Camel Gap Trail, Appalachian Trail, Low Gap 1 Trail, Big Creek Trail
Date Hiked: May 4,2013
Day 2: I wake up to a very cold, damp and windy day. Luckily it didn’t rain much in the middle of the night so I didn’t have to the dreaded task of packing up everything wet. While packing I decided to go ahead and fix me some breakfast. I don’t generally cook breakfast but decided on grits with some Velveeta added and some precooked bacon strips. It was the first time I tried the precooked bacon and will definitely bring it on the trail again. I managed to get everything packed up and hit the the trail.
The first trail of the day was the Camel Gap Trail up to the Appalachian Trail. I loved this trail. It is a nice well graded trail that runs along the side of a creek for most of the way. The Camel Gap Trail is 4.7 miles long and only gains about 1600 feet in elevation. The sun never managed to come out and the wind started blowing like crazy. Even though I wasn’t hiking that steep I was hiking against the wind sometimes and that is hard. And then it started raining. Not very hard but just enough of a rain to make one miserable. I actually got cold while hiking and had to put my long johns on and my jacket. I tried to find my hat but couldn’t find it anywhere. This got me started worrying. I knew that tomorrows hike was going to be about 10 miles of ridge walking and the forecast was 70% chance rain. I knew I had a decision to make.
I had to decide if I was going to continue my hike as planned or was I going to abort and head back home. I would decide when I got up to the Appalachian Trail. The decision was quickly made when I made it to the AT. It was even colder and more windy there. I didn’t even take a break to have a snack. I made my decision rather quickly and instead of turning left on the AT to go to Tri Corner Knob Shelter I turned right and headed north.
After a few miles I made it to the Cosby Knob Shelter and ended up taking a break there. I knew I had a long way to my car and wanted to make sure that I fueled up. One of the backcountry rangers showed up at the shelter and checked everyone’s permits. Another hiker asked him if he knew the weather forecast for the next couple of days. Tomorrow had been bumped up to 100% chance of rain AND they were expecting 2- 4 inches in the next 24-36 hours. I realized then that I made the right decision.
I headed on my way continuing north on the AT until I got to Low Gap I trail (there are 2 Low Gap Trails) where I would downhill for 2.5 miles. Low Gap 1 is just about as miserable as Low Gap 2. Steep downhill with lots of rocks and roots. I didn’t think I was ever going to make it to the bottom but finally made it to the Big Creek Trail intersection where I would hike 5 miles back to my car.
Double check to make sure you have all your gear. (I don’t know if having my hat would have made a difference but it might have)
Day One – May 31 James River to Punchbowl Shelter – 10.5 miles
I call this the day from hell. We got started hiking at around 11:30, right in the heat of the day. First, I did not have a proper breakfast. Second, it was just really hot. Third, we started with a huge 3000 foot elevation gain. And fourth, I had 6 days of food which made my pack freaking heavy. I mean heavy. I bet it was close to 35 pounds. Maybe a little heavier since I needed to carry a little extra water. Anyways we set off. We took a short break at the Johns Hollow Shelter. I was already super hot which meant I did not eat enough. As the day went on I felt sicker and sicker. I was feeling extremely nauseous which isn’t a good thing. I was really hating Virginia at this point even if it was beautiful hiking. We managed to finally make it to the top of Bluff Mountain. The views were awesome. And this meant it was all downhill until the shelter. Yea for me. We finally made it to the shelter and got the tarp set up. I managed to find enough energy to make us dinner which I ate all of 5 bites of. We stayed dry and survived the thunderstorm complete with lightening that night.
Day 2 – June 1 Punchbowl Shelter to Brown Mountain Creek Shelter – 9.5 miles
Terrain wise this was the easiest day of the trip. There wasn’t a lot of elevation change so it was nice hiking. Well until the rain came. For those that don’t know, I am really blessed when it comes to hiking in the rain. If it rains when I am hiking it is usually just a light misting. Nothing that makes me look like a drowned rat. And 1 out of the 2 times that it has poured down it was my last day of the trip so I don’t have to deal with the wet nastiness. Well that changed today. About 30 minutes before I got to the shelter where we were going to take a lunch break the skies opened up. Yep, I looked like a drowned rat. Needless to say we decided to stay at that shelter for the day. We ended up sleeping in the shelter so we wouldn’t have to set up the tarp.
Day Three – June 2 Brown Mountain Creek Shelter to Seeley-Woodworth Shelter – 15.8 miles
I knew today was going to be a challenging day. First thing I had to put on cold soaking wet clothes. Let me tell you, nothing feels better than that. Second, the day was starting out with a 4.5 mile climb. And third, just the high mileage of the days hike. I am still new to hiking over 10 – 11 miles per day. But once the climb was over the terrain was generally easier. Todays highlight was going over Cold Mountain. It was a long day but we finally made it to the shelter. Ended up staying in this shelter as well. I was too exhausted to deal with setting anything up.
Day Four – June 3 Seeley Woodworth Shelter – Harpers Creek Shelter – 14.2 miles
Today is another longish day but at least the weather was nice. Today’s highlights are Spy Rock and the Priest. Spy Rock was beautiful. I definitely had to get out of my comfort zone since to get up to the top you have to do some bouldering but it was worth it.
The next climb would be The Priest. This climb didn’t bother me one bit. I was feeling strong. It was the down that was brutal. 3ooo feet in about 4 miles. It was steep and the first half was so rocky. Sometimes the down hills are worse than the uphills and this was definitely no exception. We finally made it to the bottom to the Tye River. Just one more climb and a couple of miles to the shelter.
Harpers Creek Shelter was an awesome shelter. Great tent sites. Nice shelter. Creek in front of the shelter. The first thing I did was soak my feet. After that brutal downhill it felt so good. We thought we would have the shelter to ourselves but “Brown Banana” from Switzterland came in pretty late. He had just hiked 3o miles into the shelter. At least he was cool.
Day Five – June 4 Harpers Creek Shelter – Campsite – 14.7 miles
Today started with a 3 mile climb. At least it was in the beginning of the day. Today was pretty uneventful. I was tired and definitely getting cranky. I had planned my food poorly and all I had thought about for a couple of days was wanting to eat macaroni and cheese. We made it to the Dripping Rock parking area on the Blue Ridge Parkway and took a short break. Only 2 miles to go to the campsite. While we were there another hiker was dropped off by a car. I was secretly hoping that it was trail magic. The hiker was “Talks Alot”. She decided that to camp with us on top of the mountain. The only downside was having to carry water to the campsite. I filtered water for Mr Breeze and sent him on the way to find a campsite. Then I loaded up myself with water and started trudging up the hill. “Talks Alot” caught up with me and we hiked together for a bit. It was nice to hike with someone and have a conversation. But then she went ahead. It had started raining a little bit and she wanted to get set up. At one point I looked up and there was Mr Breeze. He had come down the trail looking for me to make sure that I was OK and walked the rest of the way with me.
This was the best night on the trail. We had wonderful views and a beautiful sunset. Mr Breeze had built a great fire as usual. The rain had stopped. There was great conversation. A deer walked around our campsite. And I only had 12.5 more miles into town the next day to get some macaroni and cheese 🙂
Day Six – June 5 Campsite to Rockfish Gap – 12.5 miles
Today was the last day on the trail. And I didn’t take any pictures. I was excited to be getting some real food. I am grateful that that the terrain was easy. There were a couple of short climbs but nothing serious. It was a great day. We made it to town by 2:00. And after this second long trip of the year I feel like I can do anything. Well actually I know I can do anything. As long as I stay positive and believe that I can.
Day One: Thursday April 26, 2012
Devil Fork Gap to Hogback Ridge Shelter – 6.1 miles
My day actually started at 3:00 AM. I had to work from 4:00AM until 12:30PM. We had huge storms come through Knoxville and I knew it would too hot for rain pants if in fact it was raining while on my trip. So I bought a box of contractor bags and made a makeshift rain skirt. Well 12:30 came and I was on my way to Uncle Johnny’s in Erwin, TN where I would leave my car and get a shuttle to Devil Fork Gap. I arrived at Uncle Johnny’s and “Sarge” gave me a lift to the gap. And of course it was still raining. Actually it only started raining on the way there. So I rigged up my makeshift rain skirt and hit the trail.
I had plans to meet “Mr Breeze” about 4 miles up the trail. I was pleasantly surprised to find him only .5 miles after starting. He had set up his tarp to get out of the rain. After a short while we headed on up the trail. Not too long after we started we came across a waterfall. After the obligatory waterfall pictures we kept hiking. We ended up hiking 2 miles more than the plan. I know I was getting cranky because all we seemed to do was climb. And I hate climbing. And I was tired. We weren’t sure exactly where we were but the campsite we thought we would be camping out was not suitable for tarping so we kept going and going and going. We finally arrived at Hogback Ridge Shelter at close to 9:00. We got the tarp set up and basically collapsed. I offered a brownie for someone to go get water and McGruff happily obliged. I thought it was a fair trade. Somehow we managed not to eat anything after we collapsed. It would be fine for me but I was worried about him since he is the one out there long term.
Day Two: Friday April 27, 2012
Hogback Ridge Shelter to Bald Mountain Shelter – 10.1 miles
“Chutes and Ladders”
After having a great nights sleep and sleeping in a bit we got started around 10:00AM. The sun was out when we get started and stayed out all day.
As Firefox put in the register at Bald Mountain today was like playing Chutes and Ladders. It seemed like all we did was slide down the trail in all the mud or climb up the trail. I was really lucky in that I didn’t fall although I had a few close calls. Looking at the profile map I didn’t think the day would be that bad but I should have known better. The second day of backpacking is usually a tough day for me and I had a stomach ache to top it of. We still made pretty decent time. I am sure that Mr Breeze would have liked to have gone faster but he was nice and stuck with me.
We got to Sam’s Gap around noon and took a break. Miss Janet was there doing some shuttling. A bunch of hikers were going into town for a blue grass festival. But we kept hiking and hiking and hiking. We really had no idea where we were at. There weren’t any signs telling us we were at this gap or that gap. I thought for sure that we had made it to Big Bald and it was just a joke or something with no views. But on I trudged and finally we made it to Big Bald.
After not to much longer we made it to Big Bald Shelter. It was a decent enough shelter. The trail crew had brought in a brand new picnic table earlier that day. I felt honored to put the first alcohol stove burn rings on the table. They had also done a lot of trail work that day. Thanks trail crew. It is much appreciated.
It was nice evening at the shelter. We actually slept in the shelter. There wasn’t any great spot to set up the tarp. And there was no on else staying in the shelter so we did. There were only 3 other people at the shelter. Jim and another couple. They had a fire going when we got there but my fire minion really got it going. It was a beautiful fire.
Since we didn’t eat the night before I made Mr Breeze some Ramen Pot Pie. It’s ramen, with instant potatoes, and chicken added. I usually add cheese to it but somehow that got left in the car along with my spoon. I think he also ate 1/2 a jar of peanut butter and jelly. I made me some ramen but only ate about 4 bites. It wasn’t appealing to me at all. I really need to work on my back country nutrition. No dinner the night before and not much tonight. Not a good thing, but I couldn’t force myself to choke it down.
Day Three: Saturday April 28, 2012
Bald Mountain Shelter to Nolichucky River – 16.4 miles
“The Never Ending Descent to Uncle Johnny’s”
Today would be my highest mileage day with a full pack. Awesomeness.
I woke up feeling really good. I didn’t feel like I slept that great but Mr Breeze claims I woke him up with my snoring. Just so you know, I don’t snore. As as I was looking at the profile for the day I mentioned that I may want to try for the river today, but I wouldn’t make any decisions until I got to the No Business Knob shelter which was about 10 miles away. Part of me really wanted to push myself and see if I could do it.
The day actually started out really dark and gloomy. I started out hiking in a long sleeve shirt and long johns. I was worried that it would rain and be nasty all day and my reputation would be ruined. I have been heavily blessed in my 6 years of backpacking of not having to deal with a whole lot of rain. I shouldn’t have worried at all. No sooner did we start up the short steep climb to Little Bald was I stripping off my clothes. And I have to say I don’t know why they call Little Bald a bald. I never saw anything that looked remotely like a bald. Just sayin’.
We made it to Spivey Gap and took a short break. I should also mention that we had seen no one on the trail. This is the height of thru hiker season and we saw no one. And I know I wasn’t hiking that fast. Anyways, we started the climb out of Spivey Gap and I felt it was much steeper than the profile led me to believe. But there were a lot of great water spots. I wish I would have taken the time to take my boots off and soak them. (in hindsight, had I done this my feet might not look like they do now)
We finally made it to No Business Knob shelter around 3:30 which is exactly the time that Mr Breeze said we would get there. The shelter wasn’t much to look at. And there was no picnic table, which is fine but it is sure is nice to have a table. But it looked like there would be great camping there. We sat in the shelter and ate some grub. Part of me just wanted to stay at the shelter and enjoy the night with Mr Breeze. The 2nd part of me wanted to push myself and see if I could do the 16 miles. Well the 2nd part won.
We left the shelter around 4:30 and headed out. He predicted we would get to the river around 7:30. We had nice walking for the next 3 or so miles and then the never ending downhill started. The last 2 1/2 miles I thought would never end. It was hot. I was tired. And the down hill was killing me. We had hiked so much downhill already today. I actually wanted to go uphill (gasp) just to work some different muscles.
But somehow we made it. And guess what time: Just before 7:30
This post is just a quick recap of my journey. I will posting more details and photos in the next week or so.
March 22 – Hiker Hostel
The Hiker Hostel is run by Josh and Leigh Saint. The provide bunk space and shuttles to the trail. And a wonderful breakfast to help you get started.
March 23 – Springer to Hawk Mountain Shelter – 8.1 miles
5 of us from the Hiker Hostel started at the Springer Mountain parking lot. SilverGirl, Long Stride, Old Tyme Ed, Mr Breeze, and myself known as shoe. I definitely stepped out of my comfort zone when starting this hike. It was a rainy wet day. Normally I would delay my hike until the weather was nice and sunny but not this trip. Go me. Mr Breeze caught up with me at the first shelter where I was talking to some other hikers and we hiked together for the rest of the day. Old Tyme Ed caught up with us and we all camped at the Hawk Mountain shelter.
March 24 – Hawk Mountain – Gooch Gap – 9.2 miles
Day 2 is always a tough day for me especially in this section. It seems all you do is climb up and then climb down and then back up and back down. I started a little before Ed and Breeze because I knew what was coming ahead. I actually did pretty good. My goal was Gooch Gap for the day because I was expecting Kellye there with cold drinks. (she wasn’t able to make it.). A long hot day.
March 25 – Gooch Gap – Lance Creek – 7 miles
Kellye showed up in the morning with a Diet Dr Pepper for me. Yea Kellye. And brought some donuts as well. I was kind of feeling it again today. I was hot and dirty. We made the 3.5ish miles to Woody Gap where my awesome hiking group the Traildames were doing a hiker feed. Hot dogs, chips, drinks, treats. It was great. I tried getting Kellye to run me down to the hostel where I could take a shower and wash clothes but she refused. So what else is there to do but to keep walking. We made it to Lance Creek camping area and my fire minions made me a fire and we had a great night. Me, Ed, Breeze, Darwin, Mark and Herman were at the site.
March 26 – Lance Creek – Bull Gap – 8.6 miles
Today was Blood Mountain Day. Ed and Breeze were way ahead of me for most of the day so I hiked with Darwin and Mark for most of the day. It was a hot and brutal day. The climb up Blood Mountain wasn’t too bad and the views were awesome. But the climb down was brutal. It was soooo hot and there was no shade. And we all fried like little lobsters. Finally made it to Neel Gap. I was happy to see that Breeze had waited for me. I can’t believe he waited for 2 hours. We did laundry and took showers and resupplied. And I ate a $7 Tony’s pizza. But we still had 1.2 miles to go for the day to Bull Gap. And it was all up. Needless to say my shower didn’t last too long. Darwin and Mark ended up staying the night at Mountain Crossings.
March 27 – Bull Gap to Low Gap Shelter area – 10.3 miles
The first part of today’s hike is the only section that I have done only once and I was not looking forward to it. It turned out to be quite beautiful. Nice ridge walking with some great views. And of course Cowrock Mountain. We had a little bit of trail magic at Tesnatee Gap with some soda and chips. And chairs. 🙂 It was nice to sit in a chair for a few minutes before we had to climb Wildcat Mountain. Of course Ed and Breeze passed me so I hiked most of the second of the day by myself which was OK. I knew I would see them again. And of course my fire minions didn’t let me down and we had a nice fire. I actually even got some firewood today.
March 28 – Low Gap – Cheese Factory camping area – 13.4 miles
Today was the longest day of the trip. The day started out really easy. The first half went by pretty fast as the terrain was pretty mild and then I don’t know if I got tired or what but it just started going slow. The climb up Blue Mountain usually isn’t bad but it seemed to take me forever. Caught up with Ed and Breeze here and took a boots off break and had some lunch. Then we headed down the never ending downhill into Unicoi Gap. The plan was to sleep on top of Rocky Mountain which honestly is just a bitch of a climb. The kicker…we would have to carry all the water we need for the night and the first few miles of tomorrow. Well we got to the top and it was full so we had to hike about another 3 miles to the Cheese Factory site. Yes, there used to be an award winning cheese factory here. S0 13.4 miles is my longest day ever in the state of Georgia.
March 29 – Cheese Factory – Deep Gap Shelter – 9.4 miles
Day 7 – otherwise known as the day of exhaustion. I am sure the the previous days mileage didn’t help today. We had a nice camp at the cheese factory site and camped with Blue Dragonfly and poco a poco (little by little). We started out hiking together trudging up to the top of Tray Mountan where we loaded up with water. It didn’t take long before Ed and Breeze were way far ahead of me. I hiked most of the day again by myself. I finally made it to Addis Gap where Kelly Knob was awaiting me. No one was waiting for me at Addis Gap 🙁 So I took a break before starting the climb. Kelly Knob is no joke. 975 feet in 1 mile with no switchbacks and no level sections and lots of false tops. And it was so hot with no shade and I ran out of water. I was so grateful to finally make it to the top. The rest of the day was all downhill to the shelter. And guess who was waiting for me at the shelter 🙂 I figured they had kept on hiking. I was so exhausted that I didn’t even set up my tent and slept in the shelter.
March 30 – Deep Gap Shelter – Hiawassee (Fooooood) – 3.6 miles
It was a quick few miles today. I think we all had showers and food on the mind. I know I had cheese dip on my mind. Ed opted to stay at the Blueberry Patch Hostel while me and Breeze opted for more luxurious accommodations at the Holiday Inn Express. After showering and doing laundry we went to the hostel and picked up Ed, Matt (split personality), and Joel (I think his name was) and we went to Daniel’s Steakhouse and all you can eat buffet. I opted to get a steak and baked potato instead of the buffet. Since it was getting close to hiker midnight (9pm) we all headed to sleep with full bellies
March 31 – Dicks Creek Gap – Plumorchard Gap Shelter – 4.5 miles
Today was the day to meet up with my peeps the Traildames. Kristen, Monica, Shemeah,Leslie, Nancy, and April. I started out the day before the others. I felt like I needed a little time to myself to process everything. My trip was coming to an end and I was so close to attaining my goal. It was kind of emotional. I did really good on this section. It only took me a little over 2 hours to get to the shelter area. Normally it takes me close to 3.5 hours. I had hoped I had talked Ed and Breeze into finishing the GA section with me but was afraid they would keep hiking on. They would never get to the end if they only hiked 4.5 miles a day. But when I got to the shelter they were there. They are awesome. Of course catching up with the dames meant taking goofy pictures with Monica (now known as shuddah bug)
April 1 – Plumorchard – Muskrat Creek Shelter – 7.3 miles
Today was the day. The day that I would cross the state line. The day my goal would be complete. I gave explicit instruction to Breeze and Ed to wait for me at the state line. They were not to cross the line until I got there. Well at least one of my minions knows how to follow directions. And he had to only wait for 45 minutes. Me and Leslie finally made it around noon. Nancy and April were at Bly Gap taking a break. I did it !!!
April 2 – Muskrat Creek – Deep Gap, NC and then home – 4 miles
I started the day out walking by myself. It was kind of a bittersweet day. I would be leaving my friends that I met on the trail. But at the same time I had just accomplished an awesome goal of mine. The trail was beautiful today. There was kind of a misty fog all over which kind of matched my mood. Mr Breeze caught up with me fairly quickly and we walked the rest of the way to Deep Gap. I had to wait around for the other ladies but that was ok with me.
Things were looking kind of bleak for me last year when it was time for me to get a job. No more packing up and heading out when I wanted. It was actually kind of depressing.
Summer of 2008 to Summer of 2009 was such a great year for me. I backpacked all over. 2008 brought the AT in North Carolina and the Smokies, completed the AT in Maryland and a little in PA, met Dirigo and Python who let me tag along to hike part of the 100 Mile Wilderness. 2009 brought alot of mini adventures for me. I hiked from Davenport Gap to Allen Gap. I discovered the Smokies and fell in love with the mountains there.
2010 is looking to be a great year of adventures for me.
I have a pretty cool boss at work and she approved alot of time off for me. So, although I can’t pick up and go when I want to, I have 4 awesome trips to look forward to.
~ April is bringing a hike from Dicks Creek Gap to where ever I end up. I have 9 days to hike. I’ll be hiking most of the time with my good friend Kellye.
~ May is bringing an awesome journey along the BMT through the Smokies. I will be hiking this with my fabulous friend Fab. You can check out her blog under Sweet Peas Adventures. It’s on the right over there.
~ June is bringing a Traildames trip in the Smokies. We will be hanging out for a week at a campground and doing some dayhikes and an overnighter for those that want.
~ September is the trip pf all trips. 2 weeks in Glacier National Park Montana. The second week will be spent doing trail maintenance with Wilderness Volunteers. The first week I will be doing a 4 day/3 night backpacking trip with Glacier Guides. That leaves a couple of days for me to do what I want.
Yep. 2010 is looking like an awesome year for the slowest hiker on earth.