Our first backpacking trip ended up being another car camping trip with backpacking gear!

Ben, Chan and I headed to South Cumberland planning to backpack to Alum Gap, an easy hike to a spot on the plateau. We stopped in at the visitor center and Jodie got us sorted with a site. We said hello to our favorite ranger, Park, and headed to The Lunch Box for...lunch! Chan got a mushroom swiss burger, Ben and I had turkey subs and we all had different style fries. I got sidewinder fries and they won hands-down. They basically take a potato and use a wide peeler and just peel it into short curved chunks and deep fry it. I did not think I would ever be hungry again. hahaha

We headed out to Stone Door ranger station and when we pulled up and got it-it was CHILLY. I called the visitor center and Jodie got us moved to the camping area 120 yards from the parking lot so we could use the extra blankets and such from the van. It turned out to be a good location for us for the night. We used the picnic tables to cook, left our food and stove in the van overnight (bears!) and enjoyed having the flush toilets and running potable water just across the parking area. Hauling the extra blankets was no big deal and I am the only one who even needed one. So...anyway, better safe, or in this case warm, than sorry. I would have slept very badly if I had been worried about the kids being warm enough.

After getting the site situated, we decided to head to Alum Gap anyway. Taking the trail from behind the ranger station to Alum Gap is 2.9 miles one way and is the shortest and easiest path. The trail barely undulates up and down a few times. It is also SUPER boring and looks the same from start to finish!

Alum Gap campsite is beautiful! It would be the best first-time backpacking site ever!

From Alum Gap, we walked along the Big Creek Rim Trail which wiggles back and forth for 3.2 miles along the rim. There are views from overlooks and then back into the woods, back out to the rim, back into the woods. It runs parallel to the rim the last stretch and then ends at the Great Stone Door, which we did not go look at! We thought we'd be back the next day!

The trail from Stone Door to the ranger station is a mile, so 7.1 mile loop, which we did in under 4 hours. I was tired! Chandler walks SO fast. I was trotting at times.

Ben started off with his pack well loaded, just for practice. At Alum Gap, he was done, so I wore it to Stone Door. Chan wore it that last mile and while I thought it might slow her down some, it did not even register. She was 1/4 mile ahead after the first 30 seconds. He likes his pack, a Jansport Katahdin, which is ALL that matters, but it holds my shoulders SO square (which is to say, the way they are supposed to be if I had decent posture) that my muscles were sore!

Back at camp, we set up the tent and beds quickly, then headed out to the parking area to make a hot dinner. We brought a few food options in case no one wanted hot food, but we all did. I had some trouble with the BioLite stove at the middle. It was smoking like CRAZY which it's not supposed to do. I turned off the fan and we waited a minute, then turned it on full blast for lack of any better idea. The flame caught then and BAM-no smoke. It was almost like the appearance of flame made the smoke that was already in the air disappear. Anyway, that was the only drama of the evening , we boiled our water and had creamy pasta with chicken and veggies and an apple crumble. Then I turned the stove to campfire mode (level one fan) and we fed it the occasional small stick and it kept us warm while we ate at the table. It was around 45 at this point, but the chilly wind was the real issue.

Trash taken care off, food and stove stored, we brushed teeth and headed for the tent. I bought a 3 man backpacking tent JUST because I like to have loads of space. I did not actually envision putting 3 people in it! We fit, though!

2.9 miles of basically the above

At Alum Gap campsite

The 3.2 mile trail back along the rim had several overlooks, all infested with Chandlers!

Ben likes the pointy trees
I like seeing the river

Ben does not like the single tree taller than the other trees

Another Chandler-filled overlook

the trail did wind back into the woods, more than along the edge, mainly to skirt creeks that had worn deep groves into the edge of the gulf

The overlook by Stone Door

Nearly back!

Hauling a laundry basket full of blankets to the campsite!

The BioLite was being tricky. It's not really supposed to shoot flames out the sides

I moved the handle around just after I took this shot.

mmmmm, apple crumble!
It was actually really good!

Headlamp Head.
So many ways to attract a mate while camping. Between this and my rain gear, I will be a hot item for sure this summer

The tiny spider light