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    Question First timer NOBO Section hike from Damascus with questions

    First time poster and first time section hiker coming up in a few weeks. I am starting in Damascus and heading NOBO for a 3 day hike hoping to end Fox Creek trail head. I was planning on stopping at Lost Mountain and Wise Shelters along the way but had some curiosity if there are better spots to camp other than shelters. I wasn't sure on the traffic in the area at this time of year so decided to ask the experts. I purchased the Githooks for the section and have been doing research the last few months to try and set myself up for success but do you have any recommendations to try to make that a reality?

    I am using this hike to get away and maybe even be the start of a new adventure. Thanks for your help in advance!

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    First...that is about 42 miles with a LOT of climbing out of Damascus up to the Mt Rogers area.

    If you can turn it into a 3 night - 4 day trip, there is a real nice camping spot on White Top Mtn. Just before the gravel road that goes to the top, there is a piped spring that is always flowing. Cross over the road and about 100 yds further there are several camp sites. The long range view of the Pond Mountain area is really nice. It is half way between the 2 shelters.

    ETA: you probably won't see very many people until you get to Elk Garden (SR 600). From that point on, it will be very crowded. Don't plan on staying in Wise Shelter unless you get there early. Go past the shelter about 1/10th mile and cross the creek. There is a large meadow on the immediate left and several spots along the creek to tent/hammock camp.
    Last edited by DownYonder; 07-23-2019 at 10:38.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DownYonder View Post
    First...that is about 42 miles with a LOT of climbing out of Damascus up to the Mt Rogers area.
    I am a trail runner and have done a decent amount of training climbing this year, but I know it is different with pack. After day one if I feel like it would be too much of a push I was thinking I'd cut it short at Massey Gap

    Quote Originally Posted by DownYonder View Post
    If you can turn it into a 3 night - 4 day trip, there is a real nice camping spot on White Top Mtn. Just before the gravel road that goes to the top, there is a piped spring that is always flowing. Cross over the road and about 100 yds further there are several camp sites. The long range view of the Pond Mountain area is really nice. It is half way between the 2 shelters.

    ETA: you probably won't see very many people until you get to Elk Garden (SR 600). From that point on, it will be very crowded. Don't plan on staying in Wise Shelter unless you get there early. Go past the shelter about 1/10th mile and cross the creek. There is a large meadow on the immediate left and several spots along the creek to tent/hammock camp.
    Thanks for that info! I have been talking with the Mrs. to see if I can add another day to the trip to help with distance and to not rush the trip.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Flores View Post
    I am a trail runner and have done a decent amount of training climbing this year, but I know it is different with pack. After day one if I feel like it would be too much of a push I was thinking I'd cut it short at Massey Gap



    Thanks for that info! I have been talking with the Mrs. to see if I can add another day to the trip to help with distance and to not rush the trip.
    That is a good option. If the Mrs is dropping/picking up, you could also start at the Junction Creek Trail Head. From there, bypass Lost Mountain shelter and head on up towards White Top. Lots of places to camp along the way but I don't recall what the water availability is. I have only done the climb from Damascus up to the ridge of Iron Mountain once and have no desire to do it again!!

    http://tnlandforms.us/at/googleat.ph...&mt=3&scale=11

    Zoom in and you will see the spots that I'm talking about. The road up to White Top is shown as Mud Creek Ln on the map.
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    Considering this is your first taste of the AT, a very nice but challenging route would be SOBO from Massie - 1st night on White Top - 2nd night @ either Lost Mtn or Saunders depending on how you feel.
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    The Fox Creek to Damascus hike is easier in the southbound direction, plus you get to end in Damascus with a restaurant meal, shower, maybe an overnight in a B&B with the missus. But it's a fine hike either way.

    Anyway, suggestions. This is the section that I cover for the ALDHA Companion, and I've hiked it a fair number of times.

    Day 1 is 17 miles to Lost Mountain Shelter. This is a long day with some decent climbs. Nothing too terrible, but even though I've done it several times in both directions, I'd still feel it. Some folks would take the Virginia Creeper Trail and avoid the first PUD, then get back on the AT at Straight Branch parking area and climb up over Straight Mountain and past the Saunders Shelter. If you get past Saunders Sh and back down to the Creeper and need to camp, there are sites along the creek under the Hassinger Bridge (really long tall wooden RR bridge.) That's a few miles shy of Lost Mountain. I avoid drinking water from Whitetop Laurel Creek unless absolutely necessary.

    Nice campsites at Lost Mountain Sh, don't forget to check for campsites on the side of the trail opposite the shelter, depending on how crowded it is.

    Day 2 is a monster climb of Whitetop first thing in the morning. Well graded, and actually for me it's easier uphill than down. Killer views at the top, stop at Buzzard Rocks for a break. As noted above, there is a wonderful spring on the AT past Buzzard Rock, right before the gravel parking area. You'll hear it, but there is a small sign too. After you descend Whitetop there is a pit toilet and trash can at the road crossing at Elk Garden. You'll then have a decent climb up to Mt Rogers (worth taking the side trail if you have an hour to hang at the top. No views but it's quiet and lovely.) Water and privy at Thomas Knob Sh, then you're in the open High Country. Getting to Wise Shelter is another long day, but everything after Thomas Knob is basically downhill.

    If you need to cut off some miles, you can take the Pine Mountain Trail from Rhododendron Gap, about a mile past Thomas Knob. This trail runs across the top of Pine Mountain and meets the AT again, cutting off six or seven miles (the PMT is 2 miles long). Head north on the AT down the hill into the woods toward Old Orchard Shelter and Fox Creek. The PMT is the old route of the AT from decades ago, and it's a pretty trail that keeps you up around 5000 feet. Plenty of good campsites along the way.

    Day 3 from Wise is pretty short and straightforward. Very nice ridge line walk over Stone Mountain, good views. There is a huge privy at Scales inside the corral, which is convenient. I would carry water from Wise Shelter's spring for this stretch. In general, late summer = springs not running so well. Though this year they've had some good rain, so you might be fine.

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    Thank you for all the great information! I was back and forth on the option of blue blazing sections of the trail or just sticking to the AT. That section of the creeper and the PMT were in my mind.

    I really appreciate the water information as well. I have been trying to plan out different sections of where I can refill.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flores View Post
    Thank you for all the great information! I was back and forth on the option of blue blazing sections of the trail or just sticking to the AT. That section of the creeper and the PMT were in my mind.
    I really appreciate the water information as well. I have been trying to plan out different sections of where I can refill.
    Great selection for a first trip. I would suggest sobo and this is easily doable in your original time frame. I also highly recommend the PMT from where the AT comes out of the woods just north of the scales to rodo gap. then hop back on the AT until the creeper trail. Once you hit the creeper trail, I would suggest sticking to it. The AT does several pointless ups and downs between the creeper and Damascus.
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    Another vote for the Southbound option.... my very first hike on the AT was a 42-ish miler southbound into Damascus, marvelous trip, I did 2 nights, averaging 14 miles per day. Can't remember my camp spots, we're talking a couple of decades ago.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gambit McCrae View Post
    Great selection for a first trip. I would suggest sobo and this is easily doable in your original time frame. I also highly recommend the PMT from where the AT comes out of the woods just north of the scales to rodo gap. then hop back on the AT until the creeper trail. Once you hit the creeper trail, I would suggest sticking to it. The AT does several pointless ups and downs between the creeper and Damascus.
    Yeah I'm thinking the PMT will be the best option for me but glad to hear multiple people saying it. Thanks!
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  11. #11

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    Just wanted to say thanks to everyone for their advice. I did my hike this past weekend starting in Damascus and heading North. Stayed at Lost Mountain, just outside Thomas Knob in the camping area following all white blazes and then took the PMT to Fox Creek Trail head to cut off some mileage on the last day due to timing.

    Looking forward to my next trip on the AT!

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  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Flores View Post
    Just wanted to say thanks to everyone for their advice. I did my hike this past weekend starting in Damascus and heading North. Stayed at Lost Mountain, just outside Thomas Knob in the camping area following all white blazes and then took the PMT to Fox Creek Trail head to cut off some mileage on the last day due to timing.

    Looking forward to my next trip on the AT!

    IMG_0158.JPG
    Well done! Did you spend any extended time on the creeper trail or just where it overlaps the AT?

    There has been some heightened bear activity around grayson did you see any signs of this?

    Whats your next section??
    Last edited by Gambit McCrae; 08-13-2019 at 08:34.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gambit McCrae View Post
    Well done! Did you spend any extended time on the creeper trail or just where it overlaps the AT?

    There has been some heightened bear activity around grayson did you see any signs of this?

    Whats your next section??
    Only was on Creeper where it overlapped. It was mentally taxing to leave the "flat" of the creeper but wanted to see the climbs. haha

    There were some skat piles around but nothing that looked "fresh". I saw some prints heading out of Grayson on the PMT. The bear box was clutch in the area to not have to worry about dealing with bears at all.

    Not sure what section would be next. I want to do something a little longer, probably about a week to 10 days. I rented gear for this trip so I will spend the rest of year saving money to purchase my own gear and next year get out on the trail somewhere. Where would you recommend as a good section?
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    Some years ago, I did almost exactly the same trip as you're planning.
    Day 1: Damascus to Lost Mt. Shelter (16 miles). My notes show it was a too easy day, esp. the first 3-4 miles out of Damascus, and wishing that I'd gone further instead of sitting on azz all afternoon. I noted a decent stream about 2-3 miles past the shelter with obvious tent sites and a fire ring.
    Day 2. Lost Mt. to Thomas Knob (13 miles). Another easy day, but the final climb to the shelter was fairly tough. My notes say that I stopped there because of hard rain; there were some decent tenting sites and fire ring about 1/2 mile past the shelter that I regretted not using after seeing them.
    Day 3. Thomas Knob to Hurricane Mt. shelter (23 miles). My notes say that although a +20 mile day, it wasn't very tough. There were tent sites near shelter and a decent creek.
    Day 4. Off trail at Troutdale after easy 4 miles in the morning (I always get up before dawn and start hiking just before daybreak). Notes say that it was something of a speed hike with a very light pack because of empty food bag. Finished and got crappy fastfood breakfast and then shuttle back to Damascus, shower at Mt. Rogers Outfitters and change into clean cotton clothes, and drove home to Lexington, KY, arriving mid-afternoon.

    If you do any distance running at all, I am sure you won't have any problem with your plan.

    Edit to say that if I had any brains at all, I would have read the thread to the end to see where you'd already finished. Apologies.
    Last edited by John B; 08-13-2019 at 12:58. Reason: my stupidity

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    Quote Originally Posted by Flores View Post
    Only was on Creeper where it overlapped. It was mentally taxing to leave the "flat" of the creeper but wanted to see the climbs. haha

    There were some skat piles around but nothing that looked "fresh". I saw some prints heading out of Grayson on the PMT. The bear box was clutch in the area to not have to worry about dealing with bears at all.

    Not sure what section would be next. I want to do something a little longer, probably about a week to 10 days. I rented gear for this trip so I will spend the rest of year saving money to purchase my own gear and next year get out on the trail somewhere. Where would you recommend as a good section?
    If you have 10 days do the GSMNP. Only issue is that you have to stay in shelters and obtain permits. Or start at I-40 (Standing Bear) and head north. All the way to Hampton is a beautiful section around 180 miles.
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    Quote Originally Posted by John B View Post
    Edit to say that if I had any brains at all, I would have read the thread to the end to see where you'd already finished. Apologies.
    No apologies necessary, its always good for more information. I stopped at Fox Creek so didn't make it all the way to Troutdale.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DownYonder View Post
    If you have 10 days do the GSMNP. Only issue is that you have to stay in shelters and obtain permits. Or start at I-40 (Standing Bear) and head north. All the way to Hampton is a beautiful section around 180 miles.
    Shelters are required in that section? Pardon my ignorance but does that mean no tent camping?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flores View Post
    Shelters are required in that section? Pardon my ignorance but does that mean no tent camping?
    http://appalachiantrail.org/home/exp...nd-regulations

    Shelter Policy: Great Smoky Mountains National Park regulations require that you stay in a shelter. While other backpackers must make reservations to use backcountry shelters, thru-hikers are exempt. From Mar. 15 to June 15, four spaces at each A.T. shelter are reserved for thru-hikers. If the shelter is full, thru-hikers can tent close by. Only thru-hikers are allowed to tent next to shelters, so they are responsible for making room for those who have reservations in the shelters.

    Long Distance/Thru-Hiker Permit: Hikers who meet the definition of an A.T. thru-hiker (those who begin and end their hike at least 50 miles outside the park and only travel on the A.T. in the park) are eligible for a thru-hiker permit of $20 (valid for 38 days from the date issued for an up to 8 day hike through the park).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flores View Post
    Shelters are required in that section? Pardon my ignorance but does that mean no tent camping?
    Correct. Unless you start and finish your hike 50 or more miles on each end of the park boundary, and the shelters are full. Permit either way tho. There are many threads discussing the rules of GSMNP
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    Default First timer NOBO Section hike from Damascus with questions

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