Hello again, Green Tunnel!
Albert Mountain Fire Tower
The south side of the mountain is crazy steep. Going up the north side (SOBO) was the way to go on this section!
Camped at the base of Albert and caught the sunrise
Miles of wildfire damaged trail in this section.
This knocks out the section on the AT between Deep Gap and (roughly) Rock Gap with an added 7 miles of side trails.
I parked at Standing Indian Campground in the backcountry parking area (free) and headed up Long Branch Trail for 2 miles to meet up with the AT about 6 miles north of Albert Mountain and not far from Rock Gap. There is a place to park at Rock Gap and access the AT without a side trail, but the return climb up the paved road (steep, no shoulder) did not appeal.
The climb up was not bad, the trail joins the AT with zero fanfare, it’s a nondescript flat spot with no view.
Southbound is the way to do this stretch if at all possible. Climbing Albert Mountain headed south is probably 50 times easier, judging by the climb down on the south side.
Camped the first night on the south side of Albert Mountain for a total of 8 miles+the drive up.
Day Two 12 miles to Standing Indian Shelter
I had been dreading climbing Standing Indian and had worked it up so much in my head that I actually climbed it without knowing I was climbing it. I knew I was climbing something, but it seems so gradual and doable that it surely had to be a smaller warm-up mountain.
At the top, two things to keep in mind. Directly across the from Standing Indian sign is a (signed) 4.1 mile trail that will lead right back to the parking area if the trip needs to be cut short. Directly behind the trail is a blue blazed trail leading up out of sight and that goes to the overlook and top-of-the-mountain camping. It’s a dry ridge, so if planning to camp there, haul water up. The next water source is 2 miles further down the mountain at the shelter.
The Standing Indian shelter has been under attack by a nuisance bear, I teamed up with another couple to hang our food properly and though the shelter log told tales from the night before (late June 2017) of yelling at the bear and trying to chase him off of their food bags, we never heard a peep from him.
Day Three 1 mile to Deep Gap
5 miles to Standing Indian Campground
a mile or so to the parking area
From Deep Gap, the Kimsey Creek trail sign can be seen from the parking lot, it’s at roughly 10 o’clock if looking northbound at the AT. It is blue blazed and follows Kimsey Creek all the way to the campground. The trail is rated Easiest, though it does cross creeks with no bridges, there were at least 5 large blow-downs to scurry over and at one point, it opens into a FS road with a gate. Follow the road uphill and the trail cuts back into the woods to the right. Late June, it was almost closed up from growth. There is a large rock with a blue blaze at the opening, just keep a lookout. The first campsite on the trail is just after this junction. Keep going, there are prettier ones further down!
The trail goes up and down, crosses feeder streams and the main creek and at the very end, requires a knee-deep fording about 25 feet wide! It was a fun hike for me in my sandals with no socks, I crashed right through like a giddy toddler.
The trail ends at the group campsite, which no one tells the campers there because they all stared like I had two heads. Follow the road through the campground proper and after crossing a longish bridge, the trail to the backcountry parking is to the right, clearly signed as such.
The campground is $16 a night to tent camp, cash or check only and there is a tiny camp store with snacks, ice cream and cold drinks.