Smokies - Newfound Gap to Davenport Gap

5:05 p.m. on September 19, 2014 (EDT)
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Had a great time about two weeks back (beginning of Sept '14) with a college friend.  We went for a bit through the Smokies, old stomping grounds for us since we went to Western Carolina University. Of course Western, abbreviated, WCU also means "We Carry Umbrellas."  True back then in college, and it stood true for us on this trip. 

Our plan was to hike from Newfound Gap (middle of Great Smoky Mtn Nat'l Park) to Davenport Gap then just wrap up less than 3 miles the final morning. 

We actually started the first night, Friday, meeting up near our northern exit from the Park.  We car camped and did a disc golf tour on Saturday.  Four courses, finishing at WCU. Pretty cool. We laughed, we cried...mainly cried, it's been a while since we played. 

Hole 17 at Haywood Community College

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Plenty of parking at Newfound Gap where we started after a Saturday night at another car camping place in Cherokee. When asked where the best place to set up our tents, the owner said near the headstones.  Little eerie, no ghosts were seen.

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From there to our first AT shelter (lighten the pack weight without tent!) was Tri-Corner Knob.

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Mainly overcast and raining, but you wouldn't tell from some of the pics. Classic Smoky weather where it'll be clear and then you'll be surrounded by clouds and rain only moments later. Here from Laurel Gap.

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A short spur trail to Charlie's Bunion is definitely worth it.  Only a few miles from the entrance at Newfound Gap, it's absolutely worth a look. 

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Low clouds after our morning from Tri-Corner Knob shelter.
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Mainly in different aged woodlines (some old hardwood trails, other new pines, and others with mixed trees and brush). Even so, plenty of places to overlook.
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Going northbound from Newfound Gap to Tri-Corner Knob Shelter is about 15.8 miles less any spur trails, slight uphill.  Tri-Corner Knob Shelter to Davenport Gap is about 2/3 flat to downhill and another 16, not including to Mt. Cammerer Firetower.

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Blue sky in the picture above. In the time it took to walk the 30 meters to the tower...cloud coverage, but we did get a minute or two of clear 360 degrees.

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Newfound Gap to Davenport Gap is great full two day hike. We finished at Davenport Gap around 4pm and stayed at the shelter for the night, but with that time could have wrapped up considering we only had 3 more miles to my car.

Davenport Gap shelter...locked in! The only shelter along our path with chain link fence due to bear activity. Had the place to ourselves on our second/last night.

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If anyone wants to give it a whirl and will be in the same situation we were (park one car at southern entrance, one at northern), feel free to ask.  I have plenty of advice for the AT parking at the northern part (Waterville Exit 451 off I-40).

Disc golf and backpacking, not too shabby!

1:47 p.m. on September 23, 2014 (EDT)
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Very nice Daniel! 

That chain link is the last remaining in the Smokies (all the shelters used to be like that). The philosophy changed at some point in regards to bear management; it seemed that the chain link encouraged bad food handling habits by the hikers and drew more critters to the shelters. By opening them up and banning cooking (yeah right) in the shelters they hoped to lessen the problems and shoot less bears overall. As I’m sure you saw, everyone still cooks in the shelters so I don’t know how effective it was. I do like the openness better than sleeping in a cage though.

2:37 p.m. on September 23, 2014 (EDT)
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Some great vista shots!  Thanks for sharing your trip. 

7:31 p.m. on September 23, 2014 (EDT)
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@Patman, yeah, that's what a couple we saw on the trail was saying.  Hard to imagine all that chain link.  The openness at our first night and others that we took food breaks made for a peaceful night...especially if you're on the top bunk!

9:12 p.m. on September 23, 2014 (EDT)
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the fences also cut back the people standing in the shelter, feeding bears through the fence...

dont laugh---it used to happen all the time.......

 

 

9:10 a.m. on September 24, 2014 (EDT)
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Nice pictures, Daniel. Thanks for sharing them.

That's a neat looking fire tower too.

Someday I'll need to head south and hit the Smokies, after seeing pictures from our members hikes there.

5:18 p.m. on September 24, 2014 (EDT)
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Nice pics. I hear the chain link shelters were overloaded with mice. My plan in the Smokies is to hang out near a shelter until it is full, then hang my hammock outside the shelter because there is no room.

7:52 p.m. on September 24, 2014 (EDT)
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We were actually in a good situation that last day in the Davenport Gap chain link shelter.  We only had breakfast left in our dry bag and it was only two of us.  Didn't hear any mice that night crawling around, but a couple we passed our first night in the other direction had plenty of little guests to contend with at that shelter.

The thing with this shelter is, since it's fenced, there are places to hook all food up within the shelter.  So if you're loaded with food, it won't be hanging outside on bear cables like the other shelters, but instead be dangling just feet from your sleeping area. 

10:28 p.m. on September 24, 2014 (EDT)
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I hear the chain link shelters were overloaded with mice.

in my experience---all shelters and a good portion of the campsites in the smokies have mice......

too many people leave too much trash/crumbs/other things that attract mice.....

pretty much no place is exempt.....

11:13 a.m. on September 25, 2014 (EDT)
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Nice report Daniel.  I have a Freshman Daughter at WCU.  She loves the mountains, but she is a little dubious about this winter. 

2:16 p.m. on September 25, 2014 (EDT)
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@soleful2001, a great place to make use of the snowy and freezing weather will be to head out to Panthertown Valley. It's kind of a spiderweb of trails, so getting back to your car or other places can be easy and you don't need to take the long way around.  Best part is when you can visit frozen waterfalls (~10ft high and will be a foot or so thick).  It's about 45 min-1 hr away from WCU. I'll check to see if I can find any of the pics of us walking underneath/between ice and rock wall (that's right) some a few years back.  Here are some links and best of luck to your daughter...bundle up!

http://panthertown.org/panthertown-valley/

http://www.hikewnc.info/trailheads/nantahala-national-forest/nantahala-ranger-district/panthertown-valley/

3:48 p.m. on September 25, 2014 (EDT)
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and burt has just put out a new map (maybe last year) of panthertown valley that says is better than his last map....

 

daniel----do you go into panthertown alot?

that area has been on my list for a while but i still havent made it down there....

 

i have burt's older version of the map so i can look at it if you suggest routes and what not.....

3:50 p.m. on September 25, 2014 (EDT)
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Thanks for sharing this, Daniel! I really enjoyed reading it and your pictures are awesome! I love that area of the park. I haven't done that whole section, but I've done from Newfound Gap to where the Snake Den trail intersects with the AT near Mt. Guyot. I still really want to check out Mt. Cammerer. Thanks for all the extra helpful info! PS, that DG course looks really pretty!

7:47 p.m. on September 25, 2014 (EDT)
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@kevinumberger, it has been about 4 years since I was at Panthertown.  The friend I was with on this Smokies hike has been there recently confirmed a bit of trail maintenance and update.  Not sure how much help we would be, but Schoolhouse Falls is great and was less than 1 mile off the trailhead.

You can't go wrong with a lot of the trails since many are sub 2-3 miles one way before they hook up with other trails, so your options are open. It also seemed to be a few degrees cooler in winter time the few times I did an overnighter.

Wish I could've been more help, Kevin.  Would love to hear if you get a chance to head there though.

@Ashleigh, Mt. Cammerer was cool.  I like to see that glimpse into the past and I always take a pic of any info boards that are posted at places like that. Cool to read and crazy to imagine things like that being built up there.

7:56 a.m. on September 26, 2014 (EDT)
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Nice trip Daniel...If you decide to start section hiking the AT and hit the Daleville VA area..There's a disk course just built 5 mins up the road from the trail...18 holes and its nice...I just had a friend who plays disk more than me who backpacks if a disk is UL...hahah   I know you will get it...

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