This was the most inspiring hikes I have done. Despite 3 days of rain, the views, hemlock and spruce fir smells, and comradeship made the hike the most memorable ever. We had a group of six, and left for Big Creek on Wednesday at approximately 7:30 AM from Greenville, SC. We arrived at Big Creek, checked into the ranger station before 10:30 AM, where we took a shuttle out of Gatlinburg that carried us to Newfound Gap. The driver was enough entertainment, a kid in his early 20′s explained to us that he was Dolly Parton’s 4th Cousin, and that he had a hard time going out with girls because every time he found one he liked, he found out after he went out with her that he was related to her through so-in so’s cousin. Apparently most everyone on Gatlinburg is related to one another.
We departed the Newfound Gap Parking lot, elevation 5062 feet, at 1:21 PM for the Icewater Springs Shelter. We arrived at Icewater Springs (mile 206.8), elevation 5.511 at 2:58 PM after a 3.41 mile hike. My hats off to the trip planner — he planned the first hike of the trip to be a short one, and saved the longer, tougher hikes for days 3 and 4. This hike was fairly easy, but rocky in places, but nevertheless we were sucking some wind with full backpacks and not being fully acclimated to the altitude. Shelter was comfortable, despite heavy and continuous rain during the night. Each shelter along the trail had nice fireplaces. Nice view of Hughes Ridge from this shelter (see photos).
On day 2, we set out for Peck’s Corner (mile 214.2) at 7:14 AM for a 7.4 mile hike, and arrived at 3:03 PM. Unfortunately, it was very foggy, so I bypassed the side trip to Charlie’s Bunion. I plan to come back for a day hike to Charlie’s Bunion from Newfound Gap with a Digital Rebel later on for some spectacular shots. I got a few good shots of the Sawteeth, Bradley’s View, and some vistas near Peck’s Corner (see photos). Again, rain throughout the night. For the most part though, the rain held off during our day hikes.
Day 3 carried us from Pecks Corner (mile 214.2) to TriCorner Knob Shelter (mile 219.4) for a 5.2 mile hike at elevations around 5900 to 6200 feet. Not too many photo opps this day, as it was very foggy.
From here on out, I will have to reconstruct our hike itinerary as best as I can, since I forgot to set my GPS to tracking. Day 4 was our longest hiking day, setting out from Tricorner Knob (mile 219.4) to just past Cosby Knob (mile 227.1), 7.7 miles, where we stopped for lunch around 12:30 PM. (The shelter here was closed to overnighters due to bear activities). From Cosby Knob, we hiked about .75 mile until we reached the junction for Low Gap trail a little over a mile later. From this point, we took a right and hiked Low Gap trail until we reached Camp Site 37, 2.58 miles later. Our total hiking mileage this day was about 11.03 miles. Low Gap trail was the most painful on my knees and feet, since it was all downhill and on a gravel/rock bed. The descent from Low Gap Trail Head on the Appalachian Trail to Campsite 37 was 1186 feet. (4258 – 3072 = 1186 feet). The Descent for the day’s hike from Tricorner Knob at 5937 feet to Camp Site 37 was 2865 feet — rough on the knees and ankles. But this was probably the best day for camera shots, since the clouds disappeared. Great shots of Mount Guyot and Old Black, and valley views to the East, in addition to some Air Fighter Jet wreckage near Snake Den Ridge Trail Head (see photos).
After camping overnight at Camp Site 37, on the very pleasant creek, with clear starry night, and somewhat balmier at the lower elevation, we set out on our final day, Sunday, for a very pleasant, level 5.5 mile hike along Big Creek. A popular horse route, there were many photo opps of this very scenic creek and Mouse Creek Falls 2 miles away from the end of the trail at the Big Creek parking where we left our cars for the shuttle on Wednesday.
Total mileage I calculated for this hike was 32.08 miles.
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