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bogey9
03-11-2014, 09:05
New to the site and this is my first post. I am taking my boys - 15 and 11 - to the Smokies next week and am looking at a 2 or 3 night stay. I'm looking at doing a loop from Elkmont up to the AT and back. Any advice/thoughts or recommendations would be much appreciated.

Damn Yankee
03-11-2014, 09:27
Low miles with lots of stops for them to enjoy a stream and such. Most importantly, make it fun and let them set the pace on how far you go.

HooKooDooKu
03-11-2014, 10:02
Any particular reason for Elkmont? Because if this is their first hiking trip in the Smokies, I can think of more interesting places to hike.

Other wise, if your criteria is Elkmont, a loop, and the AT, about your only choice is Jakes Creek, Miry Ridge, AT, Goshen Prong, Cucumber Gap.

Options:
One Night - staying at Silers Bald (11 miles up, 13 miles down).
Two Nights - staying at #26 & #23 (5.5 miles up, 11. miles up-n-down-n-across, 7 miles down)
Three Nights - staying at #26, Silers, & #23 (5.5 miles up, 5.5 miles, 6 miles, 7 miles)

Other options if you want long miles (my boys, 7 & 11, can easily to 7 to 10 mile days depending upon the terrain).


BTW: There is a sub-forum specific to The Great Smoky Mountains National Park (http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/forumdisplay.php?82-Great-Smoky-Mountain-National-Park).

HooKooDooKu
03-11-2014, 10:08
If you are totally open to suggestions:

Twenty Mile Ranger station up 20 mile trail to the AT at Shuckstack fire tower, up the AT to campsite #113. #113 up the AT to Doe Knob and turn left onto Gregory Bald Trail across Gregory Bald to #13. Then Wolf Ridge back to the car. It's about 7 miles per day (with hills), but my oldest did this exact hike around age 8.

This hike includes: Minor water Fall, a Fire Tower, a segment of the AT, Moore Spring (more on that if you're interested), Gregory Bald (360 view), and creeks. Pretty much has all GSMNP has to offer. Only thing missing is a challenging unbridged water crossing.

Slo-go'en
03-11-2014, 10:35
Keep in mind that climbing up to the AT is a VERY strenuous climb. Not knowing your boys fitness or experance level makes it hard to make a recommendation. And of course, weather is a big factor. If it happens to be raining on that climb, it will not be fun.

I don't see a good loop from Elkmont up to the AT and back which doesn't involve some really long and hard miles. One of the above recommendations would be worth checking out. First, your going to need a good map...

Seatbelt
03-11-2014, 12:12
Watch the stream crossings, they can be very slippery; my son and his buddy fell in and everything got wet just outside of Elkmont--almost ruined his whole hike(3 days).

HooKooDooKu
03-11-2014, 12:30
Watch the stream crossings, they can be very slippery; my son and his buddy fell in and everything got wet just outside of Elkmont--almost ruined his whole hike(3 days).
I've recently fallen in love with the trash-compactor-bag as a cheap liner. I stuff my synthetic sleeping bag into its stuff sack, then it goes into the liner first. Then my sleeping pad. My cloths then easily fill in the nooks and crannies. Then I fold the top of the bag closed and place the rest of my gear on top (the stuff that isn't going to be harmed if it gets wet like a cook pot as well as food already in its own water-tight container). That way, if it rains or I take a quick tumble into a stream, my important stuff stays dry.

Seatbelt
03-11-2014, 12:35
I've recently fallen in love with the trash-compactor-bag as a cheap liner. I stuff my synthetic sleeping bag into its stuff sack, then it goes into the liner first. Then my sleeping pad. My cloths then easily fill in the nooks and crannies. Then I fold the top of the bag closed and place the rest of my gear on top (the stuff that isn't going to be harmed if it gets wet like a cook pot as well as food already in its own water-tight container). That way, if it rains or I take a quick tumble into a stream, my important stuff stays dry.
Good advice and I always do this myself, too. But these younger guys had their own ideas and.....guess what, they paid for it!!

saltysack
03-11-2014, 12:55
Not in smnp but outside franklin...check out standing indian loop


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

HooKooDooKu
03-11-2014, 12:57
Keep in mind that climbing up to the AT is a VERY strenuous climb. Not knowing your boys fitness or experance level makes it hard to make a recommendation. And of course, weather is a big factor. If it happens to be raining on that climb, it will not be fun.

I don't see a good loop from Elkmont up to the AT and back which doesn't involve some really long and hard miles. One of the above recommendations would be worth checking out. First, your going to need a good map...

If you take the three night Elkmont loop option, I don't see any reason why a 15yo and 11yo would have a problem hiking to the AT. We are not a particularly athletic family, yet I have no problems taking my 7yo and 11yo on hikes like this.

Just this weekend, we did a single night hike up the length of Maddron Bald to the AT and back down Snake Den. The 1st day was a 2,700' climb over 5.5 miles. The 2nd Day was an additional 1,000 climb followed by a 3,000' decent over a total of 8 miles.

My older son has done a two night loop out of Forney Creek, Jonas Creek, and the AT. That was 18 miles with a total 4,000' elevation change.

Both have been doing hikes to LeConte Lodge since they were 6yo.


I think the real key is to make sure the boys are not overloaded... meaning that their packs, fully loaded, shouldn't exceed 20% of their body weights. So for their younger years, my boys were only carrying there sleeping bag, sleeping pad, extra cloths, and a small water bottle. It was probably not until age 10 that the older one started to help carry any of the communal gear.


Even if this is the boys 1st back-packing trip, I would estimate that the boys should have no problem doing 5 to 7 miles per day (including steep terrain). Yes, they might be a bit tired after a 3,000' climb, but 5 to 7 miles shouldn't be pushing them too far.


As for maps, the trail intersections in GSMNP are well marked. So the only map you NEED is the GSMNP Trail Map (http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/upload/trail-map_JULY13-full.pdf) to keep your orientation of where you are. You can print from the online PDF or spend the $1 to buy it from any one of the many visitors centers or even camping gear stores around GSMNP.

bogey9
03-11-2014, 16:33
Many thanks HooKooDooKu. Although a newbie here, I've seen a number of your posts and was hoping you might reply. Yes, I am very much open to suggestions. This is our first time hiking in the Smokies, but we do a fair amount of hiking in Tennessee. I've seen some other suggestions re: Gregory Bald and I will check that out tonight. We are set on gear but I am a little apprehensive about weather at this time of year. I was tentatively planning on Elkmont only because it looks like it presents some side trail options to get back to the car if weather or attitude might necessitate that. Frankly, I was also trying to save a few dollars by not arranging for a shuttle. Any suggestions on food for two days?

HooKooDooKu
03-11-2014, 18:14
As I pointed out, we did Maddron Bald this weekend where we were camping at an elevation of 4,500'. Weather forecast had been for no rain, temperatures (at that elevation) in the mid 30's, and windy. We had a tent, 20 sleeping bags, sweat-cloths, wool caps, and rain jacket/pants. We were plenty warm that night... but with the wind, the boys were very cold the next morning getting out of the sleeping bags. Once we were hiking, everyone was ok temp wise.

Here's the break-down on the Gregory Bald Loop.

Day 1: 6.6 miles all up hill. That distance includes an extra 0.85 miles (round trip) on a side trail to see shuckstack fire tower. So if weather turns bad on you, you're only 6 miles from your car and it's all down hill.

Day2: 5.4 miles, still mostly up hill.

Day 3: 6.5 miles, all down hill.

The farthest you ever are away from your car is about 9 miles. The Elkmont loop isn't any better because there isn't any short-cuts back to your car once you leave Elkmont... not if you're going to the AT.

If you do the Gregory Bald loop I suggested, you're obviously never more that a 1-day hike from the car.


If you want lower elevation hikes, there's several loop opportunities at the end of Cades Cove: Example
Day 1: From Cades Cove, hike Rabbit Creek to campsite #15 or #16.
Day 2: Hike the rest of Rabbit Creek to Abrams Creek campgrounds. follow Little Bottoms Tr to #17.
Day 3: Hike back to your car via Abram's Falls Trail.
This hike includes a pair of wet-foot water crossings along Rabbit Creek, and you get to see Abram's Falls (perhaps the best falls in the park). The two times you have to cross the deep/wide Abram's Creek, there are foot bridges. The main elevation changes are along Rabbit Creek, but there is only about a 1,000' cumulative elevation change each day if you stay at #15 (1,500' cumulative change if you hike on to #16).

HooKooDooKu
03-11-2014, 21:01
Any suggestions on food for two days?
If you're interested in doing something with pasta, our Publix carries Ronzoni Pasta Portions boil-in-bag. It's not for the bag that I suggest this, it's because of the cook time. Typical pasta requires about 9-11 minutes to cook. I found a mini pasta that cooked in only 4-7 minutes, but our store quit carrying it. Then I found the Pasta Portions that cook in only 3 minutes. So even if you don't want the bag, it is still good to get it and pull it out of the bag since it cooks so quick.

One of my old stand-bys is Minute Rice and chicken... especially since Tyson has a chicken pouch. Tyson's tastes pretty good right out of the bag, but it's nice to warm it up with the rice.

I recently purchased a can of Spam Turkey to try. It was really good. It tasted... well like turkey. That's practically the only ingredient (plus preservatives I'm sure). It didn't have other flavors added like beef jerky or deviled ham, etc.

I recently found a can of beef in gravy at WalMart. The flavor was good... but it's real expensive (like $4 for a 12oz can that might be half gravy). But it tasted good (mixed it with the pasta to make something like a beef stroganoff).

WalMart has some dried apples, they come in like 6 pouches to a box. They are ultra dry (i.e. light weight) but taste really good. I don't like raisins, but I found I like Ocean Spray Craisins (cranberry raisins). They are a bit tart, but they also have a few additional flavors (they are still craisins, but extra flavors added to the craisins).

For lunches, I love getting soft toco shells (mission brand is good) for a bread. I have also fallen in love with Jif Chocolate silk on the bread (chocolate flavored Peanut Butter). Spread it on the toco and fold the toco in half.

Another on of my new stand-bys is instant mash potatoes mixed with bacon bits. Oscar Mayar has REAL Backon bits in a soft pouch by the salad dressings.

Little Debbie brownies are holding up well, especially if you package a few together in a ziploc with some extra air to cushion it.

I've tried taking breakfast bars... but I find the cold makes them rather chewy and hard. What worked pretty well this last trip was powered donuts. I was able to carefully stuff six little debbie powdered donuts into snack-size ziploc bags. They seemed to have held up pretty good without getting too squashed.

I also love the single packet drink flavors rather than drinking just plain water (at least at meal times). I've tried the new squeeze bottles. They are much lighter than a bunch of the single packets. But they are sweetened with artificial sweeteners. I prefer the ones with real sugar... extra energy boost. I've specifically started using Country Time Lemonaid (because my boys lips were staying red or some other color when I would try Koolaid).

Violent Green
03-11-2014, 22:17
Yes, I am very much open to suggestions. This is our first time hiking in the Smokies, but we do a fair amount of hiking in Tennessee. I've seen some other suggestions re: Gregory Bald and I will check that out tonight. We are set on gear but I am a little apprehensive about weather at this time of year. I was tentatively planning on Elkmont only because it looks like it presents some side trail options to get back to the car if weather or attitude might necessitate that. Frankly, I was also trying to save a few dollars by not arranging for a shuttle. Any suggestions on food for two days?

Fantastic 2-night loop in the Smokies:

Park at Big Creek Ranger station. Hike up to the AT via Chestnut Branch trail and visit Mt Cammerer fire tower. Back onto the AT and stay the first night at Cosby Knob Shelter. Next day, continue on the AT and then connect with the Balsam Mtn Trail which will take you over to the Benton McKaye trail and Laurel Gap shelter for night two. On the final day, you will walk past the Mt Sterling fire tower and down the Baxter Creek trail. There are a couple emergency exit trails that would drop you down into the Big Creek valley and back to the car quickly. About 35mi in three days. Moderate in difficulty.

Highlights-
2/3 of the hike is above 5,000ft
Two firetowers
Ridiculous views
Big trees on Baxter Creek trail

Ryan

bogey9
03-11-2014, 22:46
Pardon another newbie question, but I assume you can park at the ranger station?

HooKooDooKu
03-11-2014, 22:58
Pardon another newbie question, but I assume you can park at the ranger station?
Chestnut Branch dumps out right at a parking lot at the Ranger Station with room for about a dozen cars.

TNhiker
03-12-2014, 11:36
and the ranger station is probably the safeist place to park a car........

for food----for the last few years, i've had the staple meal of a steak over the fire......or if it rains and/or in a place i cant have a fire----i just cook it using my stove......

buy it at kroger in the morning, throw it in marinate in a bag, put in backpack, go hiking, eat steak at night........my typical weekend....

Venchka
03-12-2014, 11:47
Watch
The
Weather
Winter is still just a few hours away at any given time.

Wayne

TNhiker
03-12-2014, 11:52
Watch
The
Weather
Winter is still just a few hours away at any given time.

Wayne



that is correct........while it was nice and sunny yesterday, a front is coming in today and its suppose to get cold along with a chance of snow........dont think much will happen in the valley, but in the mountains, it could get some....

Venchka
03-12-2014, 12:19
Moderate gale to gale force winds, 31-46 mph, are forecast for tonight and tomorrow. Falling temperatures (in the teens) along with mixed precipitation (rain/freezing rain/snow) will accompany the high winds. Not fun.
However, by next week, it could easily be back to shorts weather. Pay attention and you'll be ok.

Wayne

bogey9
03-12-2014, 13:45
Many thanks to all. I very much appreciate the thoughts/advice!

Ox97GaMe
03-12-2014, 18:50
The forecast is for 1-3 inches in the higher elevations overnight, but the temps are supposed to rise again tomorrow, so it will likely melt pretty fast. There will still be patches of ice in some areas. It hasn't melted this past week, even with temps in the 50s and 60s at the higher elevations.

Have fun, be safe, and stay warm.