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Trip Reports The Trip Reports forum is for backpackers to share their actual (not links to) trip reports and/or journal entries for their wilderness backpacking and day-hiking trips. Please include photos and information regarding what worked (e.g. gear) and what didn't.

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Old 06-25-2015, 09:11 AM
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philman philman is offline
Practical Backpacking­™ Forums Moderator
Backpack: MYOG Cuben, Osprey Atmos 65 AG
Sleeping Gear: MYOG Down Quilt, Enlightened Equipment Accomplice
Shelter: SMD Deschutes CF Tarp, SMD Lunar Duo
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Alton, Illinois
Posts: 99
Gregory Bald, Lynn Camp Prong GSMNP Trip

Gregory Bald Trip

Day 1: Arrived at the Gregory Ridge trailhead about mid-afternoon on Friday 6-5-15 after driving through the night. Short, 2 mile hike to campsite 12 and called it a day. Up to this point, the trail’s a piece of cake. Gradual incline with a wide, mostly smooth track. Two water crossings with the benefit of foot bridges and one easy rock-hop. 12 is a small site and one party of three was already there. We setup in what appeared to be the only decent remaining spot just before a party of five came rolling in. Now it was REAL crowed but fortunately they were a nice bunch and we shared some good conversation around the campfire before hitting the sack.

Just purchased a SMD Lunar Duo a week before the trip and this was our first opportunity to try it out. We went with the “Outfitter” model…polyester and a whopping 3.5 lbs but it was all that the budget allowed for at this point. Really enjoying this tent. Breeze to setup (takes some tweaking but nothing more practice won’t fix), plenty of room for the two of us and great coverage. One other gear related note for this trip. Since Momma would be carrying the new 35 mm, I wanted to carry as much of the rest of the gear as possible and let her shoot away. She used a day pack with bladder, her clothes and some essentials. I didn’t have a decent pack to haul all of the rest of the crap…other than a Camp Trails external frame pack I bought in high school 35 years ago! Crazy. Far cry from the 10.5 oz cuben fiber pack I normally use but there was no way I was going to haul everything with that. It worked out fine. Just not that comfortable. Total weight with all of my stuff, her sleeping bag, two air pads, a couple of cut-down Z-Lite pads to sit on, tent, cooking gear, three days of food and an aluminum full-size tripod was still only around 40 lbs so it wasn’t that bad.

SMD Lunar Duo at Backcountry Campsite 12

Day 2: We had 3.5 mi remaining to get to the bald and less than a mile downhill on the other side after that to campsite 13 so we had plenty of time to explore and take pics once we reached the top. After site 12 the trail gets steeper and once you turn off onto the Gregory Bald Trail it gets steeper yet. But it’s a short trek and you’re rewarded for your efforts big time. Gregory Bald is spectacular! Great views, especially looking down on Cades Cove. Pictures don’t do it justice. We were a bit early to catch all of the azaleas in bloom but those that were… just beautiful. Spent a few hours up there soaking it all in and eating lunch and then headed on down to 13. This site is much more spacious and while there were four other small groups there, we didn’t feel all that crowded. There was (and still is) an active bear warning up at this site but we had no visitors. Did run into a small buck right in the middle of the trail on our way to get water. Nearly ran right into him coming around a corner. He wasn’t frightened a bit and just slowly moved off into the woods. That was cool!

Gregory Bald

Gregory Bald

Azaleas, Gregory Bald

Azaleas, Gregory Bald

Azaleas, Gregory Bald

Day 3: Backtracked up the hill to the bald, spent some more time up there and then made the 5.5 mile downhill trek back to the van. On day one we had been getting reports from a number of hikers heading back the other way that a mother and three cubs were hanging out just past site 12. We saw nothing on day two on the way up to the bald. On our way back we did run into a cub. No sign of the others so we played it cautious and waited a bit before proceeding. Once past 12 again another hiker past us on the way down and he said all four were at the campsite. Bummer! We just missed them. That was just fine with the Mrs though. We got checked in at the resort after completing the hike only to find out that a 16 year old boy was badly mauled by a bear the night before over on the other side of the park at a backcountry site on Hazel Creek. Subsequently, the park service closed all of the backcountry sites along Hazel Creek all the way up to the AT as well as Derrick Knob shelter. And they returned to the site and put down the bear they believe was involved in the attack. (I just read a park press briefing yesterday in which they state that through DNA analysis they determined later that is was not the bear involved after all). Needless to say, the Mrs was none too interested into running into any bears after hearing that! I think this is the third bear they’ve had to put down already this year. And there have been a LOT of trail and backcountry site/shelter closures due to aggressive bear activity in general.

Other sad news from that weekend: an experienced female hiker in her 60’s was reported missing and later her body was found near the Porters Creek trail in Greenbrier. Last I heard was that they believe she died of natural causes. Tough week for the park.

We spent the next day at Cades Cove going through some of the old homesteads and hoping to get some wildlife pics. Those never materialized. Back to the resort to prepare for trip 2.

Lynn Camp Prong, Miry Ridge, Jakes Creek, Panther Creek Trip

Day 1: Started at the Middle Prong trailhead around mid-morning. A ridge runner was just coming down from Derrick Knob shelter and while checking over our permits he mentioned that during his few days out he hadn’t run into any bears. We weren’t going as far up as the AT but I think this bit of news helped to put Momma’s mind at ease. The Middle Prong Trail is an old logging rail bed and as such it’s wide and easy going. You’ll also see evidence of the people who lived and worked here years ago.

Middle Prong Trail

The trail follows Lynn Camp Prong for just under 4 mi and you’ll get plenty of views of the cascades along the way. At just over a mile from the trailhead you’ll reach Lynn Camp Prong Falls but to get any decent pics you have to make a short, harrowing descent down a jumble of rocks to reach the bottom of the falls. Since the sun was beating down we decided to hold off until we came back this way on day 3.

After turning off onto the Lynn Camp Prong Trail the track gets much narrower and the undergrowth starts getting thicker and closing in. We stopped for the night at site 28. When you first roll into this site you’re left with the impression that there’s room for just one group. Make your way over the creek and you’ll find more spots available. Only one other couple showed up so things were pretty quiet. Nice! A pleasant surprise was the show put on by the synchronous fireflies. We had tried to reserve site 24 up Little River in hopes of leaving the crowds brought in by the shuttles each night behind. With its close proximity to Elkmont, we were sure to get a good show and not have to deal with all of the people and traffic. That site was booked and then later closed due to bear activity. I was really disappointed about that but hoped that site 28 and the second night’s site on Jakes Creek, 27, would put us close enough to catch them. I spoke with the park service before leaving and they told me it would be “iffy” at the elevation of each of these spots. As it got dark we saw just a handful of your typical fireflies. Thinking we had been skunked, we headed off to bed. After a bit though, it was like someone was standing outside the tent turning a flashlight on and off, over and over again. We stepped out and were surrounded by them. It was awesome! They would all start blinking at once and then all stop together. Very cool! The show continued even after we went back inside. We rolled up the doors and watched the show until we nodded off for the night.

Day 2: Continued on the Lynn Camp Prong Trail for another couple of miles to the junction with the Miry Ridge Trail. We could hear Lynn Camp Prong for much of this part of the hike but rarely got any views as the trail rides a bit uphill from it and it’s like a jungle trek through much of this part of the hike. After running on or skirting Miry Ridge for just over a mile you pass below the summit of Dripping Spring Mountain. Here we got the only mountain views of the trip along with some flowering rhododendron, Mountain Laurel and azaleas. Finally!

Mountain Laurel, Dripping Spring Mtn

Mountain Laurel, Dripping Spring Mtn

Dripping Spring Mtn

Another 1.25 mi or so put us at the junction with the Jakes Creek and Panther Creek trails. We turned right onto Jakes Creek and made the quick descent of less than a mile to site 27. I setup camp while Momma tried to get some pics along the creek. The fireflies showed up again, though we didn’t get quite the show as the previous night.

Day 3: Made the steep ascent back to the trail junction and started down Panther Creek. The “jungle hike” continued, though we were skirting right up against Panther Creek much of the way. Had a few easy rock hops (it had rained heavily on and off two days prior) until we got back to Lynn Camp Prong. Here you’ll have to take the plunge. Nothing extreme…not even knee deep. A gentle rain started just prior to the crossing and continued for about 30 min. Once back at the falls we made the descent down the rocks in hopes of getting some decent pics but the sun was back out in full force by now. So, it was back up to the trail to wrap up the hike.

Rosebay Rhododendron, Middle Prong Trail

Lynn Camp Prong Falls

After leaving the couple at site 28 the morning before, we didn’t see another soul until we had nearly made it back to the van. Go figure. And as it turned out, other than the brief shower we got the last day, every day of each backpacking trip was rain-free. Bit on the warm side but still pleasant. We spent one more day checking out the Mountain Farm Museum over at Oconaluftee (just a handful of elk were out during our time there), an afternoon day hiking at Deep Creek and then headed for home.

Juney Whank Falls, Deep CreeK

Butteryfly Weed (Orange Milkweed) - Deep Creek

Last edited by philman : 06-25-2015 at 09:49 AM.
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