I drove to Bryson City to meet up with SMHC for a Deep Creek overnight. Tim and Steve picked me up. Lynn had started on a different trail to meet up with us at the campsite. We drove thru Cherokee to 441, to the upper trailhead for Deep Creek. The trail dropped steeply and we crossed little streams. Campsite 53 was in much better condition than the last time I saw it, no trash left behind. Then more streams, all heading toward Deep Creek. We did have to switch to water shoes a couple of times. We found Lynn at campsite 55 with her tent already set up. #55 is a large site/horse camp; but it was clean and had two sets of bear cables. The set up for the horses was broken down but still had rubber mats. Steve and I had to search a little for perfectly spaced trees for our hammocks, lots of trees, some too close ,some too far apart, finally just right (read Goldilocks and the Three Bears). We decided we didn’t have enough time to hike the Pole Road Creek trail before dark, so we gathered firewood and kicked back for a while. The moon came up and we had a nice fire and watched some stars pop out.
Our plans were to get up EARLY and start, we were all awake at but managed to go back to sleep till daylight. Got a fire going and packed up, hung our packs and started Pole Creek with water and snacks; except for Lynn who after Pole Creek was heading out Noland Divide. We left her and started out. We crossed Deep Creek on a nice long bridge. The first crossing of Pole Creek was too high to rock hop, so Steve demonstrated his balancing technique on a tree that had fallen across the creek. I was carrying my water bottle and pitched it across to free up my hands in case I needed to crawl across the tree. (did I mention I throw like a girl) only to have it land on the rocks, the lid popped off, Steve grabbed it up and saved a little bit of my water. We had a lot of creek crossings, with one more big tree in just the right place, flat, Tim assured us, with spongy moss covering it, no slick places. Sweet!
We arrived at the junction of Noland Divide/Noland Creek only to have Lynn catch us with her full pack, dry shoes. Back down, crossed creeks again, back at camp, lunch, packs on. Tim went back across the creek to look for signs of an old manway. He had gotten an email from a man who remembers the trail from the 1940’s, and gave Tim clues to search for.
Then we started down. Only it’s up and down. You follow Deep Creek sometimes right beside it, sometimes way up above it, brings back memories of the Lakeshore Trail. We met a group from Ohio heading to #55, they will appreciate the firewood we left. The road walk had nice bridges and some Tonka Toys and Tom Branch Falls was really pretty. Lots of hikers on this section, with three waterfalls not far from the parking lot. Lynn had already finished her trail and was gone.
After a 13.6 mile hike it felt really good to sit in the car for the ride back to the upper trailhead. When we got to 441 there was a flashing sign “441 closed due to snow and ice.” Uh oh. We were hoping they had forgot to turn off the sign, but found a barricade further up the road with a Ranger turning people around. Cars coming down the mountain had snow on them??? Plan B: We asked the Ranger if we could go up to get Tim’s truck. He offered to drive one of us up, but had to wait for another Ranger to get there to direct traffic. Steve and I waited for them to get up there and back. When Tim go back his truck was covered with snow. Drove back to Cherokee, and parted ways trying to find the quickest route home. I went back via 19, 74, 64, 60, 30, navigate off road, (GPS) home. In Andrews I could see snow on the mountain tops. Tim said they went the long way around, thru Maggie Valley to I-40 then to Maryville. Lots of choices for routes, all long.
Great time with the SMHC backpackers.