An REI Family Trip - Camping in Cataloochee Valley

While the last trip I wrote about with my new job, contracting as a guide for REI Adventures, was a backpacking trip, this trip I took was actually doing a front country camping trip.  We offer a package called a Family Adventure - you just show up with your family and let us take care of the rest!  I spent the morning setting up large tents with cots and tables, lanterns and even welcome mats.  We also set up the largest and most elaborate car camping kitchen I've ever seen.  For these front country adventures, I use the word "glamping" (meaning glamorous camping) to describe what we actually do.  We cook your meals and provide your lunches and snacks for your weekend of adventure!

On our first night with our family we cooked a big dinner of pulled pork barbecue, cole slaw, potato salad, and pumpkin pie.  After we finished dinner and cleaned up, we took our guests up to an overlook in the dark and did a little star gazing.  The skies were completely clear and lit up beautifully.  We could see the Milky Way and even saw a satellite!  Thanks to one of our other guides who had a star gazing app on her phone, we were able to better see and map constellations I had no idea even existed!

The next morning we had a big breakfast consisting of pancakes, bacon, and eggs before we headed out for an easy 7-mile loop hike in Cataloochee Valley.  The Boogerman Loop isn't one of the more popular hikes in the park, but it is very scenic and beautiful for all the old growth trees due to being on private land that wasn't commercially logged.  After hiking for about 4 miles, we started doing lots of stream crossings on the Caldwell Fork Trail, many of them unbridged since a flood washed them away a few years back.  The water was chilly and this weekend was the first major cold snap we have had so far in the Smokies.  After getting back into camp for the night, our camp host had made us a dinner of chicken fajitas, rice, beans, chips, and salsa with all the add ons you could ask for!  Apple pie for dessert and we were all nice and full before getting ready for tonight's adventure - a night hike to hear elk bugling.  

 A stone wall on the Boogerman Loop hike. 

A stone wall on the Boogerman Loop hike. 

The next morning we had to get an earlier start since we were driving nearly 2 hours away to Newfound Gap for a hike on the Appalachian Trail.  This morning our group split up into two and I took the energetic kids on a fast-paced hike up to an overlook.  After we all met up for lunch, we played some games having the kids identify trees while they were blindfolded - guessing which tree they had touched after having the blindfold removed.  I lead the group out to the Icewater Springs Shelter to show them where AT thru hikers sleep on trips through the park and taught them a little about trail culture.  We then took a group up to see the overlook at The Jumpoff before beginning our drive back to camp in Maggie Valley.  Tonight's menu was spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread cooked over the fire.  We sat with the kids around a campfire and made s'mores and even popcorn before calling it a night.  

 An unnamed view off the Appalachian Trail. 

An unnamed view off the Appalachian Trail. 

The final morning of our trip was a quick breakfast of toasted bagels with honey cream cheese and some fruit salad before saying goodbye.  One of our guides was taking the group to go white water rafting and zip lining for their final day on vacation.  I got to stay and breakdown and clean up our campsite.  Breakdown went much faster than the setup I am happy to report!  I got to spend the rest of the morning driving through beautiful Cataloochee and Maggie Valley on my way back to the office.  During the cold nights of our trip, the fall colors began to pop even more for a beautiful ride back home.