Sat, May 29 2010, Sun, May 30 2010, Mon, May 31 2010 - Backpacking Lost Cove in the Smokies (View Original Event Details)|
Kristi, Michael Johnson, Bob Bunner
|Participants:||Michael Johnson, Bob Bunner, Kristi, Jason C, David Lloyd, Kim Abrams, Cfrank, Trey Baldwin, Marc F, Amy|
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We had a terrific time backpacking in the Smokies over this past Memorial Day weekend.
We started our event on Saturday at Fontana Dam. The weather Gods promised us rain, but we got lots of sunshine instead. There was the long grueling ascent up Shuckstack Ridge, 2100 feet in a little over 3 miles. But it was all worth it when we reached the top and took turns climbing the fire tower. We had magnificent views of the Southern Appalachian mountains as well as Fontana Lake in the foreground. A flotilla of boats could be seen scurrying across the water on a beautiful Memorial Day weekend.
We also saw a Bald Eagle soaring above us when on top of the firetower. What took us hours if not days to cross, took it only seconds with a slight twist of the wings. The flashing white of the tail and head is an awesome display to witness.
From Shuckstack, we descended a lot over the next four miles and several stream crossings as we meandered our way to our ultimate destination, Lost Cove. We saw troubled hikers on the way down, including two couples, who had stopped to rest on their ascent of Shuckstack, but looked too tired to go any further. Then we met a mentally and directionally challenged backpacker, who had been set adrift by his friends, and was hopelessly lost. After 10 minutes with Bob and his map, the lonely guy remained committed to climbing Shuckstack Ridge, which Bob told him was the opposite direction from where he needed to go. But fear not, our lonely guy ran into Michael, who spent 20 minutes explaining to the lonely guy that he was going in the wrong direction and needed to turn around. Apparently, Michael was more persuasive and the lonely guy turned around and was ultimately reunited with his friends.
For those of us who had been there before, Lost Cove had changed substantially. Where once we had the option of camping in a meadow and enjoying a circle of stone slabs that made up individual chairs, what Michael referred to as the "stone thrones," were now underwater. Campers were being taxied to our campsite in motor boats. These campers enjoyed large tents. What's worse, these trespassers on the backcountry brought large coolers with room enough for several cases of beer, and not one of them offered any of us a single malt beverage. The scum!
Fortunately, many of us were resourceful enough to bring some wine or something a little stronger. Okay, some of us brought something a lot stronger. Dinner was the usual variety of freeze dried meals with a few home cooked meals thrown in there for show. We all admired each other's stoves, although Jason won my admiration with his new Soto stove and it's unique ability to keep the fuel pressurized at fluctuating temperatures. Craig got the fire going and we all settled in for an evening of stories.
The next day found most of us heading up Eagle Creek. We passed two campsites and were headed to a third when several of us decided it was time to eat lunch and then return to our campsite. Jason and David would have none of that. They continued on another 13-14 miles which turned into quite an adventure in and of itself. Dodging rain while continuing to ford the creek for too many crossings to remember, Jason and Davis summited at Spence Field, where they were greeted to a dense fog that made visibility beyond about 10 feet fairly questionable. Rather than simply come back the way they came, our ambitious hikers continued on to hike a loop that included the Jenkins Ridge trail and over the last several miles required traversing the infamous and now conquered "unmaintained trail." Guess what, the trail really is unmaintained and Jason has the welts crossing his shins in all different directions to prove it.
As the rest of us returned, what was left of the Lost Cove campsite, now sans the meadow, was overrun by the most feared creatures in all of nature - a troop of boy scouts. To get away from "it" all, many in our group went swimming in the now expanded lake adjacent to our campsite. It rained hard that afternoon and early evening. We managed to get dinner in around the raindrops. As the rain stopped, we renewed our fire from the night before. It survived a brief rain shower and continued to provide a light for all of us to see each other as we told the tales that make backpacking a unique participatory sport. Not to be outdone, we were joined by two US Air Force members from Robbins AFB who added a lot to the party. Eventually, and I'm happy to say, before dark, Jason and David returned to much fanfare and glory ("I can't believe you guys were stupid enough to do the whole loop, including hiking on an unmaintained trail shortly before nightfall.). Undoubtedly, the Nobel prize will be awarded to these heroes next year.
Later that evening, after some of us went to bed, a nearby tree woke up the entire campsite (well, everyone except Bob) as it was apparently hit by lightening. Described as sounding like rifle shots, the trunk of the tree began to toppled over. Jason knew they had to take action and do something to avoid a potential catastrophe, but without the ability to see the tree at night, in the end, we all were just grateful that the tree missed us.
After a heavy rainfall Sunday night, in which Amy survived, despite not brining a rainfly (Bob, you should be ashamed for trying to take advantage of a new backpacker in this way), under a makeshift fly that Michael prepared especially for her. I think the tradeoff is that Amy promised to carry a keg of beer on the next trip she and Michael go on. Indeed, everyone decided that Amy had to accompany all of us on any future backpacking trips because of her willingness and ability to carry large loads that the rest of us would simply cast aside to avoid the inevitable pain of being overpacked.
On Sunday, we waited for the rains to subside in the morning before crawling out of our tents to make breakfast. After a hearty meal of Laura bars from our Air Force friends, we got packed up and headed for the trailhead along the Lakeshore trail. After almost six miles of mildly hilly terrain, we reached our cars. We decided to take advantage of the hot showers offered by the TVA at Fontana Dam. From there, we had a late lunch at the Nantahala Outdoor Center, overlooking the training of new kayakers as they mostly stayed upright while they were continuing down the Nantahala River.
Thanks for a really good time everyone.
Bob and Michael