Backpacking Great Smoky Mountains National Park: A First Timer’s Trek Into The Woods

Sherwood Forest

We continued along the Gabes Mountain Trail, winding our way around the mountain. The trail, covered in falling yellow and orange leaves and thick roots, was mostly steep with a few moments of relief whenever the trail flattened out, usually for no longer than a fifth of a mile at a time.

It didn’t seem long before we reached our first campsite, best described as an exact replica of Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest. Ample camp space surrounded by the park’s ubiquitous towering trees alongside an easily accessible stream of water — it’s the perfect place to raise an army of merry men to topple a tyrant.

Looking skyward, it was clear the aforementioned dubious clouds were closing in. We were in for a wet evening. And since it had already rained throughout the day, a roaring fire was out of the question.

Thankfully we were able to muster enough of a flame to heat a couple of pre-cooked hot dogs, throw ’em on a bun and down our gullets before the sun completely set. Soon, thunder began to strike. And not the cool, AC/DC kind that features prominently in the Thunderstruck drinking game. I’m talking about the kind that predicates a storm is coming to kick your ass.

With the sun all but gone, Rob and I attempted to figure out the bear-pulley system used to keep bags out of reach from overnight visitors. Armed with a weak headlamp, I stumbled around rocks and roots, preparing to have my bag soaked as we thrust it into the sky like Benjamin Franklin’s kite. The storm had arrived just as we jumped into our tent, shoulder-to-shoulder as our new home filled with the unpleasant mustiness of two men backpacking in the rain for several hours after a nine-hour drive.

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