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  1. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by ATL Backpacker View Post
    Why is group size capped at 8 people anyway (if the campsite holds more, like 10 or 12 or 16 or whatever)? so as not to completely lock up a campsite? Doesn't seem a scout-friendly rule. b/n kids and adults, an 8 person party from a scout troop doesn't seem likely to me.

    Anyway, bporter you could break up into 2 groups as someone suggested. Alternative to SOBO/NOBO is for 2 groups to leapfrog each other over the course of the same route. You might could start at Newfound Gap heading south (really west) on the AT to Benton MacKeye trail. That would get you a loop back toward Newfound Gap via a number of different ways. Or even Clingman's Dome if you wanted to cut some miles off. On the map it looks like the AT shelters on the west side of the park are close enough together where leapfrogging would work. You get some miles in together as a troop but dividing into 2 campsites at the end of the day to stay within the 8 person limit. My troop did that once when I was a scout. (1970s so I can't recall exact itinerary)
    8 is not scout friendly at all. Each group would need a minimum of two adults, so that makes it 6 scouts and 2 adults per group.
    Time is but the stream I go afishin' in.
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  2. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    As copied from the GSMNP Compendium of rules and regulations:


    The exception I alluded to earlier is listed on the back of the Trail Map. It allows for group sizes upto 12 people at a handful of backcountry sites. While there are many sites that have capacities of 12 or more, they've only allowed an exception to the 8 person rule at the sites listed on the trail map.

    .
    Thanks HKDK.

    I still don't understand how capping group size to 8 in a 10, 12, 14 or 20 person campsite accomplishes anything. If there is a party of 8 and then 4 random campers at a 12 person site for the night, how is that less impactful to the site than 12 of the same group? Heck if anything it's less. Likely only 1 fire built and in the case of scouts, less total tent sites as they normally share tents.

    By my count there are 44 campsites (not shelters) with capacity 10 or more. so 6 of the 44 permit larger group sizes. Seems like the Smokies are a difficult place to backpack for Scout troops which is a shame. It's really well suited for beginning backpackers not too mention the learning opportunities with the history and such. Park service ought to open up more campsites to the group # exception. Keep the busy ones and shelters at 8, that's fine. The other 80% go mostly unused anyway it appears to me.

  3. #23
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    I expect they don't want one group monopolizing an entire camp site or shelter.
    Ken B
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  4. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by ATL Backpacker View Post
    I still don't understand how capping group size to 8 in a 10, 12, 14 or 20 person campsite accomplishes anything.
    I think it's something of a pack mentality.

    A single group of 10 are going to behave differently than 5 groups of 2.

    In a group of 10, if someone starts doing something they shouldn't, at best, no one is going to report them, and at worst, everyone else will join in.

    But when you have 5 groups of two, that means you've got the eyes of 8 strangers on you. You're less likely to "misbehave" around 8 strangers than you are around 9 friends.

  5. #25
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    So how many scouts are going to be going on this excursion? I really liked the idea that ATL Backpacker had about leapfrogging each other. That would allow for the different groups to see each other, even though they are not camping together. But you might have trouble getting the required number of adults to meet the youth protection 2 adult requirement.

    As a former scout, a current cub scout leader, and a backpacker who has camped near scouts and other large groups... I fully appreciate the 8 person party limit in the smokies. Large groups tend to be much louder than small groups. Large groups tend to ignore courtesies that smaller groups extend to those around them. Larger groups can be very myopic. Scouts are pretty good neighbors, but they are 12-18 year old boys who love to have fun.

    This is usually not intentional, but comes from a group mentality. There is nothing wrong with larger groups, but it can be difficult to share a small campsite with a large group. As a rule, if I see a large group in a backcountry campsite, I try to set up my camp as far away as possible. That way I don't make the group operate different than they normally would, and I give myself a space/noise buffer. If it is a scout group, I will go over and chat with them because we have some common experiences that are fun to discuss. Yeah, it's been 23 years since I went to Philmont, but I haven't stopped backpacking since.

    That said, it would be great if the smokies allowed you to book a campsite with your large group. They do allow some groups to come in and set up fishing camps and things like that. I remember one trip along Hazel Creek we came across a group of park employees erecting a big white event style tent at one of the backcountry campsites as ATV's came up the trail with all the supplies. Seems they were setting up a fishing camp for a group that was going to stay there for a few days.

  6. #26
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    I still don't understand how capping group size to 8 in a 10, 12, 14 or 20 person campsite accomplishes anything.



    its all about impact.......

    impact on the environment and impact on fellow backpackers.......

    impact can even be something along the lines of how many tents are in a campsite....

    with a group of 8 people-----that could mean 8 separate tents..........and spread out all over the place..............meaning more damage to the environment.........


    hookoodooku has it right about behaving differently in groups.....




    and while i was a scout at one time (still an eagle though), personally i dont like being in or around a large group when i am in the backcountry......

    kinda takes away the reason i am in the backcountry to begin with.....

  7. #27
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    As for hammocking in the GSMNP... I have done quite a bit of hammocking in the backcountry campsites, so here are some observations that may help you decide if the smokies is right for your scouts.
    -As others have said, no hammocking is allowed at the shelters, and since your group would not be considered thru-hikers, they would not be allowed to tent as well. This also means that you are not allowed to hang your hammock inside the shelter or supported off of the shelter in any way.
    -Hammocking is allowed at all backcountry campsites as long as you protect the trees with straps and do not trample vegetation to set up a hammock.
    -I have been able to find places to set up my hammock every time I have tried, but there were a few times where I would not have easily found another place for somebody else to hammock. There are some sites that are choked with rhododendron and impossible to hang a hammock, except in the established campsite.
    -I would discourage planning to hammock in the smokies if you haven't scouted out the campsites beforehand to make sure there will be enough trees for the scouts to hang off of.

  8. #28
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    along Hazel Creek we came across a group of park employees erecting a big white event style tent at one of the backcountry campsites as ATV's came up the trail with all the supplies



    if you saw it along hazel creek----it could also be decoration day.......

    meaning that there are cemeteries back along hazel creek trail (along with other parts of the park), where the Park Service will shuttle (both by boat and by vehicle) people over to visit the cemeteries in the area...

    thats also why there are picnic tables at some places in the park (for instance, right at the campsite where bone valley trail is as theres a cemetery on the hill across from the campsite).....

    the park has a set schedule of when these dates are and they provide the ways and means for the descendents and other people to come across and celebrate decoration day...

    most times----this means a picnic in the park and a family reunion of sorts.............

    also, thats why there are porta potties (or used to be) at some places in the Park.....

    i havent been over there in a while but there was a port pottie along hazel creek along with there being one on noland creek at CS 64, i believe...

    noland creek has a few cemeteries along there.........

  9. #29
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    Thank you to everyone who posted on this thread. I have learned so much. This website is incredible, and I wish I had discovered it years ago.
    We hail from Tampa, FL (actually Lutz, which is dead north of Tampa). We have an excellent group of Scouts and Venture Crew who have come to love backpacking. Minimum age of this group is 14, with most being 16 – 21 (Venture). We are currently grooming the younger scouts in backpacking, and when they are old enough, will include them on our AT adventures. What I am most proud of is the fact that backpacking is a love most of these kids will continue well past scouting.
    As far as the Smoky Mountain National Park…. After reading the posts, and taking the advice of some of the posters, I called and had a long discussion with the Park Service. Based on all this info we are going to skip the National Park and pick the trail up on the other side. Thinking near Davenport Gap. We will plan a 60+ mile trek and hope to get some elevation and views. Our plan is to embark first week in June, so if any of you are on the trail we would love to meet you. Any advice as far as parts of the trail north of the park, let us know.
    The boys get and respect the fact others are out there to enjoy the peace. While they might ask about your adventures and other parts of the trail, they are generally pretty quiet.

  10. #30

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    Large groups are generally not desireable anywhere. Even the ATC suggests group size be limited to 10. Four to six is best.

    Shelters are not for groups to use either, ATC specifically says they should tent, and leave shelters for solo hikers.

    Groups monopolize space, and disturb others generally.

    The grand canyon limits groups to 6 i believe. If two permitted groups associate together and behave as one, they will pull their permits.
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 01-12-2015 at 21:14.

  11. #31

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    The first day out of Davenport gap is a big climb. There is a FAA beacon tower at the top of Snowbird, but there are good views south to the Smokies and all around. It's probably the best views you'll have the whole trip. That first day will be pretty hard. You can save some effort if you start near Standing Bear Farm Hostel, which is right off the highway. In fact, that would be a good place to spend the night after driving up from Florida.

    The next day to Roaring Fork shelter is fairly easy, so you might be tempted to go to Walnut Mountain Shelter. Walnut Mt shelter is small, old and decrepit. It sleeps about 4. Lots of camping below the shelter, but the area is known to have serious bear problems. You need to hang food exceptionally well or it will get stolen. Apparently there are now bear cables there, use them and hope for the best. Water is a little iffy.

    Once you climb over Bluff Mt it's fairly easy all the way into Hot Springs, which is only 14 miles away from Walnut Mt, so you might want to make a long day of it and go right into town. Spending the night in Hot Springs could be expensive, but there is a campground just outside of town. It's a fairly rough hike out of Hot Springs to the next shelter, Spring Mountain. There are a number of campsites along the way, but remember many of these spots are not suitable for large groups.

    Once past Hot Springs, about the first good place to get off would be at Sam's Gap US23/I26, so your looking at about 80 miles if you start right at Davenport gap.

    As you can tell, I've done this hike a number of times (probably too many times)
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

  12. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    The grand canyon limits groups to 6 i believe. If two permitted groups associate together and behave as one, they will pull their permits.
    I don't recall the details, but GCNP also makes some allowances for large groups. Specifically I remember a "group camp" area at Bright Angel Campground.

  13. #33
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    As for options, I'll second the section from Hot Springs NC to Erwin TN. Also sobo Adkins VA to Damascus VA is around the same mileage. When out of the Nat'l park your camping options are much more open, with scouts, I would think they would not want to stay in shelters every night. Scouts like to put up tents and hammocks and and make camp and such.

  14. #34
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    Standing Bear Hostel is just North of the Smokies. It might be a good place to start/end your hike. They can help arrange shuttles if necessary.

    http://www.standingbearfarm.com/

  15. #35
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    the BMT has such small sites and you can't really fit more than three tents at raven fork it is not a hammock friendly site either. the dig sites are on forney and deep creek like 74 71 and that on by martins gap trail.

  16. #36
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    you can't really fit more than three tents at raven fork it is not a hammock friendly site either


    yeah.............thats the smallest site in the park......

    with that being sad, one year we did squeeze 7 tents into that area........but we were basically on top of each other....

    and that site has the best late night fun-----trying to use the bear pole.........

  17. #37
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    I hammocked at Raven Fork many years ago. I was the only one in the campsite... and the only suitable trees were way too close together. I slept like a banana.

  18. #38

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    I iwll second slo's idea on the BMT. That is what i was thinking as I read this also. Its a nice alternative the the AT for sure.

  19. #39
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    Head east to pigsah. Do a section of the art loeb it's great.

  20. #40
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    When I was a scout leader we took a group of 14 to hike for a week every year in the smokies. The way we did it was we picked loop hikes that had the milage we wanted and even included some miles on the AT. We would meet at the trailhead all together and then divide into two groups of 7 each (must have 4 adults to pull this off). We would head out in opposite directions on the same loop and meet up for lunch somewhere on the trail on day three so the kids could share stories and compare notes on what lies ahead. I did this for 6 straight years and never had a problem. I eve used the boat shuttle from the marina once.

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