To preface this is by no means a tale of ultralight backpacking, just some poor folks trying to enjoy the hobby as light as $$$ possible...
Christmas break (I guess I should be PC and call it Winter Break) is always a time of great adventure plans that never materialize...Now that I'm living 4 hrs from my gf and haven't seen my family since summer, Christmas break was more demanding than I would have liked. I originally wanted to do some major hiking, but settled for a two night trip. I bought my brother a pack for Christmas this year, the cheapest pack I could find that looked decent (I'm in med school after all) and took him out on a trip to break him into the backpacking scene.
The weather has been mild this winter, but the only two nights we could get our schedules aligned happened to be the coldest night of winter so far...of course.
I picked up my brother in Knoxville around 9 but we fiddled with packing and what not until around 11 and headed to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I was in no hurry, the access road to the trailhead was closed for the morning according to the news.
1 PM - The road is closed...and not going to be open for a couple of days due to snow & ice. I wasn't about to turn around and blow my last chance to backpack for the break. We changed plans . Cades Cove was open and we could hike from there to the AT and hit it up for a nice loop. Anthony Creek->Bote Mountain->Spence Field Shelter (AT) on day 1 AT-> Mollies Ridge Shelter on day 2 and home on Day 3
2 PMish We set out from Cades Cove after seeing 7 deer and 9 turkeys in the snow. The only animals we would see... :(
We took a short break at the end of Anthony Creek Trail. Before heading up Bote Mtn Trail. Snow clouds were in the sky but it didn't start snowing on us until we got to higher elevations. We were told water would be scarce on the AT so we stopped to fill up before heading up Bote Mtn Trail which happened to be 3 miles with 2300' elev gain with an extra 2L ice block in our pack...whoops!
I was hoping my brother wouldn't be thinking "Backpacking sucks."
We made it to Spence Field shelter cold and hungry after a brief stretching exercise .1 mi from shelter when my brother got some serious cramps in his legs (he was still nursing a mild new year's eve hangover I think). Overnight lows were forecast at 2 deg F and they hit it by 7 PM. It was miserably cold trying to cook with ice, but 4 other fellas were at the shelter, two of which (luckily) have never heard of backpacking light. They had saws, popcorn, the whole business (nearly 50 or more lbs a piece) and had a raging fire going and popcorn to munch on by the campfire.
The snow made everything beautiful and the sky opened up for a bluebird day for our hike to Mollies Ridge. I had misread the map and thought we were hiking nine miles but it ended up being only 6 and we we got to the shelter early.
Luckily the firewood fairies left us a big pile and we built a raging fire and played cards until late. Another hiker showed up around 9 PM and he was happy as hell to see smoke coming out of the chimney. He was going to press on 3 more miles but hot chocolate and a nice fire made him change his mind (not to mention the wind picked up and it was about 14 degrees outside).
1.4.08 A nice hike back down to Cades Cove on Russell Field trail through beautiful weather. My brother was absolutely stoked about the trip by the time it was over. He loved the trip even in cold weather. He's already planning another trip for MLK weekend. It ended up being a great trip to introduce my brother to the hobby and see how he liked it. I'll no doubt be putting in some serious miles with him in the future. We ended up hiking 20 mi in 3 days which made for a nice relaxed trip.
Link to album: picasaweb.google.com/clowe6/smokies
I tried to post pics in the message but it clearly isn't the old forum tags I'm used to which is [IMG] [/IMG]