Showing posts with label backpacking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label backpacking. 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.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Savage Gulf

Savage Gulf State Park (TN)
Collins West Trailhead
12/8 - 12/10/17
2017 bag nights: 31
Miles hiked: ~25

I met JC at the Collins West trailhead about noon. The temperature was just about 30 degrees. The weather forecast was cloudy/windy with overnight lows in the upper teens. We both were hopeful that camping down in the valley would shelter us from at least some of the wind.

We decided to hike in on the Collins Gulf Trail and then come back on the Collins Rim Trail, so right off the bat we were descending into the canyon.
There was a little bit of ice on the trail near Sutter Falls, but it wasn't enough to be a problem.

Sutter Falls

The trail switchbacks down and then parallels the Collins River and soon comes to a side trail to Horsepound Falls

And then not much later comes to Fall Creek and the sink. I liked this little waterfall pouring out of the rockface.

Looking upstream from Fall Creek Sink. All of this water disappears underground about 30 feet behind me.

And then on to Sawmill Campground and our home for the next two nights. The reservation website showed two other sites as being reserved for the first night, but no one ever appeared. We never had a ranger come check on us either.

The water source for Sawmill is .3 miles back on the trail. Schwoon Spring is easily the coolest place I have ever filtered water from, the water comes out of a cave in a large rock face, drops about 10-15 feet into a large hole and disappears underground, hard to explain, but very cool to see.

An attempt to capture the bigger picture with a pano, 5 photos stitched vertically, doesn't come close to capturing the full effect of the place.

A wide angle view with JC for perspective

The first night we gathered a bunch of firewood and were very comfortable, no wind at all.

For the second day, we hiked towards Stone Door with the idea of doing a loop at the end or just an out and back. The Connector Trail is very hard going in places, lots of rocks and tree roots, so we ended up hiking to Ranger Creek Falls and then turning around.

On the way out, we stopped and checked out the Cator Savage cabin.

Really weird ice crystals, there were hundreds of these along the ground. We both thought that they were caterpillars or moths until we looked more closely, never seen anything like it before.

The Cator Savage cabin in the middle of Savage Gulf

One of the suspension bridges along the connector trail, it was kind of weird walking along a bridge 20 feet above dry ground. Why/when is a bridge like this necessary?

A nice stretch of the connector trail

We had lunch at Ranger Creek Falls, but did not linger too long since it was windy and damp and cold. The tree in the bottom left is covered in ice which gives an idea of how much mist was in the air.

We got back to camp, had a couple Advil to counteract the Connector Trail and relaxed for a bit until dinner/campfire time. Another night without anyone else around.

The next day packed up and headed up the Stagecoach Road Trail to the Collins Rim Trail.
More water on the hike out of the gulf along the Stagecoach Road

Nice view from the Collins Rim Trail, great day for hiking

Got back to the trailhead around 1 and went to find food, neither of us had had time to do any research ahead of time and Yelp did not have too many suggestions. We ended up at something Dairy Bar were we both had an ok cheeseburger and fries, need to do more research for the next time.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Mt Rogers

Grayson Highlands VA
10/6 - 10/8/17 (2 nights)
2017 bag nights: 28
Miles hiked: ~25

I parked at the Grindstone Campground and hiked a couple miles to the Appalachian Trail and then headed north on the AT towards Mt Rogers. Based on some readings and helpful people on, I was pretty sure I could find a campsite along the AT below Mt Rogers. The only real question would be the number of people in the area and would I be able to be near a good view. After a couple hours hiking, I came across the perfect spot overlooking Brier Ridge about a mile from the Thomas Knob shelter on the AT. I headed in that direction to get water for the night, but found a solid trickle about 10 minutes down the trail. I filled up for the night and morning and headed back to set up camp and catch the sunset.

I walked onto Brier Ridge and there was a small herd of ponies. I took a couple photos and enjoyed the view and then headed back to cook dinner and wait for the sunset and hopefully stars.

My campsite was close enough to the open ridge that I carried stove, food, water and bourbon and camera/tripod back to the ridge. I cooked dinner and enjoyed the amazing sunset.



And then a little bourbon while I waited for the stars to come out and hoped that the clouds would not be too bad.
Looking almost due south at Sagittarius and Scorpius and some sky glow from the sun.

As the full moon rose behind the trees it was obvious that the clouds were going to catch a lot of the moon light and it was not going to be a good night for astrophotography. So, off to the hammock to read for a bit.

I woke up to clouds all around, no view at all.

I had a leasurily breakfast and a second cup of coffee hoping it would burn off as the sun rose, but by 9 o'clock it was still foggy/cloudy and time to get moving.

I took the AT north towards Thomas Knob and then along Wilburn Ridge. Supposedly there are great views along the ridge, but the top of the ridge was covered in clouds. The ridge was also covered in dayhikers coming from Massie Gap in the state park. I found this part of the day to be really frustrating, there were no views and no solitude.

As I got closer to the border of the state park the clouds began to break a little and I was still on an open ridge so there were views. The leaves were starting to turn and at times were very striking.

I had lunch on a rock outcrop just off the AT ...

...and then continued into the forest towards the Wise shelter. It was very nice hiking with no one around, but nothing special. I filtered water near the shelter and looked at the map a little more. I was heading towards the Scales area and could take the direct route on the Scales Trail or continue on the AT. Since I was going slower than I had expected, I decided to take the Scales Trail. It was nice, but from what I later read, I probably would have liked the AT better.

After Scales, I took the Crest Trail back towards Rhododendron Gap. The views were very good in parts.

I took the Crest Trail past Wilburn Ridge until in intersected with the VA Highlands Trail which I followed back to Brier Ridge and camp. When I got to the ridge it looked like I was in for another great sunset. I talked to a couple young women from App State in Boone and then went to get water for the night. When I got back after about 1/2 hour the clouds had settled on top of the ridge and there were no views to be seen.

I cooked dinner and sipped some bourbon while I watched the mist swirl around for a bit. This girl was not afraid at all, I assume there is no hunting in the area.

Woke up in the morning to more fog/clouds, no point in lingering. I had a quick breakfast and then took the VA Highlands Trail towards Deep Gap and the AT. After a couple hours of hiking I was back at my car.

I was hoping for more views and more stars, but overall it was a good trip. Next time I think I will avoid the AT near the state park just to avoid some of the dayhikers.