View Full Version : Walnut Bottoms to Otter Creek

ferns and moss
08-15-2009, 15:10

we're going to be in the park in early September, planning on staying two nights at Lower Walnut Bottoms (37) and then hiking over to Otter Creek campsite 29 on the third day. Looking to take the Camel Gap Trail. Wondering how the terrain is and how easy or not it would be to do in a day. We're in pretty good shape all in all but we live in the midwest flatlands. Also wondering about day hikes around 37 and 29 and if there are some things we shouldn't miss.


08-15-2009, 17:08
Be exta careful with any and all food at those campsites. Both have had bear warnings for most of the summer with a couple of packs snatched. If there are bear cables there, you should consider hanging your whole pack at night. Both campsites ARE still open however.

You can check for updates on the GSMNP closure page (http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/temproadclose.htm) .

08-15-2009, 18:55
The first half of camel gap is pretty easy. The second half gains most of the elevation. Still, not that tough of a trail. The AT from camel gap to snake den ridge is pretty rocky. That'a a nice trip, enjoy.

08-16-2009, 00:54
To add to what Bearpaw said, be conscious of where the cables are after you hang a pack. On last Wednesday, I'd transferred my food from the food bag to my pack (I carry a aluminum mouse guard for the top of the pack or food bag). Another hiker, disliking the "messiness" of the other cable I'd left dangling, connected it to the tree, snugging it up against the bottom of my pack. The mice used it as a superhighway to the food in the pack, and one chewed its way into the bottom compartment with the food, trashing the compartment as it feasted on my gorp. Cables aren't perfect. BTW, BP, that was a fairly new Osprey, bought in Nashville on one of your off-days. Didn't get to meet you...

ferns and moss
08-16-2009, 01:43
we're gonna bring rope and just hang our entire packs, especially after your recommendations. I've heard that area is a bit bear heavy. Gonna have to look into a mouse solution since the cat is staying in Chicago. Mice vs. bears.... kind of funny really. Both big and small trying to see who gets at your food first.

08-16-2009, 08:13
Both big and small trying to see who gets at your food first.

Not only that, but in-between, also. When we were at #37 back in June, something definitely larger than a mouse ate its way into the bottom of the food bag and did away with a hunk of coffee cake as large as 2 or 3 large eggs. Someone in another thread, or forum, commented that a branch was situated there so that flying squirrels could glide to the bags on the cable. I tend to believe that. The cable in question is the first one, nearest the trail, on the left as you enter the campsite. Last month, at Forge Creek, on the other end of the Park, a varmint neatly bit through the drawstring on the food bag, opening it for easy access to the contents...

08-16-2009, 08:20
at 37, there are some really nice spots right on the bank along the creek. I camped further in (away from the creek, just because I'd already set up my tent. Had a mouse get into my pack (I also hang the entire pack).


08-16-2009, 08:25
Those are nice. We camped in that area, further up from the bottom end of the site, but over nearer the trail and cable...

08-16-2009, 08:36
we're gonna bring rope and just hang our entire packs, especially after your recommendations...

Actually, rope is not needed. All the sites have cables, which you are required to use.

As far as I can tell, the critical thing to look at when choosing which cable to hang from is whether there are overhanging branches close by. As trees do in the forest, branches grow in towards any open space. Branches love to reach in towards that nice opening created by the cable system. There is often a branch that is four or five feet from one of the pulleys. A rodent doesn't have to be much of an athlete to jump that kind of gap.

Choose the pulley furthest from any overhanging branches, and you'll probably be okay. At least, it has always worked for me.

08-16-2009, 15:11

we're going to be in the park in early September, planning on staying two nights at Lower Walnut Bottoms (37) and then hiking over to Otter Creek campsite 29 on the third day.

Otter Creek is a small, unremarkable site. If you want a more memorable trip, consider Mt Sterling instead.

08-16-2009, 15:14
at 37, there are some really nice spots right on the bank along the creek.

Right next to the sign that says "No Camping"!!!

08-16-2009, 18:00
I never saw a No Camping sign anywhere, I was there 4th of July weekend.

Marta is correct, there were (are) bear cables at 37 and 38 (Mount Sterling). Water is a hump from 38 though.


08-16-2009, 22:57
There are no "No Camping" signs. Water being a hump though is a reality. Take whatever you need to bring back every drop you'll need at #38. You don't want to do it twice... ;)

08-16-2009, 23:28
There are no "No Camping" signs.

There were, on the downsteam side of the bridge, but it's easy to guess what happened to them. Folks who don't want to obey the signs make them disappear.

08-16-2009, 23:46
Yes, there used to be some there to indicate that the campsite began at the bridge, although I don't remember any suitable sites (or cables) below the bridge - no relevance to the areas we're discussing. And, I suppose, the same fate occurred to them as to the signs for Mouse Creek Falls and House Rock. Or the brake shoe. I curse the thief who took that, his descendants and his single-wide to which he carried it...

08-17-2009, 07:25
Right next to the sign that says "No Camping"!!!
I am referring to the bank ABOVE the bridge, below the bridge was wet when I was there, thank you.

08-17-2009, 09:24
I don't remember any suitable sites (or cables) below the bridge...

The NPS apparently didn't consider it to be suitable either; that's why they posted the "No camping" sign there!!!

There is, in fact, a fairly decent tent site downstream from the bridge, right on the creek. If you didn't happen to find the site, that could explain why you didn't see the sign. Reckon?

...no relevance to the areas we're discussing.

The "relevant" area was initially described as "at 37." By any reasonable interpretation, "we" are discussing the same backcountry camp site.

08-17-2009, 09:40
I think I see where you got your username... (g)

08-17-2009, 10:31
2 things:

At site # 37 the mice ar terrible. I have always used a kayakers drybag to hang my food when there, its a little heavier than a standard stuff sack but my food has always been safe that way.

Site # 29 is a dump! It is rocky steep and overall very unpleasant. # 38 is a great site but water is bitch to get to. Still I would opt for 38 over 29 anyday.

08-17-2009, 11:37
Hmm... I've got dry bags, but I wouldn't have thought that would stop them. When they chewed through the bottom of my pack, that's the heaviest Cordura on the pack...

08-17-2009, 13:27
I think the rubberized vinyl helps contain odors. This is the only site that I have used them at and have had great success there, even when other peoples food got pillaged. Normally use a regular granite gear stuff sack.

08-17-2009, 14:07
We use silnylon also. Our GG sack got destroyed at WB back in June - squirrel or whatever basically ate most of the bottom. We bought another, which as I said earlier got damaged at Forge Creek and which the mouse chewed into last Wednesday. At least it only made a mouse-sized hole in both the pack and the food bag, which I'd placed in the bottom section (thank god) of the pack. It really made a mess of the bottom of the pack - half eaten gorp and excrement smeared all over. After thorough cleaning, I left it out in the sun for the last several days...

ferns and moss
08-17-2009, 18:34
Well, the cat has taken to sleeping on our packs in the closet. Between his smell and the peppermint oil we're gonna spray on the packs (keeps ticks away but I hear mice don't like it either) and the cables, hopefully it will all do the trick.

I will consider staying somewhere other than 29. Maybe to TriCorner Knob on the third night then out at Cosby as planned. Is that too ambitious with packs?

08-17-2009, 22:16
I will consider staying somewhere other than 29. Maybe to TriCorner Knob on the third night then out at Cosby as planned. Is that too ambitious with packs?

What motivates you to spend two nights at Walnut Bottoms? Where will your hike originate?

If you were willing to spend only one night at 37, going on to Laurel Gap for the second night and Tricorner for the third, then out to Cosby via the AT and Snake Den Ridge would be a nice option.

08-18-2009, 00:36
Much as I hate to second "c/d scales" above, (g), I'm also curious about the two nights in a row at WB, unless you haven't camped in a while and you're just shaking off the cobwebs. There's not that much to see at either Laurel Gap Shelter or Tricorner Knob, either. Why not stay the first night at WB, climb Swallow Fork/ Sterling Ridge trails to Mt. Sterling for the second night and back down to WB for the third night. The trip out over Low Gap to Cosby campground is very doable. Look for the old graveyard to your right about a quarter mile up the Low Gap trail...

ferns and moss
08-18-2009, 00:41
Well, our hike is going to start at Big Creek and come out at Cosby because of the arrangements we've made. The only reason I thought two nights would be good at 37 is so we could just relax and fish and do day hikes for that day and then go somewhere else the next day to see more of the area. We've never been to the park so we're just trying to map a memorable and reasonable route.

ferns and moss
08-18-2009, 00:43
Also seemed everyone was super keen on the Gunter Fork Trail and my interest was piqued

ferns and moss
08-18-2009, 00:46
we haven't camped in a while... living in Chicago is for.... well not for us! All of your info is very very helpful and Mt. Sterling sounds like a really good option

08-18-2009, 00:55
Ahhh... The fishing would definitely be worth holding there in WB for a couple of days...

ferns and moss
08-18-2009, 01:14
yep. this is how much of a dork i am. i bought this (http://www.sierratradingpost.com/p/,1908P_Scientific-Anglers-Fly-Fishing-Made-Easy-Fly-Fishing-Kit-4-Piece-9%E2%80%99-5and6wt-.html): but for $33 (got a coupon) i have to say i haven't been this excited in a long time. I'll probably land a tree branch or someone's hat but it's all about the process. Besides, the one thing i can do is make that hat taste excellent later.

08-18-2009, 08:09
LOL! By all means, practice first on dry land...

08-18-2009, 08:18
Mt. Sterling sounds like a really good option

Another option would be to originate at Mt Sterling Gap, spend the first night at 38, next two nights at 37, then take the Low Gap Trail to Cosby. You could also originate at Big Creek, but the Baxter Creek Trail involves some serious climbing. The Mt Sterling Trail is also steep, just not as long.

08-18-2009, 08:30
"Site # 29 is a dump!"

What's the deal with #29? I had planned a hike next month that includes that site. I was wanting to check out the Albright old growth area, so would you say that place would be worth a night's stay at #29 or might it be a better idea to reroute somewhere else?

08-18-2009, 09:39
To second what sliderule said, last week, we originated at Sterling Gap (shuttle by Ron McGaha), stayed at #38, Laurel Gap, then #37. We intended to go down Gunter Fork, but chickened out because of the amount of rain (ford at bottom), and backtracked, going down Swallow Fork instead...

08-18-2009, 09:43
I don' think that site 29 qualifies as a "dump." I woud not hseitate to stay there, but neither would I go out of my way to stay there. The site is pretty small, but that should not be a problem as long as everyone abides by the rules as they apply to reservations.

If 29 supports your schedule, by all means stay there. Just don't make it your "destination."

08-18-2009, 10:03
I would personally go to # 37 then up the Gunter fork (2300ft climb over 4 miles) then the wonderful Balsam Mtn Trail to Tricorner (about a 10 mile day) then to Cosby knob shelter (about an 8 mile day) and out via the Low gap trail to Cosby campground. This would give you some good fishing a little climbing and a taste of the AT at high elevations. The Balsam Mtn trail is an awesome hike and fairly level along the ridge. Both shelters are large and clean with good water sources and privies.

08-18-2009, 10:30
Both shelters are large and clean...

They may have been clean on a particular day. Just like 29 might have been a "dump" on a particular day. When it comes to cleanliness, past performance is hardly an indicator of future results!!!

That said, most of the backsountry "cleaning" is done by volunteers. Some have more time to dedicate to the task than others.