Sunday, October 25, 2015
Smoky Mountain weekend.
My hiking friend Lillian and I met at the Big Creek Ranger Station for a day of hiking some trails I wanted to mark off my map. Chestnut Branch starts out with a steep climb to test your lungs, then becomes a little more of a gradual climb. Old home sites had rock walls and pieces of wash tubs. The colors were beautiful today. reds, yellows, orange, and peach and light greens contrasting with the pines. And the young tulip poplars were so pretty; straight and tall. Stopped at the junction with the AT then back down.
We drove to Baxter Creek trailhead to look for a chimney Lillian knew about. She found it. It's supposed to be the largest standing chimney in the park.
The drive to 321 along Mt. Sterling Road was spectacular! Winding our way up the ridge on a narrow road pulling over for oncoming cars. We had to hunt for the trailhead for Maddron Bald Trail. Google says Laurel Springs Rd, which we could not find. I drove out 3 roads before finding the trail sign on Baxter Road. I only needed to hike 1.2 miles of this trail. We stopped at the Willis Baxter Cabin to take some pictures. The cabin is dark inside. No windows. We rested at the junction and talked with a local lady hiker who was as excited about the fall colors as we were. We hiked back to our cars, Lillian needed to head home. I headed to mom and dad McBride's to spend the night. I got good directions to avoid the crowds of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge getting to Townsend. The drive across the Foothills Parkway to their house was so pretty with fall colors. I had to stop and look at the view of the mountains in the evening light. The McBride home was decked out with spooks and witches for the Halloween season. Boo!
Dad McBride and I headed out Sunday morning to hike the Rich Mountain trail. That is a cool road to drive too, going from Townsend toward Rich Mountain Road. We had a good climb up the ridge. We were almost to campsite 5 and was surprised with a bear with his nose stuck in a rotten log. He did glance up at us and then went back to grubbing. He was right by the campsite which had a big log that something had shredded. We sat at the trail junction to eat a snack and heard a crash up on the ridge and saw the bear jump away. It had pushed a dead tree and made part of it fall. As we started to walk back down 2 ladies riding, one on a horse, one on a mule were watching the bear. We stopped to watch and noticed a second bear up there too.
When we got back to the trailhead, we walked down a path to see Bull Cave, (evidently someone's bull fell into the cave)
Thank you to both my hiking partners for a beautiful weekend of hiking in the Smoky Mountains.
Saturday, October 17, 2015
This years trip got off to a different start. We are used to not doing plan A, and sometimes not plan B either, but this year due to injuries we decided to do day hikes. We had a warm up hike along the Greenway to make sure that everyone was in walking shape.
Day One: 11.2 Miles
Ace Gap Trail off Rich Mountain Road. First we went to see the cave by the trailhead and then we headed out. There was nobody on the trail today and this was an easier trail as far as ups and downs. We learned that they have removed campsites #4 and #7 from this trail. We hiked to the Beard Cane trail and back. We did see a bike rider, which is a no no, on the trail during our trip back to the van.
Day Two: 9.4 Miles
Leaving from Balsam Mt. Road, we did the Hemphill Bald trail to Hemphill Bald. This is a nice hike along the park boundary which offers lots of views. At the top of the Bald you overlook the Cataloochee Ski Area and Cataloochee Guest Ranch along with lots and lots of mountains. Once again we had the trail to ourselves until we got to the Bald. At the top the ranch has a picnic area with tables.
Day Three: 8 Miles
Off trail today. We started at the Old Sugarlands trail and headed back to the Sugarlands Cemetery area where we went off trail to find the Rock House. Built by the CCC back in the day, the walls are still standing.
After that we headed to the Jakes Creek Trail and took it past Cucumber Gap trail and went off trail to find the Avent Cabin which is still in great shape. As we crossed the creek we saw a black bear that had been hanging around the cabin.
Sunday, October 11, 2015
Lora and I headed back to the Appalachian Trail. We celebrated our fifth anniversary on the trail, we completed the four hundred mile mark on the AT, and we finished North Carolina. We would be farther on the AT, but we are too busy backpacking everywhere else.
Day One: 8.7 Miles
This time starting at Carvers Gap. The battle was on for a parking spot, but we found one in the back. This is a very popular area and with no parking then no hiking. The first two balds, Round and Jane, are very popular so you won't hike these alone. Once beyond Jane Bald you start to feel like you on the trail again. We took a quick break at Stan Murray shelter, but our goal was Bradley Gap for the first night. The sun was shining and it was hot for backpacking today, but the views were spectacular. We were pretty tired by the time we made camp. We met a few "Southbounders" today and would see more as we went.
We didn't spend long around the fire tonight, but were awakened all night long by wildlife heading through camp. Some were rabbits, deer, and coyotes. Got to listen to some owls and coyotes.
Day Two: 12.7 Miles
We started out today with the climb up Hump Mt. which is another grassy bald. We jumped up three deer on the way up to a wonderful 360 degree view of the mountains. We could look back at Roan Mt. and look over and see Grandfather Mt. From there we went down to Doll Flats where we left North Carolina for good. It was covered in Crab apples. The Apple House Shelter is no more, but we stopped at the site for lunch.
After crossing Hwy 19 we did lots of climbing. We ate apples as we went through old orchards. We saw another four point deer and more Southbounders. We had hiked to Jones falls in the past, so we didn't stop there. We continued on down to Elk River for the night and camped on the side of a field. We didn't stay up around the camp fire long tonight, as we were tired out again. Lora saw a deer in the field once when she got up and heard some owls.
Day Three: 12 Miles
Today was more a walk in the woods. We celebrated our fifth anniversary today and went over the 400 mile mark of the AT. We saw more Southbounders and one making 25 miles a day, stopped and showed us some pictures of the wild horses in Virginia. More apples and we scared up some grouse. There were lots of water crossings today and lots of campsites. When we ran out of campsites is when we realized we had passed ours. So we just kept on climbing and stayed by the Moreland Gap shelter. We met three great people from Virginia at the shelter. After we set up our camp and ate dinner, we joined them by the campfire. It was not too much longer before the rain set in for the night.
Day Four: 7.9 Miles
Today's big sight was Laurel Falls. It was a deep descent into the gorge on rock steps. Rough going for sure, but worth it to see the falls. The trail then curved around the rock walls on a very narrow trail along the river. After that was the climb out and up to the shelter which stood up on a rock ledge with drop offs all the way around it. Not a good place to camp, but had water. We stayed in the shelter as the rain started again and our friends from last night joined us.
Day Five: 6.8
Our walk out this morning started with a river walk and then the climb up Pine Mt. to Pond Flats. Three miles of up hill followed by the descent to Hwy 321. We did back and forth with our new friends on the way down. Our happy shuttle arrived with cookies. We enjoyed the ride back and dinner with Dad and Mom.
Total Miles: 48.1
Sunday, October 4, 2015
Soddy Mountain Hawk Watch group in the area overlooking Hwy 111.