Jul 10, 2008 at 10:44 pm #1230112
As the counterpoint to our May hike from Clingman’s Dome to Fontana, Sleeps With Skunks and I returned to the Smokies to finish the rest of the Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. SWS and I stepped off from the Clingman’s Dome parking lot up the paved access trail about 4:30 on July 1st. Again, the observation tower was crowded, but this time, we actually fought the crowds and enjoyed the view.
We pushed on another 3 miles and spent the night at Mt. Collins Shelter, one of the last chain-link-fence shelters in the park.
Many bear warning signs around the shelter amounted to little as there was no bear activity that night. However, as we pushed on the next morning, we passed a couple of rangers with a dart rifle, asking about bears in the shelter area. It seems they were looking for a bruin or two to move to a new area of the park.
En route to Newfound Gap, we passed a number of huge blowdowns.
And spruce forest not at all representative of southeastern forest.
But such is the oddity of hiking at 6000 feet in a region where valleys are usually below 2000.
Once at Newfound Gap, we braved the tourist crowds, ate lunch, used the toilets, and got our obligatory photo at the state line sign (despite the fact that the AT follows the state line for nearly the entire park).
3 miles further, at Icewater Springs Shelter, we met the resident peacock.
While he was obviously an opportunist, he still seemed able to forage for himself and was rather entertaining.
The next morning, the view from the kitchen bench offered a stunning sunrise.
Once on the move again, Skunks and I enjoyed the view from Charlie’s Bunion.
Can you spot Sleeps With Skunks near the Bunion? She’s the blue dot in the upper left corner.
We pushed on to Peck’s Corner Shelter and naps. The next day we enjoyed a short 5.7 miles to Tri-corner Knob Shelter. Unfortunately we got got in a severe thunderstorm in the final 15 minutes walk of the day. At least we had a solid, comfortable shelter to dry out in.
The fifth of July saw us walking in rain for much of the day on our way to Cosby Knob Shelter.
But we relaxed our last night and prepared for our final day out of the park.
We awoke to a severe thunderstorm about 5:30 AM Sunday morning. I thought our early departure plans were all for naught. But Sleeps With Skunks and I packed up anyway, and the weather seemed to part as we stepped out for the last 8 miles to Big Creek Ranger Station.
One notable moment was once we reached the side trail to Mt. Cammerer Firetower. We chose not to hike that way since clouds still obscured the Tennessee side of the AT. But owing to a dayhike from Davenport Gap a year and a half earlier, this point meant Skunks had walked the final step of unknown AT in GSMNP.
We pushed on until we reached the Chestnut Branch Trail, just 2.1 miles away from my truck at Big Creek Ranger Station. I was unsure what to expect from the trail, but it was a pure delight as the sun came out, and we were serenaded by the murmuring of the Big Creek.
As we arrived at the ranger station and my truck, we celebrated for one final moment before we began the ride toward civilization.
For a much more detailed account with many more pictures, see my trail journal (http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=242289).Jul 11, 2008 at 6:01 am #1442467
Nice pics Shawn. Brings back some memories. In April '05, got snowed in at Tri-corner Knob Shelter with about 20 others by a late season storm. We had that huge tarp tied down over the front to keep out the blowing snow. Woke up to about 12" of fresh powder. Lots of fun.
Weather was so bad the day before that I never made it out to the Bunion. Now I see what I missed. Thanks for posting.Jul 11, 2008 at 8:59 am #1442486
Great pics again! The Smokies are great.
On June 16, I hiked from Campsite 23: Goshen Prong to Rough Creek to Sugarland Mt then south on AT to Clingmans and my car.
I stopped for a break at Mt Collins shelter. I too noticed the bear warning sign. There was one hiker already there.
We looked in the Shelter Log and saw several reports of a large bear lip smacking, chomping, growling, etc during previous nights.
Makes you wonder if hikers had fed the bear through the fence in the past and the bear's antics were to get more food.Jul 11, 2008 at 10:55 am #1442517
I don't know any details about the Mt. Collins bears (there are supposedly 2), but we encountered rangers with a dart rifle heading there the morning as we left. Typically they try to move problem bears. The Mt. Collins bears have been an issue since last December at least though, which is unusual without an intervention.
In any event, the cable system makes it very tough for the bears to get your food, and we had no problems while at Mt. Collins.
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