Appalachian Trail – Newfound Gap to Big Creek via Low Gap and Big Creek Trails – 9/21 – 9/25/11

View to the SW .30 miles from Peck's Corner at 2:25 PM - High Point Far Horizon is likely Richland Mountain

Topo Map of Route Sec. 1

Topo Map of Route Sec. 2

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.

Click HERE to view my Picassa Photo Album with Captions. Try the slideshow….

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James E. Edmonds Backcountry Trail, Black Rock Mountain State Park – 8/27/11

West View off Look Off Mountain Ridge in Background is Appalachian Trail - Plumborchard Gap

This was not an easy hike. The trail is registered as a 7.3 mile loop (or lollipop) trail, and the elevation from trail head parking to the primary vista, Look Off Mountain, varies very little. But it’s what is in between that can get to you. Hiking counterclockwise from the East fork trail to Look Off mountain and then back along the West Fork Trail, you encounter a downhill descent of approximately 994 feet, then an ascent to Look Off Mountain of 732 feet, then another 762 feet descent to lake, and then the last 2 miles is a relentless ascent of 1,020 feet back to the trail head parking. So, you face a total elevation climb of approximately 1,732 feet during this hike.

Elevation Profile

James E. Edmonds Backcountry Trail

Click Here if you want the GPX for this hike.

I did this hike about 10 years ago, and I loved it — the trail offers a little of everything: beautiful vistas, mountain streams, waterfalls, a lake, and several camp sites. The vista off Look Off mountain views the Tennessee Valley, and the birth of the Little Tennessee River begins in the Valley below. With a compass and some keen eyes, you can see White Rock Mountain (Bartram Trail), the Flats (before Scaly Mountain), Scaly Mountain (also on the Bartram Trail), and to the west you can see the Crest of the Blue Ridge, which contains the Appalachian Trail at Plumborchard Gap. After the hike, drive up to the Visitor Center to look out on the City of Clayton, and then catch the Blue Ridge Overlook for a view of Windy Gap (Bartram Trail) at 64 degrees. Also look at Rabun Bald on the horizon to the left of Windy Gap.

The day was good for hiking, there was low humidity, a high of low 80’s (it was 95 in Atlanta), and there was a steady breeze on the trail the entire hike. Along the way, there was a lot of Poison Ivy on the trail fringes, so use your hiking stick to push the stuff aside if you are in shorts. I noticed serious wilting of the Rhododendron and browning of the forest ferns, no doubt a symptom of recent heat drought. For the most part, the trail was not too stressful on the ankles, consisting mostly of pine needles and loamy soil. However, closer to Look Off Mountain, there were some bolder-laden gullies which were a bit treacherous. There were also several areas where fallen trees from the tornadoes in May had obstructed the path. I am a little perplexed as to why the Rangers had time to put out signs that warned of Yellow Jackets on the trail, but not time to clear the obstructed trail. Oh well, priorities.

View Picassa Album Here:

And you can click on the slide show below to freeze it or to zoom in:

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Three Forks Trail – Rabun County, Ga. from Big Creek – 8/20/11

This was an interesting hike, 9.3 miles total, with strenuous ascents and descents to the falls. The environment resembled very much a rain forest — very humid, and we received a short but strong thunderstorm during the day, despite the weather forecast of only 20 % chance of rain.

The trail was easy on the ankles, and it consisted mostly of pine needles on soft loamy soil. There were very few rock and root paths that always kill my ankles. We explored three falls along the trail (sorry, I could not find names), but I understand there are many more in the area.

This hike started at the Big Creek parking lot off Highway 28, 4.4 miles north of the intersection of Highway 28 and Warwoman Road. Immediately, we crossed over a creek (must have waterproof boots), which was easy, but was totally flooded about a foot deep on the back track due to the storm. Fortunately, I could take my boots off one hundred feet up the hill at the parking lot at the end of the hike.

Toughest part of the hike? The short side trails leading to the falls, which were almost vertical in their descent. You must be in shape!

The Falls were beautiful, and I wish I had taken my Canon Digital Rebel for some professional looking shots!

Three Forks Trail Track



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Art Loeb Trail Section 3 Black Balsam to Shining Rock – 8/13-8/14/2011





This is a very beautiful hike, not too difficult, along the Blue Ridge Parkway Northwest of Brevard, NC.  The out hike took us 5.85 mi. to Shining Rock Gap, where we set up for the night – this mileage included a little digression on Black Balsam Knob which added probably .25 mile to the hike. This area is extremely popular, and was a virtual highway of hikers. Nevertheless, we had no trouble finding a site to camp at Shining Rock Gap. The first mile is a sharp climb to Black Balsam Knob which presents some beautiful vista views. After Black Balsam Knob, there is a short descent along a very rocky gully trail and then an ascent to Tennent Mountain. From there, the trail descends very sharply into Ivestor Gap. From Ivestor Gap to Shining Rock Gap, the Trail is mostly flat rock and gravel bed. I saw no real signs of potable water on the hike out until we reached Shining Rock Gap. But on the way back, we took the easier road trail at the lower elevations which bypassed Tennent Mountain and Black Balsam Knob and walked along numerous water sources the entire way.

We should have known better for this hike, there was forecast a 60 % chance of thundershowers. But we had no idea that the entire night would be a torrential rainstorm with no letup. My entire tent and all possessions were totally water logged, which added a lot of weight to my back pack on the return trip. So we took the road trail back, and avoided the steep hike back up to Tennent Mountain and Black Balsam Knob. The hike back in was 4.50 mi.

I would highly recommend this hike, and I plan to do it again, perhaps in the fall. There is much more scenery along this route than I photographed, I just did not have the time to stop and snap every beautiful scene.



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Bartram Trail – Jones Gap to White Rock Mountain – 6/26/11

“A few miles the confluence of Mud Creek and the Little Tennessee River, just across the line into North Carolina,Tessentee Creek joins the Little Tennessee from the east. Somewhere near this junction lay the small Cherokee village of Tesantee, from which the creek takes its name.  We do not know what the name may have meant long ago.” Source:

In the Valley, Somewhere South and West from Jones Knob, a very bloody Indian war was fought between the Cherokees and the British.

“Farther down the trail, he [Bartram] observed that the surface of the land was level but rough, covered with stones of various sizes. On each side of the trail he saw “vast heaps of these stones, Indian graves, undoubtedly.”(92) In a footnote he identified this as a place where “was fought a bloody and decisive battle between these Indians and the Carolinians, under the conduct of General Middleton.”(93) This was the second battle of Echoe which took place just below the present-day community of Otto, North Carolina on June 10, 1761. The Cherokees here attacked a force of British soldiers and provincials under the command of Lt. Col. James Grant. Another group of provincials, under the command of Col. Middleton, played a key role in repulsing the attack. The Cherokees lost a score or more killed and a great many wounded. Grant’s army lost 10 killed and 53 wounded.(94)” Source:

This is without a doubt the most beautiful hike I have ever done. I had to cut it short due to looming storms, in fact I was actually “in the clouds” as the rains rolled in. It’s no illusion in the pictures that follow in the slide show those clouds are eye level..

Rhododendron Described by Bartram

Bartrams Travels, p 334.

Jones Gap to Whiterock Mtn out and back, including sides to Vistas

Below is a Google Earth view of my hike. As you can see, I started at Jones Gap on the ridge, and traveled North along the ridge, so the Elevation was fairly level which made this an easy hike, except for a brief hill climb to Whiterock Mountain from Whiterock Gap.

A view of my hike from Google Earth

Here’s a slideshow, click on any picture to freeze it or to enlarge. I’ll add more comments about the hike as I find time.

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Rabun Bald from Hale Ridge Road on the East 6/18/11

         Slideshow (mouse over to see captions):

Rabun Bald is the second highest peak in Georgia, second only to Brasstown Bald, and it offfers a 360 degree panorama at the summit from an old two story fire tower.

I’ve always wanted to do this hike, so I decided to give it a trial run today to tune up for the fall. The trail is strenuous, ascending 2178 feet from the trail head to 4649 feet at the summit in 2.9 miles. The last tenth of a mile is pretty much a vertical stair climb. The shortness of the trail allowed me to make it a day hike. The only drawback to a day hike is that picture taking occurs around high noon, so I wonder how spectacular the view would be at sunset or sunrise.

There are two primitive campsites along the trail, one near a stream about 1.5 miles into the hike. This is the only water source on the trail, and it is a very small stream with little flow, so it could dry up some during drought periods.

When I planned this hike, I was not aware that Hale Ridge Road is a gravel road. The road needs to be traveled carefully, since there are some deep ruts in many places.  I wouldn’t travel this road after a major storm, since I saw evidence of a lot of downed trees and debris which would most likely block the road for a while after a storm.

The trail is a very narrow trail, and has plant growth overtaking the trail in many places. I looked for Poison Ivy, but I didn’t see any.

I owned the mountain to myself for most of the hike until I saw a group of twenty or so kids with some adults about three fourths of the way into the return hike. I feel for them, because I finished my hike just before some major hail and thunderstorms hit the area.

This trail is often rated strenuous for the vertical climb, but I would give it a moderately strenuous since the entire hike out and back can be done in about 3 1/2 to 4 hours. The most important thing would be to carry plenty of water. I didn’t see any signs of bears, but I did see a deer crossing Hale Ridge Road on the return trip.

This I think will be one of my favorite day hikes, and I plan to do it again this fall when the colors peak.

Trail goes East to West 2.9 mi. one way

Elevation Profile - 2178 ft. gain in 2.9 miles

Clayton to Hale Ridge Road & Trail Head

Turnoff Sign to Hale Ridge Road from Warwoman Road

Hale Ridge Road

This is all there is to the parking (2 or 3 cars max)

Trail Head

Much of the Trail looks like this

One of two campsites along the trail

This Doesn't Fully Capture How Steep this Trail Is


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Appalachian Trail Hike 6/3 – 6/5/2011

This hike was for two nights and three days, from Winding Stairs near Franklin, NC to the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) in Wesser. Our total logged miles, including off treks to shelters, was 32.46 miles.

Day one we set out at about 12:04 PM from Winding stairs off hwy 64 about 12 miles west of Franklin, NC – elevation, 3720 ft. Our destination was the Siler Bald Shelter, which we arrived at 3:11 PM, 4.8 miles and at an elevation of 4649 feet. Set camp for the night.

Leg 1 - 4.8 miles

The next morning, Saturday,  we would set out for Wayah Bald, and then Cold Spring Shelter if we could make good time.

But before we set out for Wayah Bald, we climbed the summit of Siler Bald, elevation 5196, which we reached at 8:27 AM.

Siler Bald Approach Field looking NW to Fire Gap Ridge

Siler Bald View of Snowbird Gap to NE

Siler Bald South View


We parted camp at 7.49 AM and reached Wayah Bald, elevation 5298 feet at about 12:50 PM. This was by far the toughest part of the hike for me, approximately 7 miles of steady uphill climb on a rocky, rooty trail.

Leg 2 - 10.1 miles

But the climb was well worth it, with spectacular views.

Wayah Bald elev 5341 SW View

Wayah Bald SE view

After a one hour rest, we broke out for Cold Spring Shelter (elevation 4963 feet) and arrived at 6:08 PM.The length of this leg, including off treks, was 6.09 miles.

leg 3 - 6.09 miles

We totaled about 16 miles this day, so we were wasted.  The evening was cool, and there was a steady, pleasant breeze coming off the mountain all night. The only bad thing about this Shelter was that it was located right at the stream, so millions of  bugs were swarming until dark. Bug spray did little to deter the varmints.

The next morning (Sunday) we broke camp at 7:46 Am, and headed for Wesser Bald (total miles trekked was 7.03 miles). Elevation profile was from 4642 to about 4500 feet on the Bald summit, so this part of the hike was mostly a level ridge hike.

Leg 4 - 7.03 miles

View from Wesser Bald Tower elev 4655

We departed Wesser Bald at 12:45 PM for our final trek to Nantahala Outdoor Center, a trek of 6.10 miles. Profile descended from 4301 feet  to 1745 feet at the Center. We reached the center at 5:05 PM.

Leg 5 - 6.10 miles

This was a great hike. Despite the temperature in major cities being 94 degrees, it was fairly cool in the mountains the whole trip. The only complaint I have was the bugs, but that is a given when hiking during the summer in the mountains. Looking forward to more hikes like this…

See a Slideshow of all Images Here:

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Appalachian Trail Hike 4/28 – 5/1/11

This was a nice hike from Winding Stairs Parking lot West of Franklin, NC to Dicks Creek Gap on Hwy 76 West of Clayton, Ga. The highlights of the hike were at Albert Mountain and Standing Indian Mountain, which provided beautiful Vistas. The trail map mileage was 40 miles, but we actually logged about 50 miles with side trips, etc. I preferred the North Carolina trail segments, which had smoother gradients with many switchbacks even though at a higher altitude than the Georgia trails. Portions of the Georgia hike were straight uphill and straight downhill.

Day 1: Winding Stairs Parking lot on Highway 64 to Big Spring Gap Shelter – GPS logged 12.45 miles (AT map 9.1 miles)

Winding Stairs Parking to Big Spring Gap Shelter - 12.45 mi logged

Day 2: Big Spring Gap Shelter to Albert Mountain, then back to Carter Gap Shelter – GPS logged 9.66 miles (AT map 6.8 miles (excludes side to Albert Mountain))

Big Spring Gap to Carter Gap w/ side to Albert Mountain 9.66 mi logged

Day 3: Carter Gap Shelter to Standing Indian Mountain – No GPS log (AT Map 6.1 Miles)

Carter Gap to Standing Indian Mountain Google Earth (no GPS log) 6.1 miles

Standing Indian Mountain to Muskrat Creek Shelter – GPS logged 7.5 miles (AT Map 6.4 miles).

Standing Indian Mountain to Muskrat Creek Shelter 7.50 miles logged

Day 4: Muskrat Creek Shelter to Plumborchard Gap – GPS Logged 8.77 miles (AT Map 7.3 miles).

Muskrat Creek Shelter to Plumborchard Creek 8.77 miles logged

Plumborchard Gap to Dicks Creek Gap – GPS Logged 5.73 miles (AT Map 4.5 miles).

Plumborchard Gap to Dicks Creek Gap 5.73 miles logged


Total Hike Mileage:

40.2 AT Trail Map, 50.21 actual miles logged (includes side trips like Albert Mountain)


Outlook on the Way to Standing Springs Gap on Day 1

Standing Springs Gap Shelter

Nice Little Spring Near Albert Mountain

Day 2 - View from Atop Albert Mountain

Albert Mountain View

Albert Mountain View

Albert Mountain View

Day 3 - Standing Indian Mountain, elev. 5380

Standing Indian Mountain View

Standing Indian Mountain View

Standing Indian Mountain View

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