Friday, May 15, 2015

After our adventures a top Chimney Tops, we finally left the Smoky Mountains for good, but decided to extended our hiking adventure into the Nantahala Wilderness nearby. Along the way our groaning stomachs became unbearable, so we decided to stop in Franklin, NC, which turned out to be the best pit stop spot ever.  While gorging ourselves on the belly busting BBQ “Fat Buddie’s Pig-Out For Two”, our dirty laundry enjoyed a good spin in the next door laundromat. Stuffed, we soon arrived at the Standing Indian Campground where James and I enjoyed our food coma in front of the camp fire soon after dusk.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

With the first rays of the morning sun, we prepared our backpacks for a two-night hike in the Standing Indian Basin along the Appalachian Trail while the rest of the campground was still asleep.  After verifying the weather for the next two days at the camp store, we began our hike from the campground along the short and easy Long Branch Trail which led us to the white blazes of the Appalachian Trail. As soon as James and I stepped onto the Appalachian Trail, we found ourselves in a mystic world of never-ending green tunnel of rhododendrons. The shade provided us with refreshing cold air as if someone had turned on the AC as we hiked in the mid day heat.

Around lunch time we arrived at Mount Albert, which provided us with a wonderful view of the eastward valley.  As we enjoyed our tuna sandwiches in the shade of the fire tower we met up with a couple hikes we encountered earlier on the trail. To our surprise, it turned out one of the hikers was Chef Glenn of of BackpackingChef.com, who’s recipes inspired us to dehydrate some beef for our road trip. What are the odds that we would actually meet him on the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere? After exchanging some hiking recipes for backpacking, we finished our 8 mile hike at Betty Creek Gap where we pitched our tent for the night.

As fate would have it, Chef Glenn was not the only famous person we should meet that day. Around dinner time the Golden Girls of the AT made our acquaintance at the camp. The three older ladies represented the strong-willed Dorothy, spacey Rose, and Southern belle Blanche to the dot. I loved every second with them. They were not only extremely entertaining but also very inspiring. Apparently every year the three ladies take off two months, leave their husbands on their own, and hike different sections of the Appalachian trail with each other.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

After enjoying a warming cup of coffee and some granola with trail mix garnish, we continued our hike through the green tunnel towards Standing Indian Mountain. We stopped for a lunch break before our next big uphill climb, but had to take shelter as brief showers interrupted us. After lunch we climbed the ridge line as thick fog rolled in and covered the trees surrounding us. We had hoped to camp a top Standing Indian Mountain, which we were told promised incredible views, but knew the weather was going to be a problem. As we reached the  summit, we ran into a group of hikers who were trying to determine if they’d stay at the top of Standing Indian for the night or pushing on towards the shelter a few miles down the trail. Due to the bad weather forecast James received on top of the mountain, we did not dare risk any chances and decided to stay at the shelter below the mountain for the night.

Our foggy view from Standing Indian Mountain

Our foggy view from Standing Indian Mountain

Shortly after our arrival, the shelter started to fill with AT hikers anxiously waiting for the predicted thunderstorm.  Hours past and thick clouds covered the sky, but thankfully they never broke. Since James and I are only section hikers we pinched our tent behind the shelter to leave room inside the shelter for the AT hikers. The benefit of staying at a shelter is not only the early start in the morning but you also meet a lot of people. For instance, around dinner time thru-hikers Father, Son, and No Filter arrived at the campsite, and believe me No Filter’s trail name could not fit the girl any better. There where moments were I almost spit out my food because she made me laugh so hard due to her truck driver mouth.

Monday, May 18, 2015

James and I woke up around 6 am but decided to stay in our warm sleeping bags until the sun kissed our tent. The warmth of the granola mixed with hot Mexican hot chocolate gave us energy for the rather chilly morning. My knees felt great while hiking down the mountain, but with every step sadness shadowed my mind. I had so much fun with James on the Appalachian trail that I felt a little heartbroken that we’d be leaving the Appalachian Mountains. After a long, hot shower back at the campground, James came back from the store with a King Size Kit Kat and one more surprise up his sleeves to cheer me up. Before we made the long drive west through Tennessee, James planned for us to stop at the Savage Gulf Recreation Area, which Chef Glenn had recommended, for one last hike in the East.

A special thanks goes to Cat and James, who we met while in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park, for recommending us the Standing Indian loop. Without them we would have never heard about this section of the AT, which filled our road trip with such amazing memories.

Total distance: 25.48 mi
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On our way to Savage Gulf, we made a pit stop for one night in Chattanooga, TN to refresh before our next hike.  Being back in civilization was a welcome luxury. After checking in at the Crash Pad, an affordable and conveniently located hostel in the middle of Chattanooga, we headed out for lunch. We ended up stopping in at the Terminal BrewHouse, a local brewery in the historic part of the city, where we enjoyed delicious food and extremely tasteful beer. We rounded out our already great day by stopping by a few more bars in town. At Southside Social we met two other out-of-towners, Neil and Jonah, who we enjoyed a few more beers with while playing horseshoes.