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A Climb in Uwharrie National Forest

By Joe Maher

 

The weather had been quite cold and brisk the night before as I fell asleep in my sleeping bag at Morrow Mountain State Park in North Carolina's Uwharrie National Forest. There had not been a cloud in the sky and I had watched for a while through the door of my tent to see if the meteors that were predicted would show themselves. After only two meteors I was asleep and it was not until I heard the sound of rain on top the tent that I realized that I had already slept through most of the night. Morning was cold and damp, but not as cold as it had been at bedtime the night before. How had such a beautiful starry sky managed to turn itself into such a yucky rainy morning?

I was up and packing my things within minutes. In less than an hour I was supposed to be meeting Cam "Icabod" Taylor at the junction of two highways a short distance away. We would be spending that day climbing in the area that Cam climbs in regularly, but that I had never visited before. My hurry was wasted, however, as I discovered that I was locked into the campground and couldn't get away until the rangers came along and opened the gate at eight o'clock. That was not good; I was supposed to be meeting Cam at eight and I was suddenly afraid that he might give up and leave before I got there.

As it turned out he was still waiting for me, and after I got a bit of breakfast at a small restaurant near our meeting spot, we were on our way to a boat landing where we would launch my canoe and then paddle to the climbing area a little over a mile up a beautiful lake framed by mountainous terrain and impressive forest. Cam had been a bit worried that the trees here might not measure up to my expectations, but let me assure everyone that the trees here, combined with the location, were more than acceptable.

We beached the canoe just below a magnificent white oak that overhung the water. Big beckoning limbs assured me that we were in for a delightful day of climbing. Of course we had Murphy along with us and before we knew it I had gotten a throwbag hung in the tree. Frustrating but no real problem. In minutes I had gotten another setting, hoisted a rope, and was ready to follow Cam who was already on his way up the tree. We both climbed quite slowly, taking our time, enjoying both the day and the climb. The cloudy, questionable sky made feeble attempts to shower on us, but it never rained hard enough to get either of us wet. The first stop on the way up was a big limb where we took photos of each other with the lake and the mountain as background.

From this point Cam branched out(Pardon the pun!) horizontally on a precarious limb walk, while I continued vertically on a course set to eventually rescue my hung-up throwbag. I have a reputation for hanging myself from questionable anchors and I could see that Cam was concerned as I tossed my line over a limb well over my head that could not have been more than three inches in diameter and was well away from the trunk of the tree. I pointed out that I was still tied in at my original anchor, plus I had created another setting on another limb to my side. Even if the limb above had given away, the fall would have been no more than a foot or so. He looked rather dubious as I explained that I didn't particularly like the setting either, but that I wasn't going to leave a perfectly good weight bag up in the tree. No problem; the limb held, the throw bag was rescued, and I was a happy camper once again.

Having done the throwbag rescue I then decided that a bit of fishing line with hook, sinker, and bobber still attached that was hanging from an outer limb needed to be removed from the tree. How anybody had managed to cast a fishing line fifty feet into the top of the tree was a mystery to me, but there it was!

Cam by now had managed to get himself way out on the limb he had been traveling along and I decided that it would make a pretty good photograph. He passed his camera along to me with the help of my short "in tree" throwline and then posed for photos. The background of the lake was magnificent and I must say that I have every intention of returning to climb here once again.

Not being content to let the top of the tree go unclimbed I worked my way upward through another pitch to the highest point that I would trust, and after a few minutes of meditating on the view, began a slow descent. It was afternoon by the time we were both on the ground packing up our equipment, but the weather had improved and we were in no hurry to get back. The paddle back down the lake was very interesting in that we were able to see an eagle nest on the bank opposite from where we had climbed. A large pine tree just beyond the eagle nest made me think that perhaps a return here in the spring could yield some good photos of an eagle on its nest. It should be possible to get a good view of the nest without really being close enough to disturb "Bubba Bird." Actually the idea of bothering an eagle goes against my wilderness ethics but it sure makes a good excuse for coming back here, whether I see the eagle or not.

 

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