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  1. #1

    Default Smokies Winter Loop anyone?

    Wanting to get back to GSM for a winter backpack adventure. I don't have any friends to join me on overnights. Is there anyone interested in teaming up for two 3 to 5 night backback loops in GSM around Christmas break? I live 6 hours away in South AL. Newbies welcome as long as you can hike 8 miles per day. I'm happy with 8-12 per day and have plenty of gear (including extra zero degree bag) to loan as well. I've been trying to hike a couple new trails each trip.

    I have not hiked any trails west of Cades Cove so would want to plan a loop from Abrams Creek. I also want to hike a long wandering loop west and up stream away from Lakeview Drive but I'm not to sure about what trails (Noland, Fourney, and Hazel Creeks) can be forded in winter in that area. If some one, or two, wants to join me, I'll adjust my distances to suit you if you can't stay out 5 nights. Right now I'm aiming to drive up Dec 26 and finish up Jan 4, but I'm flexible on that. I may not go up top to the AT at all, which should mean a few degrees warmer and less ice, but if a companion wants to hike part of the AT, I'll adjust to do that as well. As long as we stay in backcountry campsites instead of shelters on the AT, I bet I won't see 10 other people in 10 days. I'll wait till last day or two at home to make reservations since the place will not be crowded. Cost is $4 per person per night; max $20 per 7 night trip.

    Edwin

  2. #2
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    All those creeks can be forded in winter---it just really depends upon how well one can handle the freezing water....

    and those aren't rock hops of crossings----one will get wet.....

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    illabelle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    All those creeks can be forded in winter---it just really depends upon how well one can handle the freezing water....
    and those aren't rock hops of crossings----one will get wet.....
    I've been eyeing some of those trails out of Abrams Creek for a low elevation winter hike. But wading in these temperatures? I could maybe handle it if it was ankle deep. More than that? Probably not.

    Good luck on your trip Ed.

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    Registered User LittleRock's Avatar
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    I remember the thigh-deep crossing of Deep Creek in March, without pants/shoes - now that was cold!
    It's all good in the woods.

  5. #5

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    I've got all my food dehydrated and ready, for up to 14 days! Nobody else interested though

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by LittleRock View Post
    I remember the thigh-deep crossing of Deep Creek in March, without pants/shoes - now that was cold!
    I yelled when fording Noland Creek this past March...and for several minutes after. It was thigh high and incredibly cold. I kept my shoes on. All the hikers I met before-hand had turned around rather than making the attempt.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by ednotmilkman View Post
    I've got all my food dehydrated and ready, for up to 14 days! Nobody else interested though
    Have a great trip.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ednotmilkman View Post
    I've got all my food dehydrated and ready, for up to 14 days! Nobody else interested though
    I'd emphatically say yes I'm up for a wk+ long GSMNP hike right after Christmas and spending New Yrs on the trail but plantar fasciitis in the one foot is still not 70%. I agree. Great time to be on trail.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Traffic Jam View Post
    I yelled when fording Noland Creek this past March...and for several minutes after. It was thigh high and incredibly cold. I kept my shoes on. All the hikers I met before-hand had turned around rather than making the attempt.
    I can just imagine!

  10. #10

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    Hi folks, someone just asked how this adventure went and I thought I'd share will all the meetup forum . Also if any of you wants to do another similar trip this fall or winter, let me know.

    I started on Jan 2 with the feds still shut down. But the backcountry reservation website was still working so I reserved 7 nights on 1st trip and 7 more on next trip. Went 5 nights from Abrams Crk as far as Scott Mtn and Gregory Bald. I only had company one Sat night at Gregory. Then I moved car to Noland Crk TH where I camped 6 more nights going up to AT via Forney Ridge trl, west on the AT to Jenkins Ridge trl, with TN loop included of Greenbrier Rdg, Lynn Camp and Miry Rdg trls. So I stayed a night each in Silers Bald and Derrick knob shelters, alone the whole time except one guy hiking a day hike at Cling man's Dome and one near Jenkins Rdg on AT. SO descending Jenkins Rdg to Hazel Crk, I set up camp at #84 for 2 nights so I could slack pack up Hazel, fording it to Cold Spring Gap, up Welch Rdg, and then descending Hazel back to camp. Next morning I also slack packed Bone Valley before heading out to lower Hazel and the interesting ruins of Proctor. Then last day boogying back east on Lakeshore to my car.

    Pictures are here
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/wY8yrVXWoHL78WhN9

  11. #11

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    That was just the first 11 nights! Then I drove to Bryson City and took a zero with 2 nights in a downtown motel. Last part of trip was around Cataloochee. I stayed 2 nights at campsite 41 so I could do a slackpack loop, then headed up Pretty Hollow Gap to camp at Mt Sterling the last night and ending by walking down Little Cataloochee Trl to see that beautiful church with the bell still ringing, and then seeing the whole elk herd as i walked down the road and then getting lucky hitch with some folks back to car.

  12. #12
    Registered User Whiskyjo's Avatar
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    Might be nice and quite seeing the tunnel heading up to cades cove will be closed to all traffic after the new year for a couple of months for repairs. west side would sound quitter for sure.

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    Thanks for sharing the link to your pictures from the trip. You went a lot of places I haven't been yet. It was good to see how they look to have an idea what those trails are like.
    I'm curious to know what the conditions were like for this early January trip. I saw some snow in the pictures, but not very much. How were the temperatures? How were those creek crossings? We did the Boogerman Loop a couple years ago in the summer - 7 crotch-deep crossings - I can't imagine what that would be like in January!!!

  14. #14

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    Hi illabelle,
    I picked my routes from Noland to Hazel to try to minimize deep water. Only one deep enough for me to take off pants was the beginning of Coldspring Gap at Hazel Creek. Then there are the messy areas. There were two. First was sadly due to no maintenance at all on the perfectly fine road bed that is the lower part of Jenkins Ridge trl along Sugar Fork of Haw Gap Branch. Looks to me like 3 people with hand mattocks or Pulaski could divert the water off the road in 3 days work. But as it is, this road will continue to erode worse every year and it's a sloppy hop over lots of mud in the middle of the road.
    2nd unexpected, messy, wet hike was Caldwell Fork trl which I see is near Boogerman that you mentioned. Caldwell Fork (according to Brown Trail Book) is supposed to have no wet crossings but I think 8 foot bridges were gone and only one new one in their place. None of these crossings were much over knee high, I just was not expecting 8. I finally gave up taking shoes off and on after about 5 crossings.
    Temps were cold with snow on Gregory Bald campsite, but probably not below 20. Snow was gone after dropping 500' elev there. It did snow later one afternoon walking to Mt Sterling to make nice photo but it didn't stick. It was cold there at the tower only because it was windy. I was prepared for maybe 12 degrees before i would have bailed out. Had zero degree bag and several extra things in the car but forcast was never too bad. I also had weather radio

  15. #15

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    Of course, speaking of messy trails, there are two in Abrams Creek area that are built in the creek for a good long way! That is an awful lot of Beard Cane and the east end of Rabbit Crk.

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    illabelle's Avatar
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    When we did all those water crossings on Caldwell Fork, the water was muddy from storm runoff. I'm happy to hear they were "only" knee-high for you. Wading across them in January must have been quite an experience!

    I haven't hiked yet in Abrams Creek area. I had thought they might be best between mid-fall to mid-spring to avoid heat and the worst of the weeds. Sounds like that area has other challenges I hadn't considered.

    Thanks for the reply.

  17. #17

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    Illa, Are you working on 900 miles in GSM? I am but have not added up miles. I am guessing i have maybe 600-650. Will be easier to add up what I lack from looking at trail map where I highlight all the trails and date I walked them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ednotmilkman View Post
    Illa, Are you working on 900 miles in GSM? I am but have not added up miles. I am guessing i have maybe 600-650. Will be easier to add up what I lack from looking at trail map where I highlight all the trails and date I walked them.
    It's not an official goal, at least not currently. But we've already done about half just because we live here. Finishing the AT has been our goal, and we use the Smokies for training/conditioning.
    Not sure how I'd go about completing the 900 miles. My husband doesn't want to go, and doesn't want me to go without him. We've already done most of the easy miles. The trails that remain require a bit of commitment, especially in terms of driving time. I may have to settle for completing them vicariously.

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