Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cherokee National Forest: Little Jennings Creek, Cowbell Hollow, Jennings Creek Loop

I figured that the hike today was nothing special, just an excuse to get outside and do some walking. I was partly right, but this hike turned out to be better than anticipated. I made the drive over to Horse Creek and turned off towards Old Forge. I didn't get very far though because the road up to Old Forge was closed. I decided to walk the road to the recreation area and start my hike anyway.
road walk

The road walk ended up being much longer than I had anticipated. It was probably about 1.5 or 2 miles from where I parked to the Old Forge Campground
old forge
that had been closed due to the government shutdown. The campground appears to be pretty nice though. Jennings Creek runs right through it and features a really nice deep swimming hole. Just above the swimming hole is a small waterfall whose plunge pool makes for another nice swimming spot.
small waterfall
Past the swimming holes I followed the trail along the creek to the Little Jennings Creek Trail.

The Little Jennings Creek Trail followed its namesake creek for about two miles, crossing the water several times. There wasn't a whole lot to see along the trail though, and so my expectations of "a walk in the woods with not much else" were certainly being met. As I approached the upper reaches of the trail the creek turned to just a trickle. When I arrived at the junction with the Cowbell Hollow Trail I decided to take a slight detour over to Round Knob to see just what was there. It turned out Round Knob is a picnic shelter.
Round Knob Shelter
A nice rustic-style shelter that looks like it may have been built by the CCC. There was also a path that led from the shelter to a nice spring. After checking things out for about 2 minutes I retraced my steps back to the trail junction and followed Cowbell Hollow Trail down the mountain.
yellow blaze

The Cowbell Hollow Trail had a much different vibe than the Little Jennings Creek Trail. It was more open.
hiking Eric
While the Jennings Creek Trail traversed deep, rhododendron tunneled terrain; Cowbell Hollow looked like it had burned in the past 10 years and so offered some nice views of the surrounding landscape.
tree skeleton
nice view
color and mtns
The colors of the leaves in the higher elevations are starting to look really nice!
sassafras leaf
maple leaf
leaf skeleton
I stopped to take lots of photos of the beautiful scenery and eventually found myself on the Jennings Creek Trail.
round knob sign

The Jennings Creek Trail was somewhat similar to the Little Jennings Creek Trail, but because the creek was flowing with more water the views turned out to be more interesting than on the Little Jennings Creek Trail. There were a few nice cascades with deep swimming holes at the bottom.
Before I knew it I was back to Old Forge and from there the long, monotonous road walk back to the car.
road out
This wasn't the most exciting hike I've ever been on, but it did exceed my expectations.               

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