This is a winter hike to the Len Foote Hike Inn that we did with a group of dads and sons from St. Jude Catholic Church. Kudos to the staff at the Inn – who provided outstanding customer service during our visit. What a great place….
Hiking northbound on the Appalachian Trail about two miles
from Bly Gap and the Georgia-North Carolina border. The Boyz and the
dogs do a walk over and leave me in the dust.
There is nothing better than escaping a trade show in Las Vegas for the backcountry and fresh air of Zion National Park. After a 3 hour drive Fuller and I arrive in Springdale, UT and stay a short distance from the park. Our first mission is to hike the Hidden Canyon Trail.
We climb 850 feet and link up with a steel chain that guides us around a cliff with an insanely sharp drop off. It is at this point that I remember that I might have a slight fear of heights.
And to make things more interesting, we round a corner and see the Trail covered in ice. Hmmm – better hold on to that chain!
I try not to look down – because damn it's a long way to the valley floor. Get me off this ledge!
Fortunately, the Trail Gods smile on us and we reach the mouth of Hidden Canyon without incident.
We hike along a sandy and rocky canyon floor, then scramble across some boulders to walk deeper in to the canyon. It's a cool place and well worth the trip.
We even discover this mini-arch less than 15 minutes from the end of the maintained Trail.
But the forecast is for rain within the hour, and neither Fuller nor I want to get caught on that cliff with wet, slick, and icy rocks. So we start our decent to the trailhead.
The Hidden Canyon Trail is supposedly a warm up for Angel's Landing in the park and just across the Virgin River from us. Damn! I can't image what that is like. Guess you are soaring with the Angel's if you miss a step.
We make it back to the trailhead without incident, and decide to squeeze in another three miles on the Watchman Trail before the rain comes. From here there are great views of Zion Canyon to the north and Springdale to the south.
And after 6+ miles of hiking and 2436' of elevation gain/loss today – we are hungry and tired. So we grab a sandwich and Fuller slams a margaritta at the Zion Lodge restaurant.
Then we retire to the comforts of the hot tub at the Desert Pearl Inn. Here we are with a Nalgene of brew watching some bursts of sunshine light up Johnson Mountain at sunset. A great day to say the least.
After fattening up on Thanksgiving dinner, The Camel meets us in North Carolina for a hike in to Panthertown Valley. No one is more excited than the Boone Dawg who is craving some time in the backcountry. And we are blessed with sunshine as you can see from the the shadows in this photo.
The weather has been cool this week with snow showers and ice that is still lingering in the valley. Here is a giant piece floating near Schoohouse Falls.
Our preferred campsite is taken. So we shift to this area under a bunch of pine trees which is close to Panthertown Creek and has some nice fishing holes for the kids. Wonder if the fish will bite with the temps in the 40’s?
The kids also try their luck at Schoolhouse Falls, but the verdict is that it’s too cold for the fish to bite – or quite possibly their fishing skills.
So we head back to the campsite and make the boys some hot chocolate. It’s a winner – as you can see here.
The next morning, we hike out under sunny skies and work to dodge the snowmelt that has collected on the valley floor. All three kids end up with soaked feet in the process!
And all goes well on the hike out, until we are about 15 minutes from the trailhead. The leaves are wet, the hill is steep, and Will goes down with a knee injury. Someone call the medic …
Or step-up and carry his pack out! Dang, I feel like I am carrying a baby. Fortunately we are not far from the trailhead and I still have some Thanksgiving Day calories to burn off.
What a beautiful day for the drive back home. Here’s Lake Toxaway in the distance at about 4000 feet. And the kids are already “angling” for a return trip!
After a unseasonably cool winter, the weather finally broke and we decided to take the kids out for an overnight hike. We did this one on a Friday night to avoid conflicts with spring sports and with spring break. Here we are at the parking area at Three Forks on the Appalachian Trail.
The dog is more excited than anyone and is hauling his own food, water, sleeping bag and sleeping pad. All in – the dog’s pack weighs about 8 lbs – nearly the same weight as my empty (and aging) Dana Design backpack!
Here we are climbing to Long Creek Falls along the A.T. and headed northbound. The trail is nice and wide in this area and it is a pleasant walk to the waterfall and junction with the Benton MacKaye Trail.
There is a father and son from Orlando camped here when we arrive, and three guys camped nearby at the junction of the A.T. and Benton MacKaye Trail. For a Friday, there’s a lot of action on both trails today. We see a number of thru-hikers, and a number of larger groups that are day hiking.
But once we break off on the B.M.T., the crowds diminish and we walk to our campsite without seeing a soul. It’s nearly 5:30pm when we arrive and there’s a group of four that are searching for lost items from the Army Rangers that train in this area. They spot a water cache down the hill and are convinced the Rangers are training later tonight.
With the sun dropping in the sky, Ira and I walk back down the mountain to get water while Rob and Ken collect firewood with the kids. It’s been in the 60’s today, but it’s due to drop in to the 30’s after dark. So a campfire is a must – and after we pitch our tents we start cooking a late dinner around 8pm.
The kids are showing no interest in sacking out after dinner, but a brief rain shower has them heading for the tents at 10pm. By now, it’s getting cold – especially away from the campfire. Time to “mummy” up.
And the dog is tired too, but not cold enough to zip up in his sleeping bag – at least yet. He’s content to sack out on top of mine!
But after a couple of rain bursts, it passes and the adults return to the campfire at a lower decibel level. We hang out while the kids sack out … and we pay for it in the morning. They are up early!
So after a quick breakfast, we are packed up and on the trail by 10:30am. Many of the kids have soccer and baseball games today – or we would have hung out longer.
And as we hit the trail – we find out that Friday night was the right night to be on the B.M.T. There is a 68 mile trail run right through our campsite this morning and many athletes and their supporters are in the area as we hike out. There are also a lot of day hikers and backpackers on the A.T. and it’s the busiest that I’ve ever seen it in this area. I feel fortunate that we had the last 14 hours with a campsite and the B.M.T. to ourselves.
In Episode 21 of the N2Backpacking podcast series, I speak with JD (aka Trail Hard) about his passion for hiking and backpacking in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park – the most visited in the United States.
On the show, we discuss his quest for a third map in the “Smokies” – or the completion of every trail in the Park. While a “map” is technically ~900 miles, a hiker walks roughly 1500 miles to complete it. And JD is on his third map – dang! Fewer than 400 can even claim one!
So he definitely knows the Park and JD offers up some of his favorite trails, vistas, campsites, and hidden treasures in the Smokies . He also shares some weather, wildlife, and comaraderie in the backcountry and gives some tips to those that are out for a day, weekend, or multi-day trip in the Park.
Subject: Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Interviewees: JD (Trail Hard)
Interview Date: February 4, 2014
Download Now: Great Smoky Mountain National Park (WMA format 54.5 Meg);
Great Smoky Mountain National Park (MP3 format 70.0 Meg)
You can follow or subscribe to this podcast if you click here (via Blubrry, Facebook, Google+, iGoogle, iTunes, RSS, Twitter, Stitcher, Yahoo, Zune). Or click this link for a complete list of N2Backpacking podcasts.
We have a long tradition of backpacking the Smokies in the winter, but Brunn and I sit out the tough stuff this year and hike less than half of the ~35 mile route.
While the rest of the crew gets pounded by rain – I fly home from Vegas and Brunn hits the Allman Brothers Tribute show at the Fox in Midtown Atlanta (a worthy choice). Needless to say, we get a late start on the trip. Here's Brunn packing at noon on Saturday after the show.
But everything comes with a price and we leave Newfound Gap at 4:45pm. The moon rises above the Appalachian Trail as we start our hike.
It is 3 miles to Ice Water Spring Shelter, and the sun sets as we hike our first mile on the Appalachian Trail.
If you think we might hike in the dark, you guessed right! But it is really cool and very peaceful with a bright moon high in the sky.
And the Boyz are very happy that we pack in some refreshments. They hiked in some really crappy weather the last two days.
And as the cold front pushes in … the snow comes down. Not much but enough to cover the ground.
We have temps in the teens overnight but an incredible sunrise in the morning. There are even bobcat tracks around the shelter when we wake at 7:30am.
At least we think they are…unless a rogue house cat is on the loose.
We hike past Charlie's Bunion and have some incredible views…
And hike a little known trail up a drainage with a 360 degree look at the park.
And a view of Mt. LeConte in the distance. It must be damn cold up there this morning!
But it warms up a lot as we dropped off the 5920' ridge, and the streams are running fast from the run-off the last few days.
And after a sum of 11.5 miles we are back at Smokemont. Another great trip in the Smokies and we are blessed with great weather today. Sometimes the Trail Gods do smile on you.
We even see 4-5 wild turkeys and a herd of Elk as we exit the park. That's the way to close out a trip…
The bridge on the Tumbling Waters Nature Trail was closed, but here's a look at it with Tails Creek running below and in to Carter's Lake. And a shot of the videographer as well.