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1/22/2020 12:12:56 PM
Posted: 7/27/2009 10:45:29 AM EST
My family and I will be vacationing in the Great Smoky Mountains October 14-21, 2009. We will have six-(6) full days to enjoy the area. I am the only hiker/backpacker in the bunch. Out of those 6 full days, I plan to hike at least 2, maybe 3 days. I know the basic rule of hiking/backpacking is to not go solo. I have some hiking and backpacking experience in my area (South MS). I understand that hiking 5 miles in relatively flat area is not the same as 5 miles in the mountains. I have done some solo hikes and an overnighter in my area as well. I have read about the concerns of going solo and can appreciate the dangers as well. I would consider myself an informed hiker as well. Last year, 11-2008, I had the pleasure and opportunity to hike some, what I would consider, entry level hikes. I was in the same situation last year as well, I was the only one that wanted to hike. I know, some of you saying, “Dude, you may want to vacation with some different folks.” Well, maybe, but they are my family. Anyhow, I hiked to Grotto Falls solo. I used my CamelBak H.A.W.G., which consisted of the necessary items for a day hike.. I was the first on the trail that morning. But after the reaching the water fall, I soon started encountering other hikers. I did not realize that I would have that trail all to myself that morning going up. I encountered something I had never experience before, a couple of short frozen sections of dirt. Which is like walking on frozen ice itself. I did not have any hiking poles or strap on ice 'thingys'. I managed cautiously over these icy areas. I reached the falls in about 50 minutes with taking several stops for resting and picture taking. I enjoyed the falls for about another 50 minutes, then hiked down in about 45-50 minutes. I felt like I made decent progress. After returning to town, I went and purchased a pair of hiking poles and some basic strap on metal cleat deals. Then, a couple of days later, I hiked to Laural Falls and then to the Old Growth area on Thanksgiving morning. It snowed the night before and the trail to Laural Falls was covered in snow. I was also the first one up the trail again. I could hardly believe it, the most used tail in GSM and I was the first up that morning. No other tracks in the snow until I made them, that was awesome. Of course, after I returned from the Old Growth portion back to the Falls, other hikers had come and gone and were still coming and going as one would expect. I share my history of hiking so you know a little about my trail experience. I shared with my wife where I was going and my expected time back before I left the cabin on the above hikes.

My plans this upcoming trip on my first hike is to hike to Abrams Falls solo, which is 5 miles round trip. This is a heavily used trail, as you all know. So, hiking a heavily used trail, in a sense, is not hiking alone. If I start early, like I did with Grotto Falls and Laural Falls, then I would be hiking alone for the first half. My question is, “Was I foolish for solo hiking in my above experiences?” I felt confident in doing so. I did notice I was extra mindful of being careful and cautious, especially when I encountered the icy portions of the trail.

For my second hike, I plan to hike the AT to Charles' Bunion, an 8 mile round trip hike. I am considering this one solo as well. This is also a popular hike, so there should be many people hiking as well. I am also considering turning this day hike into an overnighter by camping at the Icewater Springs Shelter. This plan would include hiking to Charles' Bunion and return to the shelter for the rest of the day. On the hike out, I would detour to Jump Off and then return to the AT and continue back to Newfound Gap parking lot.

I am looking for feedback on hiking solo to Abrams Falls and Charles' Bunion. Should I heed the rule of never hiking alone? Or, should I pay the money and join a guided hike before I continue anymore soloing? Or better yet, does anyone have plans to be in the GSM the same time frame as mine?

Looking for some advise........

Link Posted: 7/27/2009 11:35:32 AM EST
I have been a several solo trips and never thought much about. I just make sure that several people know where I am going, how long i plan to be gone and what to do if that don't hear from me by a certain time. I stick to established trails. I also carry a cell phone, VS17 panel, whistle, and other signaling devices.

If you are comfortable hiking on your own i would go for iit. Just remember to be much more conservative in what you think that you can do, because if you get in a tight spot you are on your own.

Link Posted: 7/27/2009 4:03:15 PM EST
I've been all over the GSM National Park and you should be OK on the more traveled trails. A word of advice - cell phones do not get good reception up there. You might think about taking along a personal rescue beacon in the event something goes wrong (heaven forbid).

I haven't taken a ranger guided hike in the GSM, but in other national parks they weren't that bad.

If you haven't hiked Chimney Tops - its well worth the climb. And its well traveled if you want to add it to your consideration set.

Link Posted: 8/1/2009 6:22:22 PM EST
You shouldn't have any problems going solo on either of these hikes.
The Abrams Falls will be short and easy.
Charlies Bunion will be more of a challenge, especially if you plan on over nighting at Icewater Spring.
Remember, you will need reservations and a permit if staying at Icewater Spring. That's a very popular shelter.
Go here for a phone # for backcountry reservations:


and of course plan on cold weather at that altitude at night, possibly 20s
Link Posted: 8/3/2009 10:21:01 PM EST
[Last Edit: 8/3/2009 10:24:04 PM EST by makattack]
I have hiked the chimneys, abrams falls, rainbow falls, and allum cave trail, which takes you up mt. laconte. Chimney and allum kicked my ass. Worth it in the end though. I can see doing it solo. I went up mt. laconte in mid fall and payed for it. 70 degrees at trailhead. cold as hell and knee deep snow at the top.. Icey and treacherious but still worth it for the view and to say I did it.
Link Posted: 8/5/2009 7:25:13 PM EST
Thanks for the info.

I have several options. I am also on the stand by list for LeConte Lodge. If I get a slot, then that changes things. Whichever works out, I will plan to not be the first on the trail in order to ensure I am not hiking 'alone' per say. Also, the first one in usually clears out the spider webs and clears the path of bears or becomes the sacrificial lamb (just kidding). Either way, I plan to hike, and I will hike my own hike and enjoy the chosen path.

Hike On,

Link Posted: 8/6/2009 6:29:18 PM EST
Beware of black bears on your trip, so keep your food stored off of the ground! You'll also need a water purifier (JIC) and don't depend on a cellular signal while you are on the trial.
Link Posted: 8/31/2009 11:36:57 AM EST
FYI 3 popular trails are closed due a lot of bear sightings this year. People not from the area dont see the big deal but a 6-year old girl was killed down closer to us a couple of years ago so they play it cautious for good reason.
Link Posted: 9/19/2009 4:18:45 PM EST
I checked with the visitor's center recently and the Abrams Falls trail is back open.

Link Posted: 9/20/2009 1:42:55 AM EST
I did Alum Caves/LeConte in January, I had 12 point crampons, which made it a lot easier, but it would have gone safely without them. GSMNP strung cables on the exposed patches, and there weren't that many of them. If the temps drop below freezing, they will likely close 441 till they unfreeze, forcing you into a later start than you planned. It depends on weather patterns, but October is pretty early for that. Maybe two inche of snow for the whole month atop LeConte, many days will see 60, even 70.

The only worries I have soloing anywhere around the Smokies are toothless Deliverance types, maybe meth cookers, and you won't see any of those in the core of the park.You probably will see a lot of tourists, especially on weekends, you really won't have many trail to yourself, as you are getting into peak fall color season.

Just black bears around these parts. They will take advantage of stupidity, and might snatch a kid if the chance arose, but if you practice normal LNT for bear country, the worst you'll likely see is some adolescents sniffing around shelters at night. You're more likely to see bears in dumpsters in G'burg than on the trail, in my experience. They're around, but most of them are more scared of you than you need to be of them. Always a good idea to get a local read on bear activity before a trip, they know if anything out of the ordinary has been going on, like aggessive behavior or problems with bears' usual foods.

All the Smokies trails I've been on were wide, well maintained and safe. Two weeks before I did LeConte, some guy commited suicide by Forest, leaving AC TH at 4pm wearing only a T-shirt, and somebody else slipped on ice, fell 400' and broke a shoulder the day afterward, but even in winter, you have to try pretty hard or be completely ignorant in backcountry skills to get into trouble. Stick to LNT and common sense and the most you'll probably have to worry about would be a sprained ankle.
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