Day One: 8 miles
Slickrock Creek (42) Trail 8 miles
Day Two: 5.4 miles
Big Fat Trail (41) 1.4 miles
Hangover Lead Trail (56) 3 miles
Haoe Lead (53) 1 mile
Day Three: 8.5 miles
Haoe Lead (53) 1 mile
Hangover lead (56) 5.4 miles
Ike Branch (45) 1.5 miles
Slickrock (42) 0.6
Total Miles: 21.9
This years hike was scheduled and permitted for the Old Settlers Trail in the Smoky Mountains. The government decided that NO YOU WILL NOT! Plan B we decided to hike the Joyce Kilmer Wilderness Area. No government involved, which as usual is a good thing.
I arrived at the Ponderosa to find the place of honor open in the driveway. The van was parked to the side so I figured I had moved up in seniority. I found this to be not true and the van was moved to unload the mulch that was loaded in the back. I found that I arrived in time to start the new project. So we went to slinging mulch and transplanting plants.
Shortly after we ran out of mulch, the ladies arrived from the first day of shopping. I got to visit with my buddy Betty while the guys went and got more mulch. After finishing the projects for the day we quickly went over maps and descriptions for the next day.
We got up the next morning and after a wonderful breakfast we headed off for the Dragon and across the Dam to find our trailhead. Yes, the roadbed right next to the bridge is the trail parking area.
As soon as we got on the trail we noticed that the bear hunters where getting dropped off all along the river side by boat. I got out the old orange backpack cover just to make sure there were no communication problems.
We passed the Ike trailhead and the creek when I noticed the hole in the ground. It was like a horror movie as the ground started climbing toward me I realized that it was Yellow Jackets. With a quick scream I ran the next thirty yards with only one sting on the leg. After I got it brushed off, I did a check on my fellow hikers. Steve, who was behind me, got three stings on the arm, one on the hand, and one on the side. Dad got one sting on the arm and one on the belly. What a way to start the hike. Steve had run back across the creek and Dad had climbed uphill so it took a while for them to build up the nerve to get by the nest.
After we got back together, we headed on to find the trail challenging with downfalls and washouts. After a mile we came to Slickrock Creek. Slickrock Creek is a challenging trail. There are 12 fordings of the creek. The trail is also washed out in different area's and the trail is rerouted with sharp climbs and descents as well as climbing rocks and over tree falls. Lot's of slippery areas.
During one creek crossing Steve and I heard some serious sloshing going on and found Dad running down the creek. He had tripped over a rock and was trying to catch up to his pack and upper body. At another point after climbing rocks, going over trees, and holding on to tree roots and using the toes of our shoes to hold onto the washed out trail, I find a log running about eye level. As I pull myself up by the log I notice that it is actually the trail. All three of us had missed the turn off of the rerouted trail.
We did see a couple of guys from Knoxville out dayhiking. There are campsites all along the Slickrock trail. We stopped at the Big Fat trail connection for the night where there are numerous campsites. We had gotten a good workout in today and were ready for a break. As we were collecting firewood, Steve found another Yellow Jacket nest on a trail by the campsite. We enjoyed a quiet night by the fire telling lies and taking cough medicine.
We got up and got breakfast in us before we started the climb up Big Fat trail. There are two fordings of Big Fat and there is a campsite at both. The trail is all uphill, but most of the 1050 foot climb is in the last half a mile. We took a break at the trailhead where there were many bear hunters and a father and son backpackers.
The 2189 foot climb up Hangover Lead South, not including the ups and downs in between, is a good workout. Add in the tree falls and slick boulders it becomes a challenge. We stopped at a down tree to enjoy our lunch. We crossed through the color layer of trees and on to the overlook. Dad stayed at the trail junction while Steve and I made our way through the thick brush out to the overlook. We did get some pictures between the clouds before it totally socked us in. We joined Dad and then continued the climb up to the ridge. We had decided to go with plan "C" by this time. Originally we were going to hike down the other side of the mountain by the Haoe Lead trail down to the Joyce Kilmer memorial area to see the big trees. Instead we hiked to Naked Ground trail and camped at the campsites there. I knew there was a good spring there from a past hike with Lora.
On the way to Naked Ground, Dad decided to be a tree hugger. He slipped around the tree on the side of the trail with a leg on each side. We had to pull him back up as he had a leg under him and could not get himself up.
When we got to camp we found that you really have to search to find any firewood around the area. We had a bear hunter come through camp on his way to find the dogs. After we got camp set up Dad showed us he still had energy to spare. After hanging his foot on his tarp strings he flew across the camp and dove into the push-up position. Always showing off he is.
We enjoyed the evening listening to owls and coyotes while we sat around the fire. When Dad decided it was time for bed he climbed in his hammock and flip on the rain switch. We decided we would go to bed as well and it rained all night long.
We got up and ate breakfast under my tarp. Afterwards we hiked in the clouds back down the Hangover Lead trail. The rain had stopped and we only had to put our ponchos on one other time for a short period. The 4100 foot loss, not counting the ups and downs in between was tough on the knees today. We took a break at the Big Fat trailhead where there were more hunters and another couple of backpackers. From there we gained a quick 1000 foot just for practice before continuing down the mountain. At one point Dad did a quick somersault to show us his agility. That got us worried, but as usual he bounced right back and kept going. Right before you get to the Ike trail you pass a sign for the Belding trail which is not on the map.
As soon as we got on the Ike trail there was a tree down in a bend of the trail which took some serious negotiating to get through. The Ike trail continued our drop down to Slickrock. We had five crossings and a very slick trail to follow. Dad showed us some of his famous dance moves all along this area. We got back on Slickrock and headed to the van. Another great hike.
The next morning we did more yard work to ease out the tightness of the muscles. We did some more transplanting and mulch work. We got some good visiting in before I had to head home.