View Full Version : Northern BMT

11-09-2007, 07:22
I'm planning on redoing the northernmost section of the BMT on December 8-11. This will likely be a three day two night hike with one day and night just devoted to meeting up and shuttling cars. We'll probably spend Saturday night either in Cherokee or camped at Smokemont. The sites I have in mind are rationed due to size restrictions, so let me know how many so I can get permits in time.

Any information regarding the water situation at Laurel Gap shelter would be appreciated.

11-09-2007, 08:56
There was barely a trickle at the spring about a month ago, but you may want to call the back country office to be sure. It is not listed on the NPS site as being dry, but there's no water at #38 on Mt. Sterling. I can't remember any good water sources between the 2 sites, so you may not have reliable water until you get down to Big Creek. Beech Gap at Round Bottom between #47 and Laurel Gap may be your best source until the end. Hope it rains before then.

11-09-2007, 09:10
Thanks for the update, EA. I hate to think about humping a load of water up from Round Bottom, but I hate to dry camp or hike without water too.

12-15-2007, 10:44
Well, here's the trip report for those who are interested. I'm omitting the mileage since I can't find any two sources that agree. In some cases even signs on opposite ends of the same trail differ.

I camped at Smokemont Saturday night, the 8th And headed out on Sunday morning. In retrospect, given the $17 it cost for a site I should have looked for off season rates in Cherokee and at least started my hike with a dry tent.

Dec 9. Smokemont to campsite #47. The last part of the Enloe Creek trail before the campsite is cut out of a gorge along the creek and I always enjoy this part of the hike. It rained most of the day so you know what that was like. The campsite is rationed due to small size and is basically a wide spot in the trail. There's an iron bridge over the creek here with the bear cables attached to the bridge itself. The creek was really flowing from all the rain and a mist hung in the air. I managed to break the zipper on my new BA bag, but other then that a good evening.

Dec 10. #47 to Laurel Gap shelter. The day here starts out with a steep climb out of the gorge. Being fresh helps and it's only about a mile, but the 800 foot gain gets your heart pumping. Each trail junction is signed with the BMT logo, but having an idea which trail to look for ahead of time is helpful. You'l make three trail changes on this leg, but each is distinctive. The descent along the Beech Gap trail was treacherous this time of year with a thick carpet of leaves hiding the roots and rocks. Lots of slips and falls along this section for me. At the intersection with the Straight Fork road there are trash recepticles. Over the bridge and off through the woods, this section of Beech Gap always leaves me gasping like a fish out of water. 1900 feet in about 2.5 miles. When I finally connected with the Balsam Mountain trail I was about spent. You share this trail with horses, but there are board walks over the muddiest parts which is welcome. I got to the old style Laurel Gap shelter in time to collect water which was running off a tree root in a steady stream at about 1L a minute and cook supper as it grew dark.

Dec 11. Laurel Gap shelter to Big Creek. This hike includes what is called the longest level portion of trail in the Smokies. Mount Sterling Ridge trail runs for about 4 miles with very little overall change in altitude between Balsam Mountain trail and Pretty Hollow Gap. This day was bright and sunny for the most part and the views from the firetower were breathtaking. I took some pictures, but as usual it's impossible to capture what you see so I'm not sure that I'll even bother. I could see Mount Guyot off to the west as well as a host of other mountains in a 360 degree circle. I called Curtis from Standing Bear and arranged a pickup at Big Creek for 4:30. Not much time to dawdle, so after a final look and a bit of lunch is was down the mountain. You give up all your hard earned altitude here and then some. About 4000' in around 6 miles. I walked across the bridge at the far parking lot just as Curtis pulled in and off we went. We drove by the Old Mountain Momas which has been gussied up and is now a private family retreat. Curtis was his usual friendly and helpful self and a shower and laundry never was more appreciated. I almost got my boots and tent dry, which was nice. This was a solo trip so I decided that the best way to get back to my car was to walk.

Dec 12. Davenport Gap to Cosby Knob shelter. Curtis dropped me off at Davenport Gap and away I went. A nice clear day and one of those times when I always seem to decide wrong. First a few sprinkles which I ignored. Then a few more. This time I was at least smart enough to put my pack cover on, but as always when ascending it's a choice. Get wet from the outside or the inside. I waited until I was sure it was serious about raining, by which time I was soaked. Two backpackers came down the AT while I was flopped beside the trail and we talked a bit. They had left from Big Creek ahead of me and the rain caught them off guard. They were turning around to reassess the situation. Good choice since they were both in blue jeans. I must have spent as much time resting as I did hiking because I was in a similar posture at the junction with the Upper Mount Cammerer trail when two day hikers from Knoxville came along. They'd hiked up from Cosby Campground to the tower for the day and we hiked along until the gap where we parted company. Another mile and I was at Cosby Knob shelter.

Dec 13. Cosby Knob to Tricorner Knob shelters. The views from the side of Mount Guyot were equally impressive and my attempts to capture them with my camera equally useless. If you've seen it you know, if you haven't then go. My permit today was for Pecks Corner, but I was experiencing a severe energy crisis. When I got to Tricorner shelter I stopped in for lunch and to rest up. While eating it began to rain and the decision was made. Tricorner it was. At least this time I would be able to gather some firewood and maybe get my boots dry. I had a blister beginning on each heel and dry boots sounded like a good idea. I was gathering firewood as a company of three backpackers showed up and with everyone pitching in we soon had a good stack of firewood. Supper, good companionship and a roaring fire made for a pleasant evening and soon the 4 of us were asleep. The 4 of us all seemed to purr at about the same level and I don't recall any complaints. This was the coldest night on my trip, but I was dry and comfortable.

Dec 14. Tricorner Knob shelter to Smokemont. Today was payback day. Since I'd shortened my hike on Thursday, today was going to be longer. It was also mostly downhill so I think I made the right decision. My companions were only going to Cosby Knob and were all strong hikers so they were in no hurry to break camp. A farewell and off I went. The side trail to Pecks Corner was no problem since that was the way I was headed anyway. From Pecks corner it is nearly all downhill, although it seems they always throw in an occasional up just to keep you guessing. There's a ranger hut .3 miles south of Pecks which was empty. It was also well secured with expanded metal over the doors and windows. No mere hardware cloth here. From this point it was just walk and descend. A few trail junctions and creeks to walk beside and then a sliver of moon as I walked back into Smokemont in the gathering dusk to unload my feet and load my car. The wet cotton tee shirt which I had left in my car on Sunday was still wet, interestingly enough.

That's it. I'll add a little footnote later. Thanks for reading if you still are here.

SGT Rock
12-15-2007, 10:58
Nice hike. But I would say screw the sources and list the mileages.

12-15-2007, 11:26
Sure, I can try to put down mileages. Just don't expect 100% accuracy. An example: At the junction of the Balsam Mountain and Mount Sterling Ridge trail the distance to Pretty Hollow Gap is signed as 4 miles. At Pretty Hollow Gap the distance to the Balsam Mountain trail is signed as 3.9 miles.

Smokemont to #47 9.1 miles from the BMTA data book
#47 to Laurel Gap shelter 9.9 miles data book
Laurel Gap shelter to Big Creek 11.6 from the map
Davenport Gap to Cosby Knob shelter 8.1 miles (map)
Cosby Knob to Tricorner Knob 7.7 miles (map)
Tricorner to Smokemont 14.5 miles (map)

12-15-2007, 11:33
and a footnote. As you observed Rock, the more you take the more you enjoy camping. The less you take the more you enjoy hiking. Something I have to work on.

And finally, a friend of mine worked for DoD in rations procurement back during Gulf War 1. Now anyone in that position has to have a thick skin and the ability to laugh at himself. Apparently a very uptight (in several ways) trooper sent a letter to the manufacturers of the MREs that he had been living on for several months. It wasn't a love letter, but the final sentence was the clincher. "for Gods sake, send us something we can *****!"

Point being that when I do my meal planning, along with carbs and such I need to remember to include fiber.

SGT Rock
12-15-2007, 12:28
Thanks for the trip report.

Hammock Hanger
12-15-2007, 12:49
Thanks for the report. I am still working on my journal over at Trail Journals. With a family medical emergency (which took me off the trail) and the holidays I just can't seem to get time.

Gene: Sounds like you had a nice time. I did also, even if I was a frozen zombie up on Sterling Mt the first night. The snow up on the mountain heading south from Smoemont was covered in snow and animal tracks. It was just like a winter wonderland and I felt blessed to be up there that morning taking it all in. Just beautiful. Sorry we missed each other by a day! Sue

12-17-2007, 22:17
Gene, sorry I missed this one. I went with Trekkngirl on a Big Creek to Walnut Bottoms to Mt. Sterling and back to Big Creek trip a couple of weekends ago. This took us along about 7 and a half miles of the BMT. That little jaunt the last 1.4 miles up to Sterling is a riot! And the trip down with that rocky trail covered in leaves was a ball buster too. But what a trip! Mostly sunny. Blustery up on Sterling with the wind howling late and banging the windows of the tower. Way cool! Pics at Webshots. Type "kareengas" into the search box.

Tennessee Viking
12-17-2007, 23:07
I'm planning on redoing the northernmost section of the BMT on December 8-11. This will likely be a three day two night hike with one day and night just devoted to meeting up and shuttling cars. We'll probably spend Saturday night either in Cherokee or camped at Smokemont. The sites I have in mind are rationed due to size restrictions, so let me know how many so I can get permits in time.

Any information regarding the water situation at Laurel Gap shelter would be appreciated.
How did you like all that rain? I was on the Gatlinburg side of the park doing Rainbow Falls. Missed the rain, but the darn early morning freeze froze Newfound Gap Road.

12-18-2007, 00:20
Kinda hard to complain about getting rained on when you do the Smokies in December. I'd had two previous trips either truncated or canceled because of other issues, so this time I was going regardless of the weather. After about 4 days of wet feet I finally got a couple of blisters, but all in all a nice trip. The views from the firetower on Mount Sterling and looking off to the side of the trail along Mount Guyot were worth a couple of blisters. On any given day I could be in cloud or full sunlight. Probably missed a few scenic sights and gained a few.

Tipi Walter
12-20-2007, 17:43
Hey, that's wild, but I left on December 8 too for an eleven day backpacking trip just south of you on the B Mac starting at the fish hatchery/Tellico River and going up the Sycamore Creek trail to the Whigg and over to Beech Gap and Snow Camp/Fodderstack, etc.

Yes, I spent several days in the rain, actually my first 2 days and a few more days in rain, but the worst stuff came later, around Dec 16-17 when I got hit with a frozen carnival up around Bob Bald and along the South Fork Citico creek. Packing up a frozen tent always brings shouted curses, frozen poles warmed in the mouth, frozen tent won't fit in the stuff bag, etc etc, you know the drill. Got some fotogs posted, too, showing Miss Nature slapping me around a bit, but she only did it in glee, etc. I was happy for her, etc.

Anyone walking the Sycamore should see two new fancy trail signs carved and put up by Ken Mathews of the BMTA . . . very sharp.

12-20-2007, 18:39
Nice signs. Glad to see the BMT getting some more recognition in signage. As you probably know, only the trail junctions are signed with the BMT diamond in the Smokies. Interestingly, the AT is blazed through the Smokies. Guess that shows how long its' been since I hiked the AT in the Smokies.