Posts Tagged ‘backpacking’

Big Creek Loop (GSMNP)

July 7, 2012 1 comment

We recently took a trip to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park for a 2 night backpacking trip. We decided on the Big Creek Loop that I found through It was a 16 mile hike that sounded pretty cool. Parking at the trailhead was super easy. It is actually a very large picnic area just past the Big Creek Ranger Station and about 15 minutes from I-40. There is a small camp ground as well with about 12 sites. Nice to know if we ever plan a similar route so we could stay there and avoid the hotel the night before.

I went through our gear lists a food and really felt like we cut back significantly but we still started with my pack at 38lbs (fully loaded with food and full 32oz Gatorade bottle) and Katrina’s at 21 lbs (also fully loaded with a 32oz Gatorade bottle). We still have much to learn on reducing our pack weights. My goal from here out is to get both under 20 lbs.

From the trailhead we started down Big Creek trail towards campsite 37. We stopped at midnight Falls for a little swimming. Katrina decided to sit on a large rock. I’ll say my wife had the better plan at this point! I knew the water was cold but after jumping off the large rock and into the deep swimming hole, the water was almost cold enough to make you forget how to swim! The water was cold enough that it took me a few seconds to catch my breath. I did at least feel refreshed.

From there we walked the half mile down the trail and had lunch at the Mouse Creek Falls on a large rock. The area at the base of the falls was very beautiful and a great place to stop for lunch.

It was about 3 miles from there to campsite 37. It was a very nice area right next to the creek with plenty of flat areas for tents. From talking to a few other people it is a very busy site on the weekends but for a Thursday night it was not bad. We also learned from our neighbors about a great day hike from this campsite to the top of Mt Cammerer. Looks like it is about 5.2 miles each way and it is supposed to be a beautiful 270 panoramic view of the Pigeon River from a stone fire tower. We will have to check that out another time. After dinner we sat back and relaxed just enjoying the sounds of the creek.

The next morning we headed out Swallow Fork Trail towards Mt Sterling. We had less than 6 miles so we took our time getting ready and figured it should take about 7 hours to hike at the worst case. It was about 11 so I was thinking we would be at camp around 5 or 6 at the latest. At this point I should mention that my wife has suffered from a migraine for over a year, we probably should have postponed the hiking portion of our trip as she had just spend almost 2 weeks strait in our bedroom with the blinds closed and the lights off. She had a few good days and the doctor has encouraged exercise so we thought it would be ok. About 1 mile into the day her migraine was really kicking in causing her to be dizzy and nauseous. We had to stop about every 400 yards and she was continuing at a crawl, we joked that we were going in reverse at some points. To her credit even with her discomfort she just kept moving. We finally made it to the Mt Sterling trail junction at about 7pm (4 miles hiked in about 8 hours). We stopped at the trail junction, which was an awesome place for a break with a very wide open grassy area, laid out the tarp so she could rest for 30 minutes. The problem we were now facing was a 1.6 mile hike to our campsite and at this rate it would be 10 pm before we made it. We moved as much from her pack as I could and into mine, to help speed through the last mile. After the 30 minute rest and the lighter pack we did make it to Campsite 38 about 8:45.

Katrina’s head continued to throb all night and she did not sleep at all, but not wanting to spend another night on top of the mountain and knowing the pace we kept the day before we set out. Unfortunately the morning was foggy so the views from the fire tower were not that great, but it was still a very nice campsite.

To help with the walk out we again loaded up my pack as much as possible. The walk down the mountain was steep and definitely the most rugged terrain we had experienced so far, By the time we finished we were exhausted, Katrina because she hadn’t slept and me from a very overloaded pack but we made it. I weighed my pack back at the van and with almost no water in it I was at 45 lbs. One thing I learned is that around 40 lbs. is where my cutoff is for comfort and I want to go much much lower in weight. So now my quest to go lightweight has started. I’ll keep you up to date as we go. The second thing we learned is that in the backcountry is no time to mess with your health. We were never really in no danger, Katrina was just very uncomfortable but it does make you think how far away from the car you are and how long it would take to get help. All in all it was a great trip but in hind sight we should have gone with a short out a back trip to campsite 37.


First Family Backpacking Trip

July 2, 2012 2 comments

After our vacation to GSMNP in July, I had started researching as much as possible, reading a few books, spending hours on, reading reviews deciding what equipment to buy. I was addicted. It seemed like we recieved packages every other day from countless online retailers. Pretty much everything I got for Christmas was backpacking related. (not sure that will change anytime soon 🙂 ). Here in Indiana last winter we had one of the mildest winter I ever remember, so we took advantage with a few day hikes here and there to test out some of the gear. Now we just had to pick a time for our first trip and spring break was looking like the time. Weather permitting we were going to head out to the Deam Wilderness in the Hoosier national forest for 2 nights.

I spent weeks trying to put together a good gear list for the trip, and then hours trying to organize everything laying it out in individual piles. Food was our biggest challenge, I really had no idea how much we would eat, plus this was going to be the first trip for my son, daughter and my wife so I didn’t want to leave them with a bad impression. We finally manage to get everything packed up and ready to go. We head out to Deam, about an hour drive from our house, the 4 of us plus our dog Peyton. My pack was about 45 lbs, the kids and my wife were each about 25 lbs. The hike in was farily easy about 4.5 miles to a camp site near Monroe Reservoir, and the weather was absolutely gorgeous for early April in Indiana.

After we get camp set up, a few things I realized. Bringing the dog with us on our first trip was probably a mistake, he actually did very well but the few times he decided to pull a little to hard or got under everyone’s feet setting up just added to the stress. I should mention that he is a 100 lb lab so when he pulls or gets under your feet you notice. Even with my list and my attempt to cut back on our gear, I can already see we brought too much with us. Third I realize that I need to cut about another 20 lbs but this I need to cut from my gut not from my pack! Most importantly I realize as we are all sitting around the fire with no cellphones (our kids are 17 and 13) no TV, no ipad, no video games, just the sound of nature and us hanging out as a family that we have really stubled onto something good here.

The second day after breakfast we decide that we would set out for a dayhike to a cave about 3 miles from our campsite, ate lunch and came back to relax around camp. The same theme still stands out, we are really having a great time as a family, even the dog is easier to manage. Although I continue to realize that we brought WAY TOO much food!!! and way too much stuff.

Overnight we had a pretty good storm roll through, and it was good to see our tent setup was successful. The rain held out long enough for us to pack up and head out before the skies opened up and it poured the entire way back to the van.

Over all the weekend was a huge success and great learning experience. We could have cut our food in half and still brought food home. We certainly brought too much with us, even though I read countless other accounts of others that did the same thing. I don’t think you can ever get the understanding you need until you try it out for yourself. Most importantly the family time was absolutely priceless.