Smoky Mountain weekend ‘packin

7:12 p.m. on September 14, 2011 (EDT)
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It was back to the more familiar trip last weekend; a dash to the Smokies after work on Friday. I wanted another shot at catching the views from the “Sawteeth” which is a ridge section of the AT through the GSMNP that I’d never experienced in good weather.






The excursion started about 7 PM on a cool and windy evening at Newfound Gap (around 5100 feet).

The three mile “access hike” to the Shelter only took an hour or so. Editorial note: This section of AT was built by hand with picks and shovels in 1932, wow.

I startled a little black bear that was drinking from a small run-off cascade on a big rock in the trail. I tried to get a picture to no avail. It’s really hard to get a bear pic while hiking. They bolt so fast. But such behavior is good and healthy for both us.







This was the view from Icewater Spring shelter (where I arrived to find two folks already holed-up in their sleeping bags on the shelter “shelf”). Nice fellows as it turned out; we were all three solo hiking with different itineraries, converging at that spot for the evening.

Here is where my planning fell short: I hadn’t brought a sleeping bag, only the narrow Therm-a-rest “tech” blanket from the summer kit. The blanket was rated to 35 degrees F, but I would now say that is probably the temperature at which it will keep you alive, not comfortable. According to my key-chain thermometer it got down to 38 that night (may have been colder but that was the low when I looked). It seemed as if every time I shifted, the narrow blanket exposed some body part to the air. I wound up putting on all the clothes I had brought and my rain gear. So I didn’t sleep very well that night. It was quite a contrast from my last trip to theGrand Canyon! Even though summer isn’t officially over, that little blanket isn’t getting back in to my pack until next year, lol! (Better to bring the 20 degree bag and not need it than to need it and not have it, right?)








This was sunrise from Icewater Spring shelter. (At sunrise the temp was still only 40 degrees F which I confirmed with hiker Brian who also had a thermometer)







The shelter fellow line-up (Brian from Charlotte, NC, Charlie from Lexington KY, and me from Knoxville,TN)








I was passing by the Bunion in the morning light.







This is an example of the narrow ridge-top type trails across the Sawteeth formation; a fully pleasant trek as always on this section. 







Views to the North (Tennessee)







And views to the South (North Carolina)







This view is from the location of an old Shelter at False Gap (removed in 1980).

It was great to finally see this area without rain or fog! It took several attempts but hey it’s the Smoky Mountains not the Clear Mountains right?

I left the AT and turned south on Hughes Ridge trail and stopped at Pecks Corner Shelter for first lunch. It was a very peaceful place to have all to myself.

While I generally love (and prefer) high elevation trails, this day I was looking forward to descending a bit so as to warm up. I was still just a bit chilled from the night before despite the 7 mile hike between shelters.







I don’t know the origin of this mud seep but it’s in a heart shape (which would be an odd natural occurrence indeed).







Hughes Ridge stays fairly level for quite a ways and is a great trail for solo ambulation (and if anyone needs to know you can get Verizon signal about two miles from Pecks Corner, but only in a narrow spot for some reason).


Editorial note from my history book: this area was home to 49 Cherokee families who had been ceded land by treaty in 1819 and became U.S.Citizens (allowing them to resist the Cherokee removal of 1838). They were joined by fugitives from the Trail of Tears and eventually became the Eastern Band of the Cherokee.






Here is a little black bear up in the tree. I accidently startled mama and she ran off like a scalded dog. However, she was HUGE and I didn’t linger to get a better picture of junior.








Continuing on down the ridge and thankfully it was getting noticeably warmer. Another big bear somewhere around here (or maybe this was mamas print?)






I took a right on Bradley Fork, the destination being Cabin Flats campsite which would make about a 14.5 mile day. It was a lovely hike and not quite as far I usually wind up going on Saturdays but I was bit worn down from the lack of sleep. Sometimes that makes for a “low energy” day, I suppose.







At a little horse bridge, I had stopped to soak the feet and have second lunch.







A summer bloom was hanging in there.






Bradley Fork had many beautiful small waterfalls and cascades. Pictured is white water near the intersection with Cabin Flats trail.








After starting up the trail I came to this cool old bridge.








Cabin Flats was a very nice camp site and aptly named. There were several nice areas with fire rings and about six sets of bear cables.







I was glad to be somewhere with tent pitched and all “camp stuff” done that particular afternoon, it was time to relax (yes, even on a rock in the creek).







And it was a much more beautiful scene without me in it of course.




I spent the evening in achilled out fashion; absorbing the natural ambience and reading until the light failed. I was treated to some excellent visibility for star gazing ( always a treat).

I had the whole place to myself (at least while conscious) that evening. I awoke to find that someone had arrived during the night and setup a few spots down from me. Per logic, it wasn’t as cold at this elevation (I estimated it to be about 2600 feet based on the topo lines on my map) and I slept very well with just the little blanket.





I was up early and decided to start the day by headlamp. I took the Dry Sluice Gap trail back up the AT. This picture is sunrise from that trail about 2 miles from the AT. (Total exit hike back to the car was about 8.5 miles).







The hike from the junction of Dry Sluice Gap and Grassy Branch Trail was surprisingly level and a nice change after the climb out of Cabin Flats.








There were a few more nice shots on the way out although these are "back track" pictures as I looped back down the AT to Newfound Gap and my car.


I just never get tired of these mountains; every trip holds great joy for me. Even with a low energy day and ill preparation for the weather, this was a nice outing and so very good for my head.


I'll close with an encouragement to get out there and go see it in person;

 Strap your house on your back and go! Now!

Happy trails....

8:50 p.m. on September 14, 2011 (EDT)
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Patrick, great trip report. I liked the bear cub in the tree. Although momma darted off I am sure she wasn't too far away. Very nice photos as well. Did ya ever decide on what cam you were gonna get? Ya may have already mentioned it and I just missed it. 

Anywho, very nice trip report. Thanks for taking the time to get it put together and sharing it with us.

10:34 p.m. on September 14, 2011 (EDT)
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Thanks Rick,

I actually never updated the thread on the camera story (it became a bit of saga to get one that worked). I originally wound up buying a Pentax Optio WG-1 but only had it briefly. I used it for the Big South Fork Honey Creek trip report. For some reason less than half of the photos I took were any good. Most were very blurry. By the end of the weekend hike, the camera started locking up after snapping each photo for minutes at a time. It stayed messed up and I became irritated and returned it rather than replace it with another of the same model (was easy since it was an Amazon purchase).

I then briefly also tried the Fuji Film waterproof model, but wound up buying the display model from a local chain store and it messed up before I ever took it on the trail!

As a quick purchase I wound up with an Olympus TG310 which is what I used on the trip reports after Honey Creek. So far this one is working ok…

10:43 p.m. on September 14, 2011 (EDT)
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Good deal. Its about time for me to get a new one as well. I am still digging on the Fuji XP30. Who knows.

At the same time I also want to get a GoPro. I was thinking for video trip reports/gear reviews. I think video trip reports would be fun. I have a HD cam on my desktop but I really don't feel like setting up a tent in the office for a review.

Then again for smaller gear(packs, bags, poles, etc.) it may work out ok. 

12:47 a.m. on September 15, 2011 (EDT)
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Nice trip (and report) I might have to copy it some time, its been to long since I have been to the bunion.

9:16 a.m. on September 15, 2011 (EDT)
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Yeah those GoPros are very cool. I’ve been admiring them also..


Thanks, It really is a nice hike isn’t it? The weather is always hit or miss despite the forecast.

11:18 a.m. on September 16, 2011 (EDT)
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"Ahhh, me fav'rit place in ahll de wurrld!" an old Irish friend used to say.  It's such a joy when I go there to see not just a few of you locals enjoying and appreciating what's right at your doorstep!  Thanks for the pictoral visit and that term "good for my head," which I need to pay kinder attention to!

1:05 p.m. on September 16, 2011 (EDT)
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Nice trip report Pat.  I'm assuming Cabin Flats is out of GSMNP?

3:59 p.m. on September 16, 2011 (EDT)
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Yeah, I consider mental health the most compelling reason to go backpacking!


No Cabin Flats is in the park. Now that you’ve said that I’m guessing you may have misinterpreted (or not seen) the tent rule….the only places that have tent restriction are the shelters along the AT through the park. There are about 100 back-country sites where tents are allowed.

I missed you on-line when you were still planning your family hike and meant to point that out (sorry about that). That was a factor in ya’ll changing to the Roan Mountain area wasn’t it?

And actually, if the AT shelters are full, tents are OK to use. I don’t like crowds but the upside to arriving at a crowded shelter in GSMNP is that you can then pitch the tent without fear of penalty. I much prefer tents to shelters.

7:23 p.m. on September 16, 2011 (EDT)
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Yes that was the factor.  My trip went great.  I'm planning on doing a trip report. I might be able to do it this weekend. It was a fantastic hike. I don't think the GSMNP would have been better.

1:07 p.m. on September 18, 2011 (EDT)
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Great trip report Patman!  Some day I will have to visit that east and do some hiking there too! 

Any idea what the Orange fungus was, was it a mushroom or a tree fungus?

Great job with the photos.  What is your system for the self shots?


8:42 a.m. on September 19, 2011 (EDT)
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Thanks very much!

I believe the orange stuff is a type of “bracket fungus” but I’m no expert. It was on a long fallen and dead tree. It may be edible as many of them are; I’ve heard of “chicken fungus” (which supposedly tastes like chicken) but have never been daring enough to try them on my own.

As far the photos I’m just using the timer feature of the Olympus TG-310 camera. It has a 12 second delay; the challenge is to find something to set in on near the trail; I can usually find a forked tree branch or rock outcropping to set it on.

9:18 a.m. on September 19, 2011 (EDT)
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Great pics!  Another trail for the bucket list!  I hope I'm not on the die to retire plan.

12:58 p.m. on September 19, 2011 (EDT)
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I may be on that plan also….




To any interested:

I just got some great info regarding the purple flower from my friend Kay (she is another mountain loving enthusiast like me):

The flowers are 'Great Lobelia' - This plant is fairly common in moist locations at lower elevations of the Park and is found in Cades Cove.  The plant was once thought to be effective in the treatment of syphilis.  Another Park species, Indian tobacco (L. Inflata) is used in preparation to curb the cigarette habit.

The yellow/orange on the lower left of the picture is commonly called 'Jewel weed' or 'Touch-me-not'. 

1:18 p.m. on September 19, 2011 (EDT)
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It's neat how a trail can get on a razor-thin ridge and still be at over 5,000 feet.  This shot reminds me of many places in the southern apps.

5:30 p.m. on September 19, 2011 (EDT)
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There is a portion of trail that runs the ridge between Deep Gap and Standing Indian on the AT, one of my favorite parts of the walk. Your shot reminds me of that path. Very nice trip report. Thanks!

May 25, 2018
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