Kywilderness.com Discussion => In Kentucky => Topic started by: Mark W on March 31, 2013, 04:42:14 PM
After a cold and wet forecast caused my friend Justin and I to scratch our plans of doing a three-night backpacking trip in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we headed to our Plan B destination: the southern end of the Daniel Boone National Forest. Although the forecast was still wet and chilly, it was milder than in the Smokies and we would be able to basecamp for the three-nights rather than having to pack up and move each day as we would have if we had gone with our original trip plan. We had lucked out on a mid-March trip to the Big South Fork last year (highs in the upper 60s, lows in the mid 40s, and only a brief rain shower on our first day), so this was a "refreshing" change of conditions from our trip the previous year, to put a positive spin on it.
The weather for the three days we were out in early March (as recorded on weather.com) was not exactly what we would have chosen, but we made the most of it, had the proper gear and clothing to endure it comfortably and safely, and by the end of the trip we were talking about how the weather added more to the experience than it detracted from it. The highs, lows and precipitation were:
Monday: high 48, partly cloudy, overnight low of 30.
Tuesday: high 48, 1.25 inches of rain, overnight low of 28.
Wednesday: high 31, cloudy, overnight low of 28.
Thursday: high 33, cloudy, last day of the trip.
I'd spent a lot of time hiking and backpacking in the area we were visiting and had a perfect basecamp location picked out. I'd never camped there but had camped nearby and visited the off-trail waterfalls that were in the area. We hiked in 4.5 miles on official trails and made great time. The patches of snow in the forest contrasted beautifully with the green of the hemlocks and pines that we were hiking through. After arriving at a small unnamed stream, we then left the official trail and headed up an overgrown old logging road. We used no GPS (like I said, I'd visited this specific area more than a dozen times previously and had pored over maps of the area for hours over the past few years) and I accidentally left the map of the area at home. So we had to keep on our toes when we ventured far from camp and pay close attention to any landmarks.
Overgrown old logging road leading toward our basecamp.
After hiking on the old logging road, we cut off-trail for a bit to cross the drainage and connect with another old logging road, which took us to the general area we wanted to camp in. A rusty bucket -- estimated gallon capacity, probably an old paint can -- served as a "waypoint" for getting close to the campsite. I'd remembered it from previous hikes and knew that the flatter looking ground was not too much further. It took a bit of time to find enough flat ground for our two tents, but we were both satisfied with the site once we found it. And that was a good thing, since it would be where we slept for the next three nights.
Setting up camp.
The next day we suited up in our rain-gear and hiked to these off-trail waterfalls.
Really cool crimson color to the sandstone. This is the most water I've seen in the five or so times I've visited this waterfall.
There was a perfect ledge to sit on just to the left of the top of the main waterfall.
Overnight the rain turned to snow, so we woke up to this scene the next morning:
Campsite after snow.
Hiking in the snow was one of the highlights of the trip. We hiked off-trail and connected with a seldom used official trail that we then followed to the main trail we hiked in on, and then off-trail back to our camp, which made for a great loop. I'd never been able to locate this trail at the junction shown on maps with the trail it connects to, and I assumed that like other less popular trails it might've been swallowed up by rhododendron and dense forest growth, making it difficult to follow. However, we found it to be in good condition and the visual threshold from the ridgetop, where we connected with the trail from our campsite, to the descent along the cliffline to be profound. The vantage points were perfect, the viewscape of terrain was full and varied, and the views down the hollow - really a canyon with lush vegetation -- were terrific. There was even a small arch right by the trail. On the way back, we took a break at a boulder with a view of a creek.
The snow didn't melt so it was there for our hike out the next day. It was about a six mile hike out and the snow made it absolutely enchanting.
Climbing up the steep hill from our camp to reach a trail.
During the thee nights we were out we didn't see anyone else on the trail and there was hardly any trash to speak of. Despite it being our Plan B, we had no regrets about not being able to make it to the Smokies. Being immersed in a natural landscape for a few days is always beneficial and enjoyable, regardless of where the landscape is or the designations and arbitrary boundaries that define it.
Enjoyed your report...thx for posting.
Mark W, thanks for the time and thought that you put into these trip reports...they are nothing less than top notch!
You're welcome and thanks for the kind words.
I'll try and keep up with the trip reports, but it's looking like my trips will be fewer and farther between and likely only in Kentucky or the Big South Fork. I'll do my best to get out to the most interesting places -- on or off-trail -- that I can find and post pictures.