Tennessee Backpack Venture Crew

The slow drip on my sleeping pad from the tent roof distracted me from my reading as we waited out the downpour going on outside. Sore, hungry, and damp all I could focus on was the concern that the leak would increase and I would spend the night in a soaked sleeping bag with water dripping on my head if I rolled the wrong direction. Moments like this on every backpacking trip make me wonder why I ever willingly chose to do this in the first place. Then I remember that this small moment is not at all indicative of the entire trip. Just earlier that day I had witnessed one of the most stunning views I had ever seen and I would experience even more exciting moments by the end of the trip.

As an employee at Appalachian Outfitters, I’m always itching to find fun, new opportunities to get outdoors and use my gear. A wedding I attended earlier this summer connected me with some members of a local venture crew. Venture crews provide a co-ed opportunity for students to backpack and participate in other outdoor activities. This venture crew was in search of a female adult leader with some backpacking experience. The title intimidated me, as I’ve never been considered the “adult leader” for anything before, but with some last minute planning I was committed and there was no backing out. 

Same the adult leader
At the trailhead - Photo Credit: Sam

The Trip

Our trip started out with a long drive down to Erwin, Tennessee. We spent our first night at Nolichucky River Campground. The campground was situated right on the Nolichucky River, which provided a stunning view of the cloud covered mountains surrounding the river valley. On Sunday morning we packed up early and were shuttled by Uncle Johnny’s Hostel and Outfitters to the trailhead on Interstate 19E. There we headed southbound on the Appalachian Trail. We had gorgeous weather on our first day, which enabled us to take in the breath taking views from the balds.

Appalachian Trail
Appalachian Trail - Photo Credit: Sam

We spent our first night on the trail at Overmountain Shelter. As one of the largest shelters on the AT, we had no problem fitting all nine of our students on the open shelter platforms on the lower level. The open platforms provided an excellent view of Roaring Creek Valley and a great setting for our dinner. We also had some evening entertainment in the form of some of our guys attempting to start a fire with damp wood. This resulted in no fire and a singed pair of boxers.

The second day of our trip began with the threat of rain. It held off till mid-afternoon at which point the trail became extremely muddy and slick. Our descent was slow going due to the wet conditions. Fortunately, the rain passed before we got to our campsite. We reached camp fairly early and were able to spend time attempting to do the few yoga poses we could remember to stretch out our sore muscles and play some card games. The next two days we dealt with rain showers off and on as we made our way up and down the mountains and valleys. Along the way we camped at both Ash Gap and Greasy Creek campsite. The rain was irksome, but we always had a good flowing water source because of it.

Raining Days
Ash Gap & Greasy Creek - Photo Credit: Sam

Halfway through the trip we realized that we would arrive at our campsites super early on the last two days if we maintained the same pace we had so far. We chose to combine that last two days of hiking and head back to the cars a day early. We hiked eleven miles and stayed at Beauty Spot campsite. There is no doubt that the site lived up to its name. Once the clouds from the afternoon showers cleared, we were able to see a huge valley surrounded by mountains. As the setting sun hit the mist that hung low over the distant mountains, it created beautifully blurred colors like a watercolor painting. The views here completely made up for the tall, buggy grass that we had to wade through to get to our tents.

Beauty Spot Campsite
Beauty Spot Campsite - Photo Credit: Sam

Next morning, we packed up and hiked back to the Nolichucky River Campground. The campground was situated right off the AT so we were able to walk right back to the campsites we had stayed at earlier that week. We were finally able to take showers, and two days later we would head home.

The Experience

I would recommend hikes in the Nolichucky River area to anyone remotely interested. I would particularly recommend trying to get up to a bald to see some good views of the mountains. I couldn’t be happier that a series of chance circumstances got me on this trip with a group of people I barely knew. I was able to spend time getting to know some amazing people and I am so thankful for the opportunity. Backpacking in a group may not be for everyone, but if you ever need company on a trip or want to meet like-minded people then I would recommend getting involved with a local backpacking group. A great location and even better company made for an unforgettable trip.

Our Group
Our Group - Photo Credit: Sam