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

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Empty Auxier Ridge

Auxier Ridge
Red River Gorge, Daniel Boone NF
Trailhead: Martins Fork

Dayhike 1/23/18
Backpack 2/2 - 2/3/18 (1 night)

2018 bag nights: 1

The Forest Service has closed Tunnel Ridge Road for repairs which means it takes a little effort to get out to Auxier Ridge. I decided to take advantage of the closure. I started at the Martin Fork Trailhead and took the "backdoor" up to the ridge. I first hiked north and checked out the view of Ravens Rock and then south towards the road and Auxier Ridge.

The clouds were low and grey and made for a striking looking sky, but the wind was gusting about 40 miles per hour which made it feel a lot colder than the actual temperature of low 40s. I hiked lots and did not linger for many photos.

Looking at the "backdoor" ridge, the Martin Fork trail head is to the left and the Tunnel Ridge Road to the right. 

One of the few times I have had the view of Haystack Rock all to myself.

I hiked back on the road to the Grays Arch trail head and took the D Boone Trail back to the car.

I enjoyed the solitude so much that I decided my first backpacking trip of 2018 would be Auxier Ridge. So a week and a half later I was pulling into the Martin Fork lot. The forecast was a lot colder (lows around 15), but thankfully very little wind and lots of sunshine. I was really hoping for clear skies at night so I could try out my new camera with the stars.

When I got to the lot, it was still snowing, but it stopped after about an hour. Since I had a pack and the ground was covered with snow, I decided that a scramble up a rockface was not a good idea, so I went up the D Boone trail and then out the road.

I went a little way out the Jailhouse Rock trail, but bushwacking through snow covered brush was not very fun, so I decided to stick to the official trails and headed out the Double Arch trail. First I checked out the Rocky Branch Overlook trail which was a new one for me.

I then headed for Double Arch, very weird to have this popular spot to myself.

I had never noticed this rock before, looks like a snake head

Then over to the other side of the valley and Auxier Ridge. I set up camp and then hiked back towards Courthouse Rock to cook dinner and wait for the sunset and some stars. It was just past a full moon, so I knew there would be a lot of light to make my way back to camp once the sun set.

Courthouse Rock waiting for the sunset.

It wasn't the best sunset I've seen, but it was nice. I was hopeful that the limited number of clouds boded well for stars.

It was cold waiting for the stars to come out, but it was worth it. Looking south with Orion peaking out from behind the trees.

Looking north towards Cassiopeia, I even got the Andromeda Galaxy by accident (the small smudge near the middle left)

Orion again and then time for bed.

Since the forecast called for zero chance of rain/snow, I decided to cowboy camp for the first time. I don't know that I would have been warmer in my hammock, but I was very cold in the night and ended up being wide awake at 6:45, plenty of time for a short hike to catch the sunrise.

Pano composed of 6 individual photos

Mountain ridges catching the sun

Double Arch catching the morning sun

I quickly ate breakfast after the sunrise and headed back to the car. I was really surprised as I got close to the Auxier Ridge trailhead to hear voices. It turned out to be four young guys from Cincinnati who had woke up early and drove down for the day, they said they had hiked in from the gate at the beginning of the road. I gave them some ideas for destinations and went on my way. 

I got to the Grays Arch trailhead and headed down the Rough Trail and ran into a solo woman heading up the trail and then not long later ran into three guys my age who had camped up on the ridge near Grays Arch. I passed a couple more dayhikers and when I got to the parking lot there were about 10 cars there, very different from my one car the day before. I ended up with complete solitude for the part I cared about so I was happy. Not a bad way to start 2018.

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.