10 Nov Bote Mountain Trail Hike – Great Smoky Mountains
Itinerary – Day 1
11/17/2011 – 15.5 miles
Chestnut Top Trail – 4.3 mi
Schoolhouse Gap Trail – 1 mi
Turkeypen Ridge Trail – 3.4 mi
Crib Gap Trail – 1.6 mi
Anthony Creek Trail – 3.5 mi
Bote Mtn Trail – 1.7 mi
Spencefield Shelter – Camping
Chestnut Top trail had nice wintertime views of Thunderhead and at one point I could view the big 3, Clingman’s Dome, Mt. LeConte, and Mt. Guyot. At least I believed it was those three!
I only saw one other hiker until I neared Cades Cove.
Since the Subway Sandwich shop in Townsend wasn’t open and I had plans for a tuna footlong on honeyoat for the day’s lunch, my pack was short one meal. Detouring down Anthony Creek Trail to the camp store, I paid $9 for two veggie burgers and baked beans. Sitting on a bench in the warm sun, I ate as I gazed at a particularly large and brightly colored woodpecker that was drawing the aim of a tourist’s camera. I paused with my own camera, changed my mind and continued to eat.
As I finished up, I noticed four backpackers starting out in the direction of my trailhead. As it turned out, I later caught up and passed them on the Anthony Creek Trail. This group was Chase, Eric, Brien, and Jerry. Hopefully, I remembered these names correctly. They were staying at Spencefield Shelter along with a guy named Joe (fellow Philmont veteran) and several others.
It was a cold night on top, but we had a nice fire going in the fireplace and a lot of fun exchanging trail stories. These included Mt Shasta whiteout stories, Mt Hood summits, bears and disappearing backpacks, extreme cold and frostbite at Overmountain Shelter, and near drowning experiences at creek fords. I counted myself lucky not to have encountered some of these extremes. I was also pleased to find others who had hiked Dolly Sodds Wilderness; a rare experience or maybe only a wonderful coincidence.
Itinerary Day 2
Bote Mtn Trail – 5.4 mi
West Prong Trail – 2.7 mi
Lumber Ridge Trail – 4.1 mi
Meigs Mtn Trail – 1.9 mi
I was on the trail before anyone else was out of their sleeping bags. Walking up on a tree where three turkeys were roosting in the pre-sunrise shadows, I enjoyed the show.
On the descent, I soon noticed pain developing in my right knee. As it worsened, I began to notice shin splints. This was a new experience for me on a hike, although I had something like this while running the Atlanta Marathon about 20 years ago. I soon found myself consumed with worry as I imagined all kinds of possible long term impacts that usually included a shortened hiking career. The worst part was walking downhill through deep leaves with hidden stones that seemed to always move under foot.
Lunch was at Tremont. I was surprised to find a store here. Having no money left and running low on food, I ate half my dried out rice and veggie packet. In any event, the store didn’t appear to have food items. Tremont has an environmental institute and dorm where one can stay and attend classes. I noticed several kids working around the property clearing out drainage ditches. I guessed that it was a service project of some kind that went along with classes.
My knee didn’t hurt at all on the Lumber Ridge Trail climb out of Tremont. On the southeast side of the ridge it was quite warm. Large grasshoppers were sunning on low branches. They would whir off, flying long distances well beyond my reach. I remember thinking that it would take only a few of these monsters to feed one of those survival show actors.
Original plans were to reach campsite 92 then do an 8 mile roundtrip out and back on Meigs Mountain Trail. This would have been a 20 plus mile day. With the painful knee and shin splints, it wasn’t a hard decision to stop at CS 92 at the early hour of 2 PM.
I built a campfire. Later after the sun set, the wind started up and embers began blowing with the gusts. The wind blew hard all night. I could predict the next gust as the wind gathered, loudly rocking trees farther up the mountain and moving toward my campsite. When it hit my tarp, the Tyvek draped over the opening billowed like a sail and loudly snapped near my head while the inside of the tarp seemed to inflate. Later, a nearly full moon popped up over the horizon. The bright light at first made me think the blowing embers had caught the woods on fire. At other times, I would awake in the bright glow, thinking that the sun was rising.
Curry Mountain Trail – 3.3 mi
Short day. A short distance past the CS 92 on Meigs Mtn Trail there was a small cemetery on the left. There are 151 known cemeteries in GSMNP.
Knee and shin splints as bad as ever. Was to be a 16 mile day. Instead, I hiked 3.5 miles to road and hitched a ride back to my car. Thanks to the manager of Krispy Kreme and lover of Cades Cove who gave me a ride!
I researched my knee and shin pain and came to the conclusion that I needed new boots. Excessive pronation caused by worn out arches could cause shin splints and knee pain on downhill walks. My boots are over 3 years old. I recall how high and firm the arches were when I first used these boots in Yosemite. Now the inside of the boots are as flat as a pair of Crocs.