The race is on……

smokiesto knock out as many of the trails in the Smokies that I can.

I will be moving back to the Atlanta area in February. Which means I will be further away from my beloved  Smokies than I am now. And I am not really that far now. A mere hour from some points.

I figure I have about 23 full weeks before I move. In theory I could do 46 hikes before moving but that would probably be overkill and my body would revolt and laundry wouldn’t get done. And the apartment probably wouldn’t get cleaned. Besides the fact that winter is coming which will knock out some days of hiking. And rainy days too. Well I guess I could learn to tolerate hiking in the rain. Maybe. We’ll see on that one.

So my goal is to get 20 hikes in before I move. I would like to knock out as many trails on the Tennessee side of the park that I can. I think will diligent planning I can knock out quite a few of them. Of course if I had someone to hike with we could stage cars at 2 points but that is not an option for me so I will be doing a lot of in and out hikes. That way when I move to Georgia I can work more on the North Carolina side of the park since it will be closer.

I’m a little bummed about moving further away from the mountains. I don’t get out enough as it is

Lollilop Loop in the Smokies – Big Creek Trail – Backpacking Trip Day 1

Big Creek Trail
Big Creek Trail

Big Creek Trail

Dates Hiked: May 3  2013
Miles Hiked: 5.1

So I finally managed to get a few days off (in a row) from work. It had been a while since I had been backpacking and wanted to hit the woods pretty bad. My original plans were for the trip to be a 4 day 3 night trip but it turned into just a short overnighter.

I got a late start (which is nothing new for me) so I had already decided to alter my plans slightly. Instead of heading up the Chestnut Branch Trail to the AT and down Low Gap to CS #37 I was just going to head up the Big Creek Trail. I had already hiked this trail so I knew it would be an easy hike straight to the campsite. This change in plans was further validated by my decision to park at the wrong trail head.  I wasn’t supposed to be at Cosby Campground. I was supposed to be at the Big Creek Campground. Doh! So I found myself on a twisty turny  road trying to get to the correct destination.

Vasey's Trillium
Vasey’s Trillium

When I pulled into the Big Creek Campground my phone started ringing and then it just went crazy. It wouldn’t stop ringing. I couldn’t turn the phone off. I couldn’t turn the volume down. You can’t remove the battery from this phone. What was I going to do? I couldn’t take it with me into the woods. I ended up wrapping it up in my get off the trail clothes and putting it in the console of my car. I figure at some point it would just die. I finally got loaded up and hit the trail. I’m kinda glad I chose the Big Creek Trail. It was covered in wildflowers. Fire Pink,

Showy Orchis
Showy Orchis

Dwarf Crested Irish, Trillium, Spring Beauties and more. I took my time and took lots of pictures. After  my previous wildflower excursions to Ramsey Cascades and White Oak Sinks I found myself really searching for wildflowers. I was actually using my trekking poles to peek under leaves. I love my camera. It takes awesome close up pictures and it’s just a basic point and shoot. Big Creek Trail also has Midnight Hole and Mouse Creek Falls, both of which were more impressive than the last time I was here.

I finally made it to CS #37 after a few hours. There was only one other tent set up in the area so I walked around and found a spot to set up my home for the night. It wasn’t long before other hikers began arriving. There is definitely  a difference between Appalachian Trail hikers and non AT hikers. AT hikers seem to be a bit more friendly. While no one was mean or seemed shady or creepy people just kept to themselves. I stepped out of my comfort zone and went and talked to a couple of the hikers for a few minutes.

Home for the Night
Home for the Night

As the afternoon went on it started sprinkling on and off. It couldn’t decide what it wanted to do so I decided I had better go ahead and cook my dinner. I promise you that it was nothing exciting. Well unless you consider ramen noodles with some Velveeta exciting and a few slices of precooked bacon. I really must work on adding a little excitement to my trail food. I remember hiking on the Foothills Trail (report coming soon) with Jermm back in 2010 and she made these scones out of Bisquick and honey. OMG they were so good. I should have paid more attention to how she made them.

I finally decided to retire to my trusty MSR Hubba for the night. I popped a Melatonin and quickly fell asleep. Which did not last long. At all. I swear there was a critter or something nudging at my tent right near my head. Of course when I got up and turned my headlamp on it would stop. So I laid down and tried to go back to sleep. And it happened again. And I actually felt the tent hit my head. Sigh, this was going to be a long night. I figured that I might as well get up and tinkle. Luckily it was pitch black now and didn’t have to walk very far to be hidden. While I was out I inspected my tent. There were no chew marks on my tent. There were no claw marks in the dirt.

That was when I saw it !!!!!

The wind had picked up quite a bit and was shaking my tent pretty good. I really felt kind of stupid but was relieved. This meant I should be able to relax and get some sleep.

…..to be continued

Falling in Love With the Mountains….and the Appalachian Trail

On one of our many trips to the mountains.
On one of our many trips to the mountains.

I have my grandmother to thank for a couple of things in my life.

One is my love of cheese dip and cheese quesadillas. And the other is for my love of the mountains and the Appalachian Trail.

After getting out of the Army in November of 1990 I moved to Atlanta where my Mama’  lived. After I moved there we became close and did everything together (at least when I wasn’t working). As stated above she got me hooked on cheese dip and quesadillas. I am still trying to break the addiction  23 years later. She got me hooked on thrift store shopping (which I am not addicted to anymore). And probably the most important thing she got me hooked on was the mountains.

Way back then she had this awesome black 1972 Cougar XR7 convertible and we would drive all over north Georgia wandering the back roads seeing what we could find. The fun thing about that car was that because it was old it was also heavy and had a wide wheel base. We would coast the downhills on the mountains and see how far we could go before having to use the brakes. I think Hwy180 was our favorite. The more curves the better. We would go to little towns and visit and pick out houses that we would want to live in. Macaysville was her favorite town and there were all these cute houses that sat right on the river. And the town even had it’s own Mexican eatery. Oh, how we used to dream.

One day we pulled into one of the pull offs on Hwy 129. It just so happened that it was Woody Gap. We got out to stretch our legs and breathe some fresh air. She walked over to the information board. And I walked over to the trail that caught my eye. I wandered off onto the trail in my Keds tennis shoes and walked for a few minutes into the woods. It was almost like I got transported into another world. A world that just felt right. I walked back to the car and stopped by the info board. I learned that I had just walked on the Appalachian Trail. It didn’t really mean anything to me at the time.

The AT heading north from Woody Gap
The AT heading north from Woody Gap

We made it home and I looked it up on the internet. And it was dial up internet, probably at 14,400 speed. (which for all you young people means slow as molasses). Of course the internet was a whole lot different back then. I did learn that the trail went all the way to Maine and that people actually hiked it all in one year. One of the “foremost” websites for the Appalachian Trail was trailplace.com. There were a few online journals of people that were thru-hiking the trail. After reading them I knew that one day I would hike the entire trail.

Of course this was not my first time in the mountains. Back in high school I went on a backpacking trip with a Christian youth group I was involved with. We drove from Tampa Florida all the way to Asheville , NC for the trip. I remember hating every minute of it. My feet were covered in blisters and they even made me go rock rappelling which was terrifying in itself.

I’ve driven through mountains. Even real big mountains like Mount Rainer.  I’ve even driven up Mountain Washington. Well technically my mom was driving. And I just have to say that that drive was extremely terrifying. I just knew that I was going to die. Next time I will be walking to the top.

But it wasn’t until I that day when I stepped foot onto the Appalachian Trail did I fall in love with the mountains and feel like I was finally home.
And I will forever be grateful to me Mama’ for bringing me to the mountains.

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been a year since I have posted

…seriously, where has the time gone. Oh yea, I didn’t do much hiking after my last trip in June because I was working 2 retail jobs. There wasn’t any time to hike. I am now down to 1 job and am looking forward to getting out more this year. I already have a couple of day hikes I have done and 1 over nighter trip. Unfortunately this year will be mostly day hikes. I am hoping to get in a few backpacking trips but my new job isn’t as flexible.

So in between all my day hikes that I am planning on doing I will be posting past trip reports that I have never blogged about which is a whole lot !

My first solo backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail back in 2006 is sure to be humorous. While somewhat successful it was also a disaster as well.

My plan is to post at least once a week, although I would like to post twice a week.

 

 

Lower Mt. Cammerer/Appalachian Trail/Low Gap Trail Loop 15ish miles

Foot-log Bridge
Foot-log Bridge

I got a later start than planned. I had worked a double on Saturday so was kind of tired. But I drug myself out of bed and got going around 9:30 in the morning. This put me starting my hike at around 11:00.  I was planning a pretty high mileage day so was kind of worried about starting this late but figured I could change my plans if need be. I could have opted for an in and out instead of a loop. After the previous high mileage day that I hadn’t planned on doing I was a little more prepared for this one. I ended up carrying about 25 pounds. I carried my sleeping bag and tent along with some other essentials.

Waterfall
Waterfall

So I made my way to Cosby Campground and hit the trail. You really have to watch where you going at first because there are a bunch of nature trails and side trails to the creek. I had to go .4 miles on Low Gap Trail before I would get to Lower Mt. Cammerer Trail. This trail is 7.5 miles long before it reaches the Appalachian Trail. I have to say that this is a really awesome trail. It was beautiful with plenty of water along the entire trail and the grade wasn’t too steep. And there was a really pretty waterfall. It wasn’t in the guidebook so it was a nice surprise.

Getting to the top of something
Getting to the top of something

At just over 3 miles there is a designated campsite (#35). It looked like an OK place to camp with plenty of trees for hammocking.  I took a short break there and had a snack and then I looked up the hill and saw a dog. It took me a minute to realize that there shouldn’t be any dogs. They are not allowed in the park. It looked like one those sled pulling dogs. I saw a collar on it. Then I briefly saw a small little white dog but it turned and went away. I don’t know where they came from or where they went but I never saw any other human on this trail. They didn’t look hungry and I didn’t feel threatened. But I was ready with my poles just in case.

Surprisingly, before I knew it I had reached the trail junction at the Appalachian Trail. It had only taken me just under 3 hours to hike 7.9 miles. Of course this was the easier part of the trip. Just a nice gradual uphill with some nice flat walking.

Log Stairs
Log Stairs

Now was the hard part part. Climbing for the next 2.3 miles with an elevation gain of around 1500 feet. Not terribly strenuous but hard enough especially after already hiking for almost 8 miles. I would be headed south on the AT until I reached Low Gap. The next couple of miles of trail aren’t like normal trail. There are a lot of log steps to climb. For some people this is good and some bad. I like the stairs. This part of the AT I did a couple of weeks prior so it was kind of boring. I really tried to push myself to see how fast I could get to the top. It took me 1 hour and 25 minutes to get to the top.

It was about 6:00 when I finally made it to the trail intersection of Low Gap which would take me back to the car. I still had 2.9 miles to go. At least I wouldn’t be walking in the dark. But the trail was a steep downhill. Downhills are sometimes so really hard. I don’t have to stop and catch my breath like on the uphills but they can be quite jarring to the body. It was a beautiful trail even if it was rocky. I was just glad to finally make it to my car.

~~~~~~~~~Click here to see all the pictures of this trip~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Route and Elevation Profile
Route and Elevation Profile
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