Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Gregory Ridge Trail

I joined a fine group of TTA hikers, from the Sumner Trails Chapter, led by Anne Wesley for a backpack to Gregory Bald in the GSMNP. We were meeting at the Cades Cove Ranger Station coming from Nashville, Hendersonville, Monteagle and Dayton. Pulling into the Ranger Station, I watched a 6 point buck prance across the road in front of my car. Marietta was waiting in the parking lot, and the others pulled in shortly after. While Anne went inside to file our permit, we met Malcolm, Karen (the newbie backpacker), and Amy. Coming out of the Ranger Station, Anne was stopped by visitors asking questions…she did have a GSMNP shirt on. She COULD have been a Ranger…..

On the way around the Loop Road (nicely re-paved) we spotted a mama bear and cub feeding on acorns on a hillside. A little farther, traffic was stopped while 3 bear cubs played in the tree branches hanging over the road.

Finally made it to the trailhead. Malcolm passed around homemade granola bars his wife had made for the backpack. It started raining as we started up the trail. We saw a lot of huge trees on this old growth section of trail. We had 3 log bridge crossings and came to campsite 12 right by the creek. We had our choice of sites, no one else was here. We set up and inspected housing for the trip. Amy gathered firewood and started a fire. We cooked supper and enjoyed our wet firewood fire. Lights out, wow it gets dark here! More rain thru the night made me wish I had let Craig spray my tent with water repellent when he asked if it needed it. It was fine the last trip…which had been Easter weekend, no precipitation….

Got up Saturday morning to drips from the trees, and a cloud sitting on the mountain top. It’s gonna be a beautiful day! A squirrel playing in the tree tops by the creek was trying to pelt me with the remains of his breakfast. It was like little missiles raining down. I was just trying to get some water! As we climbed up the trail the sun was starting to peep thru the mist. When the beams started shining down, it was an incredible sight to see. Wow!

We got to the junction for Gregory Bald took the path to the stream to get water and take a break. When we got up to the Bald we took out our wet gear and dried it in the warm sunshine, then on to the campsite to set up. The water source at the camp is just a seep and it was so seepy, we used ziplock baggies to collect water. We carried our cooking stuff and food back up to the bald and had dinner and watched the gorgeous sunset. A big group of Florida U students were on the Bald and asked if they could share our fire at the campsite. We said sure! Met up with a Ranger carrying a rifle on the way back to camp…hog hunting. We got back to camp and watched the FU group try to keep a fire going with wet wood so they could cook their canned food: ravioli, soup, beans, baked potato. There were 15 of them -a great group of young people. Met some backpacking firefighters and a couple of other groups. The stars came out for a beautiful night.

Sunday morning light woke us up. Leisurely breakfast and pack em up and move em out.

Back to the Bald and back down the trail, which is always different in the opposite direction. We saw lots of bear scat on the way down, but no bears.

Ice cream back at the Ranger Station finished our trip.

Great group of folks, great backpack, Thanks to Anne and now Karen’s not a newbie any more!


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