Standing Indian Basin and Backcountry Info Center

Standing Indian Sign DIRECTIONS: From the intersection of 441 and 64 W in Franklin, NC, drive west on 64/Murphy Road for 11.8 miles. Turn left on W. Old Murphy Road (sometimes shown on maps as Allison Creek Rd). Drive 1.9 miles and turn right on Forest Service Road 67. Drive an additional 1.9 miles to the Standing Indian Campground or 2 miles to the Backcountry Information Center.

Located in the Nantahala Mountain Range of western North Carolina, the Standing Indian Basin offers a variety of outdoor activities, including day hiking, back packing, tent and trailer camping, horseback riding and much more.Infomation kiosk at the Backcountry Info Center, Standing Indian Basin

It’s a veritable outdoor paradise.

Unlimited Hiking Opportunities

Hiking trails in the Standing Indian Basin include:

Long Branch Trail (2.3 miles)
Lower Ridge Trail (4.1 miles)
Park Ridge Trail (3.7 miles)
Park Creek Trail (5.3 miles)
Park Creek-Park Ridge Loop (4.9 miles)
Kimsey Creek Trail (4.1 miles)
Bear Pen Gap Trail (2.5 miles)
Timber Ridge Trail (2.3 miles)
Mooney Falls (.2 miles)
Beech Gap Trail (2.9 miles)
Waslik Poplar Trail (0.7 miles)
Big Laurel Falls Trail (0.5 miles)
Appalachian Trail (2184 miles or 21 miles in and around Standing Indian)

Kimsey Crk SignSome people will use the campground as a base camp, taking day hikes on various trails. But you’re certainly not limited to this option.

Nearly all of the trails within Standing Indian either connect to the Appalachian Trail or to Forest Service Roads that can be used as connectors to other trails. This makes it easy to create loops of various lengths for long weekends or week long backpacking trips.

There is also an extensive system of horseback riding trails throughout Standing Indian that can be used by hikers as well.

For convenience, Long Branch, Lower Ridge, Park Ridge, Park Creek and Kimsey Creek Trail sign all originate from the Backcountry Info Center.

Unlimited Camping Opportunities

If you’re looking for great camping as you explore Standing Indian you have several options to choose from. There’s the main campground (fee area) available for tents and camper trailers, a secondary “primitive” campground area known as Hurricane about 2 miles past the Backcountry Info Center, numerous “pack in” campsites along the trail system, and four AT shelters (Standing Indian, Carter Gap, Long Branch and Rock Gap) along the perimeter of the Standing Indian Basin.

Kimsey Creek

Kimsey Creek

Water, Water Everywhere

One of the highlights of Standing Indian is water – water is everywhere. Being a geological “basin,” it’s a huge watershed for the Nantahala River with springs, branches, streams, cascading falls, deep water pools and raging rapids.

You’re never far from a source of water in Standing Indian, making it one of the most lush and biologically diverse ecosystems anywhere.

Upper Nantahala River

Upper Nantahala River

Standing Indian is amazing…and it’s worth the time it takes to visit.

Ever been there yourself? Tell us about your experience in the comments section.

See ya’ on the trail,
Tastelikchickn

A Family Trip To Rufus Morgan Falls

Rufus Morgan SignPack a lunch. Pack the kids. It’s time for a fun, family outing.

And since we’re going to Rufus Morgan falls, you better pack some extra clothes. If your kids are anything like mine, they’re going to get wet. And that’s OK! This trip is all about water…lots of water.

Stream

A great family hike needs to have a great destination; a fun destination; a destination that will hold a kid’s attention and motivate them to keep walking, not whining.

Rufus Morgan Falls offers all this with a relatively easy hike for most family members. It’s only a half mile walk to the falls and the gentle switchbacks make the small elevation gain tolerable.

The Bridge - in the middle of the stream!

The Bridge – in the middle of the stream!

This is what the path looks like in April.

This is what the path looks like in April.

The hardest part for younger children, 5 years old and upward, will be the stream crossings. Little legs may find it hard to step from one stone to the next. But, remember, that’s why we brought a change of clothes. And, besides, you know how kids, water and mud mix. The three are natural friends.

In the spring, the walk is punctuated by many wild flowers blooming along the path. In summer, with the heavy canopy, this walk offers a cool alternative on a hot day. And in the fall, the colorful foliage will make you feel as though it’s a completely different place.

White Flowers

Yellow FlowerAll the seasons are wonderful, but spring generally provides the best view of the falls. There’s so much water coming down the mountain in spring that sometimes you can’t tell the difference between the path and the stream.

But you won’t mind. The roar of the falls and the enticing build up cascading water beckons you onward, cheerfully wooing children with plenty of little waterfalls along the way; each one getting bigger and more dramatic as you go until…WOW!…you’re standing under one of the tallest waterfalls in the Nantahala Mountains.

One of the lower falls that entices you to keep going.

One of the lower falls.

And finally, you reach Rufus Morgan Falls!

And finally, you reach Rufus Morgan Falls!

Anywhere along the way you can let your little ones play in the stream or explore around the rocks. And, depending on how warm it is, you might like to play too.

The trail to Rufus Morgan Falls is a great introduction for children to “backcountry” hiking. It’s short and not too difficult and can be used as a stepping stone to more challenging hikes.

Look closely…and you will see our dog.

Rufus Morgan Falls Trail is marked as 27. (Trails Illustrated Map, National Geographic)

Rufus Morgan Falls Trail is marked as 27. (Trails Illustrated Map, National Geographic)

And be sure you have your camera! There will be plenty of photo ops. Just think how much Grandma would love to have a picture of your kids in front of a big waterfall.

When you’re ready to go, you can complete the mile long loop by continuing on the trail. It’s an easy downhill walk which will lead you right back at the trailhead.

See ya’ on the trail,
Tastelikchickn

Trail at a glance
Mileage: 1 mile (loop)
Elevation change: 310 ft
Water sources: Stream/Spring
Trailhead: Take Wayah Road west out of Franklin, NC. Turn left on FS Road 388. Drive 2.1 miles to trailhead. This road is closed from the first working day after New Years until April 1st.

Long Branch Shelter – The Newest In The Nantahala Mountains

I made it! Finally. After several failed attempts I got to visit the newest AT shelter in the Nantahala Mountains. And what a beauty it is!

Our newest two story timber frame AT shelter!

Our newest two story timber frame AT shelter!

The Long Branch Shelter is situated near the head waters of Long Branch, which flows into the Standing Indian Basin. It’s a beautiful, two story timber frame shelter with a separate moldering privy, a fire pit and a good source of water.

Nicely situated at the end of a gentle ridge, Long Branch Shelter looks to the northeast over Standing Indian Basin. And it appears it would keep a tired hiker well protected from the elements.

I was very lucky last night to find five hikers calling it home for the evening. They raved about their accommodations and asked if I would pass their appreciation onto other members of the Nantahala Hiking Club.

Of course, I would.

They also asked what time the hiking club served breakfast, but I think my reply disappointed them slightly.

Anyway, I love how the trail brings people together from all over. Two of the hikers were from Indianapolis, one from CT, one from Saluda, NC and the fifth one from NJ. They were all retired gentlemen from different walks of like, but living one common dream for now.

Two of them have trail journals and if you’d like to follow their progress, you can find them here:

Another hiker, Stopsalot, has a blog and when I find it, I’ll add it to this list.

I had a great time chatting with these guys and I hope they have a safe and enjoyable walk in the woods.

Another friend I met blue blazin' the Long Branch Trail

Another friend I met blue blazin’ the Long Branch Trail

Getting to the shelter – if you’re a local or you’re visiting the area and want to see it – is pretty easy despite the fact that I couldn’t find it until last night. But that had more to do with lack of signs and blue blazes when it first opened (now corrected) and then running out of daylight on subsequent attempts (days are longer now).

Simply take the Long Branch Trail from the Backcountry Info Center in Standing Indian (Forest Service Road 67, Macon County, NC) to Glassmine Gap (2.3 miles) and turn right, or southbound, on the AT. You’ll reach the blue blaze trail for Long Branch shelter, marked by a sign, about three fourths of a mile from Glass Mine Gap.

Let me know what you think of our new shelter if you ever get the chance to visit it. ‘Til then…

See ya’ on the trail,
Tastelikchickn

Sleeping In The Trees…Or How I Learned To Love A Hammock

Thank you, SlowMo! You have no idea how you changed my life.

If it weren’t for you, I’d still be sleeping uncomfortably on the ground.

I’m certain you’ll never see this, but hopefully just putting it out there in the world you’ll come to know how much I appreciate your willingness to share your knowledge of hammocking.

Photo courtesy of enonation.com

Photo courtesy of enonation.com

Creature Comforts

I’ve loved camping and backpacking ever since I was a wee boy. The smell of a campfire, the scary stories about “hoodoos” (told to us by grownups who wanted us to stay in our sleeping bags) and the brisk morning air – what’s not to love, right?

OK, there is that; sleeping on the hard, lumpy ground. That’s not to love.

Not to worry, I thought to myself. A lot has changed in gear technology since I was a kid. All the light weight materials and new designs looked very promising to me, but there was still a little nagging feeling in the back of my mind.

Although backpacking and camping equipment has improved in comfort, the ground is still as hard as ever.

Coming up with a new and improved sleep system (tent/bag/pad) after all these years became overwhelming. My gear list was getting heavier and, with all the choices available, my frustration and confusion was increasing. I needed help.

And that’s when SlowMo appeared on the trail, like a wise old sage in a folk tale.

Photo courtesy of Jacks ‘R’ Better LLC

Photo courtesy of Jacks ‘R’ Better LLC

Walk The Talk

It was on a fine spring day a couple of years ago. I was out for a day hike on the Appalachian Trail with my youngest son. We were heading up the “Jump Up” out of the Nantahala Outdoor Center when we came upon a solo hiker. It was SlowMo.

He was four weeks out from Springer Mountain and he was walking very slowly, hence the trail name, SlowMo.

He was happy for the company, having fallen behind his faster buddies nearly two weeks earlier. We got to talking and, as things generally go with hikers, our conversation eventually turned to gear.

I brought up the subject of tents. At the time I was considering either the Hubba from MSR or one of Henry Shire’s Tarp Tents – both of which hikers seem to love. I was eager to know what SlowMo was using and how he liked it.

Was I in for a surprise!

He didn’t use a tent in the traditional sense of the word. For the next mile or so, SlowMo told me about his sleeping hammock. I don’t remember the exact words, but this is what I came away with and it completely revolutionized my idea of backpacking forever:

  • Best night’s sleep ever – Seriously! Every hammocker I’ve met has told me this
  • Quick and easy set up and breakdown (even in the wind and rain)
  • No fuss campsite selection – No need for level, smooth ground
  • Lightweight – No poles, no stakes makes for a lighter load
  • Leave no trace camping – You don’t have to worry about destroying the fragile ecosystem of the forest floor.
  • Multi-use – It doubles as a chair, making a nice place to sit when you’re done hiking.
  • Bottom stays dry when it rains – Even with the best campsites, heavy rains can cause water to collect in the bottom of a tent.
  • Fly can be adjusted to maximize warmth, ventilation, shade and privacy
Photo courtesy of Warbonnet Outdoors

Photo courtesy of Warbonnet Outdoors

You Sold Me!

I went home and immediately started researching hammocks. The more I learned, the more excited I got. I couldn’t wait to get one. And, fortunately, there are many great brands of hammocks to choose from today; like ENO, Hennessy Hammocks, Warbonnet and JacksRBetter to name a few.

Like any hiking gear, they all have their advantages – and they’ve all attracted thousands of devotees. Hikers LOVE their hammocks – including this happy hammocker!

No more ground dwelling for me. I sleep in the trees now.

I suggest you investigate hammocks yourself. Check out several brands, talk to fellow hikers who use hammocks and, if you can, try out a few to see what works best for you and your hiking style and sleeping comfort.

A great place to start is to read “The Ultimate Hang: An Illustrated Guide to Hammock Camping” by Derek Hansen.

And, if you see SlowMo out on the trail – chances are he’s still walking…slowly – be sure to tell him I said thank you.

Already have a hammock? What brand do you have and what do you like about it? Let us know in the comments below.

See ya’ on the trail,
Tastelikchickn

Seven Great Yoga Poses For Hikers

Warrior I

Warrior I

I’ve always felt if you take care of your body, it’ll take care of you – plain and simple.

Backpacking, or even a simple day hike – as good as they are for you – can create stresses on the body. If not properly handled, these stresses will develop into full fledged injuries and eventually keep you off the trail.

And there’s not a hiker in the world that wants this to happen. So what can you do about it?

Hiker Hot Spots

Knowing where to expect the natural stresses of hiking to occur is a good beginning. And it’s not hard to figure out, considering the activity includes walking with a pack on your back.

Hiker hot spots include your:

  • Shoulders, Neck and Upper Back
  • Low Back and Abdominals
  • Hips, Hamstrings and Quads
  • Knees, Ankles and Feet

Pretty much your whole body, right?

I’ve found that proper fitting shoes, a well adjusted backpack, lighter loads and trekking poles – among other things – go a long way to preventing stresses and hot spots.

But there’s more you can do to prevent aches, pains, strains and injuries on the trail.

Don’t Take Your Body For Granted Granite

Warrior II

Warrior II

Most serious hikers, whether they’re day hikers or thru-hikers, have some sort of routine to compensate for the stresses of hiking. It might include things like warming up, cooling down and stretching. The point is they’re doing something out on the trail to prepare their bodies for what lies ahead or pamper their bodies after a long day’s hike.

Personally I prefer yoga. I know a lot of other hikers who do too. The great thing about yoga is that it encompasses strength, flexibility and balance – for the whole body. Also, you don’t need any specific equipment and you can do it anywhere at anytime.

There are many yoga poses you can adopt for use on the trail. Here are a few of my favorites which include hip openers, shoulder and chest openers, balance poses and strengthening poses.

Key things to keep in mind when doing yoga are…

  • do no harm
  • keep your breath flowing – don’t hold it
  • reach for length before reaching for depth
  • strength and flexibility build in increments.

Go up to, but not beyond your edge.

If you’re new to yoga, consider taking some classes so you can learn how to safely get in and out of the poses. It’s not as scary as you might think. My first yoga class was actually fun.

My Top Seven Yoga Poses For The Trail

Modified Low Lunge

Modified Low Lunge

Sun Salutation – Perfect for warming up in the morning, stretching out at breaks and generating heat on cold nights. This includes upward salute, forward bend, plank pose, up dog, down dog and reverse swan dive. It’s good for the whole body. If you could do only one thing this is it.

 

Low Lunge – This pose is great for releasing tight hip flexors, the psoas muscle and the quads. I like to modify this pose and turn it into a chest opener too by lifting my sternum, rolling my shoulders back, drawing my arms back (like a cactus) and my shoulder blades together. It’s perfect after a long day with a pack on your back.

Pigeon Pose – Our hips are a storage depot for lots of tension and discomfort. If it goes unchecked, this tension can cause hip pain and decreased range of motion, possibly altering your gait, leading to knee, ankle and foot problems too. Pigeon pose will help open your hip flexors and release your piriformis muscle and other muscles of your buttocks.

Garland Pose – This is another great pose for opening the hips, allowing your muscles to relax and release. But that’s not all! It’s also similar to the position you’ll be in most of the time when you have to relieve yourself in the woods…you know, answer the call of nature. Oh, for crying out loud – for when you have to poop in a cat hole. Having the ability to get into this position comfortably will make your life a lot easier when the time comes.

Eagle Arms – Sometimes, after a long day hauling a pack, my upper back, the area between my shoulder blades, gets tight and uncomfortable. Eagle Arms is a great way to release these muscles and open up the upper back. You can do the full pose shown in the link or simply do the arm portion anytime during a hike.

Modified Tree Pose

Modified Tree Pose

Tree Pose – This pose is an excellent way to improve your balance or simply center yourself when you’re feeling tense. Also, as a great modification, you can place one ankle over the opposite knee (foot flexed), sink down into a chair pose and lean forward – or, for a deeper pose, go into a forward bend, hands to the floor. It’s like doing a standing pigeon pose and it’s great for releasing your hip muscles.

Half Lord of the Fishes – Twists are a great way to wake up you spine in the morning and help you relax at night. In addition, you get the added benefit of working your hips. Twists also have a positive effect on our digestive systems, keeping things moving, so to speak.

You’re all set! There are lots of beneficial yoga poses. Adapt a specific routine you can use on the trail and see how great your body feels.

What yoga poses do you like to use on the trail? Let us know in the comments below.

See ya’ on the trail,
Tastelikchickn

Happy Trails, Bill!

Bill GThis is my friend, Bill (He’s the one on the right). We shook hands for the first time last night. And today, he’s starting – or I guess I should say, continuing – his journey on the Appalachian Trail.

I met Bill through our Google+ Hiking Community and when I found out he was picking up the AT just outside of Franklin, NC (Rock Gap, to be specific), I jumped at the chance to get together with him.

It’s amazing to meet other people who are into hiking as much as I am; getting to know them, picking their brains and hearing about they’re hiking experiences – both good and bad. You can learn a lot from someone like Bill.

I could tell you more about him, but you would be better off checking out Bill’s blog for yourself. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

Best wishes, Bill, for a safe, fun and incredible adventure. I wish I was going with you! Hopefully you’ll be able to update your blog often enough for me to live vicariously through your hike.

Have you ever connected with another hiker from Google+, Facebook or some other online community? Tell us about it in the comments below.

See ya’ on the trail,
Tastelikchickn

A Sprinter On The Appalachian Trail

I know what you’re thinking. “Why would you want to sprint the AT? You’d miss the whole point of hiking?”

Yes, of course you would.

Personally, I’ve always imagined taking my time on the trail; following a blue blaze to a scenic view, exploring a trail town along the way or even taking a couple of days off from hiking and camping in a beauty spot.

But that’s not the sort of Sprinter I’m referring to. In fact, the Sprinter I’m talking about has more to do with moving too slow than too fast.

What do you mean?

I’m glad you asked.

Spring SnowHere it is April 5th. Spring officially started over two weeks ago and yet some of the north facing mountain slopes still have ice and snow on them. Winter is not letting go and Spring is taking too long to get started.

That’s the Sprinter I’m talking about! It’s as if we suddenly have to contend with a fifth season between Winter and Spring – or Sprinter, if you like.

I can only imagine how this weather is affecting this year’s crop of AT thru-hikers. Spring in the mountains is generally pleasant, with cool nights and comfortably warm days.

But this year? Ha! Not this year. We’ve had more than our fair share of bitter cold nights, cold rainy days and heavy snow at the higher elevations.

Living in an official Appalachian Trail town, we’re used to seeing hikers this time of year, but rather than being a place to “zero” or resupply, Franklin has been more like a refuge for cold, wet, tired hikers trying to get out of the wicked winter weather.

Here are some local stats to give you an idea of what this year’s thru-hikers have been dealing with. In the last 35 days we’ve had…

  • 16 days of snow and rain
  • 23 nights below freezing
  • 2 nights below 20 degrees
  • 13 days with highs below 45 degrees
  • 5 days with highs in the 30s

And – this is the recorded temperatures in the valley. It doesn’t factor in the higher elevations, which can be anywhere from 5 to 15 degrees cooler, or the wind chill factor you will experience on the ridge lines and mountain tops.Dogwood Blooms

But don’t despair hikers! There’s good news coming your way! Sprinter seems to be on its last legs and Spring should be in full bloom any day now.

The forecast for the rest of April is looking good. They’re predicting daytime highs over 60 degrees and night time lows over 40 degrees for the rest of the month.

A welcome relief, I’m sure.

So, what are some of your tips and tricks for staying warm on the trail? Let us know in the comments below.

See ya’ on the trail,
Tastelikchickn