North Chickamauga Trail – Stevenson Branch Campsite

My first “backpacking” trip. Also the first time I’ve camped in a tent. Ever. I’ve done day hikes of 15+ miles, so a backpack trip going in under 4 miles should be a piece of cake with a backpack, right?


The trail was in bad condition in some segments. Leaves up to knees. On wet steep slopes. Trail marked horribly. And my pack weighed over 40lbs.

Did I mention I had double rotator cuff surgery in past 5 months?

I learned:

  • it’s not just the distance, it’s the elevation
  • every ounce (and pound) counts
  • it is very important to have a GOOD breakfast before starting steep switchbacks in the morning
  • it’s a lot better to bring a water filtration unit than 12 bottles of water

I brought printouts of map and written trail instructions which saved our group’s posterior on a few occasions. One of the fellow hikers kept saying we had “this much more” (1/4 inch gesture). 

We started at 10:30 and arrived at the campsite at 5pm. I didn’t take many pics or videos because I was gasping for air, begging for the campsite to be around the corner, and imagining my funeral. I kissed the ground when I arrived at the campsite. (Not kidding) 

The campsite was lovely. Gorgeous. Waterfall, stream meeting large creek, huge rock formation with interesting ‘artwork’.  After setting up my tent (with help), I enjoyed my first ‘bonding” campfire. No marshmallows were toasted. I was wondering if I was going to be able to move in the morning. 

Thanks to James of, who gave me lots of hiking 101 insight and put up with my novice booty for the rest of the segment. THANKFULLY, it was well-maintained, but almost all uphill. I only wished I would die about ten times.

I would do the trail again in the spring, when it hadn’t rained for a few weeks, and I have my new Katadyn water filter with a pack that weighs less than 25lbs.

Here’s a link to the trail segment:

This is only my track TO the campsite, didn’t track way out…


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