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This trip starts like most: after a hectic Friday at work (one of those that can cause you to question your motivations). I drove a little more than an hour to the Big Creek trail head in the Smokies to start a favorite backpacking loop I’ve done several times.
This is a shot looking up the Big Creek trail on my way to Walnut Bottoms (a 5.2 mile or 8.36 kilometer “access hike”).
Walnut Bottoms is a large area but there were maybe four groups setup when I made my late arrival. I decided to push in to the woods a little bit rather than tromp through someone’s camp.
Trailspace hat pose in the backwoods of Walnut Bottoms on Labor Day weekend.
The next morning brought breakfast near the babbling brook with my home made alcohol stove. (obscured beneath a foil windscreen and top hat)
After breakfast I started up the Camel Gap trail to begin my loop.
The ridge pictured here is the Benton MacKaye Trail which parallels the AT through the park.
Speaking of the AT, this is what most of it is like through the Smokies: a knife edge ridge top trail. I’m a fan of such trails.
A fine concave mushroom noticed while on a off- trail call of nature excursion.
This type put me in mind of Alice in Wonderland (probably due to the heart shape)
Crossing mount Guyot here.
And here I think.
This is the newly re-piped spring at Laurel Gap where I ended that day after a pretty tough 18 miles (28.9 kilometers).
Here is a shot of the newly renovated Laurel Gap shelter. There were two really nice guys there but I was in a mood for solidarity.
So I took a compass bearing and headed off trail in the woods for a more private camp in the general area.
The evening had brought a real “gully washer” of a rain storm. The next morning I began my hike in a thick fog in the wet woods. I’m pretty used to such and it doesn’t affect my mood as much as it used to several years ago.
I like this shot, taken as I trekked across Mt Sterling Ridge trail.
Hmm, this was a trip of neato mushrooms.
Here I had arrived at Pretty Hollow Gap and took advantage of the lifted fog and sparse sun to try to dry out the wet tent on my bear line. If this were rigged in my yard at home it would be called a clothes line.
This tree looked like a giant, one-eyed squirrel with bad intentions.
This picture was taken from the fire tower on Mt Sterling where I spent my last evening. The skies never cleared and the lightening kept me off the tower for the remainder. So I spent the evening reading in my little tent.
Morning of the final day and I was ready to head on down Baxter Creek trail to complete my loop.
This upper section of Baxter has the Boreal feel to it.
And the trip ends with an upper crossing of Big Creek. (There is a bridge farther down but I was hot and ready to play in the water).
This is one of my favorite loop hikes and I left out a lot of the best pictures so as not to be a spoiler.You must go see it for yourself!