We’re Going On a Hike

2 06 2015

Bill and I recently hiked 57 miles in the Great Smoky Mountains on the Hazel Creek/Forney Creek trails.  It was amazing!!! But I’m jumping ahead, just getting to the trail to start the 5 day trek was an adventure!

Clingmans Dome

Bill and I have been itching to go on another outdoor adventure since our last one (Chilkoot Trail Alaska) in 2013. At first we tried to plan a Rim to Rim Grand Canyon Hike for this spring, but it turns out that if you’re spending time camping in the backcountry, you need to submit a permit application 4 months in advance. And you need to submit the request on the first day of that four month window, otherwise, you will be denied. (Note: we’re trying again for this October! Fingers crossed.) Wanting a springtime adventure still, we did a number of Google searches for “Best Hikes”. We slowly narrowed it down to “Best Hiking Loops” because we liked the idea of starting and ending at the same place, and it seemed to have more “purpose” or “sense of accomplishment” than just a hike from Point A to Point B on the Appalachian Trail. (However, my thoughts on that have changed since this hike!) Finally we found one on Backpacker.com.  The first line said:  “This challenging five-night, 56.7-mile loop packs in long days, steep climbs, and tricky creek crossings to bring you deep into the heart of the last true Eastern wilderness.” We were sold. We got out our calendars and picked a week in May for our trip.

granite gear blaze 60

I hadn’t really touched my backpacking stuff since Alaska, so we took it all out and evaluated my gear. For this trip, I knew it was going to be warmer than Alaska and my current sleeping bag would be overkill, so I bought a sleeping bag liner (Sea To Summit Thermolite Reactor) to act as my sleeping bag. Trekking poles were such a lifesaver in Alaska, so I decided I wanted to add them to my list of essentials. I found a pair of Leki trekking poles that fit perfectly in my hands and were very light, so I purchased them as well. For food, we splurged on some Mountain House and Backpackers Pantry dehydrated meals. We also decided to buy the Solo Stove and try it out rather than using our alcohol stove, to save weight on carrying fuel. Oh, and I had just started to break in a pair of VivoBarefoot trail runners and some Luna Barefoot sandals a few weeks before the trip. You know how they say you need to break in your shoes and try out your new gear before a trip? Yeah…Do as they say, not as I do.

Luna sandals

Once we had everything we needed, we packed and repacked, trying to whittle down our base weight as much as possible. This would be the longest backpacking trip we had ever done, and with no towns to stop in mid-way through, we’d have to carry all our food. Luckily, gathering water wouldn’t be an issue, as there would be plenty of opportunities to fill our Camelbacks with stream water, which we would then purify. When it was all said and done, my base weight was 14 pounds, while Bill weighed in at 19 pounds.


Once loaded up, I was 24lbs and Bill was 29.5 lbs!

We left on a Saturday, driving north the 10 hours to Cherokee, NC. The drive took forever, but mostly because we were so anxious to start the hike! The plan was to stop in at the Oconaluftee Visitors Center (The Great Smoky Mountain visitor’s center on the North Carolina side of the park; the more popular entrance is actually in Tennessee.) on Sunday to get our permit, drive to Clingman’s dome right after, and finally hit the trail sometime Sunday mid-morning. After making several stops along the way, we finally arrived in Cherokee. Tomorrow, we hike!