9/5 - 9/7/15 (Labor Day weekend)
I decided it was time for the oldest kid (6.5 years) to do a "bigger" backpacking trip. The previous summers we had done a short overnight trip at the Red River Gorge, but never walked more than a mile from the trailhead. This time we were going to go for 2 nights and and do about 3-4 miles each day. Unfortunately, my work schedule is very limited right now so we had to go over a holiday weekend (Labor Day). I was afraid that the Smokies would be packed but as we got closer to the weekend, the weather forecast got worse. There was a high chance for afternoon thunderstorms all weekend and I think that scared some people away. I crossed my fingers and hoped that it would not rain too much and we headed out on Saturday morning.
The plan was to park at the end of the "Road to Nowhere" outside of Bryson City and then hike the Lakeshore Trail to campsite 74 on Forney Creek. JC and I had passed through this site a couple years ago when I hiked the whole Lakeshore Trail and we both remarked that it would be a great place to bring kids. Then the 2nd day, we would hike back towards the car and then head down the Goldmine Loop Trail to campsite 67. Then finish off the Loop Trail back to the trailhead on the 3rd day.
After a long drive, we got to Bryson City as the sky completely opened up. The drive up the Road to Nowhere was nice because the rain stopped by the time we got to the tunnel. Unfortunately, it started again before we could even get out of the car. Well, no point in getting soaked if this might blow over, so we sat in the car and I showed her how to use my new Delorme InReach if there was an emergency. The rain stopped after about 20-30 minutes and we headed through the tunnel and down the trail.
We got to the campsite by 5:30 and hung the hammocks and filtered water. While we were doing that a couple guys came down the trail to share the site with us. It is a large flat area so we were in no danger of feeling crowded.
We enjoyed the view from the bridge over Forney Creek and the flowers.
The next morning we walked back to check out the lake and play a little bit. Unfortunately, it was way to cold to think about a swim, but the view was very nice and the kid enjoyed playing at the beach.
Later we moved back towards camp, but got distracted. The kid played along Forney Creek while I read a little bit and then we headed back to camp to pack up.
We headed off to the next campsite and took a detour up the "road" we had passed the day before. I was pretty sure it would end at a cemetery and after about a half mile up hill we came to a clearing and a small cemetery (Woody Cemetery). A number of the graves were new and some had flowers, but a lot of the stones were tipped over. It looked like some hogs had been rooting around. We talked a little bit about how hard life was in the area a hundred years ago. I pointed out all of the children's graves, sad how many kids did not see their first birthday. My companion did a little neatening and then we headed back down hill.
Of course if there is a cemetery, there is a road from the lake and she wanted to see what was down the hill. I warned her that if we walked downhill, we would have to walk back up. It was about a mile down to the lake so I was glad we did not have a long way to the next campsite.
Along the Goldmine Loop Trail we passed an old homesite
and ran into a mom and two kids (about 10 and 15). They did not have a map and were not quite sure how to get back to the trailhead. I tried to help them out, showed them my map. Hopefully they found their way but I'm pretty sure they got soaked in the rain that came not long after we got to the campsite. I was able to hang my tarp and find some wood before the rain started so we were able to have a small campfire before bed. We also walked down the trail to the lake where again much fun was had and the view was enjoyed before heading back for dinner, campfire and bedtime stories.
In case anyone is looking for hammock info, site 67 is a nice small tent site, but there are not a lot of good hammock trees. I ended up hanging across the trail that went out the back of the campsite past the bear hanging poles. You can see the trail just to the right of our hammocks.
The next morning we had breakfast and then went back to the lake to play before heading back to the car. One of us wore their pajamas on the hike to the lake since it was a little chilly.
I had noticed bear tracks at the lake the day before so while she played in the water I went looking for more tracks in the sand in the process enjoying the view of the lake.
After a bit of play time, it was time to hit the trail for the climb to the trailhead. After a nice hike with a couple of rest breaks and a lot of discussion of what we were going to have on our "celebration" pizza (pepperoni and olives) we came to the trailhead and our car. A short drive got us to Bryson City and pizza at Anthony's Pizza (right across from the train station). I had had the pizza from there before while having beers at Nantahala Brewing and I thought it was fine. But, I won't bother going back to the actual restaurant. There is almost certainly a better place in town for a post-hike meal.
All in all a very successful first backpacking trip. We totally lucked out with the weather. In the end the only rain that fell on us was "tree rain" also known as water dripping from the trees. We both thought that campsite 74 was great, we will definitely go back there again, next time she gets to carry some stuff.