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View Full Version : John Muir Trail (Tennessee) July 7-9, 2008



Bearpaw
2008-07-11, 02:09
The John Muir Trail of Tennessee is broken into two segments. The eastern portion is a 20-mile stretch just south of the Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness. The portion in this trip report is the 40-mile section which runs through Big South Fork National Recreation Area and Pickett Rustic State Park.

I hiked the first 18 miles in January, but bailed out due to near-record low temperatures and the fact that my wife was a mere 4 miles off the trail at Charit Creek Lodge.
(My chilly camp for the night)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/temp/tarp.jpg

(The much more pleasant option)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/temp/warm.jpg

Now I was back to finish the John Muir Trail, starting from the Pickett Rustic State Park side in the west.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Big%20South%20Fork%20Jul%2008/081a.jpg

By “rustic”, the park means they offer primitive camping, but not developed cabins like most Tennessee State Parks. It also means intentionally rough trails with minimal blazing.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Big%20South%20Fork%20Jul%2008/085a.jpg

I ran afoul of these conditions on my Sheltowee Trace thru-hike a year earlier. But now I was prepared for them and weathered the rough 2 miles until I could enter the more well-groomed National Park Service trails of Big South Fork. I was greeted with a perfect swimming hole right next to the point where I entered NPS land.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Big%20South%20Fork%20Jul%2008/086a.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Big%20South%20Fork%20Jul%2008/087a.jpg

I reached a decent site and set up my comfortable hammock camp about an hour before a heavy thunderstorm rolled in.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Big%20South%20Fork%20Jul%2008/089a.jpg

The next day I packed up in the last sprinkles of the storm. I covered 10 miles in about 4 ˝ hours, with stops to enjoy John Muir Overlook…
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Big%20South%20Fork%20Jul%2008/095a.jpg

…and Boyatt Farm site.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Big%20South%20Fork%20Jul%2008/098a.jpg

But as early as 2:30, I was feeling the effects of the 90+ degree temperatures. I was glad to set into camp for the day after 13 miles. I was able to dry all my gear, clean up in the creek, eat, read, rest, and so forth. I also schemed on options once I reached the Charit Creek Bridge where I got off the JMT in January. I had a couple of shorter options back to my vehicle at Leatherwood Ford than the official JMT which I has already hiked. I decided to make my decisions based on how I felt the next day.

At 3:30 AM, the skies opened up and thunder and lightning pounded down. By the time I got up a bit after 6 AM, I was ready to consider leaving the backcountry that day rather than the next.

I stepped off at 7:20 and make great time the 7 miles to Charit Creek Bridge as a massive thunderstorm rolled in.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Big%20South%20Fork%20Jul%2008/102a.jpg

I chose to push hard the .8 miles to Station Creek Crossing to see if I could ford the Big South Fork River. I’d crossed with no problem (calf-deep water) during an adventure race there in September 2001 when water was at its autumn low. But now, I wondered if it was doable in early July after a few days of rain. I decided to find out.

As I stepped into the water, rain began to pound down, and I could hear thunder in the distance. I crossed tentatively, but the even gravel bottom and water which reached just above the knee allowed for a relatively easy crossing between the two columns of large boulders poking out of the water as a guide to horse riders who routinely cross here.

Once on the other side, I made outstanding time down the flat, wide 8-mile-long horse trail known as the River Trail heading back to the JMT Trailhead at Leatherwood Ford. 6 miles in, I stopped to snap a picture of Angel Falls.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Big%20South%20Fork%20Jul%2008/105a.jpg

It was a much different view from the one I enjoyed six months earlier from Angel Falls Overlook on the west side of the river.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/temp/angelfalls.jpg

Another 2 miles, and I was back at the Leatherwood Ford JMT trailhead.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Big%20South%20Fork%20Jul%2008/106a.jpg

I was glad to have finished the JMT, and even more happy to have done it in 3 days rather than riding out another day of rain. They JMT was a neat trail with much to offer, but if I did it again, it would be in winter or early spring, when view are better and poisonous bugs and plants are less.

For a much more detailed account, with more pictures, see my trail journal (http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=242338).