All 2014 Reports
- Dave MacLuskie, Kaylee MacLuskie
I loved the first 9.5 mile (with a pack) hike I have ever done! My favorite part was probably the second day 9.5 trip. I saw so much although the biggest animal we saw on our trip was a little chipmunk. I had an awesome time at camp and on the trail. My pack weighed 9 pounds. I could have taken my pack or Mobius [ed. - our cat].
On the first day we hiked 3 miles and topped to get a fill-up on water but they took down the water sign so we didn't expect an awesome trickle, but when we got there the wate was more like a pool than a tiny trickle and the pool of water had absorbed muddy water so we didn't fill up there. We went up the mountain and set up camp. We had noodles and salmon for dinner and then we went out to the overlook and saw the sun set.
On day two (the awesome 9.5 mile day) we woke up and took down the side by side hammock idea, and since we didn't have enough water to make oatmeal we just hit the road and ate a poptart on the go! We hiked down Mt. Pleasant and back ot the car, got ready to go up Cold Mountain. My dad and I saw a stone wall at 7 miles for the day and were close to the destination camp site but my dad was thinking totally off since he thought that we should reach the campsite at 4:00pm at the latest. I got there at 2:00pm We only had a MILE to go after that so we took a long break at the campsite.
We hit the road again at 2:30pm and set off toward the car. We got to the car at about 3:10 and rested and we hit another campsite that was like car camping but we hiked in and didn't drive so it was technically not car camping. We spent the night and woke up in the morning, ate oatmeal, and headed over to Skyline Caverns
Kaylee and I have had a daddy-daughter backpacking weekend on the calendar for a while but hadn't selected a location. I had a pretty good stack of maps going when Kaylee suggested she'd like to go back to Mount Pleasant. That was the destination for our first backpacking trip nearly a year ago. I'm rather fond of the area and we made it happen.
We arrived mid-day on Friday, donned our packs (9 pounds for Kaylee, about 22 pounds for me). We made short work of the 3 mile climb to the top of Mount Pleasant. The one disappointment was the lack of water at the spring near the top. We had sufficient water to drink and make dinner but would be short for breakfast. Since we were hiking back down past a creek and the car it wasn't an issue. Much to Kaylee's amusement I managed to fall on my butt while descending the steep slope to the creek. She did not.
We were the only folks on the mountain when we arrived and setup camp at the same spot as last year. This trip we brought hammocks. I've been using mine over the summer and enjoy it. Kaylee tried it in the backyard one night and so I bought her a Grand Trunk Ultralight and we made top quilt and underquilt from a single synthetic quilt kit from ThruHiker.com. Kaylee's short enough the single kit was sufficient. The underquilt is nearly full length for her. She'll out-grow the top quilt in a few years but we'll be able to pass it along.
Our choice of tree's was somewhat limited if we wanted to stay near each other so I hung the two hammocks side by side around a decent sized trunk. This worked out very well. My homemade hex tarp was large enough to cover us both. The light rain overnight didn't bother us at all. With camp set up we cooked dinner (noodles and salmon) and roasted some marshmallows. A fellow backpacker arrived while we ate and moved down to the west end of the mountain to set up camp.
After dinner we got cleaned up, brushed teeth, and hung the bear bag, then loaded up with headlamps and cameras and headed to the rocky outcrop on the western to watch the sunset. We introduced ourselves to Will (the other backpacker) and enjoyed a couple hours on the rock enjoying good company and a very nice sunset. We were able to see the large clearing near the top Cold Mountain where we'd be hiking the next day. The clouds were drifting in so we missed the stars and the supermoon that weekend. We even got a little rain overnight.
We awoke to a foggy morning with the mountain socked in by clouds. With little water we didn't cook breakfast. Instead we packed up and enjoyed a poptart on our return trip over Mount Pompey and down to the car. I refilled water and grabbed a few extra bottles in case the rest of the day was dry (it wasn't).
We continued our trek up Wiggins Spring Road about a half mile before reaching Hog Camp Gap and turning south on the Appalachian Trail to climb up Cole/Cold Mountain. (The name varies depending on which map you look at.) I hadn't hiked this section before so I wasn't sure exactly what to expect.
Kaylee's foot was bothering her just below the ankle bone so we stopped and fiddled with socks and added a little padding. That solved the issue for a while. A couple chipmunks played hide and seek with us before we reached the wild-flower filled meadow at the top of Cold Mountain. We got a great view of Mount Pleasant as well.
We sat by a large rock (now known as "tick rock") and enjoyed a snack while I did a little surgery on Kaylee's shoe. The pain she was feeling was caused by a build up of overlapping material on the outside of the shoe. I cut all that off so the sides were flexible again and her foot issue never returned. We surmise this stop is where she got the tick on the back of her calf. I noticed it about 30 minutes later as we started the descent down the other side of the mountain and removed it easily with my tick key.
Kaylee really got into her stride at this point and blazed on down the trail to our intersection with the blue blazed trail to the Cow Camp Gap Shelter - one of the many three sided shelters along the AT. The spring was a bit muddy but the creek was running well enough to fill up on water, though we didn't need to.
We continued the blue blazed trail named the "Hotel Trail". I don't know why. It will take us up to another campsite and back to the car. The original plan was to camp at a nice site that sits below the Cold Mountain meadow. We arrived around 2pm and took a long snack break and enjoyed the area. This stop put is a bit over 8 miles for the day. I've established a bit of a challenge for Kaylee: hike a mile for each year she is old. We started this when she was 4 or 5. This hike counted as her 8 miles at age 8 and the first time she'd done it with a pack. Previously we'd just done day hikes.
It really is a great campsite but we decided that with our early departure on Sunday morning it would be best to move on and camp closer to the car so we could have a lazy morning. We hit the trail again and in a short mile or so were back at the car. We hiked back up to Hog Camp Gap and setup camp there at the same spot I stayed after my Improbable Thirty hike.
Of particular note were now at about 9.5 miles for the day. Kaylee was justifiably proud of the accomplishment and it was very rewarding for me to see her revel in that. It was definitely on her mind most of the evening because it kept coming up on conversation. She admitted she was a bit nervous at the beginning of the day but was quite jazzed about it now. We'd finished up well before I thought we would despite the extra mileage.
After setting up camp (another double-hang and shared-tarp configuration), we explored the area and noted at least one other very nice camp site in the area. We decided not to move though this time but may stay there on a future trip. The spring was a bit of a hike (quarter mile) and it'd be possible to get water but it wasn't flowing terribly well. A couple camped part way down the hill said they'd run across a rattlesnake on their hike down and didn't make it to the spring. We kept our eyes open but didn't see any snakes.
Hog Camp Gap is right by the gravel road and is a pretty popular site so it was tough to find firewood. We collected enough to have a small fire and finish off the marshmallows after dinner. We still had time before dark to watch some dark clouds roll in and play cards before heading to bed. The wind changed directions over night and there were some very strong gusts. It never did rain but I had to get up at one point and lower the pitch of the tarp to better protect us from the wind.
With ample water we enjoyed some oatmeal for breakfast before packing up and heading out to meet BJ at Skyline Caverns.
It was a hugely successful trip. Kaylee surpassed her own expectations with flying colors and we both had a great time. The hammocks worked out well. The side-by-side hang was particularly convenient. In bad weather it may not work as well given the length of my hammock but in fair weather it was more than enough. Our weather ended up being fantastic. The highs during the day were mid to upper 70's and the lows in the mid to upper 50's. I didn't see a single mosquito the entire trip. The gnats on Saturday night were a little tiresome, though not enough of a bother to pull out the headnets.
Just a few photos from the caverns.
dave.macluskie AT gmail.com