Total miles hiked: 20.9
17-18 January 2016
I love winter in the Smokies, and I love the challenges inherent in winter backpacking. My trip this weekend proved to be both beautiful and challenging!
My route for this trip started on the Middle Prong trail in the Tremont section of the park. I hiked up Middle Prong to its junction with the Greenbrier Ridge trail, and took it up to the Applachian Trail at Sams Gap. Just 0.3 miles up the AT is the Derrick Knob shelter where I spent the night. Next day took me northeast on the AT to the Miry Ridge trail, down to Panther Creek trail at Jakes Gap, back down to Middle Prong and my car. There is about a 2100' elevation difference between the trailhead at Middle Prong to the AT.
The weather forecast called for some snow and cold temperatures on the 17th, clearing overnight getting colder on the 18th. It was spitting snow as I got on the Middle Prong trail about 11 am on the 17th.
|Middle Prong trailhead|
|Middle Prong Cadillac in the snow|
|Panther Creek trailhead on Middle Prong|
|Indian Flats Falls|
|Middle Prong - Lynn Camp Prong - Greenbrier Ridge trails junction|
Greenbrier Ridge trail follows the contours of the ridge as it slowly but steadily gains elevation on its way up to the AT. The trail is mostly follows a typical pattern of going out to the edge of a ridge, and then back in to cross a stream, and then back out to another ridge. Along the way there were some beautiful icicle walls, and a few good views of the surrounding mountains. It seems like this is not a terribly heavily traveled trail - there's a fair amount of undergrowth right up to the edge of the trail that slaps at your legs as you go along.
|Icicles on the Greenbrier Ridge trail|
|Greenbrier Ridge and Appalachian Trail junction at Sams Gap|
|The Appalachian Trail - love those white blazes!|
I love the trail shelters in the Smokies. The stone walls, stone chimneys and wooden bunks make me feel at home. During the winter the park installs tarps across the front of each shelter to keep out the wind. This makes them much cozier! And by the way - the chimney at the Derrick Knob shelter draws very well, and thanks to "Tallahassee Tim" for a very clean shelter.
|Derrick Knob shelter|
|Water source at Derrick Knob shelter|
Ultimately I managed to force myself out of the warmth of the sleeping bag and get the coffee and oatmeal going. Once I was up I got up and out pretty quickly. No better way to warm up than to start hiking. While the day before had been mostly cloudy and spitting snow, the morning was glorious and clear, with the snow sparkling on everything.
|Leaving Derrick Knob shelter on the AT|
|Appalachian Trail - Miry Ridge trail junction|
|View through the trees from the Miry Ridge trail|
|Miry Ridge - Lynn Camp Prong trail junction|
|Backcountry campsite #26 trail marker|
|Backcountry campsite #26|
|View from Dripping Springs Mountain|
|Ice covered trail along lower section of Miry Ridge trail|
|Miry Ridge - Jakes Creek - Panther Creek trail junction|
|Lynn Camp Prong ford. Brrrrrrrr!|
Winter is a special time in the Smokies. The scenery takes on a whole new kind of beauty, and the weather just offers new and different challenges. I thoroughly enjoyed this trip, and look forward to a good new year of hiking in the Smokies.
Til next time, happy hiking!