From the Smokies to the Desert

Posted by: Hdr2

From the Smokies to the Desert - 03/28/17 08:54 PM

Hello to all! We are first time backpackers currently preparing for 12 days of hiking in Southern Utah (Zion Narrows overnight) and Arizona (Havasupai). In addition to training, I have been spending a fair amount of time reading up on books suggested in other beginning members posts so I'm not the first time backpacker asking the same questions all first timers ask.

With that being said, I know no experience/reading/training will truly prepare us better than being on the trail. In a few weeks we will be spending some time near Gatlinburg. We plan to take advantage of our time and get a good test run in with our weighted packs. We have never hiked in this area, so we are looking for suggestion for good day hikes that will offer a fair amount of elevation change to test our endurance. I understand the terrain and atmosphere will be completely different than our hikes in the desert, but we might as well test our limits while we have the opportunity. Suggestions and advice are welcomed and appreciated!
Posted by: wgiles

Re: From the Smokies to the Desert - 03/29/17 10:54 AM

Watch out when your flatlander feet transition to sloped trails. Years ago, I walked up to Low Gap from Cosby campground and back. It's only five miles round trip, but by the time I got back to the campground, I could hardly walk. It took three days for my feet to get to the point where I could hike again. I originally blamed my boots for the problem, but I think now that it was Achilles Tendinitis. A similar thing happened to me in Canyonlands NP a few years ago, but I paid more attention to the symptoms and stopped sooner. There isn't anyplace in Illinois where you can get the elevation changes that you will find in the east and more so in the west. I walked to the top of Bell Mountain in Missouri a couple of weeks ago, but that was only around 400 feet of elevation gain and 8 miles round trip. I didn't have much time, so I started at the north trailhead. If I had started at the south trailhead, I would have had 700 feet of elevation gain. I had some difficulty walking for the next few days, even though I regularly walk 2 to 4 miles around my home. I haven't been using trekking poles until recently, but I do think that they help me.

Once you get to the Smokies, I would suggest a few short day hikes with some reasonable elevation gain and loss and see how you do. You may not have any trouble, but I would hate to start a long hike and find out that I did have trouble.
Posted by: 4evrplan

Re: From the Smokies to the Desert - 03/29/17 03:52 PM

Try to find a steep hill or stairs and make rounds up and down that repeatedly, especially with your pack on.
Posted by: Hdr2

Re: From the Smokies to the Desert - 03/31/17 09:32 AM

Thanks for the advice! Fortunately, we have a few parks in Southern Illinois that offer a little elevation change, but it is nothing compared to what we are about to face. I just ordered a 4th pair of boots that offer a but more ankle support than the other 3 I have been testing.

We plan to stop at REI on our way to Gatlinburg, so I will pick up some trekking poles. My boyfriend is convinced he doesn't need them, but I am getting two sets anyway.

Again, thank you for the advice. Please let me know if you think of anything else!
Posted by: Hdr2

Re: From the Smokies to the Desert - 03/31/17 09:34 AM

Thanks for the tips!
Posted by: wgiles

Re: From the Smokies to the Desert - 03/31/17 10:18 AM

You might want to check out the Outdoor Products Trekking Poles at Walmart. They are under $18 per pair and the ones that they have now have Flick Locks. In addition to my BD carbon Trekking poles, I have a set of these that I use occasionally. Otherwise check out the Cascade Mountain Tech carbon fiber poles for around $45.
Posted by: toddfw2003

Re: From the Smokies to the Desert - 04/02/17 11:35 AM

Good luck getting a backcountry permit in Zion. They book a year in advance. I would head over tot he grand staircase and do some of the canyons of the escalante
Posted by: Hdr2

Re: From the Smokies to the Desert - 04/02/17 01:15 PM

We already got permits for Zion and Havasupai. Zion was booked for our date within the first few minutes. I've been planning the trip for about 8 months, so I was fortunate to know I had to be on top of permits as soon as they went on sale. We have planned some extra time to explore other areas, so we will have to check that out. Thanks!
Posted by: ETSU Pride

Re: From the Smokies to the Desert - 04/05/17 11:01 PM

I call the Smokies home. I have a couple day-hike suggestions, but how many miles are you thinking?
Posted by: Hdr2

Re: From the Smokies to the Desert - 04/06/17 12:40 AM

Anywhere from 6-8, depending on elevation change. We appreciate any suggestions!
Posted by: ETSU Pride

Re: From the Smokies to the Desert - 04/06/17 11:30 AM

For a beginner with some elevation gains at that mileage, I recommend hiking to Charlie Bunion on the Appalachian Trail from Newfound Gap parking lot. It's 8 miles round trip around 1,000-1,5000 feet elevation gain. If you have the energy do a side trip to Mt Kephart, also known as Jump Off, it will add an extra mile to your trip. The view from Jump Off will show the entire Appalachian Trail on this section of the Park. I do recommend getting an early morning start, because it going to get crowded in the late afternoon from motorists and other tourists.
Posted by: Hdr2

Re: From the Smokies to the Desert - 04/06/17 01:33 PM

We will definitely check out Charlies Bunion. I had previously looked into that trail, so it sounds like it will be perfect. Thanks again for the suggestion!
Posted by: ETSU Pride

Re: From the Smokies to the Desert - 04/08/17 08:26 PM

After you do Charlie Bunion and if you have some energy the next day, you could do a short trip to Andrews Bald. 3 miles round trip and the view is awesome and you can also walk to Clingman Dome from there either on the 1/2 mile one way pavement, or take the trail that runs next to it (Which is the A.T.) . grin