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Laurel-Snow Falls

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Darrin, Jason, Mike and myself headed out this weekend to the Laurel/Snow Falls area in Dayton, TN.  This trail is part of the Cumberland Trail project that when completed will extend 300 miles from its northern terminus in the Cumberland Gap National Park (KY) to its southern terminus at the Chickamauga Chattanooga National Military Park located on Signal Mountain just outside Chattanooga, Tennessee.

We really enjoy camping/testing gear in this area because its only about 2 miles from the trailhead to the campsite.  Richland Creek Campsite sits very near the creek and provides plenty of water for filtering.

We were limited on time this trip so we hiked in Saturday morning and came back out Sunday morning.  There’s a total of about 12-13 miles of trail in this area but for this trip, we only covered about 4 miles of that.

Packed up and ready to go!

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The crew posing for a photo op.  I wasn’t expecting this many vehicles in the parking lot. The weather called for mid-50’s with a chance of rain on Saturday.

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My bearded friend Mike right before crossing over the metal bridge to the campsite.

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Darrin and Jason

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A few shots of our tents/hammock and relaxing.

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The area has been picked pretty clean of dead wood so while scouting round above camp and took this shot.

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Saturday morning.  Breakfast of champions!

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Jason photobombing my selfie pic.

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After breakfast, we decided to go ahead and get everything packed up.  We had been lucky and hadn’t had any rain and the last thing we wanted to do is pack up in the rain unless we had too.  On our way back to the trailhead it started misting rain and by the time we got out and to our lunch location it was getting really foggy and  the rain had set in.

Bimbo’s restaurant!  Burgers.

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Twin Arches Loop Trail BSFNP

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A couple of weeks ago, Darrin and I decided on a whim to head out Saturday morning to Big South Fork National Park to explore around the Twin Arches Loop trail.

The Twin Arches trail is a .7 mile walk that will bring you to the Twin Arches Loop Trail. The Twin Arches Loop Trail is a total of 4.6 miles and is rated as Moderate in difficulty.

There are two arches, a north and south arch. The North Arch is 62 feet high and spans about 93 feet in length. The South Arch spans about 135 feet and is 103 feet high. I wasn’t expecting them to be as big as they were in person. The photos really don’t do it justice. I’ve lived in the area all my life and I’m just now getting out to explore the Big South Fork area. Lots of things to see here!

Trail map/elevation profile link here.

Trailhead:
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Steep steps leading down.
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At .7 miles we arrive at the arches.
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A short 1.1 miles past the arches we arrive at Charit Creek Lodge Hostel.
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Bears!!

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Lodge/Dining Room

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Kitchen
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On the kitchen porch, there was a large 5 day cooler with candy bars, sodas, waters, etc.. that you can buy for $1 each. Honor system. Leave a dollar, take an item.

Randy is the winter caretaker. Here he is showing a group of Boy Scouts how to make an alcohol stove out of a coke can.

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Randy explained that the Charit Creek Lodge is privately owned, but managed by the Park. Every year people can bid on who gets the service contract for the Lodge and they have a year to take care of all the customers, cooking, housing, etc.. before the contract is up. Randy agreed to help out the current contract holder for the next few months. I envy his job!

The Lodge has showers as well with heaters in the bathrooms to keep the pipes from freezing in the winter.

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A mile or so after leaving Charit Creek Lodge Hostel you will come upon Jake’s Place campsite. Darrin and Tommy stayed here once before on an overnight trip last year with Jason hiking in early that morning to finish the loop with them.

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Looks like a nice area and has a small creek running close by. You can see where a some people have setup camp and hung their food.

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Continuing on around the loop you will steadily climb and along the way you will see some awesome cliffs.

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Check out the video below:

Runkeeper of Hike

-David

Mt. Leconte via Rainbow Falls

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Hello folks!  Just wanted to post on our most recent hike to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  This time, we planned a trip to hike Mt. Leconte via the Rainbow Falls trail and then back down the Bullhead trail.  We have both done Alum Cave trail, so we thought we’d try a couple different trails and start to knock off all the trails leading to Leconte.  We have two more left, Trillium and Boulevard.  We’re planning on doing those two early spring.

The weather was a bit cold at the start of this trip, but overall it was great.  Leconte still had about a 1/4 inch of snow and some ice but other than a few slips the trail wasn’t too bad.  The skies were clear, making for some good views on the way and especially good views up top at Myrtle Point and the Clifftops area.  The temperatures in the morning were in the low 20’s and topped out in the mid 40’s/50’s during the day.

I have to tell you, Tommy and I have both been training fairly hard to get ready for this trip.  We’ve both been walking/jogging, doing stair steps, going to the gym, etc.. and I believe it paid off.  The whole way up Rainbow we felt really good and would often just take 30-40 seconds stops to take in everything and have a quick breather, then we would move on.  Recovery times have definitely improved!  The length of Rainbow Falls trail is about 6.6 miles to the Mt. Leconte Lodge and took us around 4 1/2 hours to complete.  We didn’t break any speed records for sure, but we had a good time and it seemed a lot easier than similar hikes (Alum trail) in the past.

I last hiked the mountain in 2011 via the Alum Trail and it was good to be back on the mountain and at Leconte Lodge again.  I always enjoy the feeling you get when you arrive in the area and see the set of stairs leading down to the cabins.

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Coming up Rainbow Falls Trail:

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Rainbow Falls pictured below. Not a lot of water flow this time of year.

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One of the larger cabins at Mt. Leconte.

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After sitting down in the sun at a picnic table and eating some grub (not to mention grabbing this years Bandana and patch for souvenirs), we were ready to hike up to the summit, place our rock and continue out to Myrtle Point.

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Myrtle Point never fails to impress me.  On a clear day, you can see for miles and it’s just breath taking.  We spent about an hour taking in the views, having some more snacks, and just relaxing with the boots off!

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We backtracked towards the lodge and took the spur trail off to the Cliff Tops.

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Tommy enjoying the view right before the Cliff Tops.

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We returned back to the Leconte Lodge area and started the trip back down the mountain via the Bullhead Trail.  At this point we had put in a little over 8 miles and had 6.8 miles left to the trailhead.  Bullhead was difficult because of all the leaves covering the trail.  This made it hard to see all the loose rocks (which there were a lot of) and roots causing a slow and stumbling trip down the mountain.

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At about 6.4 miles Bullhead intersects with the Old Sugarlands Trail.  .4 miles on the Sugarlands Trail to right takes you to the parking lot.  The overall hiking time was about 9 1/2 hours with a total trip time of 12 hours.  We were quickly losing daylight hours and made it back to the car about 30 minutes before nightfall.  The longest I’ve hiked in one day previously had been 13 miles.  I got to say, I was ready to be back to the car after 15 miles of hiking.  We had a great time though and can’t wait to see what the next adventure has in store for us!

Check out the video below (video includes some footage from Cades Cove on the previous day):

-David
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