Whoopeee, the first trip for the Southeast Women’s Backpacker Meet Up group and I was on it!! My hiking buddy, Salt and I met up with Hemlock and Margaret in Clayton for a weekend adventure. The weather was gorgeous with beautiful blue skies as we made our way toward Franklin and the Nantahala forest. We load up and head off into the lush green forest. I am extra excited because this will be the trip that I get to try out sleeping in a hammock!! Kellye, has been so generous to loan me her hammock and tarp, (which is kind of amazing, because to us our gear is like loaning out our Maserati!)
I always enjoy hiking with Hemlock, as she shares with us all of her wonderful knowledge of all things growing!! We have plenty of flowers to keep her happy as we travel along this trail and wander through a nice field, (which I am sure had some stealth snakes in it) Pretty soon, we come to the creek, which we will follow until we intersect the AT. I love this kind of trail, sometimes the creek was on my right, sometimes the creek was on my left, sometimes the creek was on both sides, (STEREO!!) and often we found ourselves hiking up the creek bed itself!
We all eased into a similar rhythm, of hiking, stopping now and again to take photos of the beauty around us stopping for a short break for a snack and continuing until we came to the Appalachian Trail intersection and headed up to our destination of the Muskrat Creek Shelter. I wandered ahead a bit, savoring the quiet of the forest (Rare, I know, but sometimes I am quiet!!) and enjoying stretching out my legs and thinking, until I come to the perfect lunch spot with a great view and a nice rock formation for us all to sit on. I have found the perfect jack-in-pulpit and pink ladies slipper and can’t wait to show Hemlock my photo!!
We move along and about half a mile before we reach White Oak Stamp, we pass a couple of hikers who tell us that Muskrat Creek Shelter is filled with a Boy Scout group. We easily make the decision to set up camp at White Oak Stamp, which is perfect for the 3 hammockers, (YAY) and Margaret who has a bivy.
Hemlock and Salt, my hammock mentors assist me with my set up,Joan demonstrates the importance of selecting a stable tree and everyone gets their space set up.
After scouting for water, we determine we will need to hike on to Muskrat Creek and greet the scouts….We take a side trip down Raven Rock Trail to a beautiful overlook and watch the sun go down. It is a beautiful spot and my only regret is that we can’t sit and watch it until dark.
We make it back to camp, decide it is too warm and not necessary to have a fire. The highlight of my meal was the dessert. Instant jello SF FF cheesecake pudding with some Nido instant milk with water added. I shared……
As darkness falls, the 12 miles we hiked begins to sink in and we all retire to our sleeping quarters. I enter my hammock, praying that the velcro holds and does not birth me in the middle of the night, wiggle around a little and quickly fall asleep….I have to admit, I did wake a few times but immediately dozed back off and when I woke and it was morning, I was already mentally placing the order for MY OWN hammock!!
The plan for the morning calls for more high mileage as we head back down the AT , climb Standing Indian, descend and then head down the rocky Kimsey Creek Trail. Sometimes plans change, my foot has begun to throb with what will turn out to be a summer long irritation, Kristen is not feeling well, Joan’s knee is bothering her and Margaret is nursing a burn from her stove. We all agree, to skip Standing Indian and enjoy the hike back along the creek.
We stop for a leisurely, foot soaking lunch, chat with some students heading to the AT, observe a little mole scurrying about and enjoy what is left of the trail.
We end our trip with a visit to the Spring Ridge Creamery for some guilt free homemade ice cream which we eat while overlooking the river.
Another perfect trip……and I did order the hammock…..