Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Day One: 3.6
Bradley Fork 1.25
Chasteen Creek to Campsite #48 2.4
Day Two: 8.2
Chasteen Creek to Enloe Creek 2.0
Enloe Creek to Hyatt Ridge 3.6
Hyatt Ridge to #44 2.6
Day Three: 8.0
Hyatt Ridge to Beech Gap 0.9
Beech Gap to Balsam Mt. 5.3
Balsam Mt. to Laurel Gap shelter 1.8
Day Four: 11.7
Balsam Mt. to AT 6
AT to Pecks Corner 5.3
Hughes Ridge to Peck's shelter 0.4
Day Five: 9.1
Hughes Ridge to Bradley Fork 1.8
Bradley Fork to Smokemont 7.3
Total Miles: 40.6
Well we again went from plan A to plan B. We had a five day hike planned starting on Thursday. Wednesday on the way through Woodbury going to work, I had waves coming down the road at me in the heavy rain. The water was getting deep and the radio was saying that Rutherford County was having the worst storms. It just happens to be where I was heading to. This was only the beginning of a long day. The storms were going to get worse.
The most tornadoes to hit in one day in history......wow! After working storm damage at work I headed home the next morning. The last conversation with Lora was when I told her it was all clear on the radar. The phone wasn't working at the house that morning. Finally I got a call from her telling me she didn't know how I was going to get up the mountain as the tornado damage has blocked the way I usually come up the mountain. Four people had died less than a quarter mile from our home and damage was massive. Lora had visited the basement while this was going on, but had no idea that the tornado had hit so close and so much damage had occurred. She found out when she drove down the road to get a cell signal. I got another call from her just before I got to the mountain and the police had told her they had cleared enough road to get one car at a time up the mountain.
I got the generator running as Lora grabbed food from her Mom's and sisters houses. With no damage at home other than replanting a couple of bushes, we loaded up some saws and headed out to help the neighbors. Most of them were waiting for the insurance people. We ended up just collecting belongings from fields and bringing what ever we thought was important back to the people it belonged to. Afterwards, since we didn't have any power and it would be days before we got it back, we decided to go ahead with our hike. We took our generator and food to Lora's parents and headed to the Smokys. On the way, Lora looked at her phone and said "What? 5:30pm already?"
We registered at 8:11pm. We left out of Smokemont. We had planned on hiking the Smokemont Loop today, but since it was now dark we hiked the 3.6 miles in to campsite #48. It was a beautiful night and the stars were shining so we left off the rainfly and slept under the stars. We woke up with the splashing of water in our faces. AHHHHH it's raining. I got up, grabbed the rainfly, and deployed. The rain had stopped before I got the rainfly strapped down. Oh well.
The next morning we got up ate breakfast and headed down Chasteen Creek going towards Enloe Creek. Lots of uphill this morning. We saw a black bear just up hill from us digging at a fallen tree. He turned and looked at us, then walked up to the trail above and ran off. When I took a step forward a turkey flew off. He was about twenty feet downhill. It's going to be a good day. These are some beautiful trails.
When we got to Hyatt Ridge trail we saw four Yankees at the junction. We knew they were from the North when they didn't return our "hello's." When we got to campsite #44 there was already a tent in the premo site, so we had to set up at the group site. Campsite #44 is a pretty site with a spring flowing through it. After we set up the tent, cleaned up, and collected firewood, the two guys who had the other tent showed up. They came up from the creek and had been fishing all day. No, we didn't see any fish. Later on one other backpacker showed up. He collected water and went back down the trail. Lora and I sat by the fire and enjoyed the stars.
The next morning we hiked down the Beech Gap trail where we took a lunch break at the Straight Fork river and aired out our tent and bags. After lunch we past our first hiker of the trip as we started the steep climb up to Beech Gap. On the way up we passed three Benton Mackaye hikers that were hiking the Smoky Mountain section.
When we got to Beech Gap we took a well deserved rest in the meadow. We saw a group of seven backpackers come up that were heading to Laurel Gap shelter as well. At the shelter we ended up with ten people from North Carolina, Indiana, and Florida. Here we also made the rookie mistake of leaving our food in the shelter while all these people were around as we fetched water and cleaned up. When we got back we found that a mouse had attacked the food bags. Not too much damage luckily.
We did kick up a Grouse on the way to the spring and heard more the next morning. Our time at the shelter was spent socializing with our many backpacking brothers. One even had a guitar and played some songs for us. He didn't know "Rocky Top."
We did have fun with their "Fire Master." He broke out the old flint, shaved some off, got a spark, and was blowing like hell. In between he asked how I started one. I told him with lint and a lighter. He gave me that surprised look and ask the golden question; "You have a lighter?" After saying yes, one of his fellow hikers said that he had one too. Mystified he asked his partner why he didn't tell him this the night before. "You didn't ask!"
The next morning after saying our good byes, we hiked the easy Balsam Mt. ridge to the Appalachian Trail. We got to see some Juncos flying from their nests on the trail. Once we hit the AT we met backpackers. Three Ladies just hiking the Smoky Mountain section and eighteen thru-hikers heading to Maine. This is just on the 5.3 miles that we hiked. We enjoyed the views as always. This is what I consider the most beautiful part of the Smoky Mountains.
When we got to Pecks Corner shelter there were three hikers there already. These men were from Kentucky and one recognized the "Outcasts". He had read our hikes on the Sheltowee Trace. By dark we had ten hikers total, two of which were thru-hikers. Some of the hikers had also climbed Half Dome like Lora had. We had some wonderful conversations throughout the evening and in the morning as well. We did get a phone signal that night up by the privy that one of the hikers tip us off to. We had gotten power back the afternoon before.
After saying our goodbyes we headed down the Hughes Ridge trail and took the Bradley Fork trail back to Smokemont. Talk about a wildflower hike. These are some great trails.