Sunday, June 7, 2015

Kephart Prong

Day One: 8.0 Miles
Kephart Prong Trail 2.0
Grassy Branch 2.5
Dry Sluice Gap 2.9
Cabin Flats 0.6
Campsite #49

Day Two: 9.0
Cabin Flats 1.6
Dry Sluice Gap 2.9
Grassy Branch 2.5
Kephart Prong 2.0
Total Miles: 16.8

Lora and I headed out to cover some more trails in the Smoky's that we have not been on.  We got an extra half hour delay at Metcalf Bottoms waiting on the rangers to clear a tree off Little River Road. We got to our trail head at 3pm Eastern time.

We started at Kephart Prong and took in what is left from the CCC camp that was there 1933-1942. The trail description says that "your ascent is so gradual that you rarely sense a climb." They lied! The only flat spot is crossing the Oconaluftee river on the bridge. The only place we saw people was between the trail head and the Kephart Shelter. A common day hike.

From the shelter we started through the different levels of spring flowers. We saw the azaleas, the mountain laurels, and Rhododendron blooms among others. We also kicked up our first grouse on this section. The climb warranted us to cool off in all the springs along the way.

We finally, 2600 feet later, made it to the top where we found the only Rhododendron that I know of that grows straight up. You could actually walk through it if you wanted to. After a little break we started our 2200 foot drop down to Cabin Flats on the Dry Sluice Gap trail. We were excited to see that this trail was freshly weedeated. Just after starting down we kicked up our second grouse which messed up our pacemakers among other things as he was at head level about six feet away.

When we got to Cabin Flats trail we saw that they had also weedeated it. This area has some old growth so we were blessed to see some extremely large trees. When we got to camp, we had it all to ourselves. Lora collected the water and noticed that she forgot to pack the hose for it while I started collecting firewood. We got camp set up and ourselves cleaned up before dark.

As we set next to the fire Lora noticed some flashing in the woods. Upon further investigation we noticed that the synchronous fireflies were putting on a show for us. So we spent the evening enjoying a private showing. Later that night we got to hear an owl as well.

I woke up to the screaming of my name! Thinking I was dreaming, I heard it again. Lora had a deer visit her at her hammock. Of course it took off with all the screaming, but I tried to make an emergency exit of the hammock which is never pretty.  Other than that we had a calm night.

The next morning after breaking down camp, we took the Cabin Flats trail down across the metal trestle bridge to the connection with Bradley Fork trail to claim this trail done. We turned around and started our steep climb back up Dry Sluice. On the way up we saw another grouse, but this time we watched him cross the trail and climb up the side of the the mountain. Much more peaceful!

When we got back to Kephart shelter there was a man from North Carolina that we visited with, then a Father Son from Lexington Tennessee. We got to talk trail with them and give them some suggestions on things to see in the Smoky's.

Another great backpack!


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