AT – Davenport Gap to Mount Cammerer – GSMNP

_DSC1385 640

Appalachian Trail – Davenport Gap to Mount Cammerer (Almost) – Great Smoky Mountains National Park

 

Details:

Difficulty: Strenuous.

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)

 Story:

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:

Leaving Davenport Gap, the snow was light but the trail was very muddy.

Leaving Davenport Gap, the snow was light but the trail was very muddy.

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:

Wildcat Top. 4213 ft. seen looking East from the AT.

Wildcat Top. 4213 ft. seen looking East from the AT.

The snow covering the trail steadily increased throughout my hike:

Snow covers the AT.

Snow covers the AT.

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:

Mount Cammerer

Mount Cammerer

Unfortunately, that photo was taken at 200mm. Here’s what it looked like from the trail:

Mt. Cammerer, 4,928 ft, seen from the AT, about 1.5 miles from Davenport Gap

Mt. Cammerer, 4,928 ft, seen from the AT, about 1.5 miles from Davenport Gap

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:

At Blaze.

At Blaze.

Snow melting forms icicles on the north side of a boulder.

Snow melting forms icicles on the north side of a boulder.

The AT and ridge covered in snow.

The AT and ridge covered in snow.

The AT enters a thicket of Rhododendron just before the junction with Chestnut Branch Trail.

The AT enters a thicket of Rhododendron just before the junction with Chestnut Branch Trail.

The junction with Chestnut Branch Trail is at 1.9 miles:

At 1.9 miles, the junction with Chestnut Branch Trail is reached.

At 1.9 miles, the junction with Chestnut Branch Trail is reached.

Just West of Chestnut Branch, I came across this Fir or Pine cone lying in the trail:

A Fir Cone that had landed on the trail.

A Fir Cone that had landed on 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.

At 2.9 miles, the junction with the Lower Mt. Cammerer Trail.

At 2.9 miles, the junction with the Lower Mt. Cammerer Trail.

From this point, the trail goes up a relentless grade with steps every few strides:

The snow was nearing 6 inches deep past the Lower Mt. Cammerer Trail junction.

The snow was nearing 6 inches deep past the Lower Mt. Cammerer Trail junction.

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:

Mount Sterling, 5842 ft,  is seen to the Southeast from the AT.

Mount Sterling, 5842 ft, is seen to the Southeast from the AT.

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:

This mature tuliptree stands right beside the AT.

This mature tuliptree stands right beside the AT.

Clearly the tallest tree on the ridge, this mature Tuliptree is about 3 feet across at the base:

Looking up into the towering Tuliptree's canopy.

Looking up into the towering Tuliptree’s canopy.

Past the Old Giant, the trail continues remorselessly:

The snow grew deeper...

The snow grew deeper…

And the snow had increased to over a foot:

... Until it was a foot deep.

… Until my trekking pole was trying to disappear.

At this point, on the flank of Mt. Cammerer, the snow still covered everything.

The flanks of Mt. Cammerer were covered in foot deep show.

The flanks of Mt. Cammerer were covered in foot deep show.

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:

As the trail turns to skirt the South flank of Mt. Cammerer, this is the view looking North.

As the trail turns to skirt the South flank of Mt. Cammerer, this is the view looking North.

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.

MCJ

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to AT – Davenport Gap to Mount Cammerer – GSMNP

  1. Pingback: Mount Sterling Trail – Mount Sterling Fire Tower – GSMNP - Hiker's Eye View

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *