Friday, August 25, 2017

Smoky Mountains – Anthony Creek Overnight 



On Anthony Creek Trail heading towards Russell Field Trail
This adventure was my first solo overnight camping in the backcountry of the Great Smoky Mountains. Back in June of 2013 I did stay in the LeConte shelter with my friend but it wasn't a campground and it is quite a different feeling going into the wilderness overnight alone. With this being my first time I did make a few rookie mistakes which I have learned from and will hopefully correct on my next time out.

The first mistake was the hike I chose while still getting over a pretty nasty cold with an overfilled pack. It was a ten mile jaunt that had a high elevation gain, that I usually plan for but for some reason I did not research for this outing as it was somewhat of a last minute decision. However, when I am out I like to cover new ground and since just a month ago I hiked the other way off of the Anthony Creek trail I could not help myself and headed up the Russell Fields Trail. I had a late start while waiting for the morning rain to clear out and because of that and the steep climb I did not get as much time at camp as I wanted. In hind sight I should have went on a shorter hike and worked on my camp skills.

Heading up to the Appalachia Trail via Russell Field Trail
Of course my pack was heavier than it needed to be and not packed properly especially for a one night camp. I ended up with a lot of extra food that was not touched along with equipment that was never used. I also tried to pack everything in stuff sacks and I think it would have been better, especially with the clothes, to have squeezed them into the spaces between my other equipment. My cooking equipment should have been stored in the pack but I tried to carry that outside strapped to the back. The cooking equipment kept shifting around causing the bag to become unbalanced and I had to stop form time to time to tighten it.


Intersection of the Russell Field Trail and Appalachian Trail

Next time I need to be better prepared to get a fire started especially in wet conditions. I could get a flame going on a cotton ball with petroleum jelly but could not sustain it to catch the kindling. Probably bringing a piece of fire log or fat wood would help keep a flame until the wet stuff caught. While I did not have any problem setting up my hammock and tarp I did set the tarp up too high, which caused cold wind to blow over the top of me all night but my sleeping pad kept my backside warm.

There was still snow along the Appalachian Trail in the 
higher elevations.
The hike was a beautiful one that had some balds along the Appalachian Trail sections and took me through several different types of weather. It would have been much more enjoyable if I was still not somewhat suffering from the before mentioned cold that I had been fighting for three weeks. It had rained very early in the morning and did not stop till about 10:00 so I did not actually hit the trail until 10:30. It was cool and misty but once I hit the Russell Fields Trail Head the sun poked out and started to warm things up quite a bit. The sun was short lived and by the time I was about a mile or so out from the Appalachian Trail it started to rain again. Then as soon as I got to the Shelter at Russell Fields and the Appalachian Trail the rain turned to ice.

Hiking the Russell Field to Spence Field Section
of the Appalachian Trail
When I hit the A.T. there was still snow and ice in places and the trail itself was mud from all the melt and rain. At some places the mud was ankle deep and it made for some pretty slow going. On this section of trail there were places that had some actual grassy patches that I have not see in the Smoky Mountains all too often. These would make nice places to take a break if someone was through hiking the A.T. About half way through my section on the A.T. the sun came back out and warmed things up again and the blue sky made a stunning backdrop to the trees and grassy places along the trail.

Once I hit the Bote Mountain trail I was glad to have come up the way I had, because this section looked pretty steep. I ran in to a person coming up this trail and he looked winded from the incline and the thick mud. Since I was going downhill and had the late start I decided to pick up the pace in order to get to camp with some time before the sun went down behind the mountains.

At Anthony Creek Campsite #9


My home for the night at Campsite #9
The Anthony Creek Campsite was a beautiful spot tucked up alongside of the trail on one side and the creek on the other. There was a small waterfall that I could hear from my hammock to which gave me a ambient soundtrack to fall asleep to. After I got the hammock set up I had a type of a steak stew for dinner that I came up with a couple days before I set out. The night before I left cut up the steak and placed it in a Ziploc bag with some vegetable oil. Then I cut up onion, carrots, and celery and put that in a separate Ziploc back with vegetable oil. At camp I sautéed the vegetables and then added the steak to brown on all sides. Once I got the steak brown I added water and a beef bouillon cube and brought it to a boil then let it simmer for awhile. At the very end I added instant mash potatoes and for a backpacking meal it was great.

The next morning I planned on having breakfast but I was so cold from the overnight wind and all the wood was still wet so decided I would just pack up and go. Once I got going I warmed up and very much enjoyed the walk back to my car. I can say that I definitely want to hit this campsite again especially when it is a little warmer and I can get a fire going. For my first solo overnight it was a great experience.

Along Anthony Creek near Campsite #9

HIKE DETAILS

Hike Date:
March 18, 2017 – March 19, 2017

Weather:
Mixture of rain, ice & sun

Trails:
Crib Gap   0.25
Anthony Creek     1.6 
Russell Fields     3.5 
Appalachian Trail     2.9
Bote Mountain     1.7
Anthony Creek     3.5
Crib Gap    0.25

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