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(pic heavy) Jan 3rd & 4th, Overnight at Davenport Gap Shelter on the Appalachian Trai


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What happens when you go out and buy new rain gear to wear and new rain covers for the backpack along with a new tarp to test? Murphy's laws kick in of course! The weather was to be unseasonably warm but with rain all weekend so we (Rebecca and I) figured it was a good time to try a local trip to a new spot. Strangely enough it's misting when we get to the trailhead so we toss on the rain pants and make sure the jackets and covers are easily accessible.

First stop was at the power plant on the NC/TN border since I had never been to it before.


Note the water level coming through there...


I parked at the trailhead below the bridge just off of I-40 and was a bit leary about leaving the car there. Then again, it's a Mini Cooper so people probably took pity on me and left it alone. lol


From there we started our hike up the mountain..and by up I mean up... as in we climbed virtually the entire way to the shelter. Some sections were a little steeper than others but nothing too bad with plenty of switchbacks, especially in the beginning. Also from the start of the trailhead until at least the first half of the climb you followed along the streams and creeks with a few crossings so you had plenty of nice stuff to watch.


Along the way you find some odd assortments of things including the fabulous fungus


My personal favorite was an old hollowed log that fell across some rocks and became a nicely polished flume.



Naturally with all the high winds and recent storms there were a few downed trees. This was certainly the worst of them with about 4 trees down (3 low the last limbo height)


While she was trying to navigate them she failed to pay attention to her surroundings... which meant I simply walked around them and took pictures of her as she climbed over. Yes, she growled. :)



We took a break when we reached Hwy 32 at the NC/TN state line. Having been here before on the dualsports I was aware of this little gem, a piece of rock with the state line info carved on it that sits just above the rest spot.



The view from the rock


And back on the trail after a brief break...and still climbing.


"Why do you always pick the trails that just go up?"


The little forest cover was good and the weather was warming with the odd hints of mist but never so much as a rain drop. (remember, we were here to test out all the new rain gear!)


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Ahh, home for the night!



When I was doing a little homework on it there were a lot of references to it being rebuilt recently, whether or not it had the bear fence, etc. Well, it looks to have been recently (about 4-5 years ago) restored and definitely does have the bear fence.



Downside: I brought the Clarke Vertex 2-person hammock and there were no suitable trees. Upside, we were already registered for the shelter and alas we never did have any company. With the winds and torrential rains that did hit in the middle of the night this was actually pretty nice. It was also the first time I ever stayed in a shelter.

Davenport is rigged for 6 people on the bottom and 6 on top (with a mouse living between them in the middle... seriously). There was a hole in the roof close to the chimney that looked to have come from a big fallen branch so we looked at where the water marks stopped and put in high and to the side of them.


Meanwhile the sleeping bags were hung up to properly fluff their loft while the Big Agnes air pads were inflated. (I have the red Western Mountaineering Alpinlite which is fantastic if pricey, she has the Marmot SawTooth which is also a very nice down bag. Frankly, I think her bag is worth more than the $230ish price she paid for it. It flat out trumps my North Face Cat's Meow for similar money both in terms of weight, compressibility and warmth. Western Mountaineering > Marmot > North Face. :)


If she's mad, she gets caged... right? (ducking)


Fixing up dinner with a couple of GSI Pinnacle Dualists and MSR Micro-Rockets. These things are awesome and the easiest to clean cookware I have ever had. Is it bad that I sit there randomly cooking things on my desk... like I am now as I type this?


Remember I mentioned a mouse? Well, we heard the scratching and when I lay down on the lower deck there was a sharpie written "beware of the Davenport Mouse." They weren't kidding. I managed to catch a glimpse of it's little white face and pink nose as it smirked at me from between boards next to the ladder. If you go there you will see a tiny crack in the face board and it lives in there. That is, when it's not sneaking down to raid her pack. She forgot to put these up on the food hangers. To the mouse's credit, it did not do any damage to her pack, just the nature bar.


So we get there, set up, make dinner and not a single drop of rain. Then as it falls to darkness it was a total downpour, major winds, cracking trees, etc. We slept like logs. Woke up around 4am when nature mentioned too much gatorade and.... it stopped raining. Nature concluded I wasn't back in my sleeping bag for more than 2 mins before the buckets of rain returned. Thanks Nature. When can I test out my rain gear?

Around 7:30am we woke up and it was raining lightly and a lot warmer than predicted.


The hole in the roof was definitely in need of repair.



"It was coming after me!"


It managed to rain right up to the gate but no further.


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Morning hair.. bleah..


Packed back up and ready to go. Rain gear on? Check. Rain covers on the packs? Check.. Rain? Just stopped. Are you kidding me?! It stopped? Again?!?! Okay, it should be dripping off the trees at any rate... right? (wrong)


The nice thing about clmiing all the way up on the first day? It's all downhill on the way back! Only now it was wet leaves and a few steep sections which meant mild snow skiing when you wanted to play with the trekking poles. (a little slippery in spots but nothing rough or dangerous)



Taking a break back at Hwy 32 again.


So we came to test rain gear, so far not even a single drop off of trees and now the sun is out? Really? Grrrr! (We must have been the only couple on the mountain range HOPING for rain!)


Temps coming up, time to start shucking layers.


More sunlight coming out...


Really bad hair now. lol


Playing a bit with the camera while she crosses a stream.


With all the rain the trail was certainly a lot prettier coming back out.



Remember how low the water flow at the power plant was before?




From there we hopped back in the Mini and ventured up an exit where we stopped at the BP gas station/restaurant called Pigeon River Smokehouse. I have eaten there once before with a group I was riding motorcycles with and it was good then. It was even better now! Talk about having BBQ Brisket literally so perfect it was dissolving on your tongue when it didn't fall apart getting it there (not like the typical shoe-leather bbq of most places) along with some great slaw and fries. She had the pulled pork and it was equally fantastic. Enough so it's worth the 70 mile drive from my place just to grab a late afternoon lunch at some point. It was the perfect way to end a fantastic weekend... even if it didn't rain! :)

Side note: Called the smokies back-country permit line and got ahold of a Ranger to let them know about the shelter damage. They happily exchanged e-mails so I could send pics and forwarded them to maintenance. They wanted to get a jump on it since the damage looked new (no water damage on the wood) and were thankful for the call. Remember guys, they can't fix what they don't know is broken. :)

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Aaron Zagrodnick

Awesome report, sounds like a great trip! A little less snow than here. :D I'm almost ready to head that way just for the post-hike meal!

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