To a lot of us, the joy of backpacking is escaping the masses, of hiking in just far enough to earn a little solitude, setting up camp, then exploring. The more exploring we can do without 30 pounds on our back, the better. That’s the goal behind our Wonderful Wilson Creek trip in October. On Day 1 we hike in less than a mile and a half, set up camp, then explore some of the best summer swimming holes in the Southeast. On Day 2, we play in the water a bit more before breaking camp and relocating to a spot, that’s again only about a mile and a half hike, for one of the best sunsets — and sunrises — around (we might also catch the first color of fall cascading down Grandfather Mountain to the west). On Day 3, we hike out in full pack, then drop those packs for a last hike of less than two miles to one of the most rugged falls in an area rife with ‘em.
If you aren’t familiar with Wilson Creek, and many of you are not, it’s the roughly 11,000-acre area that sits on the southeast flank of Grandfather Mountain, and catches much of the runoff that falls on Grandfather’s southeast side. As a result, there is a lot of water in the Wilson Creek area: creeks, streams, waterfalls, pools at the base of the waterfalls that make for awesome swimming holes. Here’s our plan to experience as much of Wilson Creek as possible in a weekend:
Friday: Arrive at Wilson Creek Visitor Center at 3 p.m. We'll drive 20 minutes to the Huntfish Falls Trailhead and hike 1.4 miles to our camp for the night.
Saturday: We will take a 7-mile day hike, with the objective of spending time at Gragg Prong, checking out the great falls and pools along the way, and practicing our water crossing skills. We'll return to our tents around 3 p.m., break camp and move on to our destination for the evening, at the end of Little Lost Cove Trail. It’s a 1.7-mile hike in. We’ll spend the evening atop a generous rock outcrop and watch the sun set over Grandfather Mountain.
Sunday: We'll gather at 9 a.m. for breakfast on the aforementioned outcrop, then break camp, hike back to the cars, take a short drive and do one last hike, a 4-mile out-and-back, to the spectacular South Harper Falls.
Difficulty and backpacking level
We travel short distances — 1.4 miles to the first camp, 1.7 to the second — in full pack. However, the hike into camp Day 1 involves a good descent, and thus, a good climb out. There are shorter climbs on the hike to camp Day 2. We are in no hurry on these hikes; patience is key (as are trekking poles). There are creek crossings on this hike, but not in full pack. We will go over creek crossing technique at the Tuesday planning meeting (see below).
This is a good trip for recently-minuted backpackers. Because of the short distance in full pack and an anticipated lighter pack due to summer weather, it’s a good opportunity to explore more challenging terrain in your pack. This is also a good trip for anyone who has never explore Wilson Creek. We will post a slideshow of our most recent trip and share the link shortly.
If this trip sounds familiar, it’s similar to the GetBackpacking! Going Solo class we offer, with one twist — on night 2, rather than camping solo, we will camp together at the expansive primitive site at the rock outcrop overlooking Little Lost Creek.
What this trip includes:
* Planning meeting: Tuesday, Oct., 7 p.m. at the Great Outdoor Provision Co. in Chapel Hill's Eastgate Village, 100 E. Franklin St. We will go over logistics for the weekend, what you should bring, the weather and more.
* eguide with custom map of the route, camping spots, water sources, and tips on going solo.
* We will arrange a carpool from both the Triangle and Triad.
Trip is limited to 12 people.
Cost: $105. Immediately upon signing up, you will be sent an invoice via PayPal. Because of the popularity of this trip, the invoice must be paid within 10 days of issue; otherwise, you will be delegated to the Waitlist and may lose your spot on this trip.