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.