Smoky Mountains Backcountry Camping

June 25, 2008

The Smokies - I worried all winter about how I would ever manage this 30-mile expanse of back-country. An intimidating prospect for someone who doesn't really like to carry a heavy pack and live without the lounge chair and French Press coffee maker, getting across this remote high-elevation area (which is however highly managed by the Park Service - reservations required at shelters, no primitive camping allowed).

Now I've done it! I'm in the best condition ever, due to this extended expedition I've been on since April. And, it turns out if you are a long-distance hiker (which I am, having just hiked all of North Carolina and most of Georgia) you are exempt from the reservation requirement. So I just filled out a back-country permit as a through-hiker and took off at my own pace, bringing my ultra-light tiny tent.

I made two out-and-back trips -- one northward from Fontana Dam for about 15 miles, camping one night and then staying in the Spence Field Shelter, returning back in one day (downhill all the way!). The second was up from Elkmont on the north side of the Park, camping on the access trail and then staying at two shelters to complete my Smokies trek.

Definitely the most rigorous part of my trip - 10 to 15 miles a day with camping gear, including the 3000 foot elevation change and up and down numerous "knobs" along the way. Exhausting, but it's exhilarating to be physically able to accomplish this feat!

The top photo is the Spence Field Shelter with Rick and Bubba, two high school teachers who were hiking across the Smokies together. Below is the Spence Field with turkey, and Rocky Top and Thunderhead Mountains beyond, waiting to be hiked over (Rocky Top has the best views of the hike, right down into Cade's Cove and Fontana Lake).

1 comment:

Abby RJ said...

Wow, Mom! I'm finally catching up on your recent posts. Your hiking accomplishments are very inspiring and your posts are so wonderful. I love all the stories behind all the places you pass - just like the narrative i have in my head for all the places i've visited with you all my life! Can't wait to see you in a few weeks.