Smoky Mountain Backpacking Trip, Part 1

After my graduation dinner Friday night, Allison and I drove to Townsend, TN to meet up with her parents and brothers (Alex and Jonathan). After a short warm-up hike Saturday morning, we loaded up the packs and set off for Russell Field (5.2 miles).

Leaving Cades Cove

Group Picture

We made it to the Russell Field shelter with plenty of time to change clothes, filter water from a nearby spring, and cook dinner before it got dark.  Although most of us had freeze-dried meals, we also had room in our packs for luxuries like zucchini bread and fresh fruit. Needless to say, this earned us some jealous looks from the more hardcore Appalachian Trail through-hikers who’d been living on the bare essentials for several weeks.

Cooking Dinner

The next morning, we departed around 8:30am for a 5.7 mile, GPS-guided off-trail hike to a waterfall.  The plan was to leave our packs (and lunches) at Russell Field, so we’d only have to bring water bottles and a few light snacks. So…just to give you an idea of how things went down:

1 hour later

4 hours later

10 hours later

It turned out that much of our route was overgrown with thick patches of rhododendron, so we spent at least 5-6 hours walking along the sides of ridges, crawling through tangled bushes, retracing our steps, crossing streams, crawling through more bushes, and descending ~1000 feet into a steep ravine before we even reached the waterfall. Then, in order to get back to Russell Field, we had to spend several more hours climbing back out of the ravine and plowing along a thorn-covered ridge.

Highlights included stumbling upon a nest of snakes (while perched precariously on the side of a ravine), hacking through vines for water (pictured below…but no worries, we also had the water filter), and nearly getting crushed by a falling slab of rock (pulled loose by yours truly as I tried to descend a rock face).

KA-BAR > vine

vine water > bottled water

On the upside, we got to see a pretty sweet 40ft waterfall that very few people have seen before. There were also plenty of red toads, and I caught a quick glimpse of a wild boar before it ran off into some bushes.

Alex under the waterfall

We made it back to camp at 6:52pm and spent 15-20 minutes scarfing down some food before loading our packs and setting off along the AT. Thanks to a quick pace, we arrived at the Spence Field shelter (3.1 miles) just after sunset.

Published in: on May 10, 2011 at 12:59 am  Comments (10)  

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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Absolutely amazing. Congratulations on graduating and proceeding straight to adventure. Love the photo captions. Looks like you two had a blast!

  2. Wow! The Smokies is one of my favorite places and I’ve spent a lot of time there. It takes GUTS to do an off trail hike, especially up high. Way to go!

  3. Nice job Matt. But you forgot to mention that we nicknamed our off trail hike ‘Death March II’! (Death March I was many years ago when Allison was very young. Our family has experienced – and survived – many adventures!)

  4. this looks like fun,,,is it safe to be off trail?

    • It ended up being safe in the long run, ha ha. Definitely not recommended without a gps and water filter, though.

  5. Good thing I clicked THE DARING DEED on your menu. This is what I was prowling in your other blog. Just subscribe. Being a mountaineer myself I am so into what you do there.

    More mountains to climb!

  6. PS

    I would have wanted to see the snakes on their nest. That must be eery.

    • It was! I’m actually taking another trip here next week. Longer this time, however: 73 miles on the Appalachian Trail all the way through the Smokies.

      • Take care then. I’d looking forward to that here.

  7. I meant, I’d be looking forward to that here.

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