Shakedown Hike in Savage Gulf, Tennessee
This month I’ve finally had time to get out and go on some “shakedown” hikes. I’d just call them backpacking trips, but evidently since I’m thru-hiking that’s what it’s called now. Go figure.
Savage Gulf State Natural Area, Monteagle, TN
Just after Christmas Isaac and I went on a quick overnight trip. Savage Gulf is located on the Cumberland Plateau and is a lovely and unique destination. My first backpacking trip was at Savage Gulf with my dad almost ten years ago, so there’s some sentimental value added there too. We dropped our car at the terminus and then rode to the trailhead with my parents, who hiked with us for a few miles. The hike in was really awesome—perfect weather, cool waterfalls, even a few delightfully sketchy suspension bridges.
After the second waterfall my parents headed back to the trailhead and went home. Once my parents turned back Isaac and I hiked on for a few miles, then set up camp at Sawmill Campground.
We had a pretty low-key night at first. After dinner we sat by a nice fire and drank some whiskey, then went to bed fairly early. After we went to bed, however, it got interesting. The wind picked up; then it really really picked up. All in all, we ended up moving our tent at 11 p.m. for fear of being squished. And my headlamp died. 10/10 would not recommend.
One would think that after this the trip would mellow out, but that was not the case. While hiking out the wind continued to pick up and we watched dead trees and branches fall all day. I hiked five miles way quicker than I thought I could!
Fortunately, our trips this month have allowed Isaac and me to test new gear in various situations. At the beginning of the month we did a 20-mile loop over two nights at Frozen Head State Park in Wartburg, TN. True to TN weather inconsistency, it was far colder at the beginning of December than it is now. It’s currently 66 and rainy where I am in Middle TN. Those nights at Frozen Head it got down to below freezing. I was excited to find out that even in cold and humid conditions, the condensation in our Triplex wasn’t any worse than in most double-walled tents.
We’ve also been making adjustments to our packs. Isaac and I decided to buy ULA Epic packs this fall, and we’ve both completely fallen in love with them. They were originally designed for packrafting, and are essentially just 65-liter Sea-to-Summit dry bags built into a lightweight frame.
The packs have storage areas under the drybags meant for holding a raft, but as you can see we’ve put our bear vaults there. It’s taken some ingenuity (mostly on Isaac’s part), but we’ve finally figured out how to make the BV stay put. Hopefully.
Now that we’re at the last day of 2018, I am started to get pretty excited about the AT. It’s been amazing to get all of our gear ready for the trek and really see things come together. We’ve decided we’ll start the trail on March 24, so let the countdown begin!
Obviously, my new year’s resolution is to hike 2,190 miles across the country. I can’t wait.
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