Smokey Mountains National Park - Big Creek Area (Mt. Sterling) Memorial Day Trek

The Start of the adventure began at the Big Creek campground located in the Northeastern section of Great Smokey Mountain National Park (GSMNP) it would serve as base camp for the Honda and our staging area prior to departing on the trail-head, Big Creek Trail and our first stop at campsite no. 37.  The weather was supposed to hold clear for the most part something a bit of an oxymoron since the Smokey's gets about 10 feet of rain a year.  So, we made sure we had all our provisions and packed our packs and headed to the trail head.

Almost forgot!  Check that pack out closely and observe the signature.  Yeah, that's from Andrew Skurka! Check his website out and "Go. Discover. Enjoy."

The starting point, Big Creek Trail.

What started off as just fun has now become a trail  tradition to get a photo of Shana at the trail head prior to departure.

A feed into Big Creek.

Shana at Big Creek. The water was moving at a pretty good pace.

  Alpine ski position.

It's out of focus but there were several of these flying insects that had a fascinated for my pack.  Probably the   salt is what they were after.

Here is a butterfly with the same salt sucking in mind.  Reminds me of the salt sucker on the original series Star Trek.

Logging notable thoughts into my journal.

Campsite no. 36 is reserved as a horse camp.  Here a pictures of the horse stalls.

And I hope you can figure out what the wheelbarrow and shovel are for.

Another shot of the horse stalls

The creek running right along campsite no.36 makes for a really nice water source.

Shot of the river bed right next to campsite no. 37 where Shana and I stayed for our first night.

Big Creek river bed.

The bridge leading to campsite no.37 along Big Creek Trail

Water rushing by as if it has any reason to be in a rush.

My Montrail Hardrocks and e-vent shortie gaiter both have never let me down.

A nice level spot for our Henry Spires Tarptent Squall 2.  An awesome two person tent that is light and spacious.  Sorry I did not get any pics of the set-up at no. 37 because I was so excited about what a cool spot we got.  We were the first to arrive had essentially had the pick of the whole site which is a pretty expanse camp site location

Day two and we are off to campsite no. 39 on Pretty Hollow Gap Trail.  The mileage that day would prove to be pretty easy a total of only about 8 miles of which only about four miles were strenuous.

Shana crossing a bridge.

News of our second campsite home no. 38 is only 1.8 miles away!

Shana with the Flip shooting some video.

These strange florescent bugs were everywhere.

The Squall 2 set up at campsite 39.  Thirty nine  provided much tree cover.  The photo is deceiving but finding a level campsite without rocks proved to be a challenge.  It took awhile but Shana and I finally found a pretty level site to pitch the Tarptent.  Unfortunately,  we were later invaded by a family of backpackers to the tune of about eight that decided to pitch their tents about 15 feet away from ours.  A little privacy please!

Another angle of the tent set-up.

A very pretty flower all alone at the campsite.

I brought the Evernew titanium, alcohol stove on this trip.  I'm holding the relatively new pot stand I recently bought and this was my first time using the stove with the new pot-stand.  It worked like a charm but  for the fact it really needed to have a wind screen which I thought would not be necessary.  I was wrong on the account.

The Evernew Titanium stove with the pot-stand attached.

Mt. Sterling, 9.7 miles away and campsite no. 38 awaits at 5,800' elevation.  The journey would prove to be an arduous strenuous trudge through the worst horse damages trails I have ever, ever seen.  It's as if they unhitched the Budweiser Clydesdale and had them run the length of the trail for thirty days while drenching it with a constant stream of water and then just for fun take a huge rototiller over the entire trail to finish it off.  Words just cannot describe the damage nor can it even come close to describing my utter despair as we turned every corner to only find the damage to get worse.  And just when we thought we saw the worst of it, yes it got worse!  I felt like Andy Dufresne crawling through the pipe of shit!

People may not realize but there were several people living in the Smokies.  Here is an example of a cabin.

I presume this was a brick cabin with only the stone structure surviving.

Here, you bury your dead where you live.  A very peaceful, tranquil place to be laid to rest.

The ascent to Mt. Sterling and campsite no 38

We arrived to be greeted by the NPS ranger tower now only operational as a weather station.

I have no idea what she is doing here nor did I ask.

Take a look at that clean taut set up, nice pitch!

More views.

Had to go almost 1/2 a mile to get water.  Are you kidding me!

The campsite area.  A disappointing  discovery about this campsite is the unconscionable amount of exposed human feces and toilet paper defecation sites right near the campsites.  As I inspected the area I counted eight, and I was not even looking that hard!.  Some hikers have no regard to "leave no trace"  philosophy not to mention the total unsanitary behavior.  You do not shit where you sleep.

Our water source.

Home for the night.

Luxury, in the outdoors sense.

The morning moon.

The reason why they call the park the "smokies"

Our campsite from the tower vantage.

Huge root system.

The North face proved to be very lush with vegetation and plant life, especially mosses.

There were many downed trees on Baxter trail for our return.

Not sure what the flower is called that coated the mountain trail for our decent but it made for an extra treat.

More flower snow fall.

Ahhhhh, home at last!  Base camp and the car!


  1. Awesome, you two! So happy you're getting out and about. Love the dusk photos and the nice taut tarp pitch.

    1. Thanks to you and Mike! You guys made it easy and shortened the learning curve.


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