Naked Ground Jenkins Meadow Hangover Loop (first Thompson Hangover Trip)

9:23 p.m. on August 25, 2013 (EDT)
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This weekend my lovely wife and I decided we were going to finally accomplish a goal we set back in June (when we first went to Bob Bald) to go to the popular "Hangover". Our route would be The Naked Ground Trail (55) to The Haoe Lead Trail (53) to Saddle Tree Gap and (56A) to the Hangover. Then Down the Haoe Lead to Jenkins Meadow trail  (53A) back to the parking lot where the car was to be. We were very excited! We decided to make it a two night trip and get to the trail head Friday evening. 
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As soon as you turn onto Joyce Kilmer Road, this sign will be on the left. This is where you park. DO NOT park at the picnic area up the road, I hear they do not allow overnight parking there. We arrived at 7:35pm and by my calculations only had about 45 min tops before sunset. Quickly, we took the .5 mile road walk to the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Trail (43), on the right, which will take us to the Naked Ground Trail head.


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We didn't have to go far before we got to the Naked Ground Alt Trail (55A), but before we reach it we see this (above). This is the Jenkins Meadow connector trail, this will take you all the way to the Jenkins Meadow trial which you can follow up to the Hoae Lead and beyond.....We will be coming down that way. 


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This is the split we are looking for! The last two pictures were ones I took the next morning. When we passed this point, it was almost dark on Friday. Our camp (below) was right past the the split on the Alt trail for Naked Ground...maybe .1 mile once you turn left onto the split. You can even see it down and to the left if you walk past the split to the right and go up the hill some.  We did get set up fast and we had already eaten dinner on the way. We set up our tent, hung our food, and listened to the musical sounds of The Little Santeetlah Creek as we drifted off to a relaxing end of the work week sleep.  

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We awoke the next morning in the magical world of the Joyce Kilmer Forest ready to tackle the trail! 

 

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Here's your water source at what I am calling Naked Ground Alt Camp 1...If  you look at my picture of camp take a right at my tent and walk about 15 yards to a trail on the left and follow it to here. Easy access to the Creek. 
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As we made our way up the Naked Ground we saw a lot of other campsites. 


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(above) This is about midway from the Trail head to the last camp. The Creek is in the gap between the trees, real close.


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(above) Second to last good camp right off the trail. Water is down a trail just to the right. 


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(above) I Had to take the standard Big Tree Photo....although I just noticed it didn't look very big in the picture.....There are lots of BIG trees in this forest. 


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Is this not the happiest rock you have ever seen!!! I will call him....Samson.....yea that seems to fit. 
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(above) Here is the Last camp before the BIG climb! We knew this part wasn't going to be easy....but it ended up kicking our butts pretty good. We slogged away hoping the Naked Ground Gap was at the top of every hill we ascended.


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The picture above is the great reward for making the long climb up to Naked Ground Gap. This is the view from a large fire pit area where we decided to have lunch.  I also set up our hammock so we could lounge around, this made for a nice view.


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We were pretty tired when we got to the top, I'm not ashamed to say it. We took turns hanging in the hammock gathering our strength.  With the pretty view in the picture above, right in front of us. 
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Don't misread the  signs...there's only 4 ways to go
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Lunch is over, we got our water filled up about 5 min down the Slickrock Creek Trail (42). For water, take the 2nd left, go past the pig seep and you will find a nice  flow, easy to get water from. 

We will be taking a right here down the Haoe Lead Trail (53) toward Haoe Peak and The Hangover. 

On the Ridge Walk up and down to Haoe Peak we pass a couple of really cool campsites on the ridge. They seemed to be dry sites about .3 miles from Naked Ground Gap. One was real nice with lots of soft grass. I didn't get any photos but I really want to stay on some of those in the future. 
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We arrive at Haoe Peak!!

(above) Straight ahead leads to Saddle Tree Gap, and The Hangover.

(below) This is the Haoe Lead, which we will descend tomorrow
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We arrive in Saddle Tree Gap!! We gasp because Saddle Tree has a view of her own. (I have a shot of that coming up in a bit.) The Hangover is only a short walk up the hill but....... we decide we want to camp in the open of the gap to have the view and we do the responsible thing and set up camp first..... 
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Ha ha ha ha just kidding THIS is what we did first.......DUH!!
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Then we set up camp...and btw may I add....this is the GOLD campsite. The view is amazing and its just big enough for us. The folks camping just inside the tree line from us by the "big rock" told us that there used to be a lot more sites out here in the open part of the gap. 
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Small crowd at the Hangover on this clear-ish night in North Carolina, There were us, 2 guys and 3 dogs from Atlanta, and 3 girls camping up at the campsite Tipi Walter calls Air Jet camp.

*Side Note: 5 people I met, including a nice guy named Bob, from Alabama, on this trip didn't talk very long before they told their "Yea...I met that Tipi Walter Guy" story. It was awesome! He seems to be a common thread in everyone's stories about this place.....Anyhow..let's get this back on track.....

You know it's coming....You've been waiting for it...

GRATUITOUS HANGOVER PICTURES!!!! GO!:


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Haoe Lead (left) and Horse Cove Ridge (right)
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Big Fodderstack in the middle of the ridge.
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The Ridge from Haoe Peak up to Bob's Wall

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The Hangover Lead




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*One of the Atlanta Dogs, Big Pink Cotton Candy cloud (my wife's nickname for the cloud), and 2 Sunsets full of Awesome!
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It had been one of the hardest days of Backpacking we had ever done together. It was hard to visualize this sunset walking up the Naked Ground trail when we were struggling, but step by step, we marched toward our goal. This was one of the hardest fought-for sunsets we had ever had together, and was definitely the most beautiful. This was a great trip because we did it together. It was a special moment that will hold for a lifetime. 
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IN A SURPRISE MOVE I choose to end this section of sweet views NOT with a picture from the Hangover....but instead, as I promised before....., none other than the view from Saddle Tree Gap...... at Sunrise!!!...This was the view from our TENT DOOR when we woke. Also our view during breakfast. I can not recommend this campsite enough.
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After enjoying breakfast, we say goodbye to the friends we made from Atlanta and their dogs, and we set off back up Haoe Peak and down the Haoe Lead then, down the Jenkins Meadow trail back to the car. 


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Trail Shots of Haoe Lead Trail above and below

This was a nice little walk down, I always love a good ridge walk. We passed some big rocks and some nice walkways. 
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(below)Here's our Junction: To the left takes you to the Maple Springs parking lot and the trail head for the Deep Creek Trail (46) which goes down to the creek, then up to Saddle Tree Gap. To the Right is where we are going, down the Jenkins Meadow Trail. 
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You can't miss the trail Junction, look for this rock behind my pack.  That's the Haoe Lead there straight ahead. Jenkins to the right. 
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There must have been 4 campsites or more on the Jenkins Meadow Trail we saw coming down, this one was probably the nicest but they were all pretty good and sort of close to water.   
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This is the other end of the Jenkins Meadow/Naked Ground Connector trail. I almost took it down back to Naked Ground alt junction because I forgot the rope I hung my bear bag with at the campsite we stayed at on the first night......but we were pretty tired so we just took the Jenkins Meadow Trail back to the car. If you find my rope, Enjoy. =) 

With about half a mile remaining, the trial T's into another trail. We had no idea which way to go. It wasn't on the map I had so....I guessed left.....don't go left....we did make it down but came out about .2 miles away from the car, up the road to maple springs overlook. It might have been a short cut......sure that sounds better. 


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WE DID IT!! What a great loop. It was a little further and little higher, at least in elevation change than we normally do but, wow what a hike!! I was really proud of what we did together. Thank you to my lovely wife Bethany, thank YOU for reading, and thanks Trailspace Folks for helping me find such a cool place to camp for the night. 

9:44 p.m. on August 25, 2013 (EDT)
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Great pics. Sounds like a great time!

10:01 p.m. on August 25, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks FrankW it was awesome.

10:15 p.m. on August 25, 2013 (EDT)
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Nice...

Yeah.....that left trail on Jenkins just kinda dead ends at nothing...

Girls at hangover? Dang---maybe I should have went up there....

6:41 a.m. on August 26, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks for sharing.  Looks like it was a great trip. I especially like that shot of the morning view from your tent!

10:28 a.m. on August 26, 2013 (EDT)
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kevinumberger said:

Nice...

Yeah.....that left trail on Jenkins just kinda dead ends at nothing...

Girls at hangover? Dang---maybe I should have went up there....

 If you do take that left though....it will take you to the road just not to the Jenkins Meadow trail head.....and YES you should have come we had good weather and good company. 

10:47 a.m. on August 26, 2013 (EDT)
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and BTW a special thanks to Kevin for helping me with descriptions for water sources and campsites. Thanks a lot for helping me out Sir. 

11:14 a.m. on August 26, 2013 (EDT)
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Wow, some very beautiful vistas.  Wish I lived a little closer.  Thanks for sharing your trip!

7:50 p.m. on August 26, 2013 (EDT)
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No worries on the info....

Hope all of my info made sense.....you're description of the naked ground water source is just like mine---avoid the hog wallow and take the second left...

Hope you found water at hangover easily....

Along Jenkins meadow---I've stayed at the upper campsite maybe 5 minutes down from haoe lead trail....right next to the spring......just enough room for a hubba hubba there....

10:53 p.m. on August 26, 2013 (EDT)
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Looked like a great time.Are there any permits etc needed ?

11:05 p.m. on August 26, 2013 (EDT)
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No permits needed....

It's within a national forest....

12:53 a.m. on August 27, 2013 (EDT)
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Looks like a Great time.Thanks for shareing..

12:38 p.m. on August 27, 2013 (EDT)
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I enjoyed visiting with you last Saturday night up on the Hangover.  Your pictures turned out great, looks like you and your wife got enjoy a nice sunset.  Brandon and I never ran into Tipi.  Hope to run into you again in the area.

2:02 p.m. on August 27, 2013 (EDT)
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BOB! It was so nice to meet you on Saturday! Thanks for all the trip ideas. We did have a great sunset. Did you get a good sunrise at Naked Ground Sunday morning?

10:10 a.m. on August 28, 2013 (EDT)
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Ah! What a great trip! 

I'll be getting up there in October, and I am looking forward to it very much. 

I am envious that your wife is up for backpacking with you, enjoy it, man! 

Sometimes I think "Nah, I won't go to the Hangover, it's just too easy and ubiquitous," then I go again, and it floors me with it's glorious views and uniqueness. There really is something intangible and special about that place.  I am really glad it takes some notable effort and time to get to it, either driving dirt FS roads or good mileage hiking. If it was a couple miles hike from the Skyway or main road it would be completely trashed, which is a sad commentary. 

10:55 a.m. on August 28, 2013 (EDT)
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gonzan said:

Ah! What a great trip! 

I am envious that your wife is up for backpacking with you, enjoy it, man! 

Thanks Gonzan!! I am very lucky that we are able to go together at this point in our young married life. She is a trooper and I would be very reluctant to go without her. We got into it at the same time, I had some previous experiences but they were few and far between and it had been years.....I agree with you about the Hangover, It feels good to work hard and get a reward at the end. I also am glad that its not close to the Skyway or the dragon. 

August 22, 2014
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