Sunday, March 15, 2015

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Lumber Ridge, Meigs Mountain, Jakes Creek, Panther Creek, Middle Prong Loop

Today's hike was my most ambitious in quite some time. I awoke at 5 am, got dressed, grabbed my pre-packed day pack and hit the road. I stopped for a quick fast food breakfast and entered the boundary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park to discover that the road to my intended destination for the day, the Little River Road, was closed between the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area and the Townsend Wye. This just meant I would have to take a short detour out of and back into the park to get to Tremont, where I would start my hike.

My timing was pretty good today. I pulled into the lot at Tremont just as the sun was rising. It was about 7:45 when I took my first step on the Lumber Ridge Trail.
Lumber Ridge Trailhead
There was a lot of fog on the drive and it was just starting to burn off as I started my 20 mile walk.
mountain and fog
The trail started off with a decent climb
Lumber Ridge Trail
with scattered views of the surrounding mountains through the trees.
view through trees
I saw some mushroom-like fungi on the trail,
something I haven't seen in some time.
hiker Eric
Yes, spring is in the air! I soon arrived at the Meigs Mountain Trail
junction 1
and continued on my way towards Elkmont.

This portion of trail passed through some areas that had obviously been lived in at some point. There was an interesting cemetery with lots of headstones.
Only two of the headstones had legible writing on them. One of the two belonged to Polly Huskey.
Polly Huskey grave
There were also some crumbling rock walls and chimney remains,
along with the detritus associated with abandoned areas.
home site
At one of the creek crossings I found some rusted metal of some former industrial use.
more metal
There were also flowers blooming! Of course there were the requisite daffodils near the former home sites,
but there also a few wildflowers, like hepatica, in bloom.

Because of the copious rain East Tennessee has been seeing lately, the creeks were pretty high.
Jakes Creek
There was also lots of mud on the trail. The mud made for messy hiking, but it was good for preserving animal tracks.
Soon I found myself at Jakes Creek Trail.
another trail junction
The trail here is actually a gravel road which made for easy hiking.
Jakes Creek road
I found a well-maintained, but unmarked side trail leading off of the right side of Jakes Creek Trail and followed it across Jakes Creek
Jakes Creek 2
to Avent Cabin.
approaching Avent Cabin
I relaxed
Eric on porch
and explored Avent Cabin for a while.
Avent Cabin
looking out
The cabin was the studio of Tennessee artist Mayna Avent. From the cabin I made my way back to Jakes Creek Trail for the rest of my ascent up to Jakes Gap.

The gravel road continued on for a short distance past the cabin. The hiking got a little bit more rugged after that, but it was never too bad. I saw an old railroad track on the trail
railroad track
and before I knew it I was at Jakes Gap.
Jakes Gap
There is supposedly a "manway" that leads to Blanket Mountains that starts at Jakes Gap, but there was a college group stopped for lunch there and I decided not to bother them by looking for the unofficial trail. Jakes Gap was the highpoint of the hike. From that point on I would be traveling downhill. There were a few crossings of Panther Creek
Panther Creek
on the Panther Creek Trail, but nothing too bad. That is, until I reached Lynn Camp Prong.

Lynn Camp Prong was deep, cold, and running fast. I could not find a way to cross where I could guarantee my feet would stay dry, so I took off my socks and shoes and waded across.
after the ford
My feet were numb by the time I was half way across, but I made it without incident. From this point on all my hiking would be on roads.
middle prong panther creek junction
The hike on the Middle Prong Trail was fast and easy.
Middle Prong Trail
The most time consuming part was the constant stopping to take photographs. First, there was a side trail to an interesting old, rusting car.
old car
Then there were all the cascades on the river.
more lynn camp cascades
The Lynn Camp Cascades have to be some of the more impressive waterfalls in the Smokies.
big cascades
cascades through the trees
vertical shot of casades

My hike ended with a 3 mile road walk on the Upper Tremont Road
road walk
back to the Great Smoky Mountains Institute where I had parked my car. It was a good day hiking on relatively easy trails. however, even with the ease of hiking it was a long day. I'm glad to have been able to do it though!                                            

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary

We went to Asheville on a beautiful late winter day today. We ate lunch at Wicked Weed and checked out the Riverside Cemetery (will have to go back again) before heading over to the Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary on our way home. Unfortunately, we didn't see many birds, but it was a great day to just get out and enjoy nature.

We parked in the parking lot where we found an interesting sign marking the entrance.
funny parking sign
We then walked the trail which features sections of boardwalk.
walking on boardwalk
on boardwalk again
Among the highlights were a massive tree of unknown species
big tree
in tree
and some really nice views of a partially frozen Beaver Lake.  
looking over lake
I think we will have to return to Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary at some point. Maybe when the migrants are flying through.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Huskey Gap, Rough Creek, Sugarland Mountain Loop

It was a tough day of slogging around in the snow, but somebody's got to do it. I made the drive over to the Smokies this morning and drove a short distance up the Newfound Gap Road to the Huskey Gap Trailhead.
I hit the trail a little bit after 8 and made my way through the fairly deep, but powdery snow.
snow on trail (2)
The first 2 miles of the hike were uphill. Every now and then a view opened up out to the surrounding, snowy mountains.
snow and mountains
I stopped for a short time to admire a barred owl in a tree
owl in tree
and then continued on my ascent up through frosty rhododendrons
frosty leaves
to Huskey Gap.
trail junction
From the gap it was a descent down to the Little River which I had hiked along a few weeks ago. It was starting to warm up a bit and the formerly powdery snow was starting to get wet and stick to my microspikes. I opted to take them off at the junction with the Little River Trail.

I followed the Little River for about 1.7 miles. The river was beautiful as it was lined with snow and snow covered rocks.
Little River 3
At the junction with the Rough Creek Trail
I made a left and started a pretty steep ascent. The trail crosses Rough Creek 3 times.
Rough Creek
Unfortunately, during one of the crossings I lost my footing and plunged a leg into the icy cold waters. Luckily I was wearing gaiters, which kept my legs and feet reasonably dry. As I approached the top of the Rough Creek Trail I was getting tired. It's hard work trudging through the snow. I enjoyed the break whenever i reached a short section of trail that the snow did not stick to .
clear trail
Today's snow was deep enough to be a pain to walk in, but not deep enough for snowshoes. When I finally reached the junction with Sugarland Mountain Trail, I knew the worst of the ascent was over.

Near the junction of the Sugarland Mountain and Rough Creek Trail is a nice view of the Chimneys.
I admired the view for a bit and then made my way back towards the Huskey Gap Trail. There were some limited views through the trees
rock and view
and a few rocky landmarks
rock trailside
icicles and trail
to make the hiking interesting, but by this point I was pretty tired and so I just kept hiking away.
Eric on trail
When I finally reached Huskey Gap, it was a quick descent back to the car. It felt so good to walk on a nice firm surface and take off my snow boots which were digging into my heels. Altogether, it was a 14.8 mile hike in snow that was often about 5 inches deep.