GSMNP Smokemont to Cosby Feb 2011

5:01 p.m. on May 8, 2012 (EDT)
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My friend Ryan, my husband Jay, and I decided to do a 2 night/3 day hike from Newfound Gap to Standing Bear Farm Hostel, just outside the park in late February of '11. Seemed like a great idea, but for some reason we were told that we couldn't do it (shelter/campsite may have been full). So, Ryan devised a way that we could do about half of the section that we wanted and it would still be able to get the amount of hiking in that we wanted. We parked at Standing Bear Farm Hostel and had Curtis shuttle us to Smokemont and we would take a couple trails to the AT, then walk north to our car at Standing Bear. We planned to go from Smokemont up the Bradley Fork Trail to the Chasteen Creek Trail and camp at #48 for the first day. The second day we were to finish the last bit of Chasteen Creek and pick up Hughes Ridge, then hop on the AT and stay at Tricorner Knob Shelter. All of that worked out, but there was too much snow, so we had to change the plan and take the Snake Den Ridge trail down to Cosby so that Curtis could come back and pick us up. We would have never made it to his house before dark because the snow was so deep!


I will do my best with descriptions, but I am not 100% sure on some!



Ryan, Jay, and me at Standing Bear Farm Hostel, before Curtis shuttled us to Smokemont. Curtis is AWESOME and has lots of great stories!



We didn't take any pictures on the trail the first day. This is the Chasteen Creek Trail/Hughes Ridge Trail junction.



Jay and I on the Hughes Ridge Trail. When we started in Smokemont, we were somewhere around 2000 ft elevation and it was 65 degrees. We expected to see some snow at around 6000 ft. Here, at around 4000 ft, we see our first snow. I remember getting so excited to see it (being from middle SC), and Ryan said "Oh no! We should NOT be seeing snow yet!" HE WAS RIGHT!




Hughes Ridge under snow



SO excited about the snow! (that changed after walking about 8 miles in it with a full pack and no snowshoes or Kahtoolas!!!!)



Snice - ice that is disguised as snow. Very dangerous!

Stopping for lunch at Peck's Corner...Completely under snow. Let the 5 miles of postholing begin!! This is where Hughes Ridge and The AT met.





Still smiling and happy!



This is from near Mt Sequoyah on AT





Mt LeConte?

Great view! "Snice" under my feet







Deep snow! It got up to waist-deep in some sections. We were walking just fine, then all of a sudden would take a step into waist-deep snow. It was very hard to get out of with a heavy pack on. So pretty though!



While at this picture, I have to say how much I appreciate Gregory packs. Jay posing with his Baltoro 70.






Right about here is where I hit my first ever hiking wall. Full and complete meltdown. I thought we would never make it to Tri-Corner Knob by dark and was officially done! Thankfully, I had my former Marine Corps Sergeant fiancee (husband now) with me to talk me though it! It turns out that if you hit a wall 15 miles in and 10 miles out and it is almost dark...TOO BAD!


One switchback it is! Tri-Corner Knob Shelter! I've never been more excited to see a shelter in my life! It even had a fireplace with a roaring fire, privy, and spring! Bless whoever put up that blue tarp! We met some really cool people in the shelter, as well!


Amazing view. This is what it's all about!











Almost finished! Dangerous creek crossing!







Really cool graveyard near Cosby Campground.


All in all, it was a great trip! I am so glad we did this. It was very strenuous (elevation change and snow), but I'd do it all over again. I learned lots of lessons and was very challenged. Trips like this are what inspires me to hike even more!

*** Pictures are half mine, half Ryan's!

10:17 a.m. on May 9, 2012 (EDT)
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Very Cool, Ashleigh! 

It is great you were able to get out in some cold and snow, and even better that you were able to push through that wall and come out the other side enjoying the trip.  I haven't quite hit a wall that badly, but there was a pretty horrible spell on my Tetons trip last year. Live and learn, yeah? 

I love your new work for refrozen snow melt. Snice! So great :)

1:30 p.m. on May 10, 2012 (EDT)
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Thanks, Gonzan!

I am glad I was as well! I love hiking so much because it is always challenging and can push you to reach levels that you never thought you could before! Each trip usually has surprises that you won't be prepared for but gives you the experience to learn from them (like your over-hydration incident in the Tetons)!

That was an amazing trip report, by the way! The scenery was gorgeous! I would have been so scared of the wild animals that you saw, holy cow! Especially the wolverine! I would have no idea how to react to one!

2:23 p.m. on May 10, 2012 (EDT)
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Thanks, it really was the best trip I've been on, despite the reflux mayhem. It is funny, I guess; I wasn't nervous about the Wolverine or the bears as they were behaving un-threateningly. The Moose, on the other hand, made it clear he was about ready to make me an antler-kebab!  

4:21 p.m. on May 10, 2012 (EDT)
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I would have been afraid of all three! I can imagine you were pretty afraid of that moose! Yikes!

12:33 p.m. on May 11, 2012 (EDT)
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Very nice Ashleigh! I do so love that whole side of the park. Sequoyah, Chapman, and Guyot are some of my favorite AT places there.


FYI The picture you thought might be LeConte I think is actually Greenbrier Pinnacle. 

9:49 a.m. on May 14, 2012 (EDT)
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Thanks, Patman! I agree, they are all amazing!

Thanks for the correction! Speaking of LeConte, I feel sure you've done that trail. How is it? I am planning to do it in about a month or so.

10:23 a.m. on May 14, 2012 (EDT)
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There are various approaches, which one are you using? I've actually only done the Alum Cave approach to LeConte. I like that trail very much....there are a couple of neat spots where you have to use cables (can be tricky in winter with snow and ice). I find the journey of that trail more fun than the destination (assuming an up and back down route).

If you are scared of heights don’t try this but if not it’s way cool: If you go Alum Cave, one of the neatest places is off-trail and called the Eye of the's actually two holes in the rock on a spur called Little Duck Hawk Ridge. For many years the access to the ridge was chained off because of peregrine falcons nesting in those holes but I’ve heard the chains are gone now and it's no longer illegal to go out there. If you see chains and signs don’t go. Anyway, it’s not for the faint of heart but after you pass the actual Alum Cave (not really a cave but a cliff side depression) you can begin looking for the holes in the ridge that will be to your left as you ascend. There is a spur trail on the left (really a “manway”) that takes you out over the knife edge ridge. It’s a fun but challenging romp to climb out over the ridge and scamper off-trail back to the Alum Cave bluff parking area. Hmmm, on second thought maybe you shouldn’t try making it off trail all the way back down without someone who’s done it before (someone showed me…I didn’t “pioneer” it). But it’s certainly worth trying to get out there and up to the holes; when you get up there it’s a 360 degree view but on one side is drop of several hundred feet….be very careful. This is one of the most exhilarating spots I’ve ever been to in the Smokies.

The other primary approaches are on my to-do-list: Bullhead and Rainbow Falls so I can’t comment on them.


PM me if think you'd like to try and make it out on Little Duck Hawk and I'll give some more detail about how to find it.

10:50 a.m. on May 14, 2012 (EDT)
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Hey Patman---years ago I did the obligatory LeConte backpack and started at Newfound on the AT to Boulevard and LeConte and spent the night afterwhich a descent down Rainbow Falls.


Here is Little Mitten's dad pulling the AT near Newfound Gap.


The next day we lose elevation on the Rainbow Falls trail.

12:47 p.m. on May 14, 2012 (EDT)
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Cool pics Tipi, they almost look like paintings...

12:57 p.m. on May 14, 2012 (EDT)
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The good old days of film.

9:04 a.m. on May 17, 2012 (EDT)
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Thanks, Patman! Great information! I will certainly keep that in mind! I was planning to take the Alum Cave trail up. I've seen pictures of the Eye of the Needle. That would be really cool to get out there on it! We might try it! Tipi's approach sounds great, as well!

This is a great blog on LeConte!


9:39 a.m. on May 17, 2012 (EDT)
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Thanks for the the link, that is great! 

I am so jealous of the lodge keepers. I was just looking a couple days ago through the photos of one of the winter caretakers. It makes me want to quit my job and go work in one of the AMC or NP huts :)

8:38 a.m. on May 18, 2012 (EDT)
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You're welcome! I know, right! Must be nice! I'd love to do that!

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