Warning: the following words and images will allow you to vicariously see the world with the eyes of Sultan. Read at your own risk. The name Sultan has many meanings, but derives from the peak Sultan Mountain in Silverton, CO!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

48M Backpacking in the Smokies

Got off to a late start Friday, and hit the trail by 6pm at Newfound Gap heading Southbound on the AT.  A couple of friends had started early Friday and enjoyed the beautiful hike down to campsite #28 by way of Miry Ridge.  On my drive up, I assumed I would just park my car at the Clingmans Dome parking lot and shoot down to the camp site with maybe an hour or two in the dark.  How naive shall I say?

Without hesitation, I passed the locked gate to Clingmans Dome and parked my car at Newfound Gap, made sure I had an extra set of batteries and took off.  It was going to be dark and cold, and for a more than a few hours.  I passed a few people hiking down and calling it a night.  They were confused as to where I was going at this late hour.  Watching the sun go down in the Pigeon Forge Valley was special.  I caught it on camera, to share with all of you.

By the time I reached Clingmans Dome, it was completely dark, icy, super windy, and frigid.  I was all alone, standing on top of this man made spiral tower, just before 9pm in complete darkness.  Snapped a photo, and kept running.  I made my way past Double Springs Shelter.  A few people in the shelter were concerned at the moving noise with a headlamp, but I just kept trotting thru.  It was a little warmer now.  I pushed past Silers Bald Shelter. This area reminded me very much of our SCAR run in 2009.  Those were the days!

I pulled right onto Miry Ridge, and the Full moon was out and above all the surrounding peaks here.  I could tell this ridge would be more amazing in full sunlight, than in the darkness I witnessed.  You can see the lights of Gaitlinburg and Pigeon Forge clearly from this vantage point.  The single track was nice.  I pulled into camp at 12:30am.

After breakfast, we were off by 9:30am to campsite 30.  We took Middle Prong up to Panther Creek, past campsite 27, and right onto Cucumber Gap.  This section between Panther Creek and Cucumber Gap is filled with swimming holes, creek crossings, and waterfalls which would make great summer time short hikes!  We passed campsite 24 all the way to campsite 30 which seemed to be an island of sorts.  Creeks criss crossed rivers to carve this campsite out.  We moved at a casual pace and made it here in 6.5 hours, 15 miles.

The following morning I hit the trail at 8am.  Wanting to make it home at a decent hour, I took off solo and moved uphill faster than a casual pace.  The sun was shining directly at me when I hit Rough Ridge and Sugarland.  The views here were spectacular.  A few trees blown down made for some interesting side excursions.  I made it back up to the ridge on the AT and ran down to the car at Newfound Gap.  This is where I met Godspeed aka Mark Booth.  He asked me if I needed a cold drink, or a ride down to Gatlinburg to restock.  I smiled, and knew he was trying to help out thru hikers.  I thanked him for his kindness, and struck up a conversation on his AT thru hike with his 18 year old son.  What an inspirational story.

I also made a video, hope you enjoy.

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