Great Smoky Mtn NP Hiking Trip Report -- April 2001


Woke up in my bed and looked at my clock...4:22am.  The alarm is set for 4:30am, expecting a phone call around 4:15-4:30am from Scott, my hiking partner who will be picking me up.  The phone rings at 4:23am., Scott will be leaving Kokomo shortly.  At 4:28am I hear my son's alarm clock go off in his room and am a little surprised when I hear him turn it off and show up in my bed within 10 seconds.  I think it's the first time he's ever woken up to an alarm.  He's anxious to see me off on my hiking trip!  At 4:33am I get up, stretch, do some pushups to get my blood flowing and get in the shower.  After getting dressed I head downstairs, Ian on my heals, to eat some breakfast and finalize my pack.  At 5:10am, I'm all set and still haven't seen Scott, but given the time of his wake-up call, I might not see him for a few more minutes.

Ian is still awake and watching ESPN SportsCenter, his favorite TV show.  I keep and eye on him and an eye out for Scott driving thru the neighborhood.  Finally, at 5:33am, he shows and we're off in minutes.  We stopped for gas in Noblesville.  Went to Indy planning on taking I-74 to Cincinnati, but the ramp was closed and the next exit isn't for awhile.  I decide that we'll go thru Louisville instead.  We cruse.  Three miles before the Ohio River we come to a stop on I-65, but it takes only a couple minutes to get moving again.  We take I-64 to Lexington, then I-75 south.  We stop in Berea for gas and pop.  Jump back in and don't stop again until a few miles east of Knoxville for some lunch at Wendy's.  We eat quickly and hit the road for the last leg to GSM NP.  The mountains come into view.  It's past noon and warming up.  As we approach the Smokies on I-40 I spot snow, as expected, up high.  We make a couple false turns but make it to the Cosby "Ranger Station" a little after 1:00pm (all times stated in EST, which is not the time zone of GSM NP).  I was lead to believe that we could buy real maps and talk to real people at the Ranger Station, but all we see is a self-serve registration booth.  We're unsure, then realize that this must be the place.  We register and finalize our packs.  Scott could barely fit his food and other junk in his pack.  At 2pm we start hiking..

We start up the trail, then turn back, looks like the wrong trail.  We get back to the parking lot and no, I think that was the right one.  Someone offers help and indicates that we must travel .4 miles up on Lower Gap Trail beore Lower Cammerer splits off to the left.  Everything was surprisingly quiet at teh trailhead/campground.  I bet only three tents and three campers total.  Probably 15 cars in the parking lot.  There is one party of 10 older people at the far end of the parking lot.  We see a few other couples, but I'm surprised how little traffic/people we see for a campground and trailhead in the most visited NP in the US.

Back up the trail we see signs for Lower Gap and Nature trail, but are really uncertain and stay on Lower Gap hoping to see a signed turnoff to Lower Mt. Cammerer.  Finally, we see the sign and head off to Gilliland Creek campsite.  

Scott complains some about his pack and I help adjust for a better fit.  The trails are wide and clear.  Its probably about 60 degrees.  I'm in my new T-shirt, Scott's got two short sleeve shirts on.  On up hills I sweat pretty good.  The trail goes up some at first, but a slow grade.  After the first 1/2 mile or so it really levels off with only periodic ups and downs.  We pass thru a variety of forest types and cross over a few streams.  The water is flowing good, from the mountain top snow melt, but not too much.  We take a break after about 1.5 miles to climb (without packs) a little extra spur trail to Sutton's Ridge that beautifully overlooks both the valley and has some great views of the mountains overhead.  Physically we are doing well despite little sleep and decent pack weights.  We stop periodically to check maps or for water, but don't snack or break without our packs.  We round a point and I announce to Scott that when we reach the creek we hear we'll break for a snack.  As we look down to the creek it looks really nice down on the valley floor...even kind of flat, something we haven't seen much of since starting this morning.  Then I notice that we are looking at the campsite we'll be staying at tonight.  It's 4:12pm, just over 2 hours.  My Trails Illustrated map shows the campsite further along, by about 1.5 miles, but the park map, at 1/4 the scale, looks more accurate.  This means we just have further to hike tomorrow...ouch!   I guess the good news is we didn't kill ourselves on day 1 and we can get to bed early.  No one else is at this site and no one shows up all night.  We see absolutely no one on the trail all day.  We pick the best of the three lower campsites and start pitching our tents.  We feel some hunger...we never did snack.  Before long we had voted on Chicken ala King and had it going.  We took our time at everything.  Scott spent time learning some tricks and tips and we lounged as we prepared camp.  Around 6pm dinner was ready and we ate.  Good stuff.  I had a little hot chocolate and gorp after dinner.  Again, leasurely, we pumped water for tomorrow, cleaned up dishes and camp and then hung the packs.  They have a pully system with metal cables to lift the packs away from the bears.  Works nice.  On the other side, no latrine at this large, shared'd think a latrine would minimize the impact of human waste.  About 7:20pm we head to our tents calling it an evening as it get's dark.  By 6:30pm it had cooled considerably to 50 degrees from a high of about 65 today.  It was actually chilly.  Our campsite has a beautiful tumbling stream beside it, great for the sound.  We'd like to hit the trail early tomorrow morning.  We have our 10 miles and 2400 feet of verticle gain in the first 5-6 miles.  It shout be a good test.  Tomorrow night we should be staying at Cosby Knob Shelter...a whole new experience for both of us.


Got up at 5:30am after a decent night of sleep.  Scott said he slept poorly.  We woke up in the dark around 4:45am, but I fell back asleep until 5:30.  We took our time and didn't get out of there until 7:00am.  We at our breakfast bars on the trail after our start.  We pushed about 2 miles, one hour before stopping for our first break.  That first section was mostly uphill, but not real steep.  We stayed along the ridge slowly making our way uphill.  We then put in another solid hour of hiking after a 15 minute break.  At 9:15am we made to the junction with the AT.  We took a 25 minute break before a 1500 foot vertical gain over the next 2.3 miles.  It was tough!  We worked hard, but kept up the pace.  It was just consistently uphill.  We passed 16 people , 4 singles, one group of 4 and 4 groups of 2.  We took the .6 mile trail to Mt Cammerer Lookout.  At 12:05pm we reached Mt. Cammerer.  We had it to ourselves the entire 1.5 hours.  We ate, rested and just took it easy getting ready for the 3.5 miles to Cosby Knob Shelter.  You climb for a bit after you rejoin the AT, but then level off for a mile or so.  We rested near Rocky Face Mtn around 3:05pm and then we went on to the junction with Lower Gap Trail.  It's .8 miles of steep uphill to the shelter from the junction.  We pull in right at 4pm.  The shelter has 9 spots taken and we squeeze into the last two slots.  We eat chicken teriyaki adn I ate a power bar that I skipped earlier and some more gorp.  Hung the food pack and laid down to write and chat with the shelter people.


A long, hard day after yesterday's 10.5, 650 meter climb.  We did over 13 miles with an initial climb of 300 meters.  We were the first ones from Cosby Knob shelter to hit the trail this morning.  Neither Scott nor I slept well.  I'm not sure why, but I just couldn't get much sleep.  I'm speculating that the 11 hours in the sleeping bag just isn't normal for my body.  I was sweating so bad that I took off clothes at 1:00 am.  Scott and I got up at 5:30am - he probably earlier - and got on the trail by 6:15am, before half of the others were even up.

The trail started out uphill.  Scott clearly wasn't feeling well and we went real slow to Camel Gap.  It took 1.5 hours to travel those 1.6 miles.  We then had a 2.3 mile, 300 meter gain to Inadu Knob.  It just kept going.  By the time we hit Inadu Knob we had seen 10 solos and one group of three.  There was a party of three at Inadu Knob (the trail junction, anyway) daytripping looking for aircraft wreckage and another party of three on their way to Cosby Knob Shelter.  Scott and I had a good rest there.

As soon as we started down Snake Den Trail we were passed by a couple going out.  We were still moving slowly, even though it was downhill.  We rested just before the Snake Den and Maddron Bald split.  Then, just after the break and before the split, I finished off a role of film so I stopped at the intersection to re-film my camera, drop a shirt and drink a little water.  I told Scott to go ahead since he'd been going so slow.  Evidently the beef jerky he at at Inadu Knob kicked in because I was moving fast and never managed to catch up.  We passed a split up party of four going from Otter Creek to Cosby Knob.  They didn't look good.  Maddron Bald offered some good scenery off the top.  It was covered with rhododendrons, like most exposed ridges.  Kind of curious if they are native or not...seeing as how usually a species so dominant in a particular landscape usually turns out to be non-native.  About a quarter mile from Otter Creek I finally found Scott stopped along the trail taking of his layers.  It was hot on Maddron Bald with the sun shining and the lack of trees.  We were now making good time going downhill continuously.  My feet started to hurt from the downhill tread.  This trail was excellent.  Nice stream crossings, old growth trees, and just great peacefulness in the land.  We did the 6.0 mile Maddron Bald trail in about 3 hours, including a 40 minute break to cool our hurting feet in an ice cold side stream.  Just after Albright Grove Trail, the last 1.7 miles were al downhill on an old road bed and Scott seemed to be running downhill.  We took a much needed lunch break at the intersection of Gabes Mtn Trail.

Scott started the day out slow, feeling poorly, then kicked butt on the Maddron Bald Trail.  He led virtually the entire way and kept pushing me.  There were a few times when I wished he'd have slowed down, but I get something out of being pushed.

I ate my bagel and peanut better for lunch and it tasted good.  Scott didn't eat anything, still not feeling all that good.  Gabes Mtn Trail is mostly uphill for the 2.5 miles or so to the campsite.  I led the entire way, occasionally slowing for Scott, who once again was hurting on an uphill section of the trail.  The last section was definitely trying...uphill at the end of a long day.

Just when we thought we had another creek to cross and almost a mile to go, we spot the campground below us.  At 4:20pm we set down, rushing water.  Two other parties have setup so we go to the lowest sites.  We setup camp and then Scott wants to nap to see if he can shake his exhaustion/sickness.  Sounded good to me as well.

We get up  around 6:15pm, cook dinner, filter water, cleanup and hang our packs.  It was over 70 degrees today and while its coolded down a little, its still 56 degrees at 8:15pm.  We both go in our tents around 8:00pm.  The beautiful sound of rushing water just outside our tents should help put us to sleep quickly.

Scott ate a hearty dose of Beef Stew.  I didn't eat much but had all but a spoonful of a desert of berries and chocolate.  I even had a little hot chocolate to wash everything down.  We've seen nothing of the other parties and had a great last evening in the park.  Scott's definitely feeling better.  Tomorrow looks like four miles, mostly downhill.  We'll be sore, but ready to go.


The day started lazy.  I slept good from 9:00pm until 3:00am and then woke up  about once per hour for five to ten minutes until 7:00am.  I laid in my bag until about 7:30am when I couldn't stand it any longer and started getting up.  I got up, went to the bathroom, took a couple pictures and then got bored.  About then Scott got up and we started leasurely packing up on our last morning.

By 8:55am we had everything loaded and started up the hill to the trail. The group right above us was still breaking camp while the one above the trail was already gone.  Our first goal was Hen Hallow Falls.  We speculated the distance at two miles.  We had some gradual uphills until we got closer to the falls when things definitely started downhill.  We stopped at the top of the falls looking for the trail while breaking.  We couldn't find a good trail down, but saw enough of the falls to find a way down.  Scott hiked pretty slow the first couple miles.  His stomach felt better, but his body wasn't totally into it yet.  I was a little surprised when we found the trial down, he decided to go down too.  The falls were nice.  We took a couple pictures amongst the daytrippers that had hiked up the two mile trail to the falls.  We got a little more water and started back up the hill to where we left our packs.

For some reason we decided to cruise out.  We made the 2.1 miles in about 45 minutes.  Much of it was downhill.  We passed some day hikers who probably had 3-4 minutes on us.

We changed some clothes, dropped the cover to Scott's Jeep and hit the road around 12:30pm.  I had thought I'd lost my wallet for much of the trip, but found it lying loosely in the back near Cincinnati - lucky it didn't blow my Netscape hat near Knoxville.  We stopped at the first Wendy's...Scott's fantasy while on the trail.  We also stopped at a BK near Cincinnati.  I drove home from that point, surprised at how well the Jeep drove both top down and up.  Got home at 8:35pm.  Glad I went, glad to be home again.

The Smokies are beautiful!!!  Spring was great because the trees hadn't filled out and we could see much more.  We missed the six inches of snow by just a couple days.  Our weather was great...if not too warm.  Virtually no critters.  The shelter thing, while glad to have done it, doesn't really hold much appeal for me.  I give breakfast bars instead of a hot breakfast a thumbs up for speed.  The new pack and boots get thumbs up.  The trail/route we picked was a great cross section, but like Scott said, "the bottom is more scenic than the top".  Great waterfalls, better campsites down low.  After awhile, the awesome views from the top all looked alike.  Scott was an excellent trail mate, pushing me at time, definitely carrying his weight, remarkable for a first-timer.  

While still not the Boundary Waters, I'm going back!

April 2001 Great Smoky Mtn Hiking Trip Site
Ahmoo Creek Home
Posted: 25-Sep-2001
Updated: 30-Apr-2007