Posts Tagged With: hike

Backpacking in the Smokies and Ashevile, Part I

In mid-October, Andrew and I look a well-deserved vacation.  We had been overwhelmed with work, re-planning the thru-hike, and starting to plan our wedding.  So when our trip rolled around, we were thrilled.

We had this awesome 4-day, 3-night trip planned through the Smokies, starting in Smokemont.  Andrew LOVES the Smokies; one of his internships in college was trail maintenance in the Smokies.  I have never been backpacking up there.  So we were REALLY looking forward to it!  In Great Smoky Mountains National Park, campers are required to obtain backcountry permits, and are required to reserve campsites and shelters.  This helps to alleviate overcrowding at campsites and shelters.  We had to re-plan our trip a little bit because we waited too late to reserve our shelters, and the one we wanted one night was already full!  The re-route did mean we got to spend part of our trip on a section of the MST, which we always love!

So, our trip – we went into the Smokies at Smokemont, and reserved site 50 (Chasteen Creek) for the first night.  It was just over 1 mile hike in, which is what we needed after a long drive across the state.  The second night, we reserved Kephart Shelter.  Our last night we had campsite 52 (Newton Bald).  All of the backcountry sites in the park have a bear cable retention system installed – which makes hanging a bear bag very easy!

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Ready to hit the trail!

So we got into the park a little later than we had hoped – good thing we planned ahead and had a short hike into the first campsite!  The hike into our first campsite was quick, and we still had enough daylight to set up our tent and shelter before it got dark.  We took our MSR Nook again – our second trip using it.  Setting it up on this trip was MUCH smoother than on the last one.  We also used the Twing again.  Now, you may recall that the waterproofing failed on our Twing on the last trip.  There wasn’t any rain in the forecast, but the Twing gives us a sheltered place to store gear, stay warm while we’re eating (it traps body heat and heat from cooking), and it distributes light from our lantern well.  So we set it up again.  We also took our new Gravityworks water filter for a spin.  This setup rocks!  I love being able to let it filter water while I go about other tasks setting up camp (review coming soon!).

I have never used the Bear Cable Retention System, so I was glad to have enough daylight to check it out.  If you’ve never used it before, the Bear Cable Retention System is AWESOME!  They have a cable strung between two trees, at the ideal height to protect from bears.  There are steel cables with hooks and pulleys hanging down.  So you can hook your entire pack into a hanging table, pull it up into the air, and clip into an adjoining tree.  It is strong enough to hold a pack, and a bear can’t chew or rip through the metal cables.  Genius!

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Our camp the first night

The first night was VERY cold.  Andrew and I were both in our 35-degree sleeping bags and fully dressed, but it got into the low 30s that night.  I didn’t sleep much the first night because I was so cold.  My feet get very cold, and this night was no different – 2 pairs of socks and chemical foot warmers and my feet were STILL cold.  I had been thinking about adding a pair of down booties to my kit, and this confirmed it!

The second day we hiked from Chasteen Creek Camp to Kephart Shelter – 8.5 miles.  The 3 miles up Dry Sluice Gap were brutal.  You may recall that I had some severe Achilles pain on our last backpacking trip on the Neusiok Trail.  Well… the up and down of this trail re-inflamed that pain.  Every up step hurt my heel, and every down step hurt my knees.  I was SO relieved when we got to Kephart and I was able to take off my shoes!

Alright y’all… check back in a couple days for Part II of this trip.

 

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New Sponsor!

Exciting news!  We have been planning on printing custom cycling jerseys and tech tees for this thru-hike. In addition to wearing these jerseys ourselves for the duration of our trip, we’ll be selling them.  Proceeds from the sale of the jerseys will go to Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.  So you’ll get a cool jersey, and support a great cause!  We will post the jersey design when we get it finalized.  We’ll also keep you all posted about ordering jerseys or tees if you’re interested!

We are partnering with Ride Fast Gear to make this happen!  Ride Fast is a GREAT company – based right here in NC!  They print custom jerseys, cycling shorts, tech tees, you name it!  They have no minimum quantity, and have been a joy to work with so far.  Check them out here: http://www.ridefastgear.com/.

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Updated Itinerary, Clingmans Dome to Folk Art Center in Asheville, NC

One of the things that makes the Mountains-to-Sea Trail unique is that it is still being developed.  Each year, Friends of the MST adds several miles of trail to move the route off back roads.  Because we had to delay the hike by a year, we had to look at the changes to the route and re-work part of our itinerary.  Just like last year, we’ll post our itinerary in sections.

The MST was originally divided into 38 sections by Allen de Hart, the brains behind the trail.  The FMST is still using these sections to describe the trail.  The sections average out to around 27 miles each, although they aren’t all the same length.  The route from Clingmans Dome to the Folk Art Center in Asheville, NC covers sections 1-7.  This route has 2 options.  We’re opting for the southern route (the black line on the map) along the Tuckaseegee River because this is the route FMST would like the MST to take eventually.  This plan is exactly that – a plan.  It is important for us to be flexible along the way when something inevitable happens that we aren’t expecting.

So, here is the itinerary for the first 7 sections (Clingmans Dome to Folk Art Center in Asheville, 134 miles):

Friday September 18, 2015 – Day 1 (10.72 miles)

Begin hike at Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP)

Camp at GSMNP Camp #54

Saturday September 19, 2015 – Day 2 (9.38 miles)

Camp at Deep Creek Campground

Sunday September 20, 2015 – Day 3 (13.9 miles)

Leave GSMNP

Camp at Tuckaseegee Outfitters in Whittier, NC

Monday September 21, 2015 – Day 4 (10.1 miles)

Pass through Dillsboro and Sylva, Resupply #1

Camp at Pinnacle Park, Sylva, NC

Tuesday September 22, 2015 – Day 5 (20.36 miles)

Enter Nantahala National Forest

Camp at National Forest campsite (1st site in Nantahala National Forest)

Wednesday September 23, 2015 – Day 6 (17.42 miles)

Enter Pisgah National Forest and Middle Prong Wilderness

Camp at National Forest campsite (3rd site in Middle Prong Wilderness)

Thursday September 24, 2015 – Day 7 (19.64 miles)

Camp along the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP)

Friday September 25, 2015 – Day 8 (15.43 miles)

Trail begins to parallel Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP)

Camp at Lake Powhatan Campground

Saturday September 26, 2015 – Day 9 (14.8 miles)

Resupply #2 in Arden, NC, Mail Drop #1 in Asheville (28803)

Get off trail at US-74A, find a friend to stay with for the night

MST Sections 1-7

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MST Itinerary, part 2

We’re planning and posting the itinerary for our hike in stages.  If you’re looking for Part 1 (Sections 1-7), look here.  Just like the first part we posted, these sections will all be on foot.  We’ll switch to out bikes just after this section!

Here’s the itinerary for the next 11 sections of the trail (Folk Art Center in Asheville to Stone Mountain State Park, 214 miles):

September 29, 2014 – Day 11 (16.83 miles)

Get off trail at Potato Field Gap on BRP, find someone to stay with for the night (Asheville)

September 30, 2014 – Day 12 (10 miles)

Leave Asheville, hike out along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Camp in Pisgah National Forest campsite

October 1, 2014 – Day 13 (11.22 miles)

Enter Mount Mitchell State Park

Camp at Mount Mitchell SP backcountry site

October 2, 2014 – Day 14 (16.14 miles)

Enter Pisgah National Forest, resupply #3 in Marion

Camp in Pisgah National Forest campsite

October 3, 2014 – Day 15 (15.95 miles)

Enter Linville Gorge Wilderness Area

Camp at Linville campsite

October 4, 2014 – Day 16 (8.86 miles)

Camp at Linville campsite

October 5, 2014 – Day 17 (13.36 miles)

Enter Pisgah National Forest

Camp at Pisgah National Forest campsite

October 6, 2014 – Day 18 (15.01 miles)

Camp at Pisgah National Forest campsite

October 7, 2014 – Day 19 (13.93 miles)

Pass Grandfather Mountain, hike along Tanawha Trail

Camp at private property available for MST thru-hikers to use

October 9, 2014 – Day 20 (13.73 miles)

Resupply #4 in Linville

Camp along Tanawha Trail

October 10, 2014 – Day 21 (10.18 miles)

Resupply #5 in Boone/Blowing Rock

Leave trail at 221/321 intersection, find someone to stay with (Boone, Blowing Rock)

October 11, 2014 – Day 22 (22.53 miles)

Camp at private property available for MST thru-hikers to use

October 12, 2014 – Day 23 (8.61 miles)

Camp at private property available for MST thru-hikers to use

October 13, 2014 – Day 24 (11.56 miles)

Camp at private property available for MST thru-hikers to use

October 14, 2014 – Day 25 (13.04 miles)

Camp at Doughton Park RV Campground

October 15, 2014 – Day 26 (9.7 miles)

Enter Stone Mountain State Park

Camp at Stone Mountain SP Campground

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MST Itinerary, part 1

For those of you who aren’t familiar with how long trails like this are laid out, the distance is divided into sections (38 on the MST).  Sections can signify terrain or park changes, state lines, etc.  Describing a trail by sections can make talking about the trail easier – I can ask someone a question about section 5 instead of having to try to describe that section.  The 38 sections of the MST were devised by the trail planners and were described in the first book to be written about the MST.  They just stuck after that.

These sections aren’t all the same distance (~27 miles).  They are divided by landmarks of some sort.  These can be park boundaries, ferries, crossroads, anything that seemed to Allen de Hart like a significant change.

In creating this itinerary, we’re thinking of the trail in these sections.  The places we’ve chosen to change media (switching from hiking to biking, for example) are at section boundaries.  We’re relying on information on the Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail Website and on “The ‘Thru-Hiker’s Manual’ for the Mountains-to-Sea Trail across North Carolina” by Scot TABA Ward.  Ward has hiked the MST 5 times, and his book basically lays out turn-by-turn directions for thru hiking.  We’ve chosen to vary from his path in a few places, opting for alternate routes with more camping opportunities.  Many of the campsites don’t have names or numbers, so they’re identified by mile marker or by outstanding feature.  You’ll see a lot of businesses and private residences listed as places we’re camping.  There in Ward’s book there is a directory of people and businesses who are generous enough to let thru-hikers camp on their property.  A thru-hike at this stage in the trail’s development wouldn’t be possible without these Trail Angels, so THANKS!

This is our ideal itinerary.  We can prepare from now until judgement day, and we’ll still have things happen along the trail we haven’t accounted for here.  We will, of course, post changes as they happen along the trail!

 

So, here is the itinerary for the first 7 sections (Clingmans Dome to Folk Art Center in Asheville, 134 miles):

September 19, 2014 – Day 1 (8.34 miles)

Begin hike at Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP)

Camp at GSMNP Camp #53

September 20, 2014 – Day 2 (8.06 miles)

Camp at GSMNP Camp #60

September 21, 2014 – Day 3 (17.6 miles)

Leave GSMNP

Camp at Tuckaseegee Outfitters, Whittier, NC

September 22, 2014 – Day 4 (10.1 miles)

Pass through Dillsboro and Sylva, Resupply #1

Camp at Pinnacle Park, Sylva, NC

September 23, 2014 – Day 5 (20.36 miles)

Enter Nantahala National Forest

Camp at National Forest campsite (1st site in Nantahala National Forest)

September 24, 2014 – Day 6 (16.48 miles)

Enter Pisgah National Forest and Middle Prong Wilderness

Camp at National Forest campsite (1st site in Middle Prong Wilderness)

September 25, 2014 – Day 7 (10.79 miles)

Camp at Graveyard Fields (NFS site)

September 26, 2014 – Day 8 (12.27 miles)

Trail begins to parallel Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP)

Camp at Mount Pisgah Campground

September 27, 2014 – Day 9 (12.95 miles)

Camp at Lake Powhatan Campground

September 28, 2014 – Day 10 (14.8 miles)

Resupply #2 in Arden, NC, Mail Drop #1 in Asheville (28803)

Get off trail at US-74A, find a friend to stay with for the night

MST Sections 1-7

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Mt Pisgah

This morning we set out to get in a short (~5 mile) day hike at Graveyard Fields. We finally both had the same day off work, it was finally done raining, and (bonus!) it was a Monday. It’s the perfect combination of factors! We prefer hiking during the week for the peace and quiet – no families around when the kids are in school.

We decided to turn it into a full day – hike in the morning, get a quote on one of the bikes we’ve been looking at, and spend the rest of the afternoon in Asheville. Two and a half hours into the drive, we came across a road closure on the parkway. Turns out, there’s still snow on some parts of the parkway, so the last 5 miles of road leading up to Graveyard Fields were closed. But we wouldn’t let that stop us!  We backtracked a few miles to the Pisgah Inn and hiked the Mt Pisgah and Buck Spring Trails.  The first mile and a half of the trails were exactly what we wanted, then we hit the crowds.  We didn’t know that Buncombe County has spring break this week, so the trail was full of families with school aged kids.  Although short, the hike was challenging.  The Mt Pisgah Trail gained 715 feet in 1.5 miles, so much of the hike was working our way up rocky slopes.  The view from the top was worth the work – a full 360 view of the surrounding mountains!

Not exactly the hike we set out for this morning, but a good day outside nonetheless.

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Oboz Luna Low

Through the GetHiking! Charlotte group I lead, I had the chance to demo these Oboz Luna Low hiking shoes.  I chose the Luna Low over the other low top hiking shoes from Oboz for a couple of reasons.  I knew I wanted a low top shoe, since I’ll be using them for day hiking I don’t need the weight of a boot.  These have a more aggressive tread pattern than some of the other offerings, while still being lightweight.  They aren’t waterproof, but I don’t mind that so much for warm weather hiking, and I try to avoid streams all together in the winter.  The other reason I chose these was that I liked the way they look, I could wear them around town or to the shop and not feel like I’m in hiking shoes.

So, how did they perform in the field?  This is a high volume shoe – almost too much volume for my narrow feet.  These have a nice wide toe box, which is something I definitely look for in a hiking shoe!  The footbed is very firm, which doesn’t bother me.  The shoe was very rigid, and certainly requires some breaking in, but I didn’t have any instability on the trail when I wore them.  These shoes weren’t advertised as waterproof, but I purposefully stepped in a few creeks, and didn’t have any water come in the shoe – what an unexpected bonus!  I even got a few compliments on the trail, which is always nice 🙂

Overall, I was pleased with the shoes.  I would recommend them to women who want a rigid, supportive technical hiker, and don’t mind having a break-in time for the shoes.  They’re more technical than a lot of shoes I typically see on the shoe wall at gear shops, which I can certainly appreciate!

 

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Date Set!

We’ve finally set a date for the thru-hike!  We’ve been talking about this hike for 6 months now, its about time we finally get a date set and start planning a detailed itinerary.

We’re estimating 5 to 6 weeks on the trail.  We plan to leave September 19, putting us at Jockey’s Ridge sometime between October 24 and 31.  We had to aim for later than the busy season at our jobs, which puts us in the fall.  But we wanted to leave early enough that the weather will still be nice.  The weather almanac says average highs should be mid-60s to mid-70s and average lows should be 40-ish to mid-50s.

6 months and counting until we set out from Clingmans Dome 🙂

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Grand Plans for the MST

If you’ve never heard of the Mountains to Sea Trail, you’ve been missing out!  This 1000-mile trail travels from Clingmans Dome, on the NC/TN border, to Jockey’s Ridge, on the NC coast.  Talk about an epic hike!

Now, the trail is incomplete.  It is a series of footpaths connected by backroads.  Up to now, you’ve been able to hike the trail portions and bike the road portions and still call it a thru-hike.  Just last year, Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail determined that paddling the 200-mile Neuse River would also count as a thru-hike.  We’re setting out this fall to be the first people to complete a hike-bike-paddle thru-hike of the MST.  This will be 400 miles on foot, 400 miles on the bike, and 200 miles on the water.  To make this even more unique, we want to complete the bike portion on a tandem bike.  We’re expecting this project to take 5 or 6 weeks.

We’ll keep the blog updated with plans, gear reviews, and photos from the trail.

We’re looking for sponsorship to make this hike happen.  Check out our sponsor page to see more about the awesome companies helping us out.

If you want more information about the trail, check out the FMST website, here: http://www.ncmst.org/

FMST

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