Took Jay (Tapeworm) and Peter (Tortoise) on a 3 day sectionhike over Memorial Day. We were up early on the 26th and drove up to the Springer Mountain Parking Lot. We arrived at about 1015, 15 minutes before we were supposed to meet Wes our shuttle driver. He was going to drive us to Woody Gap and we would walk back to Springer Mountain. He showed up right on time and we piled into his Jeep Cherokee and off we went. We ate a quick lunch at Woody Gap and started hiking. The weather was really nice. The forecast called for temps in the 90s but at most it was in the upper 70s in the mountains. We had a goal of making it to Gooch Mountain Shelter for the day. Just a short little 5 mile hike. We had short steep uphill at Jacks Gap after a mile and a half. I was really worried about Tortoise. He stole my hiking poles on the short uphill and was really winded after a very short uphill and we still had almost 18 miles to go until we got to the car. We got to the shelter at 2:30 and it was way too early to stop walking. So we pressed on to Justis Creek which was only a mile away. It was the last water location until Hawk Mountain Shelter which was 7 miles further so we stopped for the night. We set up our tents, ate dinner, and pumped water all by 5:20. We still had about 4 hours of light left so the boys worked on getting a fire going. It took awhile but they got the fire going really well. There were a lot of people on the trail today but it wasn’t too crowded.
We were up at 6 and on the trail by 7. The boys did a great job getting things packed up this morning. Our original plan was to go from Gooch Mountain to Hawk Mountain Shelter, about 7 1/2 miles. The boys did real well and we did 6 miles from 7 to 12 and made it to Hawk Mountain Shelter. Part of that was going over Sassafras Mountain. Going southbound it wasn’t too bad. Going northbound the climb would have been a 1/2 mile longer and about 300 feet more in elevation. We were going down so it wasn’t as bad. We took and hour and a half break at the shelter for lunch and relaxed for awhile. We met a young couple at the shelter who was out for their first backpacking trip. The were headed in the opposite direction. The didn’t have anything more than one 32 ounce water bottle a piece and 7 miles to go to the next water source in 85 degree heat. I got to play trail angel. I had an extra 100 oz camelbak in my pack and we were able to filter water for them and give them enough water to make it to Justis Creek where we had camped the night before. Then we were off. It was up to Tortoise how far we went. The six miles we did in the morning had worn him out pretty well. I planned a stop at Long Creek Falls so he could swim a little bit and enjoy the falls which he did. He wanted to stay in a shelter for the night so we still had about a mile and a 1/2 to Stover Creek Shelter. He pushed through and made it but 8 miles is probably his daily limit right now. It also reduced our last day mileage to five miles and the last two of those without our packs.
We were up at 6 again but not as rushed so we didn’t get on the trail until 7:30. We were at the car by 9 and put our packs in the trunk, got a bottle of water and a Clif Bar and headed to Springer Mountain. We made it up to the top, signed the register, got a photo and headed to the car. We had a great trip. Peter’s first backpacking trip was a success and he is ready to go again.
Our morning pic on the last day. Joined by a few of our trail friends.
We awoke slightly damp but ready to finish our backpacking trip. The rain was gone, it wasn’t too hot, and we were getting real food tonight! The weather was absolutely gorgeous this morning. We spent the first four miles on a rather level path up above the clouds which were filling the valleys below. We hadn’t seen a lot of wildlife on the hike but saw a few small animals this day; a centipede and a crawdad. Then we arrived at Yellow Creek Gap where we would be linking up with two of our cars so we could slackpack the last twelve miles to Fontana Dam. We stopped at the gapped. Emptied the packs of their non-essential items, had lunch and waited for about an hour. Once we got moving again we had a slight climb out of the gap and when we crested the top we got our first view of Fontana Dam off in the distance. We found out just how far as we walked four miles down the hill to the Dam. We arrived at the Marina where we took a break. Emotionally we felt done because we were “at the dam”. We still had another four miles to go. We had to walk to the end of the dam and then back. It was hard for some of the Scouts who had felt they were done to keep going but they did. We pushed through to the end of the dam and arrived at the NC/TN border then turned around and walked the two miles back to the cars.
Up above the clouds
Brown Fork Gap Shelter Privy
Jay and I
Jay enjoying a break
We got done early enough that instead of camping out for t
Yellow Creek Gap break
At the Fontana Hilton
he evening and heading home in the morning. We loaded up the cars and headed home after a quick stop at McDonalds. We rolled in about midnight and hobbled to our own cars and headed home. It was a great trip and we are looking forward to more backpacking.
The Scouts at the end of the 50 miles.
This one probably our easiest day of hiking. There weren’t too many hills and it was slightly overcast so that kept the heat down quite a bit. We had been rather fortunate this trip that we hadn’t had any rain but it had been very warm and sunny . We crossed Cheeoah Bald during the morning the first real bald that I felt we crossed. I’ve always heard a bald described as a treeless hilltop but every other bald we crossed was full of trees. We had a nice view from the top.
Last year on the hike everyone was saying it had rained almost every day. Towards the end of the day as we were headed into a valley we had a thunderstorm to our left and another to our right.
We came into the gap and there was one of our cars. We were planning on linking up with one of the cars the afternoon of day five. They’d parked in the wrong gap at the wrong road crossing. We took a nice break as we sorted out what to do.
Then we started a very steep section of the trail climbing out of the gap. We had to get over the crest of the hill and and we’d be at the shelter. The thunderstorms were getting closer so we had everyone make sure their rainwear was handy and started to climb. About halfway up the storms arrived overhead. Everyone quickly got their raingear on and out their pack covers on and we resumed the climb. I think the rain actually helped. Although it made the path slippery, the rain, thunder, and lightening gave us something else to worry about besides the hill. Before we knew it we were on the backside and headed to the shelter. The rain slacked off and allowed us to set up camp without getting our gear soaked.
The shelter was quite crowded with thru hikers. The other scout troop had arrived before us as well. One of their leaders had gotten hypothermic in the rain and was having a rough time. There is not much privacy in a shelter. We were fortunate to have a former Air Force medic with us and he was able to assist the other troop. By the next morning she was doing well but she had a rough couple of hours.
We made dinner and had a very nice fire this night. There was a lot of dead wood and we were all happy for the chance to try out in front of the fire. It was wonderful watching the fog roll into the valley this evening. As soon as it started getting dark we were off to bed. Sleeping at an angle again. We had one more very long day left.
Day three found the Scouts packing quickly so they had time to stop at the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) and get some junk food. I had promised Jay a pint of ice cream at the NOC during our drive to the trail head so he was pretty excited. We had a quick walk down the hill to the NOC.
Jay got his pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey. He ate it in under 15 minutes. I bought a Gatorade for lunch and a Tilley Hat. I’d tried to find the hat before our hike but couldn’t find my size at the store. After a nice break we began the longest climb of the hike. The rest of the day was a long hard climb out of the valley. The climb seemed like it would never end. Every time we thought we were coming to the top we would crest the rise and there was another rise to climb. Not only that it was really hot and it really made the day drag on.
Remember that Gatorade I bought at the bottom of the hill. I was really glad I had it about lunch time when we were running low on water.
We did eventually climb the mountain and make our way to Sassafras Gap. The other Boy Scout troop beat us to the shelter so it was a tent night for everyone. There weren’t a lot of good tent sites at Sassafras and we ended up sleeping at an angle.
We were over hump day.
Our second day started out chilly and windy. Wake up time was 7 AM and the boys were moving a little slow. They reported that they were visited by some mice during the night in the shelter. We got the boys lined up on the ridge for the morning photo and a cautionary tale about 3 bears one the area that a ranger had told Steve, one of the other Scoutmasters with us, about. It was a beautiful sunrise up on the ridge and we could see clouds down in the valleys.
It was a good day of hiking. We made Wesser Bald right around lunch time and had our lunch at the base of the fire tower and then climbed the tower to enjoy the view.
After Wesser we had a long downhill into the Nantahala river basin. I do not enjoy going downhill as it is much rougher on my knees and seems to have a longer effect on my body. I much prefer going uphill.
We finally arrived at the Rufus Morgan Shelter to find the shelter empty so the boys quickly occupied it. Jay and I set up our tent as he had decided the shelter had been too crowded the night before. We went to make dinner and couldn’t find the meal we had packed. We had it at lunch and figured we must have left it at the top of Wesser Bald when we had lunch. Fortunately we were carrying an extra dinner so we ate it. The bigger loss was our package of Mountain Home Blueberry Cheesecake. We had two and had planned to have one them tonight. We had the Blueberry Cheesecake we were supposed to have Tuesday night.
About this time another Boy Scout Troop and Venturer Crew came hiking into camp. They were from Michigan and doing a prep hike for their trip to Philmont this summer.
When we crawled into the tent Jay decided it was too hot in the tent and grabbed his sleeping bag, mat, and pillow and headed to the shelter.
We started our AT hike this morning at 5 AM. We met the group at the Scout Hut, got some last minute instructions, loaded up the cars and headed to Wayah Bald. We arrived just before lunch, ate real quick, snapped a quick picture of the Scouts and started hiking. We arrived at top of the bald and found an old stone lookout which they had to explore.
We quickly had to make a stop to adjust the belt on one boys pack. He is so skinny that even with the belt pulled as tight as it would go it wasn’t snug enough to transfer the weight to his hips. Our resident Eagle Scout took charge and made the necessary adjustments.
We only had a little over 5 miles to hike to get to our campsite for the night, Cold Spring Shelter. We arrived at the shelter to find it unoccupied so the boys quickly moved in. This shelter sits right on the trail and the water source is only about 30 feet in front of the shelter. There wre a lot of section and thru hikers staying in the vicinity of the shelter. We spent a lot of time talking to Polaris and Jbird.
We made dinner. Jay and I had Murray’s Hurry Curry from Hungry Hiker. It was excellent. The boys pumped water and got a fire going as night settled in. Soon it was off to bed to rest up for the next day’s hike.
Heavy or light?
Big or small
85, 70, 65, or 40?
Trying to decide what pack size to get for myself. Hopefully I’ll get a look at an Osprey Aether 70 on Sunday. Thinking about a REI Mars 85 also. Got my son a REI Ridgeline 65 which should be plenty big for him and grow with him.
Any thoughts or recommendations