Craig was going on a 5 day backpack with the Outcasts while I had a couple of days off and I got jealous. So I sent out messages to some folks to see who might be crazy enough to backpack in the Smokys in December. Judi answered with a YES. She and Gene were up for it. I got off work at , went home, slept 2 hours and hit the road to Bryson City, NC. Deep Creek Campground was our meetup spot. Judi and I got our packs on and headed up the Deep Creek Trail. Gene was planning to hike in the next morning to meet us at the second camp spot. Since daylight hours are short this month, we took off at a brisk pace. We left Deep Creek trail for Indian Creek Trail. Pretty trail following the creek with its cascades. Martins Gap Trail was next with campsite #46 just a little ways in.
The camp sign looked new. The camp is on a slope but we managed to find a couple of level enough spots to put our tents. We gathered our water and wood and made a good pile for the fire. I was testing a new water filter system on this trip. Craig had bought a gravity bag and wanted to send it with me to test. I was skeptical and at the last minute took it instead of my old familiar one. Only I didn’t pick up the little cover for the end of it. I had to leave the clean hose attached to the filter while gathering water. Since Craig had shortened the hose, it was challenging to hold it and the bag and keep it out of the creek, or off the ground while rolling the top of the bag closed. It worked fine at filtering.
We were just starting our campfire at dusk when we heard voices and horses. Company coming. 2 cowboys rode up to the camp, right up to our fire. Those poor horses can’t read the sign that said “NO HORSES” so they didn’t know not to invade the camp. The cowboys wanted to know what in the world we were doing staying out on this cold night. And where we had started and where we were going. And boy were they loud. When we asked where they were going, we hoped they weren’t planning to camp here. They were headed back to Deep Creek, and with loud Yee Haws headed their horses down the trail. They sat there with their buddies for a little while before heading on. We got that fire going great. Plenty of heat. The stars came out and put on a show.
I left the water bag out that night, it still had a lot of water. Since I had to leave the hose on to keep it from all draining out, the hose froze during the night. 22 degrees. Fun stuff. We got our fire going that morning, ate, packed up and started uphill. Always right after you eat. Uphill. Martins Gap to Sunkota Ridge, to Thomas Divide. Once up there it was ridge walking with pretty winter views both ways. We didn’t find any good open spots for pictures of the surrounding mountains. But we did find bear prints in the snow. We got off the ridge at Deep Low Gap. This trail is a rocky roadbed with lots of downed trees, seeps, water running down the trail. We were glad to see the camp sign. We were also glad to find Gene already there, set up with water and wood gathered. Now that’s a treat. He got Judy a hot drink, collected water for me, and then got supper going. My sweetheart had packed my food for me so I had noodles with meatballs. Tasty stuff. Lots of chocolate for dessert. We had a nice fire, the stars popped out. We were tired and well fed and headed to bed. It wasn’t as cold tonight, but I warmed up my feet and socks before heading into the tent.
Woke up to Gene getting the fire going. Sweet. We ate and packed up. Judi and I headed out while Gene finished packing up. We had a few miles to hike out and I had to work tonight. We hiked Indian Creek Motor Trail, nice roadbed, not rocky, not too steep but all uphill. Back to Thomas Divide and mostly downhill to the car at Galbraith Road parking lot. This is the southern trailhead for Thomas Divide. Just a little way from Deep Creek Campground. I got a pic of Judi with her 900 miler sticker on her car. I plan to have one of those one of these days. She took me to my car and then back to pick up Gene.
I headed to Bryson City to pick up lunch to go. Back to Tennessee…..not jealous anymore of my sweetheart still out on the trail somewhere.
Beautiful hike with good friends.