Four Days of Heaven:   Up to Gregory's Bald, down Long Hungry Ridge, Up Lost Cove, Down Lost Cove, into Eagle Creek, Up Eagle Creek, over Spence Field, Down Spence Field, Out Anthony Creek.   Oct 1-5 2012   Total elevation gain and loss: 14,540 feet.  Total mileage: 28.5

I have been blessed in many ways in my lifetime.  Having spent a couple thousand nights in the Smokies I have experienced many sights and scenes with many a varying group.  When my climbing buddies arranged some time off and said,  "Let's go to them thar hills of which you have spoken so oft."   a plan was hatched.  I wanted to get them into the meat of it all.  Lee flew in from Anchorage, John Davis came from Boulder and Dan drove from Cincinnati.   It didn't take but about two seconds for me to visualize our route.  We would cross the AT three times and divide our minutes between the Carolina and Tennessee sections.  It was Fall break for me and a mid week backpack was a dream long in the making.  I love our Highlander weekend outings but this Tuesday to Friday stuff is unbeatable.  Dr. Dan took this shot as we departed Gregory's on Wednesday morning.  The bald and campsite belonged to us.  No one shared any of our camps but Eagle Creek.  And even there, it was fly fishermen who were shuttled in by boat.   As a matter of fact, we didn't see but one backpacker the entire trip until we got right outside of the Cove on departure.

These guys are nuts but we always have a blast.  From left to right, Professor John Davis, Dr. Dan Walters, yours truly and Lee "aka" Knee Whitten.

How about Gregory's above the clouds?

In the birch forest we rested our weary heads.  That ascent up the Ridge Trail is always grueling.  Lee was straight off the airplane, so i knew he was tuckered.

Besides, he and JD needed to "catch up"

We left Gregory's after a typical Smokies evening.  A struggling wet fire and a damp, moisture dropping cloud enveloped us.

Day Two:

It was time to drop down Long Hungry Ridge.

Meaner than a stiped snake, we are.


And where do we end up?  None other than old campsite 92 where we spent two weekends before.  Just for a break though, then it was time to press onward.  After all, we had Lost Cove to climb.  And climb we did.  Ascending the 20 mile trail to Sassafras Gap was a grueling exercise in alternate muscle group usage.  Just to let you know what kind of altitude we dropped on this day was 4640 feet down and 1660 feet uphill in less than twelve miles.  That is a good knee workout and Lee had knee surgery two years ago on October 1.  Pretty impressive for a 56 year old guy, huh?  I don't call him "Knee" for nothing.

It was also right before this event that the infamous "grapevine" incident occured.  As Lee and JD were marveling at this Southern phenomena, Dan was explaining how we all used to swing on those vines as children.  JD was looking up at the 30 feet of connecting vines and their treetop entanglements.  Dan was trying to coax them into swinging on it.  About that time he gave it a pull and the whole thing came crashing to the ground.  Fortunately, no one was injured.

Sithenge was almost just as we left it.  I took advantage of our kingly recliner.  We recovered by a hearty fire to enjoy a star filled evening and the hot dogs I had toted for all these miles.  It was time to shed weight because the big day approached.  The weather to this point was remarkably perfect.  Some of the best weather of all time in the Smokies.

Dan thought he heard a Sasquatch type of monster and describes the incident.  In his pajamas.

The following morning, day 3, dawned beautifully on our Eagle Creek spot.  Heavenly rays of sun pulled us from our moveable homes.  Today was Eagle Creek.  I had only ascended Eagle one time in my life.  We knew it was going to be a big day, mentally and physically, we were prepared.

Before any undertaking of Eagle Creek, the group must make the most critical of decisions.  Footwear.  Lee, Dan and I went with crocs, Lee with socks and crocs,  Dan and I just crocs.  JD went with a flexible type of water shoe.  Having done this once before, I questioned the crocs but then decided to go with it.  It was the right decision.  You are going to hike for six miles in those shoes with the 13 major crossings.  The crocs performed wonderfully.  JD had some foot issues because of his.


He will be thinking about his shoe decisions for a while to come.

And so the water crossings begin.  The weather was ideal.  Temp was high 50s low 60s, water level optimal.  Actually was lower than my first time.

We found this old saw blade at the upper campsite on Eagle Creek.


Back and forth, back and forth.  Six miles of it.  Have to be careful, don't lose a croc or sock or pole or pack.

And if that weren't enough, we had blowdowns with which to deal.

I really didn't mind.  I actually enjoyed the crossings as did the rest of our intrepid crew.  It cooled us off in between.  It was a most glorious of days in the Smokies that I will eternally remember.


These guys below!

 You have to be careful though.  They are still around and Lee and I stepped right over him.  It's a copperhead, sure as shootin and he was full grown.

JD takes care to step around this guy since we stepped almost on top of him.  As you can see, there is very little to distinguish him from the surroundings.

Then Dan does the go around.

After six miles of crossings, we were in a bit of a blur.  That's when the true ascent to Spence Field begins in earnest.

Do you notice anything strange about this picture?   Martin?

The trees were changing as we get higher on the peak.  It took us 6.5  hours to get up to Spence.  That's 8.7 miles if you need some perspective on the mileage.  That's about 3500 feet of elevation, most in the last two miles.  Those last two miles are a ball buster.  No doubt.

Spence was bathed in late afternoon sun.

Gotta have a rocky top shot.

Anthony Creek the following morning.  We slept in until almost 9.30.  I think we had earned it.  Of course, we had camp to ourselves.  We had all the camps to ourselves except Eagle Creek.  A couple of guys had been shuttled in there to fish.  Great guys.  But, as usual, the backcountry was empty.  Totally empty.  Lee is also describing the unusual encounter we had coming down Anthony Creek in the dark.  Rounding a corner about a half mile from camp, some thrashing about the trees occured to our right.  We froze in our tracks to look over our shoulder.  That is when Lee said something hit him on the shoulder.  I convinced him that the Sasquatch is a real phenomena.  Either that or a feces throwing, red butted monkey.

After a little while, Dan gets punchy and starts missing Holly.

The weather was perfect, the company exceptional and Eagle Creek very forgiving.  Backpacking with these guys and their appreciation of our Southern Highlands made me feel like it was my first trip into the hills.  Little things like seeing snakes,( Lee has no snakes in Alaska), grapevines for swinging and bugs, frogs and pileated woodpeckers were wonderments to my friends.  Like me, we all were smiling most of the time with the exception of those endless slogs up 20 mile or EagleCreek in some spots.  The only thing missing was our good buddy Neil.  We hope that he can be with us on the next one, for sure.

By the way, check out this new 1.5 pound tent.   BearPawwd index    Someone buy one and let me know how it field tests.