Monday, April 7, 2014

Ladies Spring Backpack 2014

Once again Diane inspired another backpack in the Smokys. She, Nancy and Judy planned the trails to take, Nancy made all the reservations.They, Amy and I met up at Cades Cove to start our trip. Judy's husband Gene brought her to the park, he loaded up all our packs and delivered them to the Anthony Creek trailhead while we walked from the Stable parking area. He is such a gentleman.  He wished us happy trails and off we went. 

The weather outlook for the day wasn't very good; possible high winds and rain thru the afternoon and night. Not too far into the hike, the ponchos were deployed and down came the rain, sprinkles and mist. It's good for the wildflowers and we got to see some on the lower sections of trail.Spring Beauties, Trout lily, Hepatica, vinca, Rue anemones, violets, and wood betony. 

We hiked into a cloud of fog at Spence Field. The shelter was getting crowded, with 4 thru hikers and 2 other backpackers. 5 of us. The shelter sleeps 12. Judy had brought treats for the thru hikers, a little trail magic. We set up for the night, I walked back up the hill and got a cell signal to call Craig and let him know we made it here. Back at the shelter we were trying to decide when to eat, it was still early but rainy and wet outside, not much room to move around inside. We sat out around the cooking area with the thru hikers and had good conversations, enjoyed talking with the blue collar Kansas guy; he came from a farming family, and had a little white lightning in his family history. We have a lot in common. We climbed into our bags to get warm. Nancy got a rousing game of dots going with 2 of the NBers. We had 2 more hikers come in around 9 and asked to squeeze in, they had reservations too and couldn't understand why it was so crowded. Welcome to thru hiker season in the Smoky's. I got up in the night to visit a tree and it was so foggy, I barely found my way back to the shelter. The reflective hiking poles outside the shelter really helped.

Day 2
We packed up and started up Spence Field in a cloud. We were looking for Stinkin Jenkins, aka Jenkins Ridge Trail. Someone had done some great trail work, this trail isn't very popular and is usually overgrown in places with briers and brambles. It looked good today. Nice work! We could see ice on the timber on the ridges around us. and then on the ridge we were hiking. Steep downhill hike. Diane stirred up some turkeys, she counted 8, I saw one of them. Judy saw a grouse. We saw flowers, trailing arbutus and pussy toes. Good brakes kept us upright on the trail, oops except for Judy. She had an adventure trying to tumble down the hill. We reached the junction with Hazel Creek and set up camp at 84. We found a cool pair of sunglasses, a nice water shoe, a bandanna and a sock. We collected firewood to last thru the evening. Then every one abandoned the fire one by one and left me to watch for the stars. 

Day 3
Nancy, Diane and I set out for the Bone Valley Trail. Amy and Judy had already hiked this one and decided on a leisurely morning of fire watching and laundry. Diane had hiked it twice before but graciously hiked it again for us. We had to cross Hazel Creek 4 times. The water was refreshingly bone chilling COLD. Just like in January. And July. The little brown book describes the crossings as knee deep in normal conditions. It had rained 2 days ago and I don't know how tall the writer of the trail description was but he wasn't 5'1 and 1/2. Four crossings plus Mill Creek which was only ankle deep. At the trail's end is Hall Cabin, the most remote historic structure in the park. The Kress family built a mansion here, the foundation and chimney are still here. It was a base camp for wealthy sportsmen who fished the creek for rainbow trout. 

We hiked back to camp and ate lunch by the campfire that Amy and Judy were lounging by. Packed up and headed to the Lakeshore trail to camp at 86, the Proctor site. We were setting up camp and a next door camper came by to say hi and offer his luxury camp to us for the night. Steve is a fishing outfitter and had set up 5 tents with cots that have memory foam mattresses and he wouldn't have guests until tomorrow and feel free to enjoy the luxury for the night. We checked out his camp. Nice digs. I walked to the lake shore, two kayakers had come in and Steve was transporting stuff from his boat to the camp from there also. The kayakers wanted to know where to get a wheeled cart to haul their stuff. I told them about Steve's camp. They found a cart there. I got back to camp and Steve had served the ladies apple turnovers and they saved one for me. Nice. I sat in the sand by the creek and dipped my bare feet in the cool water. I noticed little blue butterflies, the ones you see on horse manure and poop. And some pretty yellow butterflies.....they were feasting on my boots and socks. Surely my boots don't smell THAT bad! Back at camp, Amy had packed up and moved next door, then  Nancy packed up and joined Amy in the Taj Mahal of tents. They did join us for dinner and built the campfire. Some of us stayed up late enough for the stars to come out. Amy and I stayed up a little later and a big noise by the creek got our attention in a hurry. We both thought bear, but no other noise and our headlamps searching eased our minds a little. Amy went to bed and I stayed out listening to the night sounds of the creek for a while. Just after I turned in, the coyotes started singing. Wow they were close. After much prayer I went to sleep too.....

Day 4 
After a good breakfast of gravy, biscuits, and venison sausage (my breakfast) Steve came in with a group of folks. He also brought coffee and crumbcake. Then we started uphill on the Lakeshore Trail. Always uphill after breakfast. We tried for phone signals on the top of this first ridge. I had no luck, maybe Judy did. Simple phone, yes, Smartphone, Nope. Onward and upward. This section of Lakeshore has a lot of homesites with old rusty cars and parts of cars. There are good views of Fontana Lake on this trail. We hiked to the Eagle Creek Junction and headed toward the creek. We got to the first crossing and sat down for lunch. Diane walked into the creek to see how deep it was, got out and pulled out the map to check out other options in case we changed our minds. Each one of us put on our water shoes and they decided I was the shortest, I could check it out. I got in and it was up to my thighs and I wasn't in the deep part yet. The water was moving swift and I didn't like the was it was talking to me. I shook my head and heard the creek laugh at me. 
It sang Fe Fie Fo Fumb, I smell the blood of hikers dumb. 
If you dare to wet your feet, it's not my fault if your pack I eat. 
You're not the first to try your luck 
If you can't swim, you'll be sunk. Bah ha ha ha ha!!!!!!
Not today Eagle Creek, we will toast you with the Butterscotch Schnapps and come back another day. 

Back down the trail to Lakeshore Trail and on toward Fontana Dam. We saw a lot more wildflowers today on the ridges around the lake. Lots of trilliums and violets. We stopped to get more water. Everyone was out at the same time. As we got close to the dam, we met  hikers looking for wildflowers. We hiked across the dam and used the phone to try to get a shuttle back to Cades Cove. Gene was our shuttle. He shared a lot of history with us, as he had grown up on Hazel Creek. He said as a boy, he dug night crawlers and worms for the fisherman at the Kress Sportsmans House for $3 dollars a day. He is in his 80's now so $3 a day when he was a boy was a lot of money. He wanted some more today, @ $25 dollars  per hiker for the shuttle. I guess with the park history and info on where to dig ramps and how to cook them and for the adventure of the drive across the Dragon Tail, the Foothills Parkway and into Cades Cove defying the speed limit to get us back there before dark, it was worth it. 

Our hike was shortened by a day but it was a great spring backpack once again. 
Thanks Diane, Nancy, Amy and Judy!


Diane Pictures: