I wrote last fall, with some surprise, that my hike in New Hampshire’s White Mountains “ran almost exactly to plan”. The same cannot be said of backpacking last week in the Great Smokies. The plan was for a 3-day, 33-mile loop in the company of my eldest daughter, starting and ending at Cades Cove. The night before Katie and I set out, rain pinged on our tents relentlessly, and was still coming down when we started along Abrams Creek. Four miles into the hike we were supposed to wade the creek to reach the Hannah Mountain Trail. Well, I tried to scout a way across, but the water was too high and the rocks very slick. So we made plan adjustment number one, a detour that would add 4.5 miles to our loop. Here are notes and photos for our first day out.
Start: Abrams Falls trailhead, Cades Cove, 11 a.m.
Finish: Scott Gap backcountry campsite, sometime after 6 p.m.
Route: Abrams Falls, Little Bottoms, Cooper Road and Rabbit Creek trails.
Distance: 10.5 miles.
Terrain: Excellent trails, with little overall elevation gain but plenty of up and down.
Weather: Cloudy with showers, shorter and less frequent as the day wore on.
Photos: Click here.
Breakfast: Hash and baked beans at Elkmont frontcountry campground.
Lunch: Trail food along the way – tortillas, nuts, dried fruit, granola bars …
Supper: Rehydrated “shepherd’s potato stew with beef” (Katie) and ”pepper steak with rice” (Rob) at Scott Gap.
Highlight: Getting our packs off, eating supper and going to bed.
Lowlight: The 1,000-foot slog over Pine Mountain just as we were losing steam at the end of the day.
Wildlife: Coyotes yipping as we fell asleep.
Worries: That our enforced detour would make tomorrow’s hike too long.
Best Bit of Kit: Everything that kept us and our gear dry – waterproof pants, pack covers etc.
Memorable People: Bird researcher at Abrams Creek Ranger Station. Our only company after Abrams Falls, he directed us to the bridge over the creek and warned that Pine Mountain would be a “huff”.
People Best Forgotten: The over-cologned walker returning from Abrams Falls.