Showing posts with label GSMNP. Show all posts
Showing posts with label GSMNP. Show all posts

Monday, January 1, 2018

Gregory Bald

Great Smoky Mountains NP
Twentymile Station Trailhead
12/28 - 12/29/17
2017 bag nights: 32

I had a couple nights to recover from the holidays and the weather forecast looked close to perfect (sunny and 30s during the day and partly cloudy and 20s at night) in the higher elevation of the Smokies. I have wanted to check out Gregory Bald for a while and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

I started at Twentymile ranger station and headed up the Twentymile trail to the Wolf Ridge Trail and then the steep climb (about 3000 elevation gain over about 6 miles) to Parson and Gregory Bald. My goal was to set up camp and then catch the sunset on Gregory Bald, since I started hiking a little before 1pm, I did not have a lot of time.

Both the Twentymile and Wolf Ridge Trails parallel creeks which makes for nice walking when there are bridges and cold wet feet when you have to ford the creek.

As I got to about 4000 feet snow began to appear on the ground, not very much, but enough to chill my feet.

I got to Site 13 in between Parson and Gregory Balds and set up camp then headed to Gregory Bald for the sunset.

Looking down on Cades Cove

Even without many clouds it was a beautiful sunset. The stars were going to be out tonight, but so was a 1st quarter moon right in the middle of the sky.

Panorama (5 shots stitched)

Gregory Bald in the morning, sadly I could not feel my feet at this point and had to keep moving to stay warm.

A little bit of snow as the trail drops off of the Bald

My feet were cold enough that I still couldn't feel my toes. As I hiked towards the AT I decided that I would make a decision at the next intersection. If I still couldn't feel my feet after hiking more than a mile then I would drop off the ridge on the Long Hungry Ridge Trail and would think about camping at a lower site. Well I got the the Long Hungry Ridge Trail and still had frozen feet, so down I went.

The trail is an old railroad bed, pretty obvious on this long straight stretch, and makes for easy hiking.

The only problem with the trail is there are a number of fords to deal with lower down. I was able to rock hop across the first couple fords, but then I came to a couple that I had to wade through. My feet had finally warmed up, but now they were soaked. When I got to the next campsite, it was only noon and I did not have a book to read( I have the Kindle app on my phone, but I don't like to read for a long time that way). I decided that I could be at the car around 2 and home before my kids went to bed, so I kept going.

About a half mile from the trailhead is the Twentymile Cascade, not one of the best waterfalls, but nice.

This trip ended up not working the way I planned. The main problem was cold feet. I realized that I did not have bread bags for my feet which meant that once my feet got cold, I had a hard time warming them up. I also should have packed an extra pair of hiking socks. And lastly, I should have packed a book instead of just my phone to make it easier to kill time. Basically this trip failed because I did not transition from fall to winter backpacking. Oh well, lesson learned.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Abrams Creek (GSMNP)

8/3 - 8/6/17 (3 nights)
Abrams Creek Campground
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
2017 bag nights: 24

I took my 3 kids to Abrams Creek Campground in the Smokies to meet a friend for a little bit of relaxing and splashing/tubing in the river. My oldest and I had passed through the campground last summer and we both thought it looked like a good place to return.

We got there on Thursday and had no problem getting two sites on the creek, showing up on Saturday would have been a problem. We mostly just splashed in the creek the first day.

The second day we drove up to Look Rock to check out the view.

We got back and the kids played some more in the creek before it started to pour. We had strung a big blue tarp so we had no problem staying dry and it lasted less than an hour.

The next morning the kids practiced their fire starting skills, they had a head start with all of the hot coals from the night before. Then a short hike and more playing in the water.

The last morning, another small fire and packing up.

Abrams Creek Campground is in a great location, but the sites are too close together and there are no trees separating the sites. It would probably be fine in the middle of the week, but it is too crowded on a nice weekend. If I go back, it would be show up on Mon/Tues and leave on Thur/Fri.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Waterfalls and wildflowers

6/6 - 6/7/17 (1 night)
Elkmont/ Jakes Creek Trailhead, GSMNP
2017 bag nights: 8

Jakes Creek => Panther Creek => Middle Prong => Lynn Camp Prong => Miry Ridge => Jakes Creek
Campsite #28

I headed to the Smokies to see the synchronous fireflies and to do a little hiking and see/photograph a couple of waterfalls.

I headed up the Jakes Creek and realized that I should have looked at the map a little closer. It was pretty obvious that this was going to be a steep climb and it was warm. I probably should have gone a little slower because I was soaked by the time I got to Jakes Gap (about 2000 feet higher). As I got close to the top of the climb, I heard a crash off to the side and looked up in time to see the back of a bear cruising downhill. I really wish they would pause long enough for a picture before they ran, but they always seem to run the minute they notice me. I guess that is a good thing.

The Jakes Gap trail has lots of little water crossings, but it is easy to keep your shoes dry. There is a nice little waterfall just off the trail.

The Panther Creek trail is wet and towards the bottom, it is impossible to find a dry crossing. There was no point in trying to stay dry since I knew I had to ford the Middle Prong. The map has a high water caution, but even with the recent rain, it was easy to cross, the water in the deepest part never got to the bottom of my shorts.

No picture of the ford at Middle Prong, but here is one of many creek crossings on the Panther Creek Trail.

Then up the Middle Prong trail to find the Indian Flats waterfall. It is an awesome waterfall with 3 distinct levels. It would be neat to be able to see the whole thing at once, but the layers stretch down the hill making that impossible.

The top layer of the falls is easy to get to and worth the little scramble

The middle layer takes a little more work to get to, but is worth it

The bottom layer involved some climbing over and under bushes (rhododendron and laurel), but was not too bad.  It looks like the creek bed flattens out here, so I did not try to get lower.

Then on the Lynn Camp Prong Trail and towards campsite #28. I got there about 6:30 and there were three guys there cooking their dinners. I found a place to hang my hammock and chatted with them a bit. They had know each other since kindergarten and were in their 60's. One of them had biked from Montana to Alaska and had also done a 25 day trip down the Grand Canyon in December. Nice to chat with, but I probably would have preferred to be by myself.

When I got up to hang my hammock and get ready for bed, I noticed my right ankle was stiff/sore, a little weird since it is my left ankle that has been bothering me and I did not remember doing anything to it. In retrospect, I should have soaked it in the cold creek water while I ate dinner.

I got my hammock setup and read for a bit. The little bit of sunset though the trees looked nice, I'll bet it was a good night to be up high on a ridge.

I got up in the middle of the night to water the bushes and saw a couple fireflies that appeared to be synchronized, but there weren't many so I did not stay up.

I woke up in the morning to a beautiful day and a really sore ankle. The Lynn Camp Prong Trail climbs steadily towards Miry Ridge, but it is an easy hike even with a sore/inflamed ankle.

At this point, I was wondering if I should head back to the car or continue on to night 2 and the fireflies. I knew I could make it up the Little River, but I was worried about injuring my ankle since we were heading to Banff the next week and I was planning on a lot of hiking there. I decided to see what happened over the next couple of hours since there was no need to decide until I got a lot closer to Elkmont.

I had an early lunch at the intersection of Miry Ridge Trail and Lynn Prong Trail and talked to a couple day hikers that had started in Elkmont and were heading to Clingman's Dome. And then, down the Mirt Ridge Trail.

There is a part of the Miry Ridge Trail that is sunny and had lots of Mountain Laurel blooming. I spent a bit of time with my camera here.

A couple of Azaleas were still blooming.

I think this is Black Snakeroot

I got to the intersection of Miry Ridge and Jakes Creek trails and headed down the hill towards Elkmont. My ankle was bothering me enough that I was pretty sure I was going to head to the car when decision time came. There were quite a few day hikers on the Jakes Creek Trail as I got closer to Elkmont. I stopped at one point to soak my ankle and see if that helped. It definitely helped, but starting downhill again it was obvious that I should call it a day if I did not want to ruin the hiking in Banff. So, decision made, I made my way to the car. 

I stopped for a late lunch at Burger Master in Townsend and then headed home. A good trip, got to see a different part of the park, and the fireflies will be there next year.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Smokies Kayaking

Cable Cove Boat Ramp
3/9 - 3/12/17
2017 bag nights: 6
Animals: wild turkeys, assorted birds
Campsites: 87 and 2 nights at 85 (Proctor)

Pulling away from the boat ramp, beautiful day, but windy, thankfully not as windy as Laurel River Lake a couple weeks earlier.

The water level is about 50 feet down from the tree line, so there are a lot of steep rocky "beaches".

This photo gives a good perspective of how far down the water line is. Of course, all the camping gear has to be carried up the hillside.

I had a couple hours before sunset, so I walked along the shoreline. Because the waterline is so low, the island is actually connected by a landbridge to the mainland.

Stumbled across an old brick (and lots of less interesting trash).

 Campsite for the night with easy access to the landbridge for the sunset and stars.

Moonrise (all most full)

Nice sunset

Venus and Mars

Lots of stars, but lots of airplanes, so no really good photos

That night a thunderstorm blew through, thankfully not as bad a the one at Laurel River Lake. I woke up to a very windy and overcast morning.

Lots of wind today, thankfully at my back, would have been impossible/dangerous if I had to paddle into the wind. Without paddling, I was being pushed at ~4 MPH. It was fun cruising along with so little effort. But I had the George Castanza line in my head "The sea was angry that day"

I stopped at Cable Cove to check out the Cable Cemetery. It made a good lunch spot and I was able to play with some long exposures and the clouds.

The trail to the cemetery parallels the creek for a little bit

And then follows what I suspect was a road 100 years ago.

Old home site at the end of the road

I was hoping for more wildflowers, but I was probably a couple weeks too early

Are Daffodils "wild flowers" if they were planted 100 years ago?

View of Cable Cove

A couple gravestones at the Cable Cemetary

Every time I visit a smokies cemetery, I am always struck by how many children died at such young ages. I can't imagine being this family.

I then paddled on towards Hazel Creek and the site of Proctor. The lake was down too low for me to walk up the trail at Hazel Creek, so I had to backtrack and hike up the Ollie Cove Trail. It was a good day for a hike, but I had about a mile to carry all my gear. A little heavy since I had packed for a paddling trip vs. a hiking trip.

The campsite is large with a number of firerings, I found one that had no garbage and a lot of wood that someone had spent a lot of time processing. Someone really wanted me to have a fire that night.

Since it was only about 3, I went exploring for a bit. The Calhoun House was built in the 1920s. I passed through this area 3 times now, and every time I have to take a picture of the house.

There were lots of daffodils in the area. Kind of neat to think that they have been growing there for 100 years.

Some true wildflowers (I think wild geraniums)

I then continued down to the end of Hazel Creek.

Remnants of an old bridge. Based on the water line, I think this might have been the old railroad bridge from the logging days. In the background is what looks like a bridge/road bed, that might have once crossed the trestles, but spring floods have washed it away.

I thought this rock was interesting with the very obvious seam of quartz in the middle.

There is lots of remaining junk that is old enough to be archaeological, like this old steel beam

Sign at the bridge across Hazel Creek.

I had a quiet night with my campfire and then woke up to an overcast day.

My goal today was Bone Valley about 7 miles north into the middle of the park. The last time I was in the area I had tried to check it out, but the creeks were too high.

The Hazel Creek Trail follows the old railroad bed, so it is very easy hiking. Just north of Proctor is the remains of the old log mill.

One of the 5 creek crossings on the way to Bone Valley, the water was very cold and at a couple of the crossings was up to mid-thigh. I just pulled my pants up high and waded through.

The Hall Cabin at the end of the trail (according to the sign, it was built around 1880).

I had imagined that I would hang out on the porch, enjoy lunch and relax. But, my feet were soaked, the temperature was about 40 and there was a forecast of rain starting around 4. So I explored a bit, ate a quick lunch and watched snow flurries.

I made a quick visit to the cemetery. I like the daffodils better than the plastic flowers.

There are some ruins of an old lodge right next to the cabin, but all that is left is the chimney and foundation.

It really started to snow as I was in the middle of the 3rd creek crossing, only 2 more to go. By the time I got back to the Hazel Creek Trail, the snow was really coming down and was sticking to the ground.

Snow on a spiderweb.

It stopped snowing after about 1/2 hour, but did not warm up. In the end, better to be snowed on vs. rained on given the temps.

Old axle in a tree.

I ran into a dad and 2 adult sons fly-fishing, they were staying overnight. Saw them briefly the next morning. I had enough firewood left for another fire and the rain/snow held off until about 7:30. I woke in the morning to this

I quickly ate breakfast and went to find some snow pictures. The snow was already melting off the tree tops.

I walked back down to the end of Hazel Creek. The cracked mud and snow was really cool.

And then it was time to pack up and get back on the water.

It was a gorgeous day with very little wind. But the previous couple of paddling days and found muscles that don't usually get used. Clearly I need to use my rowing machine more if I am going to enjoy paddling.

A great way to end the trip.

In the end, I hiked about 20 miles and paddled about 15 miles. A great couple of days.