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  1. #1

    Default Change of Plans, Need info on trail north of GSMNP

    OK, so I was planning on taking 9 days in October to hike the Smokies with the wife. A few things have changed this plan, so I am thinking about something else.

    I really want to thru hike the Smokies, but I am afraid that it will be difficult to get the shelters I want due to being filled or simply closed due to bear activity. Also, I am not sure that I will get all the days I requested off of work off. Also, I am moving to a new house the middle of next month so this will affect our monies for a moment. So, I am aiming for taking off a Mon - Fri and taking advantage of the weekends before and after. This will give me 9 days, but I will have to use two of those for driving so this gives me 6 - 7 days to hike, including a shuttle ride. So, this is what I am thinking.

    If I don't go to the Smokies, I don't have to worry about reservations. So, I will save the Smokies for another time. Instead I am interested in hiking north of the Smokies. I have read a lot of great things about Max Patch...

    I am thinking about driving on Saturday to Standing Bear and then getting a shuttle up the trail (AT) and then simply hiking back to wherever Standing Bear will pick me back up (Green Corner Knob?)

    We are looking to do between 50 - 60 miles. (And probably closer to 50). I really don't want to plan more than 8 - 9 miles a day.

    I will be carrying my tent so we are open to staying in a shelter or at a campsite or just a clearing in the woods... I wouldn't even mind staying in a Hostel or something with a shower in Hot Springs. (I know that I won't be on the trail but a day or two at this point, but to be honest I wouldn't mind staying in a hostel or hotel 1 night, a shelter 1 night and the tent 1 night. Basically I want to stay in all 3 "shelters" on the trip. Just getting the experience...) Also, in Hot Springs I will resupply for the rest of the trip back.

    Like I mentioned earlier, I am interested in Max Patch and would like to spend the night atop Max Patch in our tent. Is this possible, and if so where is a good spot to do so? What's the goods at Max Patch, so to say...?

    So, these are some of my thoughts at the moment. I have not gotten in touch with Standing Bear yet, but plan to do so within the next few days whenever I get a better idea in my head of what I want to do.

    So, I guess some of what I am asking is where is a good starting point that is easily accessible from the road (thinking about the shuttle dropping us off) that is around 50 or a little more miles from Standing Bear?

    Also, other than max Patch, I see there is Lovers Leap Rock through here as well. Is this an interesting site? What are some other things around this part of the trail?

    Thanks for any ideas / info.

  2. #2
    Registered User bpitt's Avatar
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    We hiked the Smokies last spring, took us 6 days. I'll tell you this, if you do decide to do the Smokies, i.e., from Davenport Gap to Fontana, or vice versa, your first day will the the hardest..uphill all the way. Goodluck whatever you choice, and just have fun hanging with the wife.
    "You hiked up a mountain? Why would anyone want to do that?"--question posed to me by friend

  3. #3
    PCT, Sheltowee, Pinhoti, LT , BMT, AT, SHT, CDT 560 miles 10-K's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by STICK View Post


    We are looking to do between 50 - 60 miles. (And probably closer to 50). I really don't want to plan more than 8 - 9 miles a day.
    Really the only trailhead that fits your parameters is Allen Gap which is about 50 miles from SBF and 15 or so from Hot Springs. The next easily accessible trailhead north of Allen Gap is Devils Fork Gap but that's about 70ish miles from SBF.

    An alternative hike would be to park at Uncle Johnny's in Erwin and get a shuttle to Allen Gap and hike back - that's just a little over 50 miles and would take you over Big Bald which is pretty awesome.
    Last edited by 10-K; 08-23-2010 at 22:06.

  4. #4

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    Bpitt, I am going to wait to do the Smokies. I want to do it slowly with the wife, and there are too many other things going on right now that may hinder those plans. But I am looking forward to it...

    10-K, I will keep the alternate hike you mentioned in mind. I am trying to save a little gas money though since the farther north I drive the more it will cost us...

    I was thinking about this while looking through the Thru-Hikers Companion Guide:

    Day 1: (Saturday) Drive to Standing Bear Hostel for the night.

    Day 2: (Sunday) Shuttle drop off at Allen Gap. Hike 6.5 miles to Rich Mtn Fire Tower Side Trail Campsite. Set up tent and call it a day...

    Day 3: (Monday) Hike 8.2 miles to Hot Springs and stay in a (suggested) hostel for the night. (Preferably indoors.) Resupply, shower, and eat a warm meal.

    Day 4: (Tuesday) Hike 13.1 miles to Walnut Mtn Shleter for the night.

    Day 5: (Wednesday) Hike 6.7 miles to Max Patch Summit and find a nice place for a tent to spend the night.

    Day 6: (Thursday) Hike 6.4 miles to Groundhog Creek Shelter for the night.

    Day 7: (Friday) Hike 7.2 miles back to Green Corner Rd, then 0.1 miles to Standing Bear for the night.

    Day 8: (Saturday) Drive home.

    I am not sure about that 13 mile day in there, but I kind of want to stay in Hot Springs and then at Max Patch so it kind of limits those days...

    Thoughts?

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    I was under the impression that you could not tent on the very top of Max Patch but when I hiked over it in Mar 2009 there were a lot of tents set up all around the top of it. Not sure you would want to be on top of a bald in October. There are plenty of tenting spots as you head north over the top.

    I stayed at the Sunnybank when I went through Hot Springs. If you enjoy poking a stick at political ideologues it's a fun place to stay. Dinner was awesome and there's a restaurant directly across the street that opens early for breakfast.
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    Stick-Looks like a good plan. We cowboy camped in The Rich Mountain Fire tower a coupla weeks ago. It was OK till the thunderstorm came through and there were no windows. On a clear day you can see you can see four states from up there as well as Cumberland Gap.

    You can camp on the summit of Snowbird and get great views of the sun setting over Mt Cammerrer and the Eastern Smokies.
    I'm not really a hiker, I just play one on White Blaze.

  7. #7

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    We tented in March 09 on max patch, you can tent up there. It may have been us you saw up there. Lovers Leap is just a series of ledges as you come down into Hot Springs. I have done the section you are speaking of a few times both directions. On the other side of Rich Mtn, the Northern side, you will want to get as much water as you can if you want to camp just south of Pump Gap. There is a ledge that overlooks Hot Springs and the river. It has a fire ring and a nice flat spot for 2 tents. Great spot and view of Bluff Mountain.
    when are you thinking of doing this?
    There are tons of spots to jump on and off the trail south of Allen Gap. There is a road at Spring Mtn. Then there is Tanyard Gap. Just also remember, this area got slammed this past winter so take that into consideration when throwing together a time table

  8. #8

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    FYI, do youself a favor and avoid Walnut Mtn. Its a dump and frequented by bears, water up and move on.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by fredmugs View Post
    I was under the impression that you could not tent on the very top of Max Patch but when I hiked over it in Mar 2009 there were a lot of tents set up all around the top of it. Not sure you would want to be on top of a bald in October. There are plenty of tenting spots as you head north over the top.

    .
    Just curious why you wouldnt want to cam;p on a bald in October? Its one of the most beautiful times to camp on a bald here. Crisp nights, clear skies. We have hit all of the balds around here in October and never have any issues

  10. #10

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    Thanks everyone.

    I was wondering about the day 4 being 13.1 miles. Where would be a good spot a little before Walnut MTN. I wouldn't mind cutting that day a little shortere...

  11. #11
    Hiker bigcranky's Avatar
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    Re: campsite north of Walnut Mountain. There's an obvious campsite in a little clearing on the way down the south side of Bluff Mountain, about halfway down to the gap where you start climbing Walnut Mountain. Not sure about water there. (We stayed in the Walnut Mountain Shelter, the year before they started having bear problems. Tiny little place, but we enjoyed it. Nobody else around.)

    Hot Springs: If you can manage to stay at Elmer's, I would highly recommend the experience. Plan to have dinner there (costs a few bucks extra.)

    Plenty of good spots along the spine of Max Patch. Once you get out into the first clear area, keep going -- there is plenty more bald as you climb. Good campsites in the trees as you break out into the main bald, but if the weather is decent, camping on the bald is much more fun.

    Groundhog Creek shelter was a pit, and the way I remember it there were no good tenting spots near the shelter -- the ground just sloped all around. Others might chime in on that, though.
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  12. #12
    Registered User ChinMusic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by STICK View Post
    Thanks everyone.

    I was wondering about the day 4 being 13.1 miles. Where would be a good spot a little before Walnut MTN. I wouldn't mind cutting that day a little shortere...
    Based on the other days that one will be a long one. It's a pretty long climb out of Hot Springs.
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  13. #13
    Super Moderator Marta's Avatar
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    We've camped on top of Max Patch, too. It's a great place to cowboy during the Leonid meteor showers in November. Obviously there's not water there, no privy, and no tree cover nearby, but on a clear night, it's magic. And cold.
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  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChinMusic View Post
    Based on the other days that one will be a long one. It's a pretty long climb out of Hot Springs.
    Yea switch back city too. There are some spots to stealth camp about a mile before Walnut

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    First Sergeant SGT Rock's Avatar
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    Yep, you can camp on Max Patch. I've seen folks doing it. If you want to, the wood line is about 1/2 mile north of the peak and there is a campsite right inside the woodline there we have used since my entire family uses hammocks.
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  16. #16
    Registered User ChinMusic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chaco Taco View Post
    Yea switch back city too. There are some spots to stealth camp about a mile before Walnut
    I just took a lot. It is over 3000' of net elevation gain from Hot Springs to the top of Bluff Mt.

    Unless those other days are easy for you Stick, you may need to break that up that day or at least have an option should you be gassed.
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  17. #17
    Hiker bigcranky's Avatar
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    I dunno, we did Hot Springs to Walnut Mountain on a section hike, and we're not superhikers by any stretch. The climb of Bluff southbound will definitely get your attention -- take it slow and easy. IIRC there is a spring about 2/3 of the way up, it's on the map and makes a decent spot for a break. Once you get to the top of Bluff, the rest of the day isn't too bad.
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  18. #18

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    It doesn't seem like there is a whole lot of options through there though so we may just hike til we get tired and stealth camp.

    Just curious, is the shelters at Walnut and Groundhog just run down and nasty, or just bad with bears, or something else? In terms of shelters I would call the Mt LeConte shelter kind of run down, but only really when it is raining or wet. Water comes in the shelter and it is a mud hole...

    Also, what kind of weather can we expect around this area during mid october?

  19. #19
    Registered User ChinMusic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigcranky View Post
    I dunno, we did Hot Springs to Walnut Mountain on a section hike, and we're not superhikers by any stretch. The climb of Bluff southbound will definitely get your attention -- take it slow and easy. IIRC there is a spring about 2/3 of the way up, it's on the map and makes a decent spot for a break. Once you get to the top of Bluff, the rest of the day isn't too bad.
    SOBO's can blow past Max Patch coming out of Hot Springs. I wasn't commenting on whether he could or couldn't do it. I have no idea what he is comfortable with.

    I was just looking at the rest of his itinerary and day 4 stood out as 2+ days in comparison.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chaco Taco View Post
    We tented in March 09 on max patch, you can tent up there. It may have been us you saw up there. Lovers Leap is just a series of ledges as you come down into Hot Springs. I have done the section you are speaking of a few times both directions. On the other side of Rich Mtn, the Northern side, you will want to get as much water as you can if you want to camp just south of Pump Gap. There is a ledge that overlooks Hot Springs and the river. It has a fire ring and a nice flat spot for 2 tents. Great spot and view of Bluff Mountain.
    when are you thinking of doing this?
    There are tons of spots to jump on and off the trail south of Allen Gap. There is a road at Spring Mtn. Then there is Tanyard Gap. Just also remember, this area got slammed this past winter so take that into consideration when throwing together a time table
    Trail is in excellent shape for now. Like CT says, camel up just past Tanyard. No water on Mill Ridge.
    I'm not really a hiker, I just play one on White Blaze.

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