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378 LNT - Southeast 2011-04-18

south Cumberlan Trail

Preparing for a summer Colorado/Wyoming trip, my wife, a friend, and I went to the mountains of western North Carolina to train. To simulate the approach, rock climb, and then return that is common in the mountains, we were going to hike from Tablerock to Shortoff, then climb a moderate climb, and return. We made an early start and good time on the trail to Shortoff. We did encounter a yellow jackets nest which had us jumping a bit; but all else was smooth.

The rock climb went well and soon we began the return trip back to Tablerock. We bypassed the yellow jackets with no trouble. The rest of the trail was simply putting one foot in front of the other; but we were tired and low on water.

Leaving Chimney Gap the trail climbs an 800 foot hill. We did not consider such a moderate rise as necessarily hard; but... the sun baked us in the afternoon heat. The air was still. The humidity was oppressive and there were bugs. Millions of small stinging gnats swarmed us. It was truly miserable. If you opened your mouth you got a mouth full. They were constantly getting in our eyes. And then, remember, it was hot, sweat poured from our bodies we climbed the steep hill and we had no water left to drink.

Near the top of the climb I waited for my wife and friend. When they arrived I saw unfamiliar desperate looks. Never before nor since have I seen a trail take so much out of my wife or friend, and we have done a lot of big mountain trails.

Welcome to hiking in the southeast!

Even on these hot, muggy, bug infested trails the LNT Principles are important. For hiking in the southeast we consolidate the key points of each principle.

Plan Ahead and Prepare - For safety reasons always leave an itinerary with a responsible person. Check with the Land Manager for special rules regarding the trail. In the summer plan for heat and bugs. In all seasons plan for rain.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces - Follow the rules set forth by the Land Manager. In the State Parks in TN and the Smokies, they use mostly designated camping areas. The areas are hardened. Other areas do not have campsites but require backcountry campers to follow LNT Principles.

Waste Disposal - Bury the poop, yours or your dogs! Pack out the paper products. For other trash, if it does not grow there, pack it out. This includes food scraps, peels, paper, wrappers, aluminum foil, cans, etc.

Leave What You Find - Leave what you find and leave your campsite in better condition than you found it.

Minimize Campfire Impact- Use a stove unless the area has a hardened ring and plenty of dead and downed wood. Always clean up after the campfire.

Respect Wildlife - Properly store your food and waste each night. There was a recent report of a section of the AT is closed to camping in North Georgia because hikers have improperly stored food allowing the bears to raid and scavenge. Also, hikers be mindful of the hunting season.

Be Considerate to Other Visitors - Keep group sizes and voices small. If you have to listen to music, use headphones. That is why God made them!

Happy southeast hiking and camping trails


Leave No Trace


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