Turning Toward the Smokies

The trail to Gregory Bald, Great Smokies, April 2003.

The trail to Gregory Bald, Great Smokies, April 2003.

UConn may have been in a basketball final on Tuesday night, and fine spring weather may have reigned outside, but a very respectable number of Appalachian Mountain Club members gathered in Bethel for Quebec – Off the Beaten Track. I surprised myself by actually enjoying giving a presentation, and the slides and chat seemed to go down well enough with the audience too. Phew! My thanks to everyone who chose Quebec over the NCAA or the chance to hit a trail.

Now that the presentation is out of the way, I need to turn to the Smokies, now bear-ly a month away. I mentioned in The Great Smoky Mountains that we plan to backpack a loop that starts and ends at Cades Cove; a 32.6-mile loop by my calculations. I’ve been putting together other bits and pieces of important information.

DAY LENGTH: We should have 14 hours of good daylight, from sunrise at 6:30 to sunset around 8:30. More than enough for the longest day (maybe 15 miles).

WEATHER: At low elevations, May in the Smokies is warm, with highs in the upper 70s and lows around 50. There are on average 9 days with rain. But of course we won’t always be at low elevations. We will top out at nearly 5,000 feet (on Gregory Bald), and spend one night – I hope – at 4,600 feet. Up there the highs may be closer to 60 and the lows to 40. It rains more at those elevations too. Clothing will be planned accordingly.

BEARS: It is no secret that the Smokies are full of Ursus americanus, so I wondered if the National Park Service might require bear-resistant canisters for food storage (they are required, for example, in the Adirondack Eastern High Peaks). Apparently not. The NPS website advice is to use “the bear cable system at each campsite or shelter”. We will.

WATER – I need to buy a new filter. The last one broke in the White Mountains (and left me thirsty on Franconia Ridge).

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