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Spruce Flats man-way overnighter in GSMNP

10:30 a.m. on February 5, 2014 (EST)
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Short blurb report : Last weekend I only had Friday night and Saturday to use for a quick trip. I spotted this man-way on a previous trip, verified it was an old trail on my Ewker map and picked up some tips about it from Trailspace member and fellow local hiker kevinumberger, who had hiked it twice. (thanks Ewker and Kevin!)

The term “man-way” is used locally to describe old paths and trails that may or may not have ever been maintained and are certainly not maintained now. Some of them are easy and some very difficult to follow and most are not on any current maps.

It is pretty humorous that many of the Smokies man-ways would be considered top-flight trails in places like the Citico and Joyce Kilmer Forest.

Here are a few photos from a short evening and partial day of backpacking:


The unmaintained route crossed the frozen branch several times and it was tricky to stay upright on that ice.

Kevin had told me that the way was pretty easy to follow but there were a few sections where you needed to rely on instincts to find the route. He was correct; it was a little tricky in the snow to figure out the best place to cross the water combined with picking up the route on the other side. I imagine it might be a little clearer if you could see the ground well.

The final crossing was really sketchy below the falls; as I started across, the ice was breaking beneath me and I had to drop to all fours and do a funky-skate-dance to get across. I wish I had a video of that; Funny stuff!

I hiked a few more trails to check off my list but didn’t take any more photos….

Hike on Friends!

10:43 a.m. on February 5, 2014 (EST)
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Nice!  I am jealous because we are back to vortexing our polars off so I'm stuck sleeping in my nice warm bed.  Glad you snuck out for those of us who couldn't.

11:58 a.m. on February 5, 2014 (EST)
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It is pretty humorous that many of the Smokies man-ways would be considered top-flight trails in places like the Citico and Joyce Kilmer Forest.

that's pretty much how i equated it once i started hiking in citico and joyce kilmer areas.....

12:50 p.m. on February 5, 2014 (EST)
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LS, yeah i see whats happening in a big arc just north of me...no relief for you guys! and hey my all season pad and overkill down bag are plenty warm, it just requires more motivation to leave them in the morning. :)


1:31 p.m. on February 5, 2014 (EST)
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I really like the picture of the frozen falls.  Glad you had a good time on this hike even with the the cold weather and snow. It would be nice to join you on a hike but I would need a jet pack to keep up with you

2:04 p.m. on February 5, 2014 (EST)
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I hope you got the wonderful opportunity to cross several creeks barefoot in crocs.  It's a fun-loving time.  I like to stand barefoot in a creek at 0F wearing my big pack and just whistle a little tune or do some adjustments on my hiking pole as I stand there.  Then later, why bother putting on the boots?  Just wade to the other icy bank and build a hippie cairn.  Build two.  Whistle while you work. 

Hands a little dirty?  Squat down and immerse them fully for 20 minutes in the creek.  It was the best of times, etc.  Inhale deeply, let out a healthy scream, adjust hipbelt, collapse.

AND PLEASE tell me you got to use your Kahtoola microspikes??  I used them on my last trip and they are going out with me in February.

Are you still using the NeoAir All Season as your stand-alone pad?  My circle of trust on pads has been splintered and broken---but I have the problem solved.

3:12 p.m. on February 5, 2014 (EST)
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I like the tent-sunset shot.  Nice pics!!  

3:39 p.m. on February 5, 2014 (EST)
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I would love to meet up with you sometime. I don’t always do big days and I like to meet people at camps sometimes too. If you get a chance to get over this way just let me know. I’m willing to drive within a 3 hour circle of Knoxville if I have all weekend to use. So that includes Mt Rogers/Grayson Highlands in VA, Shining Rock in NC, Roan Mtn in TN, Big South Fork in TN or KY, Slick Rock , Joyce Kilmer, Citico, Snowbirds, and of course the Smokies……


Wouldn’t you know that at the last minute I thought “I should bring my spikes” and actually tossed them in the console of my Honda Accord where I forgot about them and they remained for the whole trip.

Yeah man, I could have really used them on that route. I luckily didn’t have to de-boot for any crossings as the ice was mostly thick enough to support me.  But I know what you mean…..that barefoot crossing stuff is brutal and seems to keep on hurting for a while (the gift that keeps giving etc…).

I’ve been really enjoying that Ultimate Survival Alaska show and though I know those guys are racing, they routinely just tromp, boots and all, right into that nearly freezing water. Seems like that would prolong the pain but I don’t know.

Yeah I’m still using that all-season neo-air. So far it’s been the most durable of the neo-air line that I’ve used (I’ve tried three different ones) but if did what you did I would surely have a backup too. Who wants to screw up a long trip over a pin-hole or blown baffle? I think back to when Gonzan forgot his pad when we all camped on the Bob at about 10F a few years ago….blah.


Thanks very much! I didn’t take many pics and don’t normally post such short repots but a friend wanted to see it and asked if I would do a report for this trip so I obliged.

8:44 a.m. on February 7, 2014 (EST)
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Interesting trip! Curious about how the park service is going to feel about BPers using these old trails? 

11:26 a.m. on February 7, 2014 (EST)
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the park service knows that people hike these old manways.....

they dont recommend it, nor will they give one any information on manways, but they can't stop ya from hiking them....

their biggest fear is that people will hike these manways and get lost and a search and rescue will have to be undertaken..

for a reference, google morgan briggs and look at his story about being lost....

with the amount of visitors that the park gets, the NPS isnt sure of experience level of every hiker, so they kinda dont recommend one to hike the manways...

but, they know it's been going on for years and will continue to go on.....

it all boils down to a search and rescue...

also for another reference, google ken wise and his book........the nps denied the right for him to sell his guide in the visitors centers as it contained some manways and the park wasnt hip to that...

so, mr. wise sued park and won.....

sadly, his book is no longer in print though.........




1:41 p.m. on February 7, 2014 (EST)
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That Briggs story is pretty inspiring now that I'm getting up there. I'm just a little surprised, given the new backcountry fee system, that the powers that be would allow any non-paying users in the backcountry. Seems like it would be a citable offense, if caught? 

Anyway, I'm interested in hitting up some of these man-ways. Are there secret hand signals I need to learn, or?

2:13 p.m. on February 7, 2014 (EST)
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well......mr. briggs did do his lost hike before the fee system took place..


however, if one still wants to hike manways and then stay the night along them, it is possible....

one just has to get a cross country permit.....

different than the normal permt....

and this only applies if one is staying the night.......if one just wants to do a dayhike on a manway--no permit needed....


as far as info on manways------research research research........thats about what i can tell you based on my experience......read old guidebooks, look at old maps, etc etc etc....

there are a bunch of people that know alot about manways in the Park but are reluctant to share information to people that they don't know...

on the other hand, there are some that really dont care to spill the info out....

2:25 p.m. on February 7, 2014 (EST)
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Hey Martin, 

The Briggs event predated the new fee based permit system. And even though I sometimes hike off trail or on manways I always buy a permit. If doing a long off trail trip you can actually request a cross-country permit as well but that has to be done over the phone as the web site doesn’t account for it. (I’m planning a very hard cross-country trip in the early spring and will attempt to get a permit for that.)

I learn of manways from a variety of sources; sometimes I see them while hiking other trails and explore with no research, others I read about on the internet or forums, and others I find on old maps from the 70ies.

As you probably already know, bushwhacking can get really difficult in the southern apps and to the point of impassibility in some cases. Some of these paths will suddenly disappear or seem to lead you under a rhodo stand that you have to take off your pack and crawl under while pulling it along with you, or perhaps force you into a decision about scrambling down a rack face that you can’t easily get back up, etc…so there can be a lot of adventure in it.

Also, some of the local hardcore guys like kevinumberger are a great resource for me. If he doesn’t mind me telling it, Kevin has hiked all the Smokies trails at least once, and camped at least one night at every single designated backcountry site. I’m almost there but quite…

I’m glad to share whatever I know with the proviso that I’m not responsible if you get lost! Lol J

2:26 p.m. on February 7, 2014 (EST)
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oops I see Kevin posted just before me.....


2:42 p.m. on February 7, 2014 (EST)
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that is correct----ive hiked all the park's trails.......many i have hiked multiple times--a few just one time for the completion....

after i finished the trails, i "wiped" my map clean and started another attempt at hiking all the trails again.....by wiped clean, for the second go, i decided not to count the trails that i had already hiked before......basically going into it if i had never hiked the park before...

im about 65 percent or so through a second hike of the park but i doubt i will complete it----my goals have changed since then....

after doing all the trails, i decided to spend a night in every open backcountry site in the park (I learned of this from a hiker i met on the trail who was doing the same thing after hiking all the trails)..

i completed all the campsites about a year and a half ago (even bought a canoe so i could do the campsites that are only boat accessible)....

now, my goal is to not spend a night where i have spend a night before....

so, i have been exploring other options--such as this past summer knocking out all the trails in the joyce kilmer slickrock citico area.......


along the way---i have come across many manways and other unofficial trails in the park........i have done a bunch of them.......and a bunch of the unofficial trails that lead to cemeteries and such (i go into visiting cemeteries in the park by way of just getting into history of the park)...

and also seeing old artifacts and relics and things such as the eagle creek copper mine and the old slate mine of panther creek (which has an old rail car still on tracks up there)..

imo, those two sites are the best artifacts or what ever you want to call it in the park.....


and likewise---take patman's advice on hiking manways.........for the most part by way of definition---they are not maintained.....maybe some fellow manway hikers maintain them a little but dont expect much......expect blowdowns and rhodo hell.....

2:50 p.m. on February 7, 2014 (EST)
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Ok, thanks kev and patman. I have seen, on some park trails, spots that look like old trails/roads as well but never followed them. I'm not sure how much bushwhacking the Mrs. is willing to handle but getting off the main trails would be an interesting change from the usual suspects. I did see, from this older (2009) article that, “Except for a couple of places, you can walk anywhere you want inside the park,” says Bob Miller, information officer for the GSMNP"

2:55 p.m. on February 7, 2014 (EST)
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I can't post the link but ithe quote is from a blue ridge outdoors article. Three guys bushwacked on a dayhike to Anakeesta Knob and nearly had to spend the night. 

4:24 p.m. on February 7, 2014 (EST)
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 “Except for a couple of places, you can walk anywhere you want inside the park,” says Bob Miller, information officer for the GSMNP"

that would be correct....

off the top of my head----one of those places is the old route up from the bridge to chimney tops....

they have had that one closed for a least 15 years or so..

another spot would be the duckhawk ridgelines on leconte...

they closed those off for the falcons....

April 24, 2014
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