Hiking the Smokies: Part 1

So to preface this post, we had our plans dramatically changed on our drive down to Tennessee.

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Remember how I said I was a bad planner in a post a couple weeks ago? Well keep that in mind while you read this post. We were about 3 hours out from Cades Cove when we realized we still hadn’t arranged for a shuttle to pick us up after our last hike to Mt. Leconte. So we called about 3 shuttle companies (all booked up) before we called the Appalachian Conservatory and spoke with a representative. That representative told us he was a little worried since we wouldn’t arrive in Cades Cove until around 6, and it was a 5.1 mile hike up the mountain to Russel Field.

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Since we would have to rearrange our first night and stay at a halfway point called campground 10, we wouldn’t even make it to Mt. Leconte when we had planned, which means we would have to route the trip so that we returned to Cades Cove on tuesday, a day earlier than we had planned.

Our new route was a hike up the Anthony Creek Trail about 2.5 miles to campsite 10, where we would stay for the night. The hike started out well, but I quickly realized that we packed too heavily and didn’t wear the right clothes. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After about 1.5 miles we were joined by another hiker named Cordell, who surprisingly was staying at the same campsite as us. He was relieved of course, because his friend who was supposed to hike with him had flaked out in the last second, so we were both a little happier having some company for the night.

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Cordell told us he was from Florida, and he too had about a 10 hour drive to Cades Cove. He was more prepared than us however, as he had walking sticks and told us that they are a must have on a hiking trip like this, which we soon discovered was true, but more on that later. As we got to campsite 10 to settle down for the night, we tried to start a fire, but the wood was too wet. Instead we just tried to eat one of our dehydrated meals. We boiled up about half of the water that we had left, and poured it into our beef stroganoff. Right afterwards, we saw water spilling out of the package and discovered that somehow the bag had a 2 inch gash in it, so we ended up wasting an entire meal as well as 8 oz of water.

As the darkness fell, we tried to sleep, however the birds chirped all night. I don’t mean pleasant chirping either, it was extremely loud and annoying chirping. And remember how I said I was going to make a post on how to make the sleeping pads? Well that is being post poned, as we discovered very quickly that the ones we made were not at all comfortable.

The next day, we packed up quickly and started our remaining 2.6 miles up the mountain to Russel Field. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I guess I underestimated just how rough this trip would be, as the hike up the mountain easily took us 5 hours, which were 5 of the hardest hours of my life. Unfortunately I decided to put my camera away in favor of not falling down and breaking my leg while climbing the mountain. So I have no pictures of the rest of the way up.

Preparing For The Smokies – What I’m packing for the Appalachian Trail (Part 1)

One thing I have learned from the last couple trips I have taken is that I really need to spend more time packing. I have been severely underprepared for those trips, which have caused me a little trouble on the trails. So in today’s post I want to outline 5 of the most important things I’m bringing with me on the trail.

Backpack

The backpack is arguably one of the most important items you will bring on a hiking trip. The thing is, I don’t actually own one. Well…I don’t own a new one. My personal bag I own is a vintage back pack with an external frame. Needless to say, its not super comfortable. The backpack pictured is a Sierra Designs Ministry 40, borrowed from my dad. This is a 40 liter pack, so its big enough to fit all of my gear easily for a 5 day trip. This pack is designed more for ice climbing (which my dad uses it for) and rock climbing. However, when you are on a budget and someone offers to let you borrow their gear, you don’t say no.

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https://www.amazon.com/Sierra-Designs-Ministry-40-Backpack/dp/B004KQ9MTK

 

Dry Sack

This thing is amazing. I mean, you could find a lamb carcass and rig it to do the same thing, or you could spend less than 20 dollars to have an extremely water tight bag. I am going to be using this as my food bag. It easily compresses and keeps water out, so even if it pours rain and this is hanging outside to keep away from bears, your food will not get wet. This is definitely a must have for any hiking or kayaking trip.

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https://www.amazon.com/Unigear-Waterproof-Kayaking-Swimming-Snowboarding/dp/B01LZBV5AV

 

Sleeping Pad

I have never used a sleeping pad, but from my experiences without one, i cannot wait to finally use some sort of sleeping pad on my trip. Of course I didnt want to spend upwards of 50 dollars for one, so i tried my hand at making one myself. (Ill have a separate blog post of how i made it and how much it cost.)  A sleeping pad is important on hikes for several reasons. One, they give you a little cushion to make your sleep more comfortable, and two, they provide extra insulation to keep your back warm. If you have a sleepless night on the trail, the next day’s hike will be that much harder to finish.

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Knife

Of course, a good knife is always essential on any type of trip in the wilderness. I picked up a relatively affordable Kershaw Brookside for 24.95 from Dicks Sporting Goods. This knife has a nice 3.25 inch blade that has assisted opening, which makes it fast to whip out the blade in case you need it for protection. (Don’t think that means you don’t need to bring bear spray)

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https://www.dickssportinggoods.com/p/kershaw-knives-brookside-drop-point-folding-knife-16kshubrksdxxxxxxcut/16kshubrksdxxxxxxcut?

 

Compression Sack

Obviously, using space efficiently is one of the most important parts of a backpacking trip. To that end, backpackers use compression sacks, which as their name would imply, compress its contents to keep it as small as possible. I like to put clothes into it and compress it into a smaller size than a soccer ball. They aren’t too expensive and can be used for any trip, not just backpacking.

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https://www.amazon.com/Sea-to-Summit-Compression-Sack/dp/B000NQQ56E?th=1
So those are 5 things I am bringing to the smokies with me. Watch for the next post where I explain how I made my sleeping mat, and then I will be posting 5 more things I am packing for the trip.

Trail Map

Smoky Mountains Trip – Planning

Norton Shores Michigan

7-18-17

To start off, i am a terrible planner. Needless to say I had ‘planned’ (if you can call it that) a trip for four to hike a 25(ish) mile long portion of the trail in Tennessee ending near Gatlinburg.

Now here is what I didn’t do. I didn’t register campsites for the hike until yesterday, which was only 3 weeks before the trip. Now if you haven’t ever registered for campsites on the Appalachian trail in the middle of the summer, they run out fairly fast. So our first nights stay is at Russell Field (left most marker), where we then would hike to Silers Bald, which is about a 13 mile distance. Trail Map

From there we move to Mt. Collins (right most marker) and then to Mt. Leconte, which isn’t pictured but is only about 5 miles from Mt. Collins.

Needless to say this is a tough hike for inexperienced hikers. I really shouldn’t have planned such a long hike for amateurs, but like i said, I am a terrible planner.

So my plan is to hike every weekend and camp out in a remote place near my home to get ready for the strenuous hike. So look forward to a post this weekend on my one night hiking trip.

PJ Hoffmaster Park

Muskegon, MI

July 8th, 2017

6:00 pm

I really like hiking. Something about it helps me forget about my anxiety and everything that is stressing me out. One great thing about living in muskegon is all of the great hiking trails that are literally within 5 miles of my apartment. Since we had never hiked on muskegon trails, we decided to try the “walk-a-mile” trail, which is as you can guess, one mile long.

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The trail was fairly easy, especially for someone who doesn’t usually hike like me. (except for the constant mosquitos.) Thea and I quickly walked through the trail, although we stopped a few times to look at all of the chipmunks running in the leaves below, and one time to walk on a tree 15 feet above the ground. (See below).

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The trail winded around until it came to the beach, (after climbing this sand beach of course), and we walked on the beach until we reached a spot adequate enough to hang our hammock and read while the sun went down.

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Sometimes reading at the beach can be a much better use of time than staying home. Ive found that when I stay at home and try to get rid of my anxiety by watching tv or playing games, I really only delay my anxiety. When I go to the beach, it helps me slow down and reflect on my life and really forget about the problems in my life that plague my mind. This is one reason I love nature, it really forces me to focus on the moment, the wind on my face, the sound of rustling trees and crashing waves, and he smell of fresh air. If you struggle with anxiety, depression, constant stress or anything related, try to get outside at least twice a week. Try to enjoy nature, feel the sand in between your toes, the sunshine on your face, the wind through your hair. Feel alive. Remember that no matter what is plaguing your mind, you are alive here, in this moment, and the choice to be happy, to forget everything, is all yours.

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It’s a short trail, so there isn’t much to say about it, but if you are ever in the area its a great place to visit.