Mt. Sterling loop
This past weekend I took a trip to the Smokies upon a suggestion from Allison that went something like this.
Allison: What are you doing next weekend
Daniel: I don't know.
Allison: Let's go camping in the mountains
Daniel: Okay dokay.
And so the trip was set out for us. This is one time that a short notice 'lets do this' type thing worked out for us. Other times, for whatever reasons, the big plans just eventually fall through. I also got in touch with Jason Toutloff aka Toot to go with us. I also called some other people to go with us and make a party out of it but those other people would have none of it.
I haven't been packing in a long time and no more than two miles in one direction. Toot has never been backpacking before and Allison is Ms. Hudspa when it comes to packing. She went to Philmont Boy Scout Reservation back in her Boy Scoutin days. Toot and I were able to get off of work early so that we could leave early on Friday and do some amount of hiking that evening or night. Allison didn't have any school and fed jobs observe Good Friday so it was easy to schedule around her busy day. Toot rolled in to the house in Wake Forest around 3:30p and then we got to packing up his bags. We left the house around 4:30p or 5:00p, bought groceries @ Food Lion and finally left Wake Forest around 6:00.
Excepting a small detour down Interstate 85, smelly feet, and a stop at a gas station, we made relatively scary good time. We got to the campground around midnight:30 and set up shop. The next day we proceeded to hike our planned route which was 6.1 miles to the first campsite then an additional 5 or 6 to the site for the night. The going was steady and we stopped ever 45 minutes or so to rest and let everyone catch back up with each other.
Seven hours and several stream crossings later, we managed to put the first 6.1 miles behind us and make it all the way up to the top of Mt. Sterling. Did I mention that it was all uphill? For three relative city slickers, I say we did all right. The temperature fluctuated from the upper sixties down into the 40's or below depending on elevation, the direction the hill faced and the vegetation that sheltered us from the sun's rays. A mile or two before the top of Sterling was the coldest, even cold enough to allow fallen snow not to melt in the shady patches. Almost all the layers came out for this section.
Toot and Allison weren't gung-ho about going any further but we conferred with our good friend Martin from Knoxville and he agreed that the rest of the trail was going to be downhill. We made down the first 1.4 in about 45 minutes but the dark, tiredness, hunger, resulting in stumbling falls and a mandatory get-wet stream crossing resulted in slow goings. Toot zoomed down the trail ahead of Allison and I and was in fairly good spirits but slipping and falling into the stream changed his demeanor. Allison had troubles with the stream crossing too but all is fair in love and war. An hour later we reached the campsite, ate, set our stuff up and passed out which could have never have been so welcome.
We did our camp in reverse order and were out of there by 1:00 (yeah I know that's late) for the easiest hike ever, a 5 mile doubletrack next to a creek, downhill.
Things I Learned
- The penny stove worked out pretty well, but cooking for three people isn't what it was designed for, at least thats what I think. I will revisit the stove trying to make a better one and I will test it before I take it out this time to figure out the best height to cook at as well as settings for the holes of the burner.
- Tarping it may take two people, but it works and the stuff that I have for us to use will do fine for just two of us.
- I went a pace this past weekend that was probably too fast when it comes to realistically completing such a long trail. One of the most common reasons for hikers leaving the AT early is going too hard too soon and not letting their bodies adapt to such a different physical demand.
THINGS THAT I MAY NEED NEXT TIME 'ROUND
- Duct Tape
- notebook & pen
- first-aid 'kit'
- camera (if I finally buy one)