Friday, November 8, 2013

Elkmont Camping/hiking Weekend

Smokies Camping/Hiking Weekend
Nov 8, 9, 10

I drove to Elkmont Campground to meet up with Nancy, Diane, Marietta, and Amy for a weekend of hiking in the Smokies. I got to the camp just before dark on Friday evening to find the ladies already set up and eating dinner around the campfire. Got my tent set up and joined them around the fire. The stars popped out and the night air got colder. We got warmed up and jumped into our sleeping bags.

It was cold when we got up, so Nancy got the fire going and we ate breakfast warming our fingers around the fire. Then off to the woods.

We dropped our shuttle car past Newfound Gap at the Deep Creek trailhead then drove to Clingman’s Dome Road to the Fork Ridge trailhead. Nancy only needs 10 trails to finish hiking all the trails in the Smokies and the Fork Ridge trail was one of them. It was all downhill starting at 5,880 ft going down to about 3,100 ft. This trail has a reputation of being overgrown so Nancy figured after the frost came would be a good time of year to do this one. She figured right. 

The fir trees that are still living here are beautiful. We passed thru fir, then red spruce, then rhododendron, then hemlock, then oak and maple forests seeing lots of old growth trees along the way. Some of us took a little fall or two on the trail. No lasting injuries. We could hear Deep Creek roaring below us. The chestnut oaks along the creek are huge. 

We got to the creek, looking for the log bridge……..must have washed away. Boots off pants rolled up, barefoot crossing and WOW that’s cold water! We stopped for lunch at Campsite 53 by the creek. This campsite is over used and wasn’t appealing for camping. 

We headed up the Deep Creek trail.  There is a lot of stream crossings and lots of dog hobble whose leaves were turning purple, pretty. We watched for salamanders but didn’t see any. This is a pretty trail and we climbed back up to 4700 feet to get back to the car. The switchbacks on the trail made it easier to climb.

We drove back to Clingman’s to get the other car and headed back toward camp. As we started down the mountain we got into a traffic jam. We speculated on what the hold up could be; Saturday traffic, a wreck, bear sighting…..about half way down the mountain we saw a lot of folks with cameras pointing down the bank and the traffic flow got faster. Yep, bear sighting. We didn’t see it but I hope all the folks in the hundreds of other cars got to. 

Oh well. Back at camp, the ladies in the other car had gotten back first and the table was spread with chips and salsa and cheese and bean dip and cookies for the hungry hikers. Had to wait a while to cook dinner after that snack. Another great campfire and star gazing and good fellowship and sipping warm stuff like hot chocolate with butterscotch. A big thank you to Amy's sister for the awful ginger cookies that we couldn't stop eating. They were so terrible that we all ordered a dozen. 

Sunday morning was a little warmer starting out. I packed up my tent since I would be headed home tonight. 

We headed back to Clingman’s Dome, this time starting on the AT for 2 miles to get to Goshen Prong Trail. We hiked up to the tower in the cool air, getting warmer as we climbed. We took in the gorgeous views from the tower. This two mile section of the AT has awesome views on both sides of the ridge; just watch your step. 

Found the Goshen Prong junction and down down down we went. We started from the highest point in the Smokies and would end at 2750 ft. It’s rocky and very shady on this ridge side, found a little ice on some of the rocks. After the first 2.6 miles we started seeing cascades and pools.  We came to a sign that said we had come 4.4 miles from the AT and was 3.3 from the Little River Bridge and trail. It’s strange to come to a sign when there is no junction. Maybe they rerouted the trail? It is in a flat area. 

Just around the bend was campsite 23 and our lunch spot. We found a sunny spot and got busy eating. The next couple of miles we saw the devastation from a July tornado last year that took down numerous trees. Whoever had to clean up this mess had a tough job! On down the trail we crossed an iron bridge over the river and found the Little River Trail. We took pics to show we finished another trail!

The Little River Lumber Company logged all this area; they took out the old growth until 1938. But a beautiful forest grew back. We hiked thru all the leaves that had fallen, making the path yellow, gold and brown. The walk along the river is beautiful. It has a few house sized boulders along the way. As we got closer to Elkmont we started seeing the old vacation homes. Nancy spotted the one that her yoga instructor’s family owned and took some pictures for her. 

We got to the campsite and I said my good byes to the ladies, while they headed back to Clingman’s to pick up the other car. They were staying another night to get in another trail Monday. Ace Gap was another one on Nancy’s map. After that she will only need 7 more to finish her map. Glad we could be with her the knock out these!

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