Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.
~ Henry David Thoreau
Let’s go camping?! Seriously! It’ll be fun. And there’s no better place than the Standing Indian Campground in the Nantahala National Forest of western North Carolina. (Some people might get upset that I’m letting you in on this secret.)
Situated 12 miles west of Franklin, NC off Highway 64, Standing Indian Campground, at the headwaters of the Nantahala River, offers 84 campsites and 3 group sites (for parties up to 25). Some sites are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Others you can reserve in advance.
Each site offers a picnic table, fire ring with grill, lantern post, and tent or camper pad. Fresh water spigots and clean restrooms with flush toilets (a must for our kids!) and showers are available throughout the campground. There’s even a dump station close by for RVs.
We’ve always had wonderful experiences at Standing Indian (open April 1 – October 31). Situated at 3800 feet elevation and surrounded by 5000 foot peaks, Standing Indian is a cool, refreshing place in the hottest of summers. And everywhere you go you can hear the calming sound of running water.
In our experience, everyone’s friendly, the “hosts” are always available and ready to assist you, and people respect quiet hours. There’s always the pleasant smell of campfires, our kids seem to make “best friends” quickly, and it’s very dark at night – VERY dark, which is a great change from all the light pollution we’re used to these days.
There’s never a dull moment at Standing Indian. The whole family can play in the river and creeks, skip stones, go rafting, tubing, or kayaking, and even fish for trout (license required). You can walk around the campground, ride your bikes, go for umpteen different hikes on world class trails, visit the Appalachian Trail, ride your horses, visit waterfalls, or enjoy the views from Standing Indian Mountain and Albert Mountain.
If this sounds like too much for you, you can always stay at your campsite, reading books, writing your memoir, playing cards, meditating, napping, or simply recuperating from your hectic city life. Ahhh! Doesn’t that sound good?!
The surrounding area even offers many outstanding excursions within a short drive of Standing Indian. And if you should need groceries (more than the small camp store offers) or want a restaurant, Franklin is only 20 minutes away.
Whatever you decide to do, you can always cap the day off sitting around a campfire telling stories or reminiscing with friends and family.
Perfect for a short weekend or an extended stay (up to 14 days!), Standing Indian Campground is right in the heart of an outdoor paradise. I suggest you avoid holidays unless you’re able to reserve a site in advance. You can check availability or make reservations at www.recreation.gov.
I could wax poetic, like Emerson or Thoreau, about the virtues of reconnecting with nature, but that would be presumptuous of me to think I can do it better than them. No! Instead, I’m just going to say, “Go camping at Standing Indian!” Really. Just do it! And take the whole family with you. You won’t be sorry!
Ever been to Standing Indian? Tell us about your wonderful experience in the comment section below.
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.
To find your GAME* you can follow a blaze
that leads from south to north.
Or turn it around for a MEGA* trip
and follow it back to forth.
For this blaze of white makes one long line
for hikers of all types;
through tunnels of green, past waterfalls
and many beautiful sights.
But veer from the path, and you often will,
for water, rest, or ride,
there’s another blaze that you will need
whose importance we cannot hide
Though not as famous as the white
this blue one is your friend.
It’ll be there in your hour of need
and follow you ‘til the end.
It’ll guide you to a warm, dry shelter
whenever you need to rest.
Or on a tangent to a view
that’s arguably the best.
And there for you when weather gets bad
an alternate route’s okay;
to lead you ‘round a mountain top
and safe from danger’s way
So never discount the power of blue
when hiking on the trail.
It’s just as important as the white
though certainly not as pale.
See ya’ on the trail!
*GAME is an acronym for an AT thru-hike that goes from Georgia to Maine or Northbound and MEGA is for a Southbound trip from Maine to Georgia.
What could be better?! The day was clear and blue. The temperature was crisp and refreshing. And a gusty wind carried the scent of Spring in the air.
Earth Day 2015!! We were so fortunate this year. The weather around the mountains of western North Carolina is rather unpredictable in April; 70 degrees one day and snowing the next, but this Earth Day was the best one in recent memory.
And what better way to celebrate it than having a Yoga class on top of Standing Indian Mountain in the Nantahala National Forest?
Eight of us intrepid Yogis strapped on our day packs, filled with water and snacks, and hiked the 2.5 miles on the Appalachian Trail from Deep Gap to Standing Indian Mountain. It was a crowded day on the trail, filled with AT section hikers and thru-hikers making their way northbound. I counted 23 in all!
Imagine their surprise when they stepped off the short blue blaze trail and into the small opening on Standing Indian with a bunch of yogis striking poses…and OM’ing? But that’s another story.
It took just over an hour to reach the top of the mountain. We weren’t in a rush; we had all day. Two of our Yogi’s, Bill and Sharon, being past presidents of the Nantahala Hiking Club, regaled us with AT stories, trail history, and an ongoing seminar on spring wildflowers. Very informative!
And, Jean, a member of the Franklin Bird Club, offered her keen ear to help identify the calls of all the birds we could hear, but as nature would have that day, couldn’t see.
All in all, it was an amazing Earth Day watching Mother Nature awaken and start to redecorate her woodland mantle, with spring wildflowers.
Having the theme of Earth Day, our Yoga class consisted mostly of partner Yoga poses. Everyone was invited to explore their partnership with Mother Earth as they learned Yoga poses that relied on another person. Each pose honoring and expressing gratitude for all the things on Earth we take for granted.
We finished our Yoga class back to back with our partners in a seated meditation. As we quieted our minds and our hearts, I invited everyone to see if they could sync their breath with their partner. Once they had accomplished this, I invited them to sync their rhythmic breath with the rhythm of their other partner, Mother Earth, as we gently sat on her shoulders.
Something magical happened on top of Standing Indian. After about 5 minutes of meditation there was a pause – a pause in the howling wind, a pause in the song of the birds, a pause in the Earth. For about 15 seconds nothing moved, nothing was making a sound. It was the quietest moment I’ve ever experienced.
The whole purpose of Yoga is to connect to this Oneness and, speaking for myself, I’ve never felt anything like this before. Was it the day? Was it the people? Was it our intention? Was it being on the proverbial mountain top?
Or, maybe it was just a coincidence.
Who knows?! But…it happened.
And none of us will soon forget this experience. That’s for sure! And all the way back we talked about making this an annual thing; The Earth Day Yoga Hike.
Maybe you can join us next year? Or, if Earth Day doesn’t work for you, I’d be happy to lead you and your group on a Yoga Hike to Standing Indian or any other mountain top in western North Carolina. Think about. And let me know. Namaste.
See ya on the trail!
I really am fortunate. Living so close to Standing Indian – and all the wonderful trails it has to offer – is, well, the best thing in the world. Really! It’s a hiker’s paradise!
I could write thousands of blog posts about it and post umpteen million beautiful photos, but it’s not the same as seeing this place for yourself.
I suppose I could – or should – leave it at that. Visit Standing Indian – period! But then this would become a very dull blog. And besides, you’d never get to read about Kimsey Creek Trail…which…you’d be better off experiencing personally rather than reading about it. But…then…well…oh!
Ok! Enough. You get the picture. You’re here. You might as well read about Kimsey Creek Trail. Then you can decide if you’d like to see it for yourself…or not. I don’t know why you wouldn’t. It’s, by far, one of my favorite trails in the Standing Indian Basin.
And like many of the the trails in Standing Indian, you can pick up the Kimsey Creek Trail at the Backcountry Information Center. Just follow the signs to the junction of Kimsey Creek Trail and the Park Ridge/Park Creek loop and turn left. You’re ready to hike Kimsey Creek.
The Magic Begins
There are only a couple of steep, short inclines on the Kimsey Creek Trail and you’ll be glad to know you’re getting one of them out of the way right at the beginning. It’s not a long incline but it will elevate your heart rate, depending on what kind of shape you’re in.
As it switches back on itself and winds up the hill, you will soon find yourself walking along the Standing Indian Campground and past the outdoor amphitheater. Further on, the path descends to an old forest service road, where you’ll look down on the large group campsites, a great place for groups up to 50 campers (reservations required).
In my opinion, this old forest service road, which you’ll be on for a couple of miles, is one of the many things that makes Kimsey Creek Trail so enjoyable. This wide, scenic walk along Kimsey Creek is rather deceiving. You don’t even realize you’re gradually going uphill the whole way.
Many people will follow this section out until the path narrows again and then turn around for a short, 4 mile, out and back hike. And if this is all you end up doing, it’ll still be one of the most memorable hikes you’ve ever taken.
This section is punctuated by many water crossings, springs, and feeder streams for Kimsey Creek. So many, in fact, that it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between the creek and the trail. But don’t let this dissuade you! Yes. Kimsey Creek Trail is a wet trail. But it’s fun hopping from rock to rock – especially with hiking poles – or you can tramp right through the wet spots like an old pro if you want. And kids LOVE this section because of all the water.
Waterfalls and Falling Waters
As you follow the well marked blue blazed trail, you’ll come to a small bridge where the road ends and the single lane path picks up again. The first thing you’ll see when you cross the bridge is one of many backcountry campsites along Kimsey Creek Trail. You can’t reserve these, and sometimes they’re overgrown with raspberry canes, but if you do decide to camp in one of these places remember to practice the Leave No Trace principles.
I love this section of the trail! It passes through a narrow ravine as it continues to meander along Kimsey Creek. There are several small, picturesque waterfalls, a rickety, but safe, bridge, and great places to meditate with the sound of running water dominating your senses.
And, the temperature?! Wow! Is it cool through this section – anytime of year. It’s like being in an air conditioned forest in the summer. It can be 80 degrees in Franklin, but only 65 degrees along this part of the creek. In the winter and through early spring, it’s not uncommon to see huge icicles hanging from the rock faces along the creek. And, with full leaf coverage, it almost appears to be dusk most of the day throughout this section.
It really is magical! And if you don’t go any farther than this on the trail, you’ve had a great hike. Seriously!
The second distinct incline in the trail marks the end of this section. The path climbs up and away from the creek, winding around small swales and ridges, hopping feeder streams, and past some rather large trees. Dappled sunlight makes another appearance as the ridge rises and though the canopy is thick in the summer, you may get a glimpse of blue sky letting you know it’s still daylight.
Kimsey Creek Canyon – Unofficially Speaking
Eventually you’ll come to a blue blazed tree, which looks like it has very long legs. It reminds me of the Tree Ents from Lord of the Rings. You get the feeling like it just might walk through the fern-carpeted forest at night and return to the exact same spot as the sun rises. Haha! I’m sure it doesn’t, but, then again, I haven’t spent the night at this spot to know for certain.
The trail drops sharply here and rejoins Kimsey Creek. I call this section of the trail Kimsey Creek Canyon. Oh, no! That’s not its official name. I made it up. It’s not on any cartographer’s maps. But you’re deep…well below the canopy, surrounded by steeply rising ridges, and dwarfed by the mountain tops. Often times, though you don’t feel it before or after this section, the wind roars through here as if it were the only passage it has through the mountains.
It’s not like the Grand Canyon, mind you, with sheer cliffs on either side. No. These mountains are much older, softer, worn down by time and weather. In the winter, when the leaves are gone and you can see the contour of the land around you, the canyon-like quality really shows. And the way the land opens up as you come out of this section, heading toward Deep Gap, almost gives the impression, geologically speaking, that there may have been a land bridge or ice dam many thousands of years ago, which eventually gave way to what is now Kimsey Creek, forming the Kimsey Creek Canyon.
Who knows?! But it sure is fun looking at the land and speculating on the history and the forces of nature that shape it.
The Final Accent
As the trail continues, it’s time to say goodbye to Kimsey Creek. The path begins its last ascent towards Deep Gap. There are a couple of short climbs, but overall the trail still has a fairly gradual grade, compared to other trails in Standing Indian.
When you average the elevation gain over the entire distance of the trail it’s only about 250 feet per mile. Very easy! I think the reason why the trail is listed as “moderately difficult” is because of all the water crossings, rocks, and roots you have to contend with – not the elevation gain.
Anyway, soon you will come to a large meadow adjacent to a gravel parking lot, which is accessed by US Forest Service Road 71. (Please note: USFS 71 is only open spring through fall. Check with the local Nantahal Ranger Station (firstname.lastname@example.org) for opening and closing dates.)
USFS 71, a six mile long, one lane, gravel road with turnouts, connects U.S. Hwy 64 with Deep Gap. Deep Gap (elev 4341) is the terminus of the Kimsey Creek Trail, trailhead for the Deep Gap Branch Trail, and a popular waypoint on the Appalachian Trail for weekenders and AT section hikers.
You’ll always find cars in the various parking lots at the end of Kimsey Creek Trail. In fact, certain times of the year this area gets quite crowded. For example, in April you’ll be hard pressed finding solitude amongst all the section hikers, thru-hikers, and the people gathering ramps, a pungent, wild onion,considered a delicacy by many, that grows rampant in this area. And, of course, again in the fall when all the leaf lookers come out for our colorful fall display.
How’s It Go Again? Oh, Right? Just Do It!
Kimsey Creek Trail is a great out-and-back hike that’s available year round from the Backcountry Info Center at Standing Indian. It’s also part of a very popular loop trail (Kimsey Creek Trail/Appalachian Trail/Lower Ridge Trail – 11 miles in total) that makes for a great, but long, day hike or a wonderful weekend backpacking trip.
BUT – and this is a big but since this is a very important Public Service Announcement – if you decide to do the loop, I strongly recommend starting with Kimsey Creek Trail first. The Lower Ridge Trail, beautiful and scenic as it may be, is quite steep in parts and is MUCH better to come down, than to go up. Believe me!
So! If you’ve made it this far, after reading all these words, I hope you realize that you really need to experience this trail for yourself – more than once and at different times of the year.
There’s magic in discovering the beauty of a trail for the first time and Kimsey Creek Trail will easily feel like a new experience every time you hike it. So…hike it! And let me know what you think about it in the comments section.
Trail at a glance
Mileage: 4.1 miles one way to Deep Gap
Elevation change: Approx 1000ft from Backcountry Info Center to Deep Gap
Water sources: Springs/Streams
Trailhead: Park at the Backcountry Info Center at Standing Indian and follow the signs for Kimsey Creek Trail.
Yes! Yes! It has been a long time. Too long, if you ask me. Life has a way of going off on a tangent. Six months later you wake up and realize, “Wait! You mean I haven’t hiked since July 4th?!”
“Yup! That’s right, Michael.” (This is my conscience talking, in case you didn’t know.) “It’s been awhile. Something’s gonna snap if you don’t do something about it.”
Hmm. I wonder if my conscience really talks like that. Anyway….
Fortunately, the weather couldn’t have been more agreeable for a day hike. It was 52 degrees and sunny at the trailhead. The sky was clear, blue, and bright. Having lost my trail legs from inactivity, I decided to take the rather flat Park Creek Trail at Standing Indian and amble along the beautiful Upper Nantahala River.
Inactivity. It’s an insidious thing, you know. It builds up. At first you tell yourself I’ll go next weekend, but it never happens and, before you know it, too many weekends pass by like posts in your social media feed.
Anyway, the parking lot at the Backcountry Info Center was packed – the most cars I’ve seen in a long while. Being the end of a beautiful three day weekend, I imagine most of the people had been there since Friday, backpacking around the Appalachian Trail. They’d be heading back soon enough for their long drive back to Atlanta, or Charlotte, or to wherever they call home.
Surprisingly, with all of those cars, we didn’t pass a single soul on the trail. We had it all to ourselves.
For me, I definitely reach a point when it’s been too long since my last hike. If I’m being honest with myself, I probably reached that point months ago. When this happens, all I can think about is hitting a trail. My brain shouts, “Enough!” It starts resisting me, sabotaging me, playing little games with my thoughts. It causes me to be forgetful, distracted, OTL (which means “out to lunch”, as in mentally checked out, in case you didn’t know this one).
We ended up doing 5 miles – a quick out and back, stopping frequently to sit by the river and take in the sights and sounds or gobble some trail mix. Our dog, Phyto, could hardly contain his enthusiasm for being on the trail – or in the water – either. He never stopped grinning.
My conscience has a not so subtle way – kind of like a kick in the head – of saying, “You’re lost. Slow down. Reconnect to what’s important, my friend. So, listen up! Get your ass on the trail…or else….”
I know. My conscience sounds like a big bully, doesn’t it? It’s right, though. I’m always more relaxed, more productive, more creative, more focused, in fact, happier when I’m hiking regularly.
So out I went. After a string of beautiful winter days I said enough is enough. I don’t care if I have work to do. I’m going hiking! And as I was getting ready to go, I suddenly remembered a poem by Richard Le Gallienne, who, by the way, celebrated his 149th birthday on the January 20th, entitled, “I Meant To Do My Work Today.”
Oh no! It’s not what you may be thinking. It’s not an ode for slackers; people who shirk their duties. Au contraire, mon ami! It’s a call to action. An invitation to awaken from the industrial wasteland. A ballad for the call of the wild rather than the inharmonious sound of a 9 to 5 punch clock.
I imagine people like Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson and people with similar sensibilities would wholeheartedly line up with the sentiment of this poem.
Here’s it is…
I meant to do my work today—
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.
And the wind went sighing over the land,
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand—
So what could I do but laugh and go?
I’ve known this poem since I was 7 years old, but the older I get, the more I understand the message it’s conveying. The sentiment gets stuck in my brain, demanding I listen…and take action.
But never more! From now on, when I hear the call, my only option will be to “laugh and go.” This is no longer just a poem. This is my anthem.
See ya on the trail!
What’s it like for you after a long spell of not hiking? How do you get your hiking mojo back? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
It’ll never be the same again. Sure you’re standing in the same spot, in the same scenic overlook, but you’ll never experience the same view.
And that’s what makes Winding Stair Gap so magical.
The light changes, the clouds change, the shadows, the seasons, the color of the sky and the color of the leaves change. Thousands – maybe millions – of variables determine what you’re going to see on any visit to Winding Stair Gap.
You can stop everyday and see a completely different vista, a different mood, a different place. A single magical moment where all the variables come together to produce YOUR unique view; your once in a lifetime view…because it’ll never look like that again.
Winding Stair Gap, on Hwy 64, is much more than a way point between Franklin and Murphy, NC. It’s a destination all on its own.
And should you ever have the opportunity to stop, you should. Take it all in. Take a photo. Send a copy of your pic to me – if you want – and I’ll add it to the Winding Stair Gap Photo Gallery along with any new pics I take.
Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
In the meantime, enjoy these magical views….
What a treat! Last Friday night I had the honor of spending my evening with four fantastic Appalachian Trail Thru-hikers.
It was fun getting to know them, hearing their hilarious stories, and living the vicarious trail life through them.
Since none of them are in witness protection, they gave me permission to take their picture and introduce them to you. Well, at least introduce them by their “trail names.”
Wayne, a fellow member of the Google+ Thru-hiking Community, was my introduction to this rag-tag group of fabulous hikers. As of his stop in Franklin, he hasn’t received a trail name yet and he’s a bit surprised he hasn’t done something stupid enough to warrant one. No worries, Wayne, the trail WILL find a name for you. For now, keep working on your trail legs and building up your hiker appetite. Oh! And keep those community updates coming!
UPDATE: It’s official. Wayne’s trail name stuck! He’s now going by Crinkleroot, named after the beloved character in Jim Arnosky’s children’s books. You can learn more about his namesake at www.crinkleroot.com.
SAS is a fifth grade school teacher on sabbatical – forced upon her due to budgetary cuts. Not one to sit around, she decided to hike the AT this year. Her trail name is an acronym for “slow and steady,” and she’s considering writing a book about her AT experience. You can learn more about SAS and follow her progress at Hikergirl86.
Paperweight – yes he carries a paperweight in his pack – is a wanderer, and a funny one at that. When you ask him where he’s from, you either get the shelter he slept in the night before or a laundry list of locations around the country. His main purpose for hiking the AT, as near as I can tell, is to meet a woman named Bobbie Sue. So if your name is Bobbie Sue, look for Paperweight at your nearest trail crossing – and make his day.
Handlebar, aptly named for his fantastic handlebar mustache, is, to me, the quintessential thru-hiker. He’s also very sharp witted, funny and confidently laid back. Always on the lookout for Michigan micro brews (he’s from MI), he was thrilled to find one at the Rock House Lodge in Franklin’s local outfitter, Outdoor76.
Best of luck on your thru-hike. I hope you all can stay together until you reach Mt. Katahdin.
If you’re ever hiking the AT or the Bartram Trail, for that matter, and find yourself in Franklin, NC, let me know. I’d love to meet up with you and get to know you too.
One can never have too many trail friends.
See ya’ on the trail,