When I arrived at Grundy at 4:30, only Melissa had decided to brave the heat out of our original group of 5. We talked it over and quickly decided to just go ahead and backpack in 2.3 miles to Small Wilds Camp, then finish the other 11 or so miles the next day. I had only planned to 'backpack' half a mile to the CCC camp, so I had to do a quick shuffling of gear and clothes and food. In doing so, I failed to put a shirt in for the next day and hiked the whole thing in a cotton shirt, bleh! Cotton holds sweat and moisture and does not dry in the humid shade of the trail. In fact, so does polyester-what my sleeping bag liner was made of. And whatever the hammock was made of.
We started out with 2+ liters of water anyway.
The trail was rocky, but easy walking.
My little towel got used a TON, but I need to swap it for one that is more absorbent. I ended up mostly smearing sweat around my face and it was useless to clean my glasses and camera lens. So, back to the drawing board on that little plan.
One of dozens of overlooks into the valleys below.
Miles of the trail looked like this, just a nice wide trail in the trees.
The walk to Small Wilds was easy, we covered the 2 miles in about an hour, stopping to take pictures and making notes about water access, talking and enjoying the views. It was the perfect hike in, just short enough that your body doesn't shift gears into 'GO' mode. We turned in at the sign and the whole of site 1 was empty and I headed over near the campfire ring to hang the hammock. Melissa set up a few feet away. In hindsight, this was good and bad. We were able to talk back and forth all night as neither of us slept very well. But we also could hear each other moving around. I shuffled every few minutes, trying to get warm. I also snored the little I did sleep, which is rare for me, but if my nose is stuffy, I'll do it! I think next time I hike with a partner, I will suggest sleeping further apart.
After setting up, we headed off to join 'the boys' as we took to calling them. 2 men, mid 40s, were set up in the next campsite about 200 feet away. They had come over as we were setting up and offered suggestions about the hammock. It was my first night in that setup that was not using the hooks on the front porch. ha! It's a little different, especially the first night when the straps and ropes stretch as you hang (they are supposed to) and you realize your rear end is on your camp shoes and have to get out and tighten it all up.
My new hammock is about 2 feet longer than my old hammock. hahahaha!
Ah, all done! I added the bug net before bed, but did not really need it.
The boys were over on that small ledge directly across from us, we eventually meandered the right direction and found them.
Not as dramatic as the 'tent lit from within' pic. ha!
The boys had gotten settled to watch the sun set, I was chawing on the bean burrito I picked up for lunch, but did not eat (I told Matt this worked so well, I was going to just take Taco Bell from now on and forgo cooking at all) and was not even paying attention, just walking. Melissa has no sense of direction, so we ended up all the way around the rim from them. And facing east. hahaha! We walked BACK around to where they were in time to miss the sunset. Oh well. We all sat and chatted until dark, then went our separate ways to get some rest. I was planning to go over the next morning to see their hammock camping setup and after talking to Melissa about what time we wanted to head out, decided since I could see their lights, to head over then.
We chatted about half an hour, the Hennessy setup is NICE. I am currently in a double hammock and using a large tent footprint I already had instead of buying a rain fly. It's a Hobo Hammock and very light-2 pounds for the hammock and straps. But it gets damp, even hanging on the porch it was damp overnight. I don't know if this is the way I want to go. I sleep COLD, being damp is misery. I picked up a few pointers, so I will give it another go before scrapping the idea.
I headed back to our campsite and...where'd it go? I roamed around using my headlamp and the moon, thinking I was going the right way. I mostly was. After a few minutes, when I decided maybe I should just sit down by a tree and wait (6 hours) for daylight, common sense kicked in and I headed straight for the bluff. hahaha! But there is a trail along the rim, I decided I could hit that and follow it back to the campsite. Before I got that far, I found the hammock. Melissa had been getting worried and it occurred to me I could have just called for her to answer and gotten oriented. So, mental note. I need a small light I can leave hanging from the hammock if I need to walk away in the dark. I had my LuminAid lantern, but it quit working. It's working NOW at HOME. I may send it back anyway.
We were up early and left camp at about 6:15. Full of oatmeal squeezie goodness (thanks, Cairn!) and topped off with treated water, we headed along the rim and the trail dropped down into Laurel Gorge from there. It's less than half a mile (or feels like it) but it's a steep drop and equally steep climb out. We ran into some ill prepared boys somewhere between 14 and 17. They had a gun and a Mason jar with a lid, which they filled straight from the creek and drank. They had tried to hike to Fiery Gizzard and had gotten turned around in the gorge and slept on the side of the trail. They could not find their way back out. We got them pointed up the trail to the campsite and headed on our way again. It is a little tricky in the gorge, the trail has 90 degree angles and goes straight up or down and angles around in ways I was not really expecting. We stopped at each marker and looked around until we saw the next one, it was not the fluid walking the rest of the trail was, but not hard, either.
campsite, all clean!
Probably not, but I did wonder a couple times why it goes through such a rough patch only to end up right back on the rim again.
the trail is kind of rocky
We were out of the gorge and stopped for a break around 9, had second breakfast and some water and kept going. The trail goes through a long section of not much. About 3 miles of walking are between the gorge and the Raven's Point area and it's all open woods and along the ridge, gently rolling trail and easy walking.
We jabbered and made each other drink more and talked about the trail and played "What did they bring!?" The boys had been really excited about how very little their setups weighed-light hammock, fly, bags...lots of chatting about lightweight gear. And then their packs weighed 40 pounds. Mine, set for 2 days (I always have at least a full day's food beyond the plan) and with 2 liters of water weighed about 23 pounds. So knowing what I had along and knowing they had twice the weight to carry, we spent a while trying to decide what they had in there. Blue jeans? An electric can opener and tiny generator (and gas)? A few rocks? Textbooks?
It was all in good fun, the boys were REALLY nice and made our first night out more enjoyable by being good company and having useful info for us.
We stopped to get more water and rest a bit at the base of a small waterfall. I headed back up the trail and even though I had dropped my pack with Melissa and just taken my little bathroom kit, I decided to use my funnel instead of dropping my pants. Well, there was a malfunction and my pants leg got wet! I still don't know what happened, probably just didn't have it positioned correctly. I stripped off and headed back down to the pool, rinsed my pants leg and hung them on my pack to drip a while. I hiked in my boy shorts, which was fine except-chub rub! I had rinsed off my legs and they were wet, so I did not think about friction rubs. OWIE. And I had Body Glide in my pack! For future reference, cortisone for itching takes out the burn. Aloe and antibiotic ointment will STING. This is hard won info.
Finally put my pants back on after lunch at Raven's Point and we kept going, passing Carl's camping shelter, which was packed with college kids making a HUGE racket, and around past the campsite, taking the Dog Hole trail down. That's another long stretch of walking in the woods over easy terrain. The trail finally dropped down to the Fiery Gizzard and from there, it was less than 2 miles to Grundy! That stretch is the prettiest stretch in the whole of Tennessee. Okay, maybe not, but it's my favorite trail anyway.
We passed Sycamore Falls, Black Canyon Falls, stopped to refuel at the cascades where I finished off my water and decided not to refill and deal with treating it with less than half a mile to go and then up past Blue Hole Falls, past the overhang and out! I was beat by the end, but today (the next day!) I feel like I can do it again, no problem.
The shot is a little smeary!
I drank 5 liters of water in that 21 hour stretch. I won't underestimate how much water I go through, and after passing several streams that had gone stagnant from lack of flow, I know to just carry more than I think I need. I usually carry one liter and refill when I run out. This time of year, that's not always possible!
Other than the fact that I need an insulation layer under my bag, even though it's summer-and I need a small light to leave at camp, I didn't forget or not have anything I did need. I carried more than I used, of course. I never used half the food, the repair kit (only needed the knife), the first aid kit only got used for a Tylenol and one moleskin square. I changed underwear, bra and socks before bed and that's what I slept in. My shirt was too wet to do any good. I had my knit hat and jacket that I put on before bed. My fast-dry underthings dried overnight just draped over the tarp. That was nice!
I had a harder time keeping things organized than I thought I would. That will be easier with the addition of a fanny pack to keep my odds and ends in, instead of putting them in the outside pack pockets. I just wasn't prepared for backpacking the whole trail and didn't have that.
Good trip! I'd do it again, no problem. I am glad we did it with full packs, I think it was a hard enough and long enough trail that I would have been wiped out even with just a day pack. So knowing I did it with all my gear really helped boost my confidence!