Two Balds and a Firetower in the Smokies

wsp_scott

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I'm catching up on a backlog of photos/trip reports, this was from last November

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

11/5 - 11/9/21 (4 nights)

Clingmans Dome to Fontana Dam via the AT with a side trip to Gregory Bald
Night 1: Double Spring Gap
Night 2: Derrick Knob
Night 3: Russell Field
Night 4: Site 13

Caltopo says about 41 miles (range: 1677' to 6573' gross: +9630' -14246')
Weather looks perfect



The AT goes through the middle of the Park. We started at Clingmans Dome on the Right and ended at Fontana Dam on the bottom Left.



We left our packs in the car for the hike to Andrews Bald. It is just long enough that the hoards of people at Clingmans Dome don't make it. There were about 10 other people enjoying the day and the views.


Fontana Lake a couple miles and 4000' down


Then back to the car and our packs and down the trail. A lot of the AT is in the trees, but there are some nice views along the way.










We got to Double Spring Gap and were able to find a place to setup away from the shelter a little bit. There were more people than I expected, we were hitting the last of the southbound thru-hikers. Most of them were planning on being done by Thanksgiving. Everyone was nice, we had a small fire and chatted a bit and then bed.

Day 2
A little cold in the morning, but not bad once the sun was higher, great day for hiking.


My friend's son




Last bits of fall still hanging on.




We got to Derrick Knob early after a short day of hiking, enough time for a nap in the hammock. Talked to thru-hikers, bourbon and a fire again. Great day.

Day 3
Weather forecast still accurate, beautiful day. Up and over Rocky Top


Fontana Lake down below








Russell Field Shelter


More thru-hikers, more bourbon and conversation

Day 4


Off the AT for the night to Gregory Bald and Site 13, that's Cades Cove down below


We setup camp and then hiked the 1/2 mile back to the bald for sunset.


Cade Cove again














Day 5
Woke up early to catch the sunrise from the bald




My friend and his son headed down the trail to get water. I told them I would catch up in a bit. I started to head into the trees to take care of some business and saw a bear watching me. This is the first bear I've seen in the Smokies that did not immediately run. I took a couple photos (heavily cropped) as he went back to foraging and then headed down the trail.









Back on the AT heading towards Fontana Dam, the trees were glowing in the sunlight.




Side trip for lunch and a view at the Shuckstack Firetower






Chimney from the old cabin




Then back to the AT, I'm ready for a burger and a beer


Last bit is the road across the dam to the trailhead/parking lot.


Fontana Lake has been lowered for winter


Shuckstack Firetower in the middle of the ridge.

This was a great trip, very fun to hike with my friend's son. I could have done with fewer thru-hikers, but still never felt crowded.
 

Pringles

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There were some magical pictures there--the sunsets, especially. It sounds like it was a wonderful trip!
 

wsp_scott

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There were some magical pictures there--the sunsets, especially. It sounds like it was a wonderful trip!

It was one of the best backpacking trips I've done. Which is kind of weird since I've hiked these trails before, nothing new to see, just beautiful mountains. I think a large part was the company. It is nice to hike with a friend :)

Just beautiful pictures Scott! And nice that you got to see a bear.
I've seen about 25 bears over the years in the park, but they always run. I'm glad this one stood still for a photo ;)
 

Pringles

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Nov 23, 2015
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I was in the park in later-October. There were all kinds of leaf peepers, but I was back in the area for a retirement party for an old professor. I had a day free. I sort of wanted to hike to Andrew’s Bald. I’d been there before, long ago. But, I was lazy and instead just got to the Forney Ridge parking area, got a spot that faced out, and sat and looked. I love how the mountains just rumple and fold off into the distance. The leaves were magnificent. I enjoyed watching people as they would look out for a minute, and then take a picture. And then take another picture. And another and another and another and another, as if a picture was going to do it. I wonder how many live in places that they never really get views. They never see a space filled with something other than houses and buildings. It’s hard to take a picture of that. A few days later, I look at the pictures, and go, eh. But six months later, that’s when I can look at the pictures and realize what I had actually seen. The power of one little picture, and knowing that there were 360* of that.
 
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