and the area around it.

The hike to these falls follows along a paved trail, and provides for some beautiful views of the Smoky Mountains, before reaching a 75 foot waterfall.

On really cold days during the winter, the falls can freeze for some very cool (no pun intended) views of a frozen waterfall.

On the last day I hiked this trail, it was 9 degrees Fahrenheit. The frozen falls was magnificent.

Begin this trail at a parking area along Old River Road. Across the street from this area are a series of other trails (the Sugarland Mountain Trails, containing Huskey Gap Trail, Rough Creek Trail, and a 12 mile approach to the Appalachian Trail).

Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls Laurel Falls

From the parking area, a sign indicates the trailhead of the path, and provides a little information about the trail.

The sign indicates that trail’s length and lets hikers know he or she will be ascending around 300 feet in elevation, and that the average walking time is 40 minutes.

The sign also provides a nice picture of the falls prior to the addition of a footbridge crossing over Laurel Branch.

Laurel Falls

Initially, the trail’s ascent climbs slowly upwards while running parallel to Old River Road.

Laurel Falls Laurel Falls Laurel Falls

If hiking this trail in the winter, I have to recommend hiking it in the early morning. if there is any snow on the mountain, the dichotomy between the ridges that the sun has began to bathe versus those remaining in the shadows longer in the day is really interesting to see.

Laurel Falls Laurel Falls Laurel Falls

Once the trail begins to gain elevation and turn back into the ridge, some beautiful, expansive views of the Smoky Mountains can be seen.

Laurel Falls Laurel Falls Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls Laurel Falls

There are also some interesting boulders along the trail, the first of which is just after the above overlooks.

Laurel Falls

Continue deep into the mountain ridge along the paved trail, passing several rock boulders. The vast overlooks of the Smokies gets noticeably farther away, and in many ways more impressive.

Laurel Fall Laurel FallsLaurel Falls

On the trails final ascent, it opens back up to even wider, clearer views.

Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls

The trail then makes a quick descent down to the waterfall.

Laurel Falls

On the descent, one can see the first views of Laurel Branch.

Laurel Falls

Finally, the falls are reached…

IMG_2246 Laurel Falls Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls Laurel Falls Laurel Falls IMG_2258 Laurel Falls Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls

The trail may be continued for an additional 2. 9 miles on an trail that is no longer paved. This portion of the trail will intersect with Little Greenbrier Trail, and will be addressed in the future on that trail’s article. The trail was a little to icey to  be continued on this particular morning.

Laurel Falls

Nearby Trails:

Huskey Gap Trail – 3.1 miles

Rough Creek Trail – 7.2 miles

Little Greenbrier Trail – 3.1 miles

Cove Mountain Trail – 4.0 miles

Appalachian Trail – 2175 mile

Directions to Laurel Falls:

1. Follow 441 to the Sugarland Visitor Center just outside of Gatlinburg, TN.

2. Turn right at the Visitor Center and continue down Old River Road for 3.9 miles.

3. The parking area is on right.

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First ATC 2k Action Camera Video

by JP on Feb.18, 2009, under Gear Review

This is a first for me.

This weekend,  I rode a new trail at Berry College, I was not familiar with it, and rode with some other people that were new to this type of mountain biking.  I will write a lot more about this trail in the future, but I am excited to attempt my first video posting with my Action Camera.

The angle on the camera needs a little bit of work, and I need to improve the start and stopping, but just so that all can see the way the video works on its first attempt…here’s the video. It ends at 5:45, and I am still learning to cut and edit videos.

I hope this will be the beginning of some great Mountain Bike coverage. I have found that taking still photographs while riding is simply impracticable, and dangerous for camera (sometimes I wind up over the handlebars).

If you like the camera, I recommend purchasing it, it makes for a lot of fun, and is very convenient. I have several other videos already, and just need to work on my editing skills.

I am more than open to any advice in improving the camera work, or questions about this camera. I have this camera mounted on my handlebars (although I may try mounting it to my helmet just to see how it works). Let me know of any biking mounts that you may have found to be successful.

Happy & Safe Riding from SouthernHiker.

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Disc Golf Driving

by JP on Feb.15, 2009, under Disc Golf

The Backhand Disc Golf Drive

When throwing a Disc Golf there are basically two types of throwing, while there are several forms of throwing, I believe most of this will fall into one of these two categories.

The first style of throwing is the Back Hand throw. The Back Hand Throw is easily the most commonly used throw. A back hand is a method of throwing that is essentially the same way that you would normally toss a Frisbee to a friend.

The second style is the Forehand throw. The Forehand throw is a throw that brings throws the disc from your dominant hand by holding the underside of the disc.

When Driving a disc, one of these two methods will typically be used. (Note that there several other types of throws like the tomahawk throw, but these throws are better suited for another discussion.)

In this article I will start with the Backhand throw, and cover the basics of driving with a backhand.

Below is a video I have found on Youtube of another Disc Golf explaining driving.

When starting a backhand driver, the first step a new player should take is to stop worrying about distance. Distance will come with skill.

Begin disc golf with the practice of throwing and releasing a disc.

The proper form for throwing and releasing a disc begins at the wrist, then the arm, and finally the body.

When throwing a disc, first concentrate on gripping the disc.

A pro demonstrating grip.

The long and the short of disc gripping is that it should be held in a way that is comfortable for you.

Essentially, there are two common types of backhand grips. The first is a grip with all four fingers under the lip of the disc.

The second is a two finger grip  with the index and middle finger spread under the disc, and the other fingers tucked underneath them.

Next, we going to make a throw, focus on flipping your wrist away from your body. Think of release the disc with your wrist as if you are trying to snap backspin onto the disc.

After you get wrist snapping down, the disc should begin to fly with a little bit of lift, even on a soft throw.

Once the wrist action has been picked up, now we start throwing for some distance, but do not start off trying to haul off and win the world record for driving. Technique comes first.

Start with the practice of throwing across your body. Bring the arm from across the body maintaining a level throw. Make sure that the disc does not tilt backwards or forwards, or from side to side, the disc needs to maintain a flat level movement across the body and through the release.

Initial tendency is to start off a throw from a lower point on the body, such as the back hip, but moving upwards as the disc moves towards release, and eventually release at a point near the thrower’s shoulder.

Doing this will result in the disc gaining significant height and hang time, but losing significant distance due to the wasted amount of time climbing.

Try to focus on throwing straight across the torso and releasing as the same or near the same height as the throw originated from.

I like to start my throw halfway between my hips and shoulders, and release at the same point, just below my chest.

Practice throwing like this for some time, taking only one step or no steps (whichever is most comfortable for you).

Finally add the footwork for increased momentum. The most common footwork approach is an “X” step. The lead foot takes a step, with the back foot stepping behind it, and then another front forward step before the release.

Typically the bodies momentum during the wind up of the throw will turn your back temporarily away from your body, then as the throw follows toward release the body should result in a partial spinning.

Let me know if there is any form I am missing, or if something is unclear.

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Action Camera – ATC 2k Action Camera – Oregon Scientific

by JP on Feb.09, 2009, under Gear Review

I have recently acquired an ATC 2k Action Camera made by Oregon Scientific. I am now experimenting with various uses for this camera on my mountain bike, and will be posting several videos of some Georgia single tracks I have ride.

The ATC 2k Action Camera provides a number of versatile uses, as it can includes methods of mounting it to handlebars, helmets, as well as many other pieces of sports equipment.

This video camera has, so far, proven itself to be very shock resistant, and is an almost unnoticeable camera when mounted on the mountain bike handlebars.

It is important to recognize that this camera is not going to give the quality of a more expensive handheld camera, but definitely serves its purpose as an action camera. I have seen this camera mounted on street motorcycles, and other fast moving vehicles which demonstrates its capabilities and disabilities at higher speeds.

The camera a 640 x 480 VGA resolution that shoots at 30 frames per second.  It claims to be water proof up to 10 feet of water, and I have little doubt this is true, after looking at the camera’s encasing, and water seals.

I could not be more impressed with the sturdiness of this camera, especially for its relatively low cost.

The ATC 2k Action Camera really only has two downsides. The first is that it has extremely poor sound pickup. This is not that large of a negative, as I find there to be little need in recording sound when biking down a mountain.

The other is that camera is limited to holding a 2GB Flash card. Anything larger reads as an error when the camera is turned on.

The 2GB card seems to hold almost an hour worth of filming,

The ATC 2k Action Camera is powered by 2 AA batteries.

I hope to have some sample videos on the web by the end of this week.

Any technical questions can be posted in the comment section, and I will do my best to answer them quickly.

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Berry College Disc Golf – Main Campus/ Log Cabin Course

by JP on Feb.03, 2009, under Georgia Disc Golf

- Check out this putter, it is great for any shot under 10 meters, grabs the chains, and hardly ever rolls away from the basket on missed shots. This is easily my favorite putter.

Holes:18 Holes

Berry College may be the most beautiful campus in the world, and it certainly is one of the largest.

For locals, this large campus is divided into two sections. The “Mountain Campus” and the “Main Campus.”

The Mountain Campus lies approximately 3 miles behind the main Berry College entrance and is accessed by entering the main gates, and taking the 2nd right at the round about. From there, take a right and the next stop sign, pass the log cabin, and then turn left onto the next road. A wonderful 18 hole disc golf course lies in along the edge of a ridge, which I have written about here: Berry College – Mountain Campus Disc Golf.


The Main Campus, on the other hand is the entire area Northeast of the Mountain Campus, including the area where the log cabin is.

The Main Campus disc golf course is an 18 hole course that begins in a parking area just between stretch road,  the college’s baseball fields.

This course admittedly lacks many of the more enjoyable amenities that the Mountain Campus course has.

For one, the course has no tee markers, so the player has to find print off a course map and then locate certain dirt areas that are the most common tee areas.

Unfortunately, the only map I have found of the course is an older 9 hole map on Berry’s website. The course is not an 18 hole course, and the map is somewhat irrelevant, as the numbers of the holes has changed. I will try to walk  you through the area as I played it.

To start with, the first hole is located in an open field just past the Ford Buildings if heading towards stretch road,

Berry College Disc Golf

In this open field, you will see an old tennis court to the right, and two disc golf holes.

Berry College Disc Golf

I believe the first tee begins just in front of the tennis court.

Berry College Disc Golf

From here, the first hole is found diagonally across the field, under a large tree.

DSC09575

DSC09579

The good thing about this course is that does have several very long drives,  but other than that has limited obstacles, at times tends to be a little too close to some of the homes on campus for my comfort.

The 2nd tee, I believe is directly across the interest sitting atop the hill.

DSC09581

I had  a lot of difficulty finding a good tee area here, but selected this area beside a large tree because it had no grass.

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The second hole appears to be this hole in the distance, but do not be fooled, this is actually the third hole. The second hole is actually closer to the home on the right, under a number of trees.

Berry College Disc Golf

- Not the Second Hole in the distance

Berry College Disc Golf

Berry College Disc Golf

This is the actual second hole

I played the third hole from this basket, as it seemed like a nice par 3 to follow the previous long hole.

Berry College Disc Golf Berry College Disc Golf

From the third hole, I simply found a dirt patch near the basket, and played the 4th hole that sits between two large trees.

Berry College Disc Golf

Check out the deer that often graze in the field opposite hole 3 and 4.

Berry College Disc Golf

From Hole 4, I found a large dirt area underneath one of these two trees, and played towards the 5th hole sitting near stretch road behind a telephone pole.

DSC09594 DSC09595 Berry College Disc Golf

From Hole 5 take a left, and stay on the same side, do not cross the road.

The Hole 6 tee may be the only tee that I thought was easily recognizable.

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Hole 6 may be the flattest hole I have ever seen. The basket as at the end of this long field, but be careful the road is to the right, and some homes are to the left on this course.

Berry College Disc Golf Berry College Disc Golf

I played the Hole 7 tee from an area just beside the Hole 6 basket.

Hole 7 goes back up towards the homes on the left, and is found sitting under a large pine tree.

DSC09601

Hole 8 was the most difficult hole to find a tee for.

I played from an area near a large engraved piece of metal in the middle of the field.

Berry College Disc Golf

The basket is found between a thicket of shrubs, which make for a fun hole.

Berry College Disc Golf

From this thicket area, the 9th Hole is found near the stop sign at the stretch road intersection.

Berry College Disc Golf Berry College Disc Golf

Finally, Hole 10 approaches the area where the log cabin is located.

Cross the intersection, and tee off at the corner of the intersection shooting across the field to

Berry College Disc Golf

Shoot toward the two large trees seen at the far end of this picture above.

Berry College Disc Golf DSC09620

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- Check out Berry’s Administration Building, Hermann Hall from the 11th tee, and enjoy one of Berry’s scenic building.

The 11th tee begins by turning a complete 180 degrees from the 10th basket.

This hole goes to the left of the log cabin just behind a set of pines.

Berry College Disc Golf

The Ford Buildings Complex are just on the horizon from Hole 12.

Berry College Disc Golf

Continue in the same direction and tee off from the 11th basket towards the small chapel, and the 12th basket.

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Hole 13 continues closer to chapel, and back towards the intersection where hole 9 was.

Berry College Disc Golf

Continue along this ridge for holes 14, 15, and 16.

Berry College Disc Golf Berry College Disc Golf

Berry College Disc Golf

Hole 16 brings the player back to the first road crossed on Hole 2.

Berry College Disc Golf

Cross back over the road to the original field where Hole 1 was located, and play Hole 17 from the tee off area near the intersection.

Berry College Disc Golf

Hole 17 may be the most fun course as it has some interesting obstacles in a grove of trees in front of the hole.

Berry College Disc Golf

Hole 18, the final hole, tees off from the left of the grove of trees, and heads back towards the Ford Buildings and the parking area where you started.

This hole is a long, zero obstacle, uphill drive.

Berry College Disc Golf

Nearby Disc Courses

Berry College Mountain Campus Course

Directions:

1. Take US-27 to Berry College in Rome, Georgia.

2. Enter the main entrance and follow the roundabout to the first right.

3. Follow this road to a complex of large, gothic stone buildings, called the Ford Buildings.

4. At the  first stop sign, turn left, and follow the road around these buildings to the parking area behind them.

5. The course begins in the field beside this parking area.

Berry College Disc Golf

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