Appalachian Trail – Davenport Gap to Mount Cammerer (Almost) – Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Location: Appalachian Trail at Davenport Gap.
Distance: I made 4.72 miles before my left knee objected and I turned around. 9.5 miles round trip.
Total Ascent: 2,695 feet. (To the 4.72 mile mark.)
Time: 6:11 round trip.
Weather: Clear, 37 degrees. There was an inch or two of snow at Davenport Gap; over 1 foot of snow as I neared Mt. Cammerer.
Gear: Vasque Bitterroot Boots (Break-in day hike.) Superfeet insoles, Baselayers, MH Warlow softshell pants, Leki Trekking Poles (demo from www.riversportsoutfitters.com)
Since I bought my new boots, Mt. Cammerer and it’s unique stone lookout tower has been at the top of my to do list. Unfortunately, I attempted this strenuous hike a little too soon, and I only managed to get to the flanks of Mt. Cammerer before my left knee decided it was time to limp back.
The weather was beautiful: 37 degrees and the sky was a deep, clear blue. The trail was very muddy and the ground was covered with an inch or two of snow:
The early going was slow, slogging through the mud. As the snow covered the trail, the trail turned a little treacherous as prior footprints had frozen over and footing was very sketchy. The views off the ridge, however, were stunning:
The snow covering the trail steadily increased throughout my hike:
About a half mile past the Davenport Gap Shelter, the AT makes a left turn to follow the contour of the ridge, and a gap in the trees offers a stunning view of Mt. Cammerer:
Unfortunately, that photo was taken at 200mm. Here’s what it looked like from the trail:
Mt. Cammerer is the highest little bump in the center of the photo.
This stunning view of my destination caused mixed emotions: I now wanted more than ever to see the views from the top of that peak, but the remaining distance (over 4 miles) and elevation to be gained (about 2,300 feet) was staggering given that I’m trying to get back into hiking shape.
Just past this AT Blaze, the trail levels out until the junction with Chestnut Branch Trail at 1.9 miles:
The junction with Chestnut Branch Trail is at 1.9 miles:
Just West of Chestnut Branch, I came across this Fir or Pine cone lying in the trail:
The mile between Chestnut Branch Trail and Lower Mount Cammerer Trail is moderate grade through the forest and rhododendron thickets. Lower Mount Cammerer Trail is 7.4 miles and joins the AT with Cosby Campground.
From this point, the trail goes up a relentless grade with steps every few strides:
As I was negotiating this grade, the outside of my left knee developed a twinge of pain. I eased my pace, and soldiered on. The AT takes the South side of the ridge and allows tremendous views of Mt. Sterling:
On one of my many hands on hips gasping for breath breaks, I looked up to see this Old Giant standing right beside the trail:
Clearly the tallest tree on the ridge, this mature Tuliptree is about 3 feet across at the base:
Past the Old Giant, the trail continues remorselessly:
And the snow had increased to over a foot:
At this point, on the flank of Mt. Cammerer, the snow still covered everything.
At 4.7 miles my knee strenuously objected. I captured this shot looking North towards Newport from an opening in the trees where the trail turns left on the side of Mt. Cammerer:
I was 1000 ft from the peak itself, but the trail still left me with 1.2 miles plus the .6 mile side trail to the top. I decided not to push my luck and possibly cause injury, and turned to limp back to Davenport Gap.