Saturday, November 16, 2013

Rock Creek Segment - CT

Lora and I decided to take a day hike on the Cumberland trail.  It was a cool down for me after my Georgia Loop and Lora's regular hiking date.

We went to the Rock Creek segment and hiked the six miles to the bridge and back.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Elkmont Camping/hiking Weekend

Smokies Camping/Hiking Weekend
Nov 8, 9, 10

I drove to Elkmont Campground to meet up with Nancy, Diane, Marietta, and Amy for a weekend of hiking in the Smokies. I got to the camp just before dark on Friday evening to find the ladies already set up and eating dinner around the campfire. Got my tent set up and joined them around the fire. The stars popped out and the night air got colder. We got warmed up and jumped into our sleeping bags.

It was cold when we got up, so Nancy got the fire going and we ate breakfast warming our fingers around the fire. Then off to the woods.

We dropped our shuttle car past Newfound Gap at the Deep Creek trailhead then drove to Clingman’s Dome Road to the Fork Ridge trailhead. Nancy only needs 10 trails to finish hiking all the trails in the Smokies and the Fork Ridge trail was one of them. It was all downhill starting at 5,880 ft going down to about 3,100 ft. This trail has a reputation of being overgrown so Nancy figured after the frost came would be a good time of year to do this one. She figured right. 

The fir trees that are still living here are beautiful. We passed thru fir, then red spruce, then rhododendron, then hemlock, then oak and maple forests seeing lots of old growth trees along the way. Some of us took a little fall or two on the trail. No lasting injuries. We could hear Deep Creek roaring below us. The chestnut oaks along the creek are huge. 

We got to the creek, looking for the log bridge……..must have washed away. Boots off pants rolled up, barefoot crossing and WOW that’s cold water! We stopped for lunch at Campsite 53 by the creek. This campsite is over used and wasn’t appealing for camping. 

We headed up the Deep Creek trail.  There is a lot of stream crossings and lots of dog hobble whose leaves were turning purple, pretty. We watched for salamanders but didn’t see any. This is a pretty trail and we climbed back up to 4700 feet to get back to the car. The switchbacks on the trail made it easier to climb.

We drove back to Clingman’s to get the other car and headed back toward camp. As we started down the mountain we got into a traffic jam. We speculated on what the hold up could be; Saturday traffic, a wreck, bear sighting…..about half way down the mountain we saw a lot of folks with cameras pointing down the bank and the traffic flow got faster. Yep, bear sighting. We didn’t see it but I hope all the folks in the hundreds of other cars got to. 

Oh well. Back at camp, the ladies in the other car had gotten back first and the table was spread with chips and salsa and cheese and bean dip and cookies for the hungry hikers. Had to wait a while to cook dinner after that snack. Another great campfire and star gazing and good fellowship and sipping warm stuff like hot chocolate with butterscotch. A big thank you to Amy's sister for the awful ginger cookies that we couldn't stop eating. They were so terrible that we all ordered a dozen. 

Sunday morning was a little warmer starting out. I packed up my tent since I would be headed home tonight. 

We headed back to Clingman’s Dome, this time starting on the AT for 2 miles to get to Goshen Prong Trail. We hiked up to the tower in the cool air, getting warmer as we climbed. We took in the gorgeous views from the tower. This two mile section of the AT has awesome views on both sides of the ridge; just watch your step. 

Found the Goshen Prong junction and down down down we went. We started from the highest point in the Smokies and would end at 2750 ft. It’s rocky and very shady on this ridge side, found a little ice on some of the rocks. After the first 2.6 miles we started seeing cascades and pools.  We came to a sign that said we had come 4.4 miles from the AT and was 3.3 from the Little River Bridge and trail. It’s strange to come to a sign when there is no junction. Maybe they rerouted the trail? It is in a flat area. 

Just around the bend was campsite 23 and our lunch spot. We found a sunny spot and got busy eating. The next couple of miles we saw the devastation from a July tornado last year that took down numerous trees. Whoever had to clean up this mess had a tough job! On down the trail we crossed an iron bridge over the river and found the Little River Trail. We took pics to show we finished another trail!

The Little River Lumber Company logged all this area; they took out the old growth until 1938. But a beautiful forest grew back. We hiked thru all the leaves that had fallen, making the path yellow, gold and brown. The walk along the river is beautiful. It has a few house sized boulders along the way. As we got closer to Elkmont we started seeing the old vacation homes. Nancy spotted the one that her yoga instructor’s family owned and took some pictures for her. 

We got to the campsite and I said my good byes to the ladies, while they headed back to Clingman’s to pick up the other car. They were staying another night to get in another trail Monday. Ace Gap was another one on Nancy’s map. After that she will only need 7 more to finish her map. Glad we could be with her the knock out these!

Monday, November 4, 2013

AT - Fontana Lake to Newfound Gap

Fontana Dam to Mollies Ridge Shelter 9.9 miles
Mollies Ridge Shelter to Derrick Knob Shelter 11.7
Derrick Knob Shelter to Double Springs Shelter 7.2
Double Springs Shelter to Newfound Gap Road 10.8
Total Miles: 39.6

Well it was time for another section hike of the Appalachian trail.  We started off right with a homemade cookies from Lora's mom and a homemade caramel chocolate apple from my mom.  It was added weight, but it sure was worth it:)

My Dad and Mom took us to the trailhead at Fontana Lake.  We had a picnic lunch and then off we went.  Dad and Mom took our car and was going to drop it off at Newfound Gap.  It was a late start at 1:30pm and we had 9.9 miles to our first shelter on a short day.

The colors were beautiful as we headed up the mountain.  It was all uphill today.  We had to stop at Shuckstack tower to absorb the view.  We saw a couple of dayhikers at the tower and they were heading back out saying it was getting late.  Well, we still had 6.5 miles to do so we headed out soon afterwards.  The higher we got the less colors there were.

After Doe Knob we dropped into Ekaneetlee Gap so we could climb back up Mollies Ridge.  We got to Mollies Ridge Shelter right at dark.  A few minutes later we would have had to use our headlamps.  There were two guys from Alabama at the shelter and they had gotten a fire going in the fireplace.  Now that's a sign of a rookie.  Yes, we got to breath smoke all night long.  It was a first backpack for one of them and it was a first time in the Smoky's for both of them.  We had a good visit before time to call it a night.  We got to hear both a Barred Owl and a Screech Owl.


We got up and off to a early start today.  Today was going to be alot of uphill.  In between Russell Field and Spence Field we met a group of the Nashville Meet Up people doing a backpack.  They were taking a break when we went by.

We climbed to Russell Field and then Spence Field followed by a climb to Good ole Rocky Top, Rocky Top Tennessee.  Sorry, I just couldn't help myself.  Between Spence Field and Rocky Top the sleet started.  As continued our climb up Thunderhead Mountain it turned to a mix of snow.  We still got some great views all through this area.  The last time I was up here, with my dear old Dad and Brother, we spent the entire trip in a cloud and had no views.

We got to drop off the other side of Thunderhead so we could start our climb back up to Derricks Knob.  We got to the shelter and got camp set up.  It was getting colder, so we got a fire going.  Right at dark, three other backpackers showed up.  They were from North Carolina.  After everyone got fed, the guys went to bed and Lora and I stood around the fire until the snow got too bad.  It snowed with a good wind all night long.


A good and cold morning.  Today we were going to do some uphill.  We got enough snow to make some snow cones.  Yum Yum!  It was cool walking through the area's where the clouds had passed over and left ice on all the branches and weeds.  We climbed to Silers Bald Shelter for lunch.  From here we climbed to Silers Bald for all the wonderful views.  As far as you can see, beautiful mountains.  We met some women from New York and Boston at the peak.  While we were talking to them seven backpackers went by.  You could tell we were getting closer to Clingmans Dome.  Lora worked her magic and got to see a snake up here.  It was a little grass snake, but all the same to her.

The ridge hike between Silers Bald and Clingmans Dome is full of beautiful views.  It was our short day with the lay out of shelters in the Smoky's and you have to stay at the shelters.  We stopped at Double Springs shelter for the night.  We got in early so we got to find some firewood in this area.  That is quite the challenge in a popular area.  The women came back by on there hike back out to Clingmans Dome.

As it started to get dark the colder it got.  The wind picked up and was blowing from every direction.  We couldn't stay out of the smoke if we had too.  After a good smoke battle we called it quits for the night.


We got up in the nice cold wind and made breakfast.  Today we had some uphill to do.  We climbed Clingmans Dome to the tower.  There were a lot of people out this morning and views to be seen.  Now alot of people think it is all down hill from here.  There are a lot of ups and downs over the next eight miles.  That is not even talking about Mt. Collins that you go over.

We saw a couple of other backpackers today.  There is also one section that has been fenced off to keep hogs out of for a study of the impact they have on the area.  You climb around the fence on a metal grate to keep the hogs out and hikers in.

At the parking lot at Newfound Gap you are always greeted by visitors and you are always a through hiker of the AT.  They are ready for the stories.  If you tell them anything else, you are a let down to them.  We stopped by the bathrooms to clean up only to find that they have removed the sinks here and you only have hand cleaner.  No hiker shower in the sink here!

204.7 miles done 1972 miles to go.

We stopped in Townsend for dinner and then we had the drive home.  The only wildlife other than birds, squirrels, and chipmunks we see was a Grey Fox on the way home that was on our mountain.