Showing posts with label sunset. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sunset. 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.

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.