Southern Sixer Challenge: Accepted and Done!

Hiker Yuliya Semenova fulfilled our “Southern Sixer Challenge” in exuberant style this winter and submitted an exciting account of her recent expeditions. Congrats, Yuliya — and thank you for sharing your journeys with us!

First Expedition

“Hi there, beers and mountains challenge has been accepted and done! My name is Yuliya and I had a kick butt time exploring the 6000 footers these past two weeks. Monday, February 12th, 2018 the forecast showed rain all day but it was my day off and I had the itchy feet and decided that I won’t melt and hiked out. I ascended 5 six-thousand-footers that day!

Parked on RT 215 at 7:18 am, thinking that the Blue Ridge Parkway would be closed, and hiked my way up on trail 346 to Sam Knob. It rained a bit but the clouds parted and sun came out for my ascent to the top. Had to cross a rushing water stream right before starting on trail 617 upwards to the knob. It was up to my knees! Hiked with pruny feet all day but that didn’t prevent me from having fun bagging the rest of the knobs. It was especially beautiful on top. Victory! I loved seeing Black Balsam trail to its summit from Sam Knob. The fog in the valley was going in and out and the sun would peek through just to tease a little bit. I reached Sam Knob at 9:37 am.

At 11 am I was on top of Black Balsam basically in the clouds. 360-degree views were just… breathtaking! I felt my soul and every cell in my body expand looking out into the horizon all around me. It was so beautiful that I forgot about the amount of trash I have collected on the way up there to pack out. It was saddening since it is not even a mile from the parking lot with garbage cans and bathrooms. I’ve packed out 2 used feminine products on top of the bald right on the trail among other trash. As a woman, I am embarrassed for “my kind”. I wanted to scream from anger but the views calmed me. The strong wind however made me come back to reality and I pranced to Tennent Mtn after putting on another layer of clothing. The forest service staff at the parking warned me about the wind and cold temperatures on top. I was ready!

At 11:38 am, I reached the summit of Tennent Mtn and had lunch there with yet another stunning 360-degree view.  The wind subsided and the sun was drying my wet trail runners and caressing my face as I chowed down tuna with almonds. An hour later I was at Grassy Cove Top as per my map but the fog was all around me and I couldn’t see 10 ft in the front of me. I was also not above tree line and so I am not sure if there are views on top there.

At almost 2 pm I  reached the Shining Rock top in the fog. Such cool white rock [quartz] everywhere! It was slippery everywhere and I treaded slowly. Will have to come back here on a sunny day for the views. I found many deer and some kind of small carnivore animal prints half the size of my own footprint. Bobcat? A coyote? I took a horse trail back to the foot of Black Balsam parking lot and trail 346 from there back to RT 215 parking lot. I was back at my car at 5:30 pm, very content with my expedition for the day. Didn’t meet a single hiker that day. I guess the rain which only said ‘hi’ early morning scared some folks… it was a Monday too. I loved having the whole park to myself, however. Queen status!”

Second Expedition

“On Sunday February 18th, 2018 I called the NPS number and they said RT 441 was open. Whoohoo! I decided to take advantage and check out what all this fuss about Mt LeConte was about. I learned quickly that the fuss was legit. Wow! I decided to make it to Myrtle Point for sunset. I got there just in time. I started at 2:30 pm up on Alum Cave trail. Such cool cave and rock formations! I loved the semi flat section along the stream with mini cascading waterfalls in the beginning. There were so many hikers that day. Everyone was going down and only 5 passed me going up.  Including a really cool group of 4 guys from Russia with whom I ended up coming half way down on my return trip. One guy who passed me was never seen again on the way down. He was fast!

I got to Myrtle Point at 5:30 pm. It was soooo cold and windy up there. I hid behind the rocks in the bushes and peeked out at the setting sun as I stuffed my face with nuts and fruit. I was becoming worried that I won’t be able to stay to see it set completely because my toes and fingers started to get cold. I put on my puffy and hunkered down. 30 minutes later just as the sun was going to set behind the mountain range it disappeared behind a thick line of clouds. It was my cue to trek back. Headlamp out and ready to go, I began a descent. My quads were saying ‘hi’ from an earlier strenuous ascent and I promised them that there will be very little uphill coming down. They warmed up and shut up until the next day — haha.

When I reached the cave/rock shelter, it was completely dark. I turned off my headlamp and just sat there for a minute in darkness… listening. I could hear an occasional car in the distance and then I heard Russian chatter. The 4 Russians who passed me on the way up earlier, made a wrong turn somewhere, got lost, found themselves, and now were behind me. They weren’t prepared for the long hike and used their phones to shine the way. No maps either. Sigh… I ended up hiking down with them in the back illuminating everyone’s way with my Black Diamond headlamp. I am Russian myself and I missed the Russian chatter. It was such a treat to meet them and have their company that evening as we all hiked down in the dark, exhausted, but feeling rewarded with such amazing trail and its views. Reached our cars at 8:30 pm. Smokies are the bomb!

Thank you for challenging people to enjoy the outdoors. That is somewhat of my own goal with my Instagram account. Check me out @thewildnfearlesskremlin Looking forward to slapping this patch among others on my pack. Peace, love, beer, and mountains – Forever!

The photo attached was taken at Black Balsam Knob.”


– Yuliya Semenova