Sunday, June 23, 2013

Standing Indian Loop Hike

Happy to share this trip.

Leaving the kids with the grandparents we get to hike several days in  the Nantahala National Forrest.  Our route is a 30 mile loop with a significant amount on the Appalachian trail.  We arrived late afternoon at the Standing Indian Campground (backcountry trail head to be exact).  My wife got to experience the drill of picking up the rental car from the airport and swinging by REI to get the camping fuel for the hike.  For some strange reason though we ended up spending more time and money there end ended up with a few gear enhancement including trekking poles for me.

Interactive route map.

Packed and ready for the hike.

Initially our plan was to hike to the newly constructed Long Branch shelter but it was getting late and we found a pretty meadow on the Long Branch creek that was perfect for camping.  After we got the tent setup a strong rain passed over us.  So we were lucky to duck into the tent and stayed dry.  But since the Hogback Tarptent doesn't have a vestibule for cooking we had to wait out the rain to make dinner.  Yes, we had a lot of room inside the tent with only the two of us.

First night on the Long Branch trail.

Wild strawberries for breakfast.

The meadow had a large patch of strawberries that my wife picked for breakfast.  It made the oats very delicious.  Unfortunately that was the only campsite with wild strawberries that we stayed at.  I was glad we didn't try to make it for the Long Branch shelter since the intersection with the Appalachian trail didn't state in which direction the shelter was. It turned out the shelter was south bound of the Long Branch trail.  We stopped by to checkout the shelter and take a short rest there.  Later on we passed the remains of the Big Springs Gap shelter.

Long Branch shelter on the Appalachian trail.

Torn down Big Springs Gap shelter on the Appalachian trail.

Albert Mountain finally gave us a wonderful view of the area.  For an even better view one can climb nearly all the way up the fire tower.  The south trail of Albert mountain is quite steep, more difficult and therefore less traveled.  We still made it down even if it meant for my wife to butt slide down some large boulders.  The trail there was very pretty though with the bushes flowering beautifully.

Panoramic view from Albert Mountain.

Appalachian trail sign.

It was quite busy at Carter Gap, which is probably to be expected on a Friday night.  We skipped staying in the small shelter since others were staying there already.  The spring was a small little trickle thing further down the hill.  This place was certainly our least favorite campsite on this trip but it gave the chance to talk to other hikers.

Our camp at Carter Gap.

On the third day of hiking we meet a woman and her son who stayed at the Standing Indian shelter the night.  She was still pretty shaken and reported of their encounter with a bear.  The bear apparently tried to open their bear canister and then got a hold of another food bag of their.  When he saw them though he ran away.  Sadly or luckily for us we didn't encounter any bears on this hike.  I did hang the food at Carter Gap and the next night.  At Carter Gap I tried out the Pacific Crest Trail style of hanging the food bag.  The food bag got suck up there somehow and poked a hole in one of the bags.  We did get it down though with a lot of yanking and some flex in the branch.  I guess one shouldn't use the PCT bag hanging method on the AT. ;)

On top of Standing Indian mountain.

Standing Indian mountain is the highest peak around this area but because of the trees the view is a bit more limited than on Albert Mountain.  Tip: a good lookout can be found by going south on the ridge of Standing Indian to a big boulder in the trees.  There take a right and go through the bushes and you'll end up on a rock with a great 180 degree view.

Southern Natahala wilderness.

Our camp next to Kimsey creek.

Our last night was spend on a mossy patch right by the Krimsey creek.  This was by far our favorite spot besides the missing wild strawberries.  After setting up the tent we took a nice refreshing bath in the creek.  The benefits of not being on the AT.

Breakfast time.

Hiking along Kimsey creek.

The vegetation of the Krimsey creek and Long Branch creek are quite different which helps to make the hike quite interesting.  The Krimsey Creek trail is so close along the creeks that there are quite a few crossings and muddy ground.  Not bad enough but certainly not the easiest rating a sign up at the beginning was giving it.  You'll see a lot of cool rapids and small waterfalls along the way.

Hiking along Kimsey creek.

Waterfalls of Kimsey creek.

Even though we passed a garbage can at the top of Kimsey Creek trail, my wife keep a hold of all our garbage till the end to show how much garbage we'd accumulate on our hike, minus the organic matter that was left at the composting toilets or burred in the forest.

All the garbage we accumulated.

Rufus Morgan Falls.

Since we hiked out so early on Sunday we decided to do the short Rufus Morgan trail that is near by and goes to a water fall.  Both of us had a great time and are dreaming of hiking more of the AT.  The Appalachian mountains are quite beautiful in North Carolina.  I don't think these photos really show how pretty the Appalachian mountains are in North Carolina.

Rufus Morgan trailhead.

Cheapest gas seen so far.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The scariest thing ever ...

... happened on my ride through Story County Iowa to visit all 15 incorporated towns in one day. It was near the end of the day when I was riding down the highway. All the sudden right in front of me crossed a skunk the street. As it went across the street I was passing him. I was scared as hell as it's tail went higher and higher. Its pink butt was clearly visible. Luckily the skunk was kind and didn't release anything. Phew!

Collage of Story County towns

The ride itself went great. On the southern part I took the Heart of Iowa trail. It's a beautiful limestone trail. The only downside was that due to the extreme rain and flooding we got a few weeks ago sections of the trail was washed out. This meant it was rough and sandy riding. Passable with the fat two inch tires on my bike but still slow and strenuous. But it was worth it. Throughout my ride I could see and smell the remnants of the flooding across the county.

For the 110 miles I was 13 hours on the road, which included all photo and twitter breaks as well as lunch and dinner.  The detailed route can be viewed at

Now I let the photos tell the story of the ride:


Phone booth in Kelley



Heart of Iowa trail between Slater and Huxley


Heart of Iowa trail just east of Huxley


Train under Hear of Iowa trail just east of Cambridge

Skunk river bridge on Heart of Iowa trail


Bells in Maxwell



Old Lincoln Highway gas station in Colo

Diner in Colo


Bonus town Fernald, not incorporated and didn't count

Alternative energy - blessing and curse




Story City