Hiking the Smokies: Part 1

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


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.


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.


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.


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.




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.





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.




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)




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.


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.

Preparing For The Smokies – One Night Hike

New Era Michigan


In my last post I mentioned that I am an inexperienced hiker. To this end, I decided it would be best to acclimate myself to the hiking and camping I will be doing in just a few short weeks.

We decided to hike to pigeon lake, a small pond near my hometown. My brother and I started the hike from the end of the main road (the beginning of the two track) to the lake, which is about a 1.5 mile hike.


We arrived at around 6:00 pm, after a 45 minute hike in, where we immediately realized we did not bring a lighter. Luckily, we had a flint and steel with us, unluckily however, all of the starting material we had would not light. It was 6:00, we were really hungry, and we couldn’t light a fire to cook our food.


After an entire hour of grinding the flint down to a thin rod and going through tinder, toilet paper, fabric, pine needles and dead leaves, we gave it one last go with some pages I ripped out of my Game of Thrones book. (don’t worry, it was just the first chapter of the next book). Apparently it was blessed by the Game of Thrones Gods because it lit up right away!

…And then went out immediately after…..

And after a couple more rounds with it we finally were able to get a fire going that stayed lit. Luckily i had prepared for our supper and brought potatoes, carrots, broccoli and beans. We had planned on catching a fish to fry with the veggies, but we forgot worms (go figure) and we were unsuccessful with using crickets as bait. If you had seen that pond though you probably would feel unsafe about eating anything that had lived in it.


As night fell we cooked our dinner and turned in early at 10:00 pm since we were so tired from starting that fire…


As we turned in we realized just how bad of a spot we picked to set up the tent. I had a root right in my lower back and Weston was all around just uncomfortable. We spent the entire night questioning  why we were out there in the first place and wondering if we should just pack up and leave. I would have, except I am pretty sure there was a bear right outside our tent from the sounds i could hear. At around 3:00 am, we ‘awoke’ (I use that word lightly because we couldn’t have been sleeping for more than 5 minutes) to the loud sound of thunder. We sat in the quiet for what must have been only 5 or 10 seconds before we heard the sound of distant rain. We scrambled to get the rain cover on, and no sooner than we got it on and Weston dove inside the tent did a torrential downpour start.

Needless to say, that kept us up for a couple more hours with no sleep.

Somehow in the course of the night we fell asleep and woke up at around 6 am, packed up our things and hitched it out of there to get a good breakfast.

My Conclusion: Never forget your lighter in the wilderness.