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  1. #1
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    Default GSMNP 8/31/13 to 9/5/2013

    Ok. Shelter reservations are going to open for my dates (8/31 - 9/2) in a couple of days. My hiking partner and I are starting at Clingman and going south towards Fontana.

    Our general plan at this point - PLEASE GIVE ME ADVICE TO LET ME KNOW HOW DOABLE THIS IS!!!

    8/31/13 we will likely start at 2 pm and it looks like Siler's Bald is a good target for the short day (4.6 miles)

    For day 2 (9/1/13), I was thinking Siler's to Spence Field, which is 14.7 miles, but looks like a good hike on paper.

    There doesn't look to be a shelter between Mollie's Ridge and Fontana, which would make day 3 a 16 miler? Is that a pretty easy hike or is it a lot to bite off in one day? I'd hate to have to only go the 5.4 miles from Spence to Mollie's and call it a day, but without knowing the terrain I don't want to bite way too much off, or if I'd be missing some great sidetracks by trying to kide too much in one jump. So for now, let's just call Day 3 (9/2/2013) Spence to Mollies, or 5.4 miles.

    That would make Day 4 (9/3/13) Mollie's Ridge to Fontana, 10.6 miles. Now, our "support car" will be meeting us at Fontana Dam to restock our food and swap out some gear. Once we cross the dam and are out of the park, are we free to camp anywhere along the trail? If so, I was thinking we meet our car, go a few more miles down trail and camp on trail to wrap up day 4.

    Day 5 (9/4/2013) would be a hile to Brown Fork shelter about 12 miles south or so,

    The last day (9/5/2013) would be a short 2-3 miles to Hwy 143 to get picked up for the drive back to Atlanta with a quick motel shower on the way to check-in for my 7 pm flight back to Omaha.

    I think it is ambitious, but doable since a good chunk of the hike is relatively downhill per the profile maps. For reference, I'm 37, my hiking partner (my aunt who lives in GA) is 57, we are both avid hikers (routine 5-12 mile hikes) with appropriate backcountry skills.

  2. #2
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    I was just looking at doing a Clingman's Dome to Cades Cove hike later this year. Where are you getting 14.7 miles between Siler's and Spence?
    Looking at the GSMNP Trail map (which only shows distances between trail intersections), the approximate distance should be 3.3 + 2.4 + 6.2 = 11.9.

    You are correct that there are no shelters between Mollies and Fontana. There used to be one at what is now campsite #113 located about 5 miles from Fontana.

    If you don't want to just go from Spence to Mollie's, you could take a side trip to Gregory Bald and spend an night at campsite #13. That would make the following day a 10 mile hike to Fontana.

  3. #3

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    Spence to Fontana is 90% downhill. It's easy mileage.

  4. #4

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    I suggest you spend the first night at Derrick Knob. The extra mileage is easy hiking. I think you'll like having less miles the 2nd day as it's more challenging.

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    I suggest doing what we did last week. clingmans to Silers which is a easy short day. Day2, go to Spence. It is hard hike for some like my wife and I but very rewarding with views. Day 3, go to Mollies Ridge shelter. Very easy with only one significant climb. You will have the shelter to yourselves most of the day. From Mollies to Fontana is roughly 10 miles. It is not as easy as some would say. There is some climbing and then the LLOOOONNNNgggg downhill to the dam. And watch out for the angry, 4 ft. long rattlesnake that was sitting beside the trail. It did use its rattle to warn me not to take another step. hope this helps.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ITri View Post
    I suggest you spend the first night at Derrick Knob. The extra mileage is easy hiking. I think you'll like having less miles the 2nd day as it's more challenging.
    THIS is great stuff - thanks! Keep it coming. I've gathered that water is good this year. Are the streams relatively clear or will I be dealing with shallow silty garbage? Either way is cool. I'll be using my Sawyer and it handles garbage pretty well.

    I think I read that there are bear cables in some shelters? I've not used those before? I usually bear bag with 550 cord in Colorado.

    And camping / shelters SOUTH of Fontana is a main concern as well, so any advice there will help a lot!

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    Be flexible about shelters. Since you're doing a section, you have to work with whichever shelters have openings. When we did that section last October, we had one day where we just went a couple miles (from Russell to Mollie, I think) because space wasn't available where we preferred to be. Hopefully with the new system, it works more smoothly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by illabelle View Post
    Be flexible about shelters. Since you're doing a section, you have to work with whichever shelters have openings. When we did that section last October, we had one day where we just went a couple miles (from Russell to Mollie, I think) because space wasn't available where we preferred to be. Hopefully with the new system, it works more smoothly.
    I have a 8*9 Tyvek tarptent in the event we get stuck out of a shelter. No worries. I understand that my booking them won't mean that we'll have room if other squat on them first.

  9. #9
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    It's my understanding that all GSMNP camp sites and shelters have the bear cables now.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    It's my understanding that all GSMNP camp sites and shelters have the bear cables now.
    They do, and they work pretty well. "Bear bagging" doesn't work in the part any more. Too many bears have learned to chew through the supporting ropes. The method where you balance the load and have only the one rope will work, but it can be a PITA to set right and get your food down in hardwoods (as opposed to pines out west, where it originated). One caution on the cables - if you hang your whole pack, or even a large food bag, and someone comes along later and hangs on a separate "feeder" cable and pulls the cable up against your pack or bag, the mice will use it as a super highway to your pack/bag. I have an Osprey waiting now to go back to them for mouse hole repair because an overly-meticulous friend didn't like the look of the dangling cables (which I had left on purpose) and clipped them to the anchor tree, pulling them snugly up against the bottom of my pack. He was an engineer. Beware of them and other O/CD types...

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    I was just looking at doing a Clingman's Dome to Cades Cove hike later this year. Where are you getting 14.7 miles between Siler's and Spence?
    Looking at the GSMNP Trail map (which only shows distances between trail intersections), the approximate distance should be 3.3 + 2.4 + 6.2 = 11.9.

    You are correct that there are no shelters between Mollies and Fontana. There used to be one at what is now campsite #113 located about 5 miles from Fontana.

    If you don't want to just go from Spence to Mollie's, you could take a side trip to Gregory Bald and spend an night at campsite #13. That would make the following day a 10 mile hike to Fontana.
    This is true and #13 (Sheep Pen Gap) is a very nice site on a broad saddle. It used to be a lot larger, but the NPS has let it grow in and reduce the rated capacity. It also has two separate bear cables. One problem is that it is a very popular site and weekends could be a problem for reservations. Also, it's frequently closed for bear problems (although not currently). My wife's pack got swiped by a bear there years ago...

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    also for the bear cables----take a carabiner along and clip into the loop that holds the hook....

    the hook is open faced----meaning it doesnt close........bears have learned that they can shake the cables and something may fall...

    if you clip into the loop, it will prevent this......

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    also for the bear cables----take a carabiner along and clip into the loop that holds the hook....

    the hook is open faced----meaning it doesnt close........bears have learned that they can shake the cables and something may fall...

    if you clip into the loop, it will prevent this......
    Correct. I usually also clip another carabiner into the loop on the bottom of my food bag and double secure it. I'll never, ever, hang my whole pack again with food in it...

  14. #14
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    Dont know what your hiking speed is but I'm guessing 10 miles per day of easy walking would work. The direction you're going will make this an easy hike. I gave you the distances so you can modify as you go along if needed. I would try to stay a night at the Fontana Hilton, there's a shower just up from the shelter, and if possible spend a night on Cheoah Bald, you'd need to carry water to the bald. Enjoy your hike.

    Shelter Mile Distance Campsite
    Clingmans Dome 196.4
    Double Springs 193.9 2.5
    Silers Bald 192.2 1.7
    Derrick Knob 186.7 5.5 9.7
    Spence Field 180.4 6.3
    Russell Field 177.5 2.9 9.2
    Mollies Ridge 175 2.5
    Fontana Shelter 163.7 11.3 13.8 downhill
    Brown Fork Gap 153 10.7 10.7
    Cheoah Bald 143.1 9.9 9.9
    NOC 135 8.1 8.1 All down hill to the NOC

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    the 6.2 miles between Derrick and Spence are considered by most hikers to be the hardest part of the AT in the GSMNP, regardless of which way you hike it. Lots of little up and downs and a big climb up and over Thunderhead. The correct mileage from Mollies to Fontana Trailhead is just under 11 miles. But, you have an extra 1 mile get across the dam.

    I like the suggestion of hiking over to Derrick the first day, although it is a great place to watch a sunset. The hike from Silers to Spence could be a killer, given that you will be going up and over Thunderhead at mile 11, in the heat of the day. This gives you the option of spending some time on Thunderhead and RockyTop to enjoy the views. Blueberries should be in season as you approach Spence. This also gives you the option of pushing on to Russell if you arrive at Spence early and want to hike further.

    Typical hiking times I am seeing from hikers: Derrick to Spence = 4.5 hrs; Spence to Russell = 1.5 hrs Russell to Mollies = 2 hrs Mollies to #113 = 2.5 hrs #113 to Fontana = 2 hrs This varies a little depending on weather, pack weight, and hiker conditioning. I dont spend much time between Derrick and Clingman's, so cant give estimates for hiking times in those sections. But, it isnt bad hiking. You should be able to average around 2 mph.

    Water is still plentiful at all the shelters, the vegetation has been recently cut, and the trail is in pretty good shape. Enjoy your hike.
    ----------------
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    Volunteer in the Park (VIP) GSMNP

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ox97GaMe View Post
    ...This also gives you the option of pushing on to Russell if you arrive at Spence early and want to hike further...
    Based on Park rules, this is a no-go for the OP. He's going to have a 'General' backpacker's permit, not an 'AT-thru' permit. That means he will need to stick to the itinerary listed on his permit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    Based on Park rules, this is a no-go for the OP. He's going to have a 'General' backpacker's permit, not an 'AT-thru' permit. That means he will need to stick to the itinerary listed on his permit.
    Exactly what I was trying to say earlier. Got to adjust to whatever shelters the permit system will allow based on space available.

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    Quote Originally Posted by illabelle View Post
    Exactly what I was trying to say earlier. Got to adjust to whatever shelters the permit system will allow based on space available.
    I understood that. I'm still bringing the Tyvek though. I'm sure there will be squatters.

    DryBones and Ox - awesome stuff - thanks. I love this site. It's like I have forward observers.

    After talking to my aunt, I'm leaning towards:

    8/31 Clingman's to Derrick Knob
    9/1 Derrick Knob to Russell
    9/2 Russell to Fontana (AND A FREEEEEEE SHOWER!?!?!)
    9/3 Fontana to Brown Fork
    9/4 Brown Fork to ??? - this is where I get stuck. Hwy 143 / Sweetwater Road is only a couple of miles south, then there is a 7 or so mile hike to Sasafrass Gap shelter. On my map, it looks like the hike from Sasafrass to Hwy 19/74 is another 5 miles? 5 miles is too risky to do on our final very short morning hime on 9/5 as we'll need to get trucking to get back to ATL. So, on 9/4 should we go from Brown Fork and overshoot Sasafrass by a few miles and camp on the trail, which would only leave a 2-3 mile quick turn-n-burn on 9/5 to be picked up on highway 19/74? If you're familiar, let me know how the 9/4 hike would be and how far it actually is from Sasafrass to the highway.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Omaha_Ace View Post
    I understood that. I'm still bringing the Tyvek though. I'm sure there will be squatters.

    DryBones and Ox - awesome stuff - thanks. I love this site. It's like I have forward observers.

    After talking to my aunt, I'm leaning towards:

    8/31 Clingman's to Derrick Knob
    9/1 Derrick Knob to Russell
    9/2 Russell to Fontana (AND A FREEEEEEE SHOWER!?!?!)
    9/3 Fontana to Brown Fork
    9/4 Brown Fork to ??? - this is where I get stuck. Hwy 143 / Sweetwater Road is only a couple of miles south, then there is a 7 or so mile hike to Sasafrass Gap shelter. On my map, it looks like the hike from Sasafrass to Hwy 19/74 is another 5 miles? 5 miles is too risky to do on our final very short morning hime on 9/5 as we'll need to get trucking to get back to ATL. So, on 9/4 should we go from Brown Fork and overshoot Sasafrass by a few miles and camp on the trail, which would only leave a 2-3 mile quick turn-n-burn on 9/5 to be picked up on highway 19/74? If you're familiar, let me know how the 9/4 hike would be and how far it actually is from Sasafrass to the highway.
    My data book says 6.9 miles from Sassafras Shelter to Hwy 19. There's no water source indicated in my data book for this section but I do recall a nice little water fall about half way coming from the mountainside last year, it's probably seasonal. I'd water up at Sassafras if you hike past it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Drybones View Post
    My data book says 6.9 miles from Sassafras Shelter to Hwy 19. There's no water source indicated in my data book for this section but I do recall a nice little water fall about half way coming from the mountainside last year, it's probably seasonal. I'd water up at Sassafras if you hike past it.
    Thanks, Drybones - so put in some long miles and blast past Sassafras on 9/4 to set up a short hike down to the Highway on 9/5. We wouldn't need a ton of water since we'd have such a short morning hike down to the car where I'm imagining a glorious ice-cold Diet Pepsi will be waiting for me. But get water when you can - believe me I know the consequences of not doing so.

    So all in all - Clingman to Hwy 19 - total milage? Two half days and 4 full days? I'm so damn pumped up.

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