Kayak Camping at Calderwood Lake (Joyce Kilmer area)

Bella and I drove up to Calderwood Lake, TN last weekend for a kayak camp adventure. I have seen a few references to the lake side campsites online, but never found a lot of details. Since the weather was great, we figured it was a good weekend to finally check it out. We parked and put our kayak in the water at Magazine Branch Boat Ramp. The parking lot had a sign which showed the campsites so I snapped a quick photo before hopping on the water.

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The water was incredibly clear – it was so pretty!

Our first stop was Slickrock Creek (about ~1.1 miles from put in) – where campsite number 1 is located. We paddled up the little cove where the water spills in and found another family already camping there.

I noticed a few random bird houses along trees as we paddled along the lake and this pretty tree.

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Around mile ~2.4, we came across campsite number 2. It looked like it would be hard to pull the kayak out of the water, but didn’t look impossible.

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At mile ~2.8, we came across campsite 3. Like the previous campsite, it didn’t look like it would be very easy to get the boat out of the water.

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The old tunnel is located across from campsite 3. We paddled over to check it out. The water was too high to paddle all of the way through, but we could see some light coming through.

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Since campsite 2 and 3 looked a bit difficult, we decided to keep going to campsite 4 which is located around mile 3.9. It is located up a cove where a creek dumps into the lake. I imagine it was probably a cool site, but there were a lot of trees down across the cove that we couldn’t get pass due to the water level.

We started to paddle to campsite 5, but the headwind was very strong and decided it would be better to head back to campsite 3 so the next day we would have a short paddle out.

Getting the boat out of the water and gear up the hill at campsite 3 wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I think the water level dropped some while we were paddling making it a bit easier to climb onto the rocks. We enjoyed margaritas, some delicious steaks, and mashed potatoes for dinner. I debated making a campfire, but I knew we weren’t going to stay up late (Bella even took a nap) and it was already so hot out!

The next morning was a quick paddle out (2.8ish miles). It started off sunny, but clouded up a bit.

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Joyce Kilmer – Big Fat Gap to Hangover

Avery and I met Friday a few weeks back at at the Big Fat Gap trailhead in the Joyce Kilmer Wilderness area. It was pretty dark when we started hiking, but the trail wasn’t too bad with headlamps. We hiked about a mile or two along the Big Fat Gap trail to Slickrock Creek which is almost all downhill. Avery had wanted to stop at the campsites we passed near the start of the trail, but I knew the next day would be a long day and wanted to get a bit more mileage under our belts Friday.¬†We setup camp once we reached the creek.

Saturday morning we cooked breakfast… which was interesting. I had a read a book earlier in the week about making pancakes while hiking. All you had to do was bring pancake mix, mix with water, and coat the pan with olive oil or butter. I wish I could say it was that simple… it ended up being a giant mess. Edible mess. But a mess. I don’t think we will be trying that again.

Once we managed to clean up breakfast and break down camp, we hid our bags in the bushes and hiked downstream to Wildcat Falls. We had to cross SlickRock creek once or twice to get there – it was definitely a bit slick!

We returned back to camp around 11ish, had a quick snack, and headed up the trail towards Naked Ground. The first mile or two was fairly easy. We reached the point where the trail diverted from the creek and started its ascent. We knew we had a lot of work ahead of us and decided to go ahead and have lunch and top off our water.

The trail from Slickrock Creek up to Naked Ground was hard. Not only did we have to gain over 2,000 feet in elevation, we had to climb over a hundred trees. I wish I could I say I was exaggerating, but I really think it was a hundred. You would climb over one tree and could see at least 2-3 more trees ahead of you. Hurricane Irma came through a few weeks before and I guess that caused so many trees to fall? I would not recommend the trail to anyone until some serious trail maintenance has taken place. It was brutal.

Finally we reached Naked Ground. There was a nice campsite which was very appealing, but we decided to push on to Hangover. It was around dusk when we finally reached Hangover – just in time for the sunset!

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The sunrise the next morning wasn’t so bad either!

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We packed up camp Sunday morning and headed back to the car. It was a quick couple miles of downhill – thank goodness! If we had to go up more uphill, I probably would not have made it!