Saturday, January 17, 2015

Chestnut Branch Trail - Calling an audible and the end of Hike #9

The rain was steadily beating down on us and we slowly made our way along the trail. Since we had parked our vehicles at the Big Creek Ranger Station we called an audible when we arrived at this sign. According to our maps, if we would have stayed on the AT trail we would have to walk another mile or so back to the Ranger Station once we arrived at Davenport Gap. With our feet in constant pain we took a chance that Chestnut Branch Trail would cut some distance off for us.

Kurt's face says it all...I'm feet hurt...I'm hungry...I love hiking with Mike.

Chestnut Branch Trail proved to be an incredibly beautiful hike. The newly fallen rain meant that the creek was full of water and the cascades and water falls seemed to stretch forever.

We finally arrived and the Big Creek Ranger Station much relieved that our vehicles were still there in one piece. It's hard to describe the feeling at the end of these short section hikes. Your body is so incredibly glad that you're done and the pain will soon ease, yet your mind immediately beckons for more. I smile...joyous at having knocked off another chunk of the trail and thinking ahead to the next hike. 

Tri-Corner Knob Shelter to Davenport Gap

We great the new day and head out for our last hike of this section. The sun comes out briefly but the rain returns later in the day and stays with us for much of the day's hike. My feet are aching at this point but its my shoulders that hurt me the most. My pack straps don't have a lot of padding on them...a definite feature that I will look for in my next pack.

As bad as my feet hurt, Kurt is in worse shape. He has blisters on both feet that are extremely painful and it is slowing him down a bit, but Kurt is one of the toughest dudes I know. He trudges forward knowing that with each step he takes it gets us closer to end of our hike.

Tri-Corner Knob Shelter

We make our way towards our Saturday night destination, Tri-Corner Shelter and enjoy all the sites the trail has to offer. The weather starts to kick in as rain comes and goes throughout the day.

We stopped at Pecks Corner Shelter for a quick lunch and to fill up on water. The journal at the shelter told of some recent bear activity in the area. I'm glad we were not staying at this shelter for that reason plus there was a rather raunchy smell in the something had died. We didn't stick around to find out what it was...time to hike on.

We get to Tri-Corner Shelter with plenty of day light to spare. There was a nice older couple there as well as another older hiker doing a solo hike. The trail attracts hikers from many places and there is no limit to how old a hiker can be. It is also nice to trade stories with people that are doing section hikes like me. Lots to learn and sharing stories is a great way to do that.

Tri-Corner was a nice shelter complete with bear cables and a privy. It also had a nice over hang roof that proved rather useful with the rain. Since the rain wasn't letting up, Kurt and I decided to set up our tents inside the shelter underneath the over hang. It worked out mice. Oh, we heard them all around us but we were both zipped up in our own tents so no worries.

Charlies Bunion

We have a rather peaceful night at Icewater Spring Shelter. Saturday morning comes early and we head out for the day. So far the rain has held off but we have a sense that we will be seeing it soon. Our goal for the day is to hike from Icewater Spring Shelter to Tri-Corner Knob Shelter...about 12.5 miles away. One of the early sites on this hike is an area known as Charlie's Bunion. This sign says it all...anytime you see a sign like this you know the view has to be good.

Charlie's Bunion is a huge rock that sticks way out from the mountain (kind of like a bunion). If you recall from my earlier posts about heights...I don't do well when gravity is involved. Kurt on the other hand is like a spider monkey. He proceeded to climb cliffs and go places on this rock I would never go...each to there own.

Hiking to Icewater Spring Shelter

This portion of the AT winds along the NC/TN border. Hard to say which one of us is in NC in this picture and which one is in TN.

Hiking to our shelter for the night we get to see many things... some of which makes us feel rather tiny as this stone wall did.

Glad someone posted the mileage to Katahdin... made me think that if my kids were with me this is when they would begin the obligatory "Are We There Yet?".

I sooo wanted Kurt to crawl into this bear trap so I could shut the gate....that would have made for a nice picture. Apparently they have traps like this to help relocate any bears that become too bothersome.

We finally arrived at our destination for the night, Ice Water Spring Shelter, with just enough daylight left to set up our tents and cook some dinner. There were 4 other hikers already there ahead of us. Although the rangers prefer that you stay in the shelters while camping in the Smokies, we decided to set up our tents since there was a small patch of grass right outside of the shelter.

Kurt's tent is on the left and mine is on the right. Both are small one person tents with just enough room to roll over. 

View inside of the shelter.

Friday's Hike Begins - Icewater Spring Shelter bound

We arrive at Clingmans Dome around 12 Noon, gear up and begin the half mile walk up to the trail head. A quick chat with a Ranger gave us the anticipated weather for the weekend...wet with a good chance of more wet. Funny thing about asking for the latest weather that point it really didn't matter. Nothing short of a freakish September snow storm was going to stop us from completing our hike. Also, just as we did in our last hike, we obtained our hiking permits (Smokies Hiking Permits) well in advance of our trip.

The plan for our Friday hike is to make it to Icewater Spring Shelter and camp there for the night. Icewater is about 10.5 miles from Clingmans Dome and daylight fades quickly this time of year, so we don't waste much time before hitting the trail.

The weather on Friday was actually nice.  No rain and cooler temps. Most of the hike was fairly typical...lots of up and down with plenty of interesting things to see in the woods. I was hiking in front of Kurt most of the day and I probably hit no less than 1,001 silk inch worms that were dangling in the middle of the trail.  The picture below is my attempt to capture one of these little critters on camera, but it didn't turn out as well as planned.

Section Hike #9 - More of the Great Smokies

September 5, 2014
Our goal for this section is to finish up the Smokies by hiking from Clingmans Dome to Davenport Gap (39.5 miles) over 3 days.

My good friend Kurt apparently had such a good time on our last hike in April that he decided to join me once again for this last section in the Smokies. I was elated to have him along for the trip. We parked our vehicles at the Big Creek Ranger Station which was located just a few miles off of I40 in Tennessee. Parking at the The Ranger Station will add about 1.25 miles to our hike, but apparently it worth the extra mile to ensure that our cars will still be there at the end of our trip.

In planning this trip, I decided to hire a shuttle driver to take us back to Clingmans Dome to begin our hike so we wouldn't have to kill 2 hours on Sunday driving back to get one of our cars. Luckily I ran across one of the more popular AT shuttle services online appropriately called... A Walk in the Woods. Not to be confused by the Bill Bryson book by the same title.

Kurt and I met up at the Ranger Station around 10:00am Friday and our shuttle driver was right on time.  A quick load up and we were on our way back to Clingmans Dome to begin our hike.