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Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
GSMNP July 16-27, 2009 on 07/30/2009 08:35:28 MDT Print View

I recently got back from my first backpacking trip, covering 101 miles in the Smokies over 11 calendar days. It was filled with oddities (in my opinion) from my perhaps misconceived perceptions:
No rain. OK, it did rain 2 times a little at night, but I only had a few drops on the trail in 10 24-hour periods.
No humidity. A few mornings were a little muggy, but you expect that with temps at dew point.
No bugs. I got stung once (first time in 22 years) by something while hiking and maybe had 10 other bites the whole trip with zero repellent. Yes, the flying insects were annoying at 26 and Derrick Knob, but they didn't bite.
No people. Where was everyone?!?!? I hardly saw a soul on the trails or in a campsite, even on weekends. Shame they missed the wonderful hiking/sleeping weather.

This ended up being my trip:
Day 1 (Thur - late start): Hyatt Ridge > Enloe Creek > BCS 47
Day 2: Return to car & drive to Smokemont > Bradley Fork > Cabin Flats > BCS 49
Day 3 (Sat): Bradley Fork > Chasteen Creek > BCS 48
Day 4 (Sun): Return to car & drive to Clingman's Dome > AT > Silers Bald Shelter
Day 5: Welch Ridge > 1st 2 miles or so of Hazel Creek and back > Jonas Creek > Forney Creek > BCS 68
Day 6: Forney Creek > Forney Ridge > Andrews Bald > return to car & drive to Greenbriar Cove > Grapeyard Ridge > BCS 32
Day 7: Grapeyard Ridge > Rhododendron Creek (off trail) > hike to car & drive to RC TH > Ramsay Cascades (upper ones also) > return to car & drive to Greenbriar Cove ranger station > Injun Creek (off trail) > BCS 32
Day 8: Return to car & drive to Tremont > West Prong > BCS 18
Day 9: Backtrack West Prong > Middle Prong > Lynn Camp Prong > BCS 26
Day 10 (Sat): Miry Ridge > AT > Derrick Knob Shelter
Day 11 (Sun): Greenbriar Ridge > Middle Prong > Drive 8 hours home

I was able to do much better than I thought for my first trip and not being in the best shape. I'm sure trying to be as lightweight as practical for me at this time was a big part of that. Day 5 was supposed to end at BCS 70 (glad it didn't - not an attractive site), but I had planned while coming down Jonas Creek to continue to at least 69. I actually should have stopped there as my feet started hurting about 30 minutes past 69. That day was over 16 miles. I had also originally planned a couple rest days after that day just in case, but didn't use them so then I had to modify my schedule to do something with the 2 extra days I now had. Day 7 was supposed to be easy also as I was just going to get the waterfalls on Rhododendron Creek and go back to 32 to give my foot a rest. However, I did the creek so fast and my foot felt pretty good so I just kept going and it was my second longest day (15.7). A tendon on the front of my leg got somewhat strained - think I came down the RC trail too fast. I actually messed up my last loop as I missed that I could make the AT from 18 easily. While I was focused mostly on waterfall pics, I REALLY enjoyed the section of AT I had done from Clingman's to Silers Bald so I wanted to add some more in. I could have gone Bote Mtn to Spence Field and then back over to Derrick and down and still gotten the pics I wanted. Oh well. I had a great time. Maybe I wouldn't think it was so great if it had rained the whole time or was hot and humid.

I also confirmed that wet feet=blisters is BS. I waded through creeks many times and even though I wore running shoes with mesh to drain the water out, the feet still stayed moist pretty much all day, perhaps because of wool content in my socks (I only wore 1 pair), and I had zero blisters. I had no real problems other than wearing a raw spot on one achilles (didn't treat it as I needed to when it first started) and the sore tendon.

Video of my trip - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haW1FCfFTqE
I also posted a video of all the gear I used that you can find as well. < 18 lbs base weight - not too bad for my first time. I'll drop several pounds in the next year.

Edited by topshot on 07/30/2009 08:36:23 MDT.

Brad Fisher
(wufpackfn)

Locale: NC/TN/VA Mountains
Re: GSMNP July 16-27, 2009 on 08/03/2009 18:33:06 MDT Print View

Very nice Michael. Sounds like you had a great trip and that is what is all about.

The base weight will drop over time as you adjust and decide what is important to you.