Sunday, October 25, 2015

Smoky Mountain weekend

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.


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