27 Icy Smokies Miles with Curt

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I was supposed to be in Banff, Canada this week.  However, due to the selfishness of some woman who decided to board a plane from Knoxville with the flu and seat herself next to Laurel, the result was as expected and in keeping with the John and Laurel Christmas flu tradition.

So Laurel landed in Orlando with a full blown case and we had to cancel our plans. I was still in Knoxville and knew that Curt was wanting to do a big loop. He graciously allowed me to accompany him and our journey began in the icy morning of Wednesday, Dec 27, 2017.


Curt is no stranger to these waters of the Little River. As a fly fisherman, his knowledge of the drainage around Goshen is extensive. He had not, however, climbed above campsite 26.  If this sounds familiar, we completed this loop in reverse a few years back.  Here is a link. http://southernhighlanders.com/hump_hike_has_been_a_highlan.html


I have some strange fascination with this log as you can see from the link above.  However, on this trip, I took a full boot bath that dogged me for the remaining 20 miles.  It was in the teens cold.




We spent the better part of the evening getting this guy to flame.  It provided little warmth and my boot and sock were frozen. It required quite a bit of finesse to keep a cold, formerly frostbitten foot warm.


We lay in 15 degree bags wishing I had brought my mountaineering kit. Fifteen is a survivability rating and survive I did, but thriving is always my outdoor goal. My toes didn’t warm until we were two miles into our big climb up Goshen Prong.


We had 12 miles to do this day and I was very happy to reach the AT above Double Spring. We saw no one along the AT whatsoever.


But it was beautiful. These are new miles for Curt, who now has the bug,  and you know what I mean.


The Narrows is what this section is called and it conjures memories of epic trips from long ago such as this most notable one.. http://southernhighlanders.com/Hazel.htm


I really love the Narrows, and its sister Sawteeth on the other side of Newfound Gap. These exposed ridges really produce in winter when the vistas are endless.


Curt soaks it up.


We made record time getting to Goshen the first day. Seven miles in under two hours.  Today, our pace was slowed due to the cold and frozen trail. We found areas that were pure ice and required negotiation. Not to mention the elevation from Goshen to the AT. We were also losing the battle with daylight in these shortened hours. Movement along Miry Ridge was “sporty” given the blowdowns, icy conditions and sloped trail that tries to pull you down the valley with each step.

It was a 12 mile day.  tn_P1080282

I’ll give you a dollar if you can tell me where this is.  I made it here just in time for a glorious sunset and busted out my headlamp for some more ice walking into 26.  I followed bear tracks into camp thus proving my oft stated theory that complete hibernation is all but a myth for Smokies bruin.


there was no fire in the ridge of Mire. Curt needed no explanation as to the nomenclature for this trail. As is the case with paths which accommodate equestrian use, some muck is par for the course. I bedded down at 8.30 after a quick dinner in my sad sack tent.  Curt has a nice tarp system that you may appreciate.



He had virtually no condensation, a continuous problem with winter backpacking. For a guy doing his first big mileage event, he proved up to the task. I have mountain biked with Curt for a while and can attest to his cardiovascular endurance.  And cardio fitness is what ensures success on these types out outings. Curt also comes from the fishing/hunting world so outdoor exposure isn’t novel.


One of my favorite interior views of the AT is from Miry Ridge just about a mile down from camp.



It warmed up in the sun long enough for me to strip down for a Buff shot. Our water bottles, boots and fuel would freeze overnight, along with our toes if not careful. When it reached almost 28 degrees, it felt like spring.


Back down towards Jakes Creek we re entered the snow zone.


These bear cables took a big hit at Jakes Creek.


So we ended up back at Elkmont.  Heated seats never felt so good!  A grand adventure with great company and weather, for the time of year. I’ll take cold over a cold rain any day.

Happy New Year to all.  2018 looks to be chock full of Huge adventures so stay tuned.

(If you have enjoyed this trip report, consider taking a look at my first book recounting our ill fated journey into the Karakoram in Pakistan)






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