What follows is a brain dumped summary of an overnight trip around Standing Indian Mountain, just outside of Franklin, NC, which I took with my girlfriend, Robin, over the May 31 - June 1 weekend. This was supposed to be a 25.4 mile loop and came from the book The Best Of The Appalachian Trail Overnight Hikes.
Saturday, May 31 -
Hit the trail around 10:30 AM at Deep Gap. The book says take the AT South from Deep Gap. Thus, we took the AT South towards GA, and upon reaching Muskrat Shelter (about 4 miles) realized we had gone the wrong way. The book actually means to take the AT North which heads compass South for a short period. I should’ve checked an AT map and matched up the landmarks in the trail description. This turned out to be an 8 mile mistake on mypart, but we did pass 3 thru-hikers and 2 section-hikers along the way (one named Wonder Woman). At Muskrat Shelter we ate lunch and then headed back to Deep Gap, passing Wonder Woman again and continuing North on the AT. After Deep Gap, we passed Standing Indian Shelter, Beech Gap, Coleman Gap, and Carter Gap. We then decided to shoot for 20 miles so that Sunday’s hike out would be shorter. This was partly because we expected bad weather on Sunday. Finally, we arrived at Betty Creek Gap around 8 PM where we spent the night. We setup our tent, and then I walked down a .25 mile trail to stock up on water while Robin started dinner. We had dinner and built a small fire which we used to make a few smores before putting it out and heading to bed around 10:30 PM. Total mileage for the day was 20.15.
Sunday, June 1 -
Heard raccoons all night and thought we might lose our food. We woke up to thunder around 8 AM and decided to pack up in a hurry to keep our tent dry. So a hot breakfast was skipped in favor of Clif bars on the trail, as we headed out around 8:30 AM, bypassing all normal morning routines. It was already misting rain while we rushed to finish up packing under the trees. The downpour began in earnest not ten minutes later and lasted for 2-3 hours. Along the way we passed Mooney Gap and Bearpen Gap before a very wet and rocky climb up Albert Mountain. We then continued to Big Spring Gap and stopped off at Big Spring Shelter for a bit to get out of the rain. At the shelter, we met HorseFly who said he earned his name because he eats like a horse and flies down the trail. He was a very cool guy. After some gear gab, we left the shelter and headed on, passing Glassmine Gap. Between Glassmine and Rock Gap we stopped off for a few mins to talk with a family of 3 who were out for a dayhike with their large golden retriever who liked to dig holes. At Rock Gap Shelter we redressed blisters, changed socks, and ate a hot lunch made from our missed breakfasts. After a 30-45 minute layover, we left the Rock Gap shelter, hiking down to the Rock Gap parking lot, thus ending the leg of our journey on the AT. From there we picked up USFS 67 and walked to Standing Indian Campground. After some searching in the campground area, we finally located the Kimsey Creek Trail which we were supposed to follow a short 3.7 miles back to Deep Gap. We were able to follow the loop directions clearly until just shortly after the trail passed through a gated road entrance, which it describes. Unfortunately for us when we hit a double-blaze we followed the visible blue blaze to the right and into the woods. Later, we learned that we should’ve ignored the double-blaze and stayed straight even though no more blazes were visible on this path - (see http://www.ii.uib.no/~petter/mountains/1500mtn/standingindian.html for details). The trail we took was not even on any map I’ve been able to find, and we were misled up a fairly long ascent to a dead end and another double-blaze. At this point, we both began to have the feeling something was wrong, but attempted to re-orient ourselves by heading up an old road following more blue blazes. Because the blue blazes were present, we felt we were back on track. However, we knew we had to be way off course when we hit a junction with the Park Ridge trail. According to the park map we had, this trail was not supposed to intersect Kimsey Creek trail, but also eventually leads either to USFS 71 (the same road that Deep Gap is on, 3 miles away) or to an intersection with the Park Creek Trail. I had taken a picture of an AT map at Muskrat Shelter, so we used that to orient ourselves and decided not to backtrack, but to continue along the Park Ridge Trail (a steep climb) until we hit USFS 71. Once hitting the road, we walked a short distance before hitching a ride back to the Deep Gap parking lot with a family up from Florida. When we finally hit 71 we were extremely tired and frustrated. We probably could’ve walked the 3 miles back to Deep Gap but certainly didn’t want to. I still have no idea what trail we wound up on since I can’t find it on any map, but at least we know where we made the mistake so that it won’t happen again. Whoever maintains Kimsey Creek needs to fix the trail markers, and I need to do a better job of scouting trails. Anyway, we got back to the car around 5 PM where we wiped off and changed clothes before heading home. On the way, we stopped off at the Chilis in Gainesville for some much needed calories and pain numbing alcohol. I’m not 100% on total mileage since I can’t find any mention of the blue blazed trail we took anywhere but I estimate it to be around 38 miles (not including that section would’ve been 33.4).
both a bit under 25 lbs (forgot exact amounts)
Additional calories burned on the trip (estimated and in addition to normal daily burn):
2 male section hikers headed to PA
a military couple thru-hiking (I think)
group of 3 (2 men, 1 woman) section-hiking and headed to Franklin
family of 3 (mom, dad, teenage daughter) with large golden retriever day hiking from Rock Gap lot to Albert Mountain
several salamanders (mostly orange ones)
a ton of snails
some small birds
a couple of large Hawks
1 small Turkey that hissed at me
Saturday - perfect. Sunny with a cool breeze
Sunday - downpour for 2-3 hours plus a lot of misting the rest of the day with temps on the trail in the mid 50s to low 60s most of the day
Don’t trust the book too much, check maps anyway. Don’t trust blue blazed trails. The white blaze of the AT is the only one you can reliably follow in a mostly blind manner. Hiking in a downpour isn’t really as bad as I thought it would be.
HorseFly for good conversation and stories about his experiences.
The family that drove us back to Deep Gap for hospitality and even offering us water.