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Re: [at-l] smokies

Ken Bennett wrote:

> 1. Can anyone recommend your favorite 3-day, 25-35 mile loop hike in
> the
> park, preferably using some of the AT?

The Mt. Sterling loop suggested earlier is a good one. There are several
loops suggested in "The Brown Book", a relatively new guidebook for the
Smokies, published by the GS Natural History people. I also like
starting at Cades Cove going up to the AT via Anthony Creek/Bote Mtn.
Trail loop. Stay at Russell Field or Spence Field, then come back down.
That wouldn't satisfy your mileage requirements, however. You could hike
further on the AT and come down further east, but you would have to
hitch back to Cades.

> 2. Are the car campgrounds still open? I will probably drive down
> Friday
> afternoon, and need a cheap place to sleep for the night. How about a
> cheap-but-decent motel?

I would call the Park. They have been closing most of the car
campgrounds each winter for lack of funds. A real cheap motel in
Gatlinburg that many thru-hikers stay in is the Willow Motel. It's
pretty spartan, but it will do.

> 3. How about an opinion on a specific hike: Start at Davenport Gap,
> hike
> south on the AT to Cosby Knob shelter for the first night, then on to
> Big
> Cove Gap  and left on the Balsam Mtn trail to the Laurel Gap shelter
> for the
> second night, then any one of several trails back to the car (Gunter
> Fork,
> Sterling Ridge, Big Creek trails). That's 8 miles, 14 miles, and about
> 12
> miles on day 3. Is this reasonable given the elevation gain and the
> short
> day length? (I'm in okay shape, and these distances wouldn't bother me
> in
> central VA.)

I've not done this specific loop, but let me tell you that a good rule
of thumb for the Smokies is 8 to 10 miles a day if you are doing side
trails. Remember, you are hiking in the winter with shorter days and you
have the real possibility of bad weather, which will slow you down. You
tend to get started later (at least I do, 'cause it's too cold to get
out of the bag!) and the cold does indeed sap your energy. In the
winter, I'd plan mileage conservatively.

> 4. I still need reservations for the shelters, right? How crowded is
> the
> park in November? How's the weather? The bears?

You always need reservations for shelters in the Smokies. You can make
reservations up to 30 days in advance. Call the park office reservations
number, which is listed. (sorry, I don't have it handy)I've had 70
degree weather on Thanksgiving in the Smokies, at elevation. I've also
experienced blizzard condtions. I'd take cold weather gear. Bear
activity is really reduced but there's always the chance that some
procrastinator bear is still roaming around looking for food.  Hang your

I wasn't surprised to see Tom Fort replying to your message. He's an old
Smokies hand and I would listen to his advice. I would also check out
the library for hiking guides for GSMNP. Get some of the later guides
published in 95 and 96. These will give you most of the info you need.
Have a great time!

Peter H. Fornof

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