Tuesday, November 1, 2016

AT - Fontana Dam to Clingman's Dome

Day One: 5.8                                                                      Outcasts Total Miles: 1996.73
Fontana Dam to Campsite 113
Day Two: 8.3
Campsite 113 to Russell Field
Day three: 8.9
Russell Field to Derrick Knob
Day Four: 7.4
Derrick Knob to Double Springs
Day Five: 3.2
Double Springs to Clingman's Dome
Total Miles: 33.6

Our little buddy Marco could not make this hike. Troy and I arrived at the Fontana Dam at lunch time. We ate, crossed the dam, and then started the steep and steady climb up to Shuckstack Mountain. We met a lot of Southbound Thru-hikers all five days of this hike.

It was getting dark and shortly after passing the Lost Cove trail, we went to headlamps. When we got to campsite 113 a fire was already burning with a couple of guys setting next to it. Campsite 113 used to be a rock shelter which was removed and now there are six leveled areas for tents with a group fire site at the old shelter location. We visited with the three other campers until everyone called it a night. We heard from two Screech owls and one Baird owl.

Day Two:
We got up and found the spring which was not flowing at the pipe, but lower down the draw. After breakfast we said goodbye to our friends and headed out. Today's big topic on the trail was water. Everyone was saying there was a lack of water on the trail, but we had no problems. Everyone had a different story. No water at this shelter, no water at that one, water here, and water there.

We got into the Russell Field shelter where five others were already getting their dinners together. Two more joined us later in the evening. We had lots of topics discussed around the fire.

Day Three:
Today was our tough day. Lot's of ups and downs. We got some great views from Rocky Top and visited with a lot more hikers. We got into the Derrick Knob shelter late with the use of headlamps. Plenty of water here and no other hikers. It was a peaceful night.

Day Four:
Another great day on the trail. Lot's of views as we headed over Silers Bald and walked the ridge over to Double Springs Shelter. We met our two thru hikers dressed for Holloween. One had a fern leaf attached to his pack and he was itching "Fernicher" the other had two tree roots sticking up from his pack "GPS". When asked where you were going he would hand you the root.

We got in to Double Springs early and gathered wood. We had this shelter to ourselves as well.

Day Five:
This was our out day. We hiked up to the Clingman's Dome tower and then down to the parking lot where Dad and Mom were waiting for us.

Another great hike completed.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

AT - Clingmans Dome to NewFound Gap

Day One: 4.5                                                    Outcasts Total Miles: 1963.13
Trail to tower 0.5
AT 3.5
Sugarland Trail 0.5
Day Two: 4.7
Sugarland Trail 0.5
AT 4.2
Total Miles: 9.2 

We headed up to the Smoky's and left a car at Newfound Gap on our way to Clingman's Dome. The traffic was horrendous so it took us an hour to drive from Newfound Gap to Clingman's Dome parking area.

Once we got a parking spot, we headed the half mile paved trail up to the tower. Lot's of people everywhere. Finally, when we got on the AT, we were alone and didn't see anyone until we got to the Sugerland trail sign. When we got to the Mt. Collins shelter there were two couples in tents and four others in the shelter.

We had a night of visiting around a fire in the fireplace as they had removed the outside fire ring due to people cutting live trees.

The next day we got up and hiked out to Newfound Gap.


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Kentucky Trail - No Business Creek to Blue Heron

Day One: 13.5                                                    Outcasts Total Miles: 1953.93
Road walk 11
Long Branch, No Business, to Kentucky trail 2.5
Day Two: 7.5
Burkes Branch to Big South Fork river
Day Three: 9.4
Big South Fork to Three West Hollow
Day Four: 1.5
Three West Hollow to Blue Heron Overlook
Total Miles: 31.9

The 22.2 mile Kentucky trail is a beautiful hike through the upper section of the Big South Fork Recreation Area. It runs from the old community of No Business to the Yamacraw bridge. It is labeled on the BSF map and in the 100 Trails of the BSF, but is not labeled anywhere on the actual trail. Mainly they post the next creek or trailhead, but never call it by any other name but "Hiking Trail" on the signs. So you need to know at all times where you are and where you are going.

The trail has three markers: the old red arrow head on the white background, the green square, and a biker marker. Luckily, none are consistent and you don't have to worry about having any of them where you really need markers.

If you are a bike rider and plan on doing this trail on a bike, I make the following suggestions: Get the lightest frame possible, remove the seat as you won't be using it, remove the tires as you will break them, remove peddles and chains since you don't have tires, get a good piece of webbing and strap it to your back. You will be carrying the bike more than riding the bike!

Now for the Outcasts, anyone can do this trail in good weather. I suggest late fall, winter, and early spring since I am sure this trail grows over rather fast. As for us, we wait until a good freezing rain and snow before we head out.

When we get to Blue Heron we are met with a barricade, a ranger, and snow plow. We tell him of our plan to hike the Kentucky trail and we need to leave a car. Of course he is not familiar with the Kentucky trail and there is no way we can go to the Blue Heron parking area because of trees and ice on the road. He said that we could park at the Overlook if we can make it up there. So this is what we do. What is one extra mile?

By the time we get back to the lower part of the park it is pouring down freezing rain and the road is getting slick. Divide road, which we need to take to Terry Cemetery is covered with ice and snow. We head to Pickett State Park and rented a cabin. The Ranger there has never heard of the Kentucky trail, but knows where Terry Cemetery is. We have to hike to No Business Creek to start the trail. Rain turns to snow.

The next morning we head out and get a few hundred yards down Divide road before we get stuck. We back out to the main road and think, and think, and think....

Heading back towards Pickett we found a ranger at the Forestry garage and stop. We tell him that we cannot make it down Divide road and need to find a place to park. He has not heard of the Kentucky trail but knew where Terry Cemetery was and Blue Heron was. He said that four wheel drive vehicles cannot make it down Divide road when it is like this. He let us park by the fire tower, but wasn't really sure that he would ever see us again. What is adding 11 miles to the hike?

So we hike down 154 to Divide road to Terry Cemetery road to Long Branch trail. It didn't take long to find out what an ice storm does to Hemlock trees. For every Hemlock standing, there were three across the trail. Only for the entire hike we went over, under, through and around trees. Our first foot washing, shins, knees, thighs was the No Business Creek. It had quite a bit of current as well. After three foot washings, we came to our first bridge at Dry Branch. This is where the Kentucky trail begins. They had signs everywhere for everything except the Kentucky trail. Made us feel good right off. Anyways, we set up camp for the night. We got to hear owls and coyotes during the night. When Marco and I hung the bear bag, we ended up with a branch on top of us. Must be too much food. Had to find another branch.

Day Two:
More trees down. It really slowed us down and gave us an over all body workout. We were really amazed by the bike trail markers as you could not ride a bike even without the storm damage.

When we got to Difficulty Creek a tree was down across the bridge which required another foot washing. This became our running joke as trees were down on all bridges after this and on everything else.

When we got to Troublesome Creek we found that these creeks are kind of depressing just by name alone. Troublesome Creek bridge had a hole through it about the size of a horse.

When we got to the Big South Fork River, we found us a spot to set up camp for the night. We watched the sunset over the river and settled into a night of telling lies and taking cough medicine. After Troy had gone to bed, Marco and I heard a loud cracking sound like a limb falling off a large tree and then a yell.  We headed over to check out the damage, when we found Troy laying under his tarp on the ground. The tree that he had tied his hammock off to had fallen over.  I don't know how, but it fell sideways instead of on top of him and fell along side my hammock without damaging anything. After making sure he was OK, the laughter began. We helped him get set up again before going back to the campfire. Troy wasn't scared, he was back asleep within minutes.

Day Three:
This morning we hiked down the river. If the river had been up to flood stage this trail would be impassible. We could see where it had gotten up to the last time and it was still muddy from that. When we got to the trail to go up out of the river valley, it to was covered in downed trees.

The area around Ledbetter Trailhead was gravel roads with trees across it. Not much as far as markings, but referred us to the "Hiking Trail".

I went to check out the Big Spring Falls as Troy and Marco cleared the trees off the Big Spring Hollow bridge. From here the trail follows the old Tram bed all the way to the bridge of Blue Heron. You get off it long enough to see Dick Gap falls and the Catawba Overlook.  We set up camp on a level area above the trail for the night.

Day Four:
Just before you get to the Mine 18 tipple bridge you start finding parts of old mining carts. We crossed the bridge and headed through the "Cracks in the Rocks" which is just like it sounds. They have stairs where you go over fallen boulders. We climbed up to the Blue Heron overlook and then headed back to the car.


Saturday, January 16, 2016

AT - NOC to Fontana Dam

Day One: 2.5                                                    Outcasts Total Miles: 1921.03
NOC to Campsite before Grassy Gap
Day Two: 8.0
Grassy Gap to Locust Cove Gap
Day Three: 5.5
Locust Cove Gap to Brown Fork Gap Shelter
Day Four: 9.3
Brown Fork Gap Shelter to Campsite Past Walker Gap
Day Five: 3.7
Campsite to Fontana Visitor Center
Total Miles: 29

We got to the trailhead in the afternoon after dropping off a car at the Fontana Dam visitor center. We packed up and started the climb out of the Nantahala Outdoor Center.  We stopped at the campsite that is before Grassy Gap.  There is a large boulder rock wall on one side and a good flowing spring is on the other side of the trail down below.  We had a good night of telling lies around the campfire and listening to the owls talk.

Day Two:
We continued the climb today with some views from the Jump-up. We stopped at the Sassafras Gap shelter for a very cold lunch break and then finished up our climb to Cheoah Bald for some wonderful views. This has been a long drawn out uphill climb. 

We camped at Locust Cove Gap down by the spring to avoid the wind.  Tonight was the coldest night dropping down to the single digits. Even the firewood didn't want to burn.  We got our bellies full and called it an early night.

Day Three:
Today the temps never got up.  We had the steep decent to Stecoah gap where we ate our lunch at the picnic table. The springs here were dry. After that came the long climb to Sweetwater Gap and then the extreme climb before dropping down to Brown Fork Gap shelter.  During the extreme climb Troy came up and said "another life's lessons" and that was all he had to say about that.

We had our first hiker in camp tonight "Emersion" came in right at dark and visited with us around the campfire.  The wind picked up and then climbed to tornatic levels by bed time.  During the night I was wondering if any of us would have tarps left by morning.

Day Four:
We survived the night.  It warmed up today where we were putting on and taking off clothes all day.  Cold side of the mountain and then the warm side and back.  We enjoyed the sunshine during lunch and after crossing the road at Yellow Creek Gap, made the decision to go past Cable Gap Shelter to the next campsite pass Walker Gap.

When we got to Cable Gap there were some day hikers there.  One of which his Dad had a shelter named after him at Amicalola Falls State Park.  We visited with them for a little while and then started the extreme climb to Black Gum Gap.  It seemed like we would never start the climb down to our campsite, but we made it before dark.

That night we had a visitor.  "Emersion" caught back up with us.  He visited until we went to bed and then he headed on to Fontana Dam shelter.

Day Five:
We packed up and got on the trail by 7am.  We were trying to beat the rain, but it started sleeting on us before we headed out.  During the steep decent it turned into rain and set in for the day.  We picked up "Emersion" at the Fontana shelter and gave him a ride back to the NOC.

This part of the AT is the toughest part in the South and we earned it.