Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Creation Falls

Rock Bridge and Creation Falls

Took the kids on an "adventure", had a great time, nobody cried :)

Dad and Daughter (and bugs) go camping

6/20 - 6/22/16
Great Smoky Mountains
Abrams Creek Trailhead
2016 bag nights: 9

My oldest (7 years) did not have any activities planned for the week since grandparents were coming at the end of the week. I generally like my kids more when we are outside vs. inside, so we decided we would go back to the Smokies again. I was originally planning on taking the middle one as well (5 years) so I was looking for short/flat trails with a creek to play for them to play in. This led me to the Abrams Creek part of the park where I had never been. Then the 5 year old decided he wanted to stay home. So another "dad and daughter" trip like last Labor Day.

The forecast was looking HOT, highs in the low 90s and the Brown Book mentions that this area is best appreciated in cooler months, but other sites I had thought about were closed because of bears. So, Abrams Creek it was.

We hiked in on the Cane Creek Trail (an old road) which was a nice start to the trip...

Checking out Abrams Creek

to the Little Bottoms Trail (there are some nice views of Abrams Creek) ...

and then hit Site 17 after about 2 hours of hiking.

This was about 3.5 miles total, but there is a slight ridge to climb on the Little Bottoms trail, no problem for me, but it worked the little legs a bit. Site 17 is large and spread out with 3 sets of bear cables and 6 or 7 fire rings. But, there was only one other group when we arrived (a dad and his 10 year old son).

We got water and set up camp and then poked around the creek a bit before it was time for an early dinner.

Around 6ish, the bugs got bad enough, we hung out in the tent for a bit hoping that they would disappear. We poked our heads out around 7 and the bugs were mostly gone, wandered over to say high to the dad and son. The dad mentioned that his son wanted to practice his fire starting skills even though it was still in the upper-80s. I said we would help gather firewood and would share a marshmallow if he would share his campfire, no surprise, he was willing to share. We talked for a couple hours and then it was time for bed.

We also discovered a new use for the bear cables.

The next morning we were going to hike to Abrams Falls for an easy dayhike. The dad and son were heading to Site 15 and our paths overlapped for about a mile.

There were some nice views where the tornado hit a couple years ago.

We took a break near a tiny waterfall that was just off the trail

We made it to Abrams Falls, we talked about all of the stupid things people do in places like that that ends up killing them (great lunch time conversation).  We actually overheard a guy telling his girlfriend about jumping off the rocks from the top of the falls when the water was higher (basically right over the big log above her head in the 2nd picture).

And then we headed back in the heat. By this time we had found a couple ticks on each of our legs, so we got in the habit of performing tick checks every 15-30 minutes. We found lots more ticks, but got them before they had started biting.

We got back to camp and I jumped in the creek to cool off while my hiking partner played with a couple small buckets at the water's edge.

This occupied her for a while and then it was time for dinner again. In the meantime, another dad and his 14 year old daughter had set up camp nearby. After dinner, we again retreated to the tent to escape the bugs. We then played some games and then ended up talking to the other party until it was time for bed. 

The next morning, my partner read while I packed up and then we headed towards the car.

One last look at Abrams Creek

A fun trip even with the bugs and the heat. We both enjoyed running into other dads with kids, something that had never happened before. The worst thing about the trip is we both came back with a ton of bug bites. I have no idea what they were, but we both ended up with them all over, almost like we were sleeping with a flea covered dog. In the end, not a big deal, but there was a lot of itching over the next couple of days.

Side pictures

Rhododendron Bud

An interesting looking bug.


 Playing with a millipede

Black Snakeroot (?)

Some kind of primrose (?)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Back to Bee Rock

6/10 - 6/12
2016 bag nights: 7

We talked about meeting friends (also have 3 kids) to go camping. Since I am the backpacker in the bunch, I got to pick where we would rendezvous. I decided that another visit to Bee Rock was in order after Kid #2 and I enjoyed it last summer.

We decided to spend 2 nights, unfortunately summer weather showed up and the temperatures were in the 90s all 3 days. Thankfully, it wasn't too humid, so the shade was ok, but in the sun, it was hot. I was glad I had two tarps for shade, I ended up hanging one above our tent to help keep it from heating up during the day.

Unfortunately, there was not much of a view from our sites, but there was a short path down to the river, the kids loved getting muddy/wet.

We hiked up to the top of Bee Rock again, even the littlest ones did great.

We all (the adults) enjoyed the views from the top

The oddest thing was there was a motorcycle rally on the Laurel County side of the campground (thankfully, we were on the Pulaski County side). If it had just been me there, I would have been really annoyed at 500 bikers, but the kids loved it. They even got to sit on a couple of the bikes.

I asked a couple people what was going on, it turns out it was the inauguration of "The Rattlesnake" part of the road near by was going to be given a name to encourage bikers to come ride similar to "The Dragon" in NC. The "opening ceremony" was at the Bee Rock boat ramp.

One last sunset

A great couple of days outside and a nice way to catch up with friends. I highly recommend Bee Rock for family camping.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Fireflies in the Smokies

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Elkmont/Little River Trailhead
6/6 - 6/8/16
2016 bag nights: 5

I read about the synchronous fireflies in the Smokies and thought it sounded like a great kids backpacking trip since the trail is pretty flat.

There are 3 sites along the Little River Trail (21, 24, 30). Site 21 is about 2.5 miles from the trailhead so even my 5 year old would be able to come. So, I marked my calendar to make sure I would get camp site reservations for the time when it seemed the fireflies would be doing their thing. And no problem at all until a couple days before we are going to leave and I get an email from the NPS saying Site 21 has been closed because of bear activity. I looked at the map and decided the kids could make it to Site 24 (about 4.5 miles) and called the backcountry office early the next morning. It actually worked out great because I had reservations for 3 nights and the first day/nights weather looked terrible. Because my reservation had been canceled, I got that nights fees back.

Anyway, we started at the Little River Trailhead next to the Elkmont Campground and headed up the trail. Lots of Dayhikers in the first couple of miles, but a very nice trail/old road to walk on.

The kids had fun climbing on rocks...

looking at waterfalls (Huskey Branch Falls)...

and the Little River itself.

Not to mention snails and butterflies

After the bridge over the river, the trail becomes a little more rougher and wetter, but still easy for little legs.

After a couple hours, we got to camp and got situated.

Site 24 is a short walk to the Little River where there are lots of rocks to climb over and to throw.

That evening we talked with some of the neighbors and borrowed a campfire to roast marshmallows. While we were chatting and waiting for the fireflies, a deer wandered out of the woods near by.

The fireflies started appearing a bit after 9pm but did not really get going until about 9:30, which is way past the usual bedtime. The kids watched for a little bit and then climbed into bed. I managed to stay up until maybe 10:30 before it was my time as well.

One of the "problems" with backpacking in the Southeast is it is hard to find views to enjoy sunrises/sunsets. But, I always like how the tops of the trees start to glow while everything down low is still in shadow, sort of like our version of alpenglow.

 Sunrise through the trees

We were staying at the same site for the second night, so there was lots of time to explore the riverbank.

We also hiked a bit further up the Little River trail as well as the Rough Creek Trail and dragged back a lot of dry wood for a fire that night.

The next morning it was time to pack up and head back to the car. The morning was a little chilly so the kids hiked in PJs with Buffs on their heads.

One last look at the Little River Trail.

Summary: great weather, kids played nicely, fireflies were cool. The oldest asked this morning when we were going back to the Smokies, I think the trip was a success.