First Multi-Day Smoky Mtns -need advice

6:38 p.m. on August 9, 2013 (EDT)
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I'm a fairly experienced backpacker but this will be my first multi-day in the Smokys.  I'm considering the following loop, but would much appreciate any advice.  One of my concerns is that I have two 16 and 17 mile days; is that too much?  I can hike 18-20 okay in the relatively flat lands of Indiana, but am I pushing too hard for the mountains.  Here's my proposed itinerary, thanks in advance for any comments or advice!

Drive in and park at Big Creek Ranger Station.  Immediately hike up Baxter Creek to CS 38 - 6.1 miles (3-4 hours maybe to climb up Baxter Crk?).

Mount Sterling Trail to Balsam to A.T. to Maddron to CS 29 - 17.5 miles.

Maddron to Gabes to Lower Cammerer to CS 35 - 16 miles.

Lower Cammerer to AT to Mount Cammerer and backtrack to Davenport Gap Shelter - 12 miles.

Davenport back to Big Creek - 2 miles and drive home.

9:02 p.m. on August 10, 2013 (EDT)
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MPaint,

This is very nice route and will offer many scenic spots and interesting points.

It's hard to say if you should back off the miles without knowing your tolerance.

Most consider more than 12 to 14 miles per day in the Smokies to be too much. I like big days myself (20 -25 at times) so I may not be the best one to give advice on this subject.

 

Do be aware that Baxter Creek trail gains 4100 feet over that 6.1 miles. If unaccustomed to a lot of elevation gain with a pack, the general wisdom is to plan on 1 mile per hour on average.

The spring for campsite 38 is on your right about a quarter mile before you get to camp, you'll probably want to load up for the night rather than backtrack down the mountain. You should save some energy for climbing the firetower for views. The top of Mt Sterling is a boreal forest type with lush mosses and firs and is quite beautiful.

From Mt Sterling to CS 29 on your proposed route is a lot of downhill although there will be some up and down of course (especially when you hit the AT). The day will bring you past Tri-Corner knob which one of the most remote places you can be in the park, right past another my favorite springs on Mt Guyot and also through Deer Creek gap ; it's a wonderful place to stop and enjoy the silence.

From Maddron to CS35 will be mostly downhill so the miles should be OK except you want to be sure to detour through Albright Grove to check out the Tulip Poplars and stop to see Hen Wallow Falls even though you have to lose 100 feet to go see it. CS35 is known for pesky bears also so be extra watchful with your scented items when they aren't hung on the cables.

It will be a tough pull up and around Mt Cammerer (locals pronounce it without the extra er : cam-er) but the views from the fire tower are well worth it. I would not bother to go by Davenport gap but rather cut down Chestnut Branch which will limit the road walking.  

 

 

11:13 p.m. on August 11, 2013 (EDT)
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That's some heavy mileage especially coming from the flatlands to a pretty burly climb on the first day.....

If it were me---I'd cut it back and rather enjoy the trip more.....

10:18 a.m. on August 12, 2013 (EDT)
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kevinumberger said:

That's some heavy mileage especially coming from the flatlands to a pretty burly climb on the first day.....

If it were me---I'd cut it back and rather enjoy the trip more.....

 Thank you "Patman" and "kevinumberger;"  I think that was gnawing at me as well.  It's my first time in the backcountry their and I want to be able to stop and smell the roses so to speak.  I am in the process of re-writing my itinerary with 10-12 miles per day and maybe even add a day to it.  Thanks for your quick replies and helpful advice.

 

3:55 p.m. on August 12, 2013 (EDT)
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yer welcome....

 

lets us know yer new route and we can give advice.......

1:41 p.m. on August 13, 2013 (EDT)
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Okay here's my new proposed itinerary:

Park at Cosby campground, hike to Cosby Knob that evening -3.5 miles?

AT to Tri-Corner (thouroughly enjoy Mt.Guyot on the way) -8.5 miles.

Balsam to Mt. Sterling to CS38 -12 miles.

Mt. Sterling to Swallowfork to CS37 -6.4 miles. (maybe explore the area a little, but get to bed early for early start in a.m. to Mt. Cammerer).

Low Gap to AT to Mt. Cammerer and back to CS37 -10.5 miles.

Low Gap to Cosby -5 miles?; and drive home.

 

Let me know what you think.  Thanks again!

4:58 p.m. on August 13, 2013 (EDT)
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what time in evening are you planning on getting on trail?

 

cause going up low gap to the AT to cosby knob can throw some people off....

 

its somewhat of a good climb...

 

also.....keep in mind---cosby knob shelter may be closed due to bears......it has closed down every summer for brief periods the last few years...

 

even if its not closed-----DO NOT LEAVE A PACK UNATTENDED....

 

this shelter has a bear that is notorious for stealing packs.....

 

the balsam to mount sterling is a pretty flat stretch until you hit pretty hollow gap then it gets uphill...

 

but that section of mount sterling ridge trail is one of the highest and flattest parts of the park.......one can make good time on it.....

 

CS 37----gets kinda crowded at times.......heavy mice population as well as bears in that area.......

 

i would suggest instead of doubling back to 37----just go up low gap to the AT to mount cammerer.......go out to the fire tower......then continue N on the AT and hit lower mount cammerer trail to CS 35...

 

that would put you on that side of the mountains, and a short out back to cosby and the car.....

 

 

8:09 a.m. on August 14, 2013 (EDT)
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Google says that I'll be there by 2pm, so even if I'm there by 3pm; I'll have 4 hours or so of daylight I hope (but maybe fog or rain?).  The shelter is open as of this a.m. 8/14.

 

I like the idea of hiking around to CS35 on the last day.  I think it's a little more mileage (I'll have to look it up), but I'll see more of the park that way.  I was trying to minimize my mileage that day to be able to spend as much time as possible exploring the Mount Cammerer area.

 

I really appreciate the warning about the bear at Cosby Knob.  I don't intend to leave anything unattended, no food/eating around campsites, etc, but I'll really be on high alert now.  At the shelters, I plan to sleep IN the shelters, but at the campsites, I hope to hang a hammock; hopefully I don't become a delicious pinata.

 

Thanks again!

1:53 p.m. on August 19, 2013 (EDT)
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kevinumberger said:

 

also.....keep in mind---cosby knob shelter may be closed due to bears......it has closed down every summer for brief periods the last few years... 

 

 

 Lol, good call.  Just checked today and Cosby Knob is closed "...due to bear activity..."

--Good advice, thanks.

4:33 p.m. on August 19, 2013 (EDT)
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yeah.....i saw that on another forum but it wasnt on the park's webpage as of yesterday....

 

personally (and i've stayed in them all) for various reasons---i hate staying in shelters......

 

 

7:18 a.m. on August 20, 2013 (EDT)
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heard from a hiker today that the Cosby bandit bear has been captured

7:29 a.m. on August 20, 2013 (EDT)
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Patman said:

heard from a hiker today that the Cosby bandit bear has been captured

 Maybe they can find him a job, clearing tables at a restaurant or something like that.   But I seriously hope they don't have to destroy him, maybe they'll find a remote enough area for him to live.

 

August 29, 2014
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