Big South Fork TN / exploring the John Muir Trail

8:29 p.m. on October 27, 2011 (EDT)
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Fall hiking is one of the really, really good things in life. Most choices of destination are fine ones this time of year but a desire to avoid my fellow man and enjoy some peaceful solitude led me to the place that usually provides such: Big South Fork, TN (and KY).

I originally intended to hike a loop requiring a ford of the river but when I got there and saw the water level I realized that wasn’t going to happen. So I decided to head out from the Leatherwood Ford parking area on the John Muir Trail to see a new-to-me section.


Here I was starting out after a trying day at work and a 1 hour, 27 minute drive to the trail head. The river was up to the bridge behind me which was a bit high for that spot. I talked to a ranger earlier that said the CFS was 2500 the day before.







I was bound to night-hike a little with the late start but I knew the first several miles ahead very well, (so it wasn’t stressful like more recent night hikes in other areas).







This was an up-shot of the Angel Falls Overlook I hiked North on the JMT; the woods behind the overlook was my evening’s destination. Although from there it was only 200 ft above me, it was still a winding trail for about .75 miles.







I meandered back in to the woods until I found a likely camp site and made a quick camp.







It became cold quickly after the sun was down and I made a little fire but of course the down sweater I had on under my shirt was way more effective for warmth than a little open flame.








The morning of day 2 was cold and wet. I’m not sure if it actually rained but the heavy fog created a rain-like condensation on everything. I found it hard to get going…It’s never fun packing up a wet tent.







After making a side trip for water I was packed and headed out. I forgot my bandana so it’s bed-head day. To my left in the picture is about a 500 foot cliff but it’s too foggy to see the gorge below.







Trails with caution signs are usually better than those without.








This was the first stop of the morning to check out the river gorge view.








It’s fun to dangle.







At first glance those huge downed leaves like paper trash.







Oh yeah…that trail was open to mountain bikers. I’m sure they appreciate having the steps marked with signage.







I left the main trail for a promising looking spur and was rewarded by finding a very nice campsite on a bluff overlooking the river gorge. I decided to call it home. I hung my tent to dry and hung my main pack to keep the critters out. I then donned the little Sea-To-Summit day pack and continued on a day hike of the JMT needing to find a water source.







There were many rock overhangs and rock-houses that had established camp sites. With a bit of planning a person could leave the tent behind in this area.








I eventually found a spring by tracing damp soil up into a crevice behind a rock house.








And soon came to another nice bluff overlook….







The trail wound from cliff side gorge to mixed forest on big lazy curves for the next several miles. (Very easy nice hiking)








Castaway boots have been everywhere this year. Its funny how most backpackers can emotionally identify with the notion of casting off a pair of ill fitting boots. Though inanimate, non-sentient objects, boots seem capable of having loving or hateful relationships with us.








I went within a couple miles of Station Camp (where I was going to cross before seeing the high water) and turned back. I’ve been dealing with some recent foot pain and I would pull about 13 miles on the day by turning back then. I unfortunately had to moderate the miles.








I stopped at a little bridge and stream in Duncan Hollow for a siesta in the beautiful autumn sunshine.







I spied a hunting hawk.









And an expired little snake.








Arriving back at my “quilted” rock top overlook, it was time to relax for the afternoon.









I found a cozy spot to pitch the now-dry tent.








I enjoyed a mellow sunset as the golden light and resultant shadows draped over the river gorge valley below.








Bone dry old cedar was all over the place and it made a fun little jet of a fire.








After a lazy morning on the now cold and wet bluff I was ready to start the exit hike. This picture turned out strangely colored but kind of neat.








A foggy cold ridge running trail was the flavor of the morning.









Hey, I never heard it but a deer came right by.










I stopped back by the Angel Falls overlook for a morning peak.










The route back down to the river was very nice and cables are always appreciated.









This was the last rock house of that day.









And this was the view passing over Laurel Fork on a foot bridge.










I left the main trail and pushed up Laurel Fork until blow-downs impeded the route but saw some nice spots.










The South Fork was still pretty high that day.









And finally a couple nice parting pictures before making it back to the car.

Another nice trip in the BSF!

Happy Trails!

10:57 p.m. on October 27, 2011 (EDT)
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Awesome tr Patrick. Love the photos. As always thanks for taking the time to put this together and sharing it with us.

3:49 a.m. on October 28, 2011 (EDT)
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Absolutely lovely Pat.





8:24 a.m. on October 28, 2011 (EDT)
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Excellent TR Pat.  Love the picture.  Makes me want to move closer to the mountains.

12:13 a.m. on October 29, 2011 (EDT)
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Once again nice TR Pat, Thanx.

Are those Solomon Quest 4D's  your wearing?  If so, how they holding up? Your definitly putting more miles on yours then Im currently able to put on the pair I purchased not to long ago.

9:58 a.m. on November 2, 2011 (EDT)
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Ah, the boots are fine I think. I’m still not sure what’s going on with the foot pain.  I think it may be simple over use. I run about 20-25 miles per week on top of any weekend backpacking and I think I’m just experiencing over use pain (these 30 and 45 mile backpacking weekends are taking a toll I think). This last week I found other stuff to do besides running for my cardio and my feet are feeling a bit better.

Pillowthread shared some fascinating information about Morton’s Neuroma and now I’m wondering if I do need some orthotics or something…

Thanks for asking….

1:34 p.m. on November 2, 2011 (EDT)
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patman hope all is o.k. with your feet.Would miss yours and the rest of the Tennesee hikers trip reports.You all set a high standard for them.I left on novembers trip planning where Iam heading to and a new program I want to try for trip reports. AS always greatv report and area.,                             

7:19 p.m. on November 8, 2011 (EST)
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Nice trip report Patman, wonderful photos too!

It makes me want to get back to TN, I'm long overdue for some good S. Appalachian hiking.

Thanks for taking us along.

Mike G.

9:41 p.m. on November 8, 2011 (EST)
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Love the report. Great photos. I lived in Knoxville for years but always headed to the Smokies and never to BSF. This makes me know what I missed.

I'll get up there someday.

10:35 a.m. on November 9, 2011 (EST)
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11:29 a.m. on November 9, 2011 (EST)
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You mentioning the deer that didn't make a sound coming by in the night, made me think of when I was in Alaska in 1978 and a friend and I were camping in such a small opening in the forest that we sat our tents right next to each other using each other guylines on one side of our tents to hold up the others. In the night a Moose came thru (guess we were on a game trail) anyway it managed to walk between our tents with out stepping on them or tripping a line. Our tents were literially inches apart. The Mooses tracks were huge as Alaskan Moose are much larger than Moose down here in the "Lower 48" states as Alaskans call the part of the USA.

Nice trip report anyway too. I like the fall colors. Tucson doesn't get them much being mostly desert and cacti.

April 25, 2018
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