Friday, January 3, 2014

Cherokee National Forest: Meadow Creek Tower via Gum Springs

It snowed a little bit last night and I was really itching to get up into the mountains to enjoy walking in the white stuff. Luckily, Noelle let me head out and so I drove towards North Carolina on TN-70. At the intersection with TN-107 I turned off and headed towards Del Rio. Once I arrived at the Houston Valley Recreation Area I parked outside the locked gate and crossed the road to hike the Gum Springs Trail and Meadow Creek Mountain Trail to the fire tower on Meadow Creek Mountain.

The hike started out on a trail lightly dusted with snow.
hiking in snow
It was just enough to make hiking a bit slippery, but not enough that I had to trudge through it. The trail gently ascended to Gum Springs Branch and followed the icy stream for a bit. At the head of the stream, Gum Spring, I found myself at a junction with the Meadow Creek Mountain Trail.
trail sign
I turned left onto the trail that was signed as leading to the fire tower. The snow was just a little bit deeper as I ascended. It must have been windy last night as the snow on one side of the ridge was blown away, while on the sheltered side the trees and plants were frosty with snow.
Frosty Trees

Eventually I reached a snowy road and turned right to ascend to the top of the mountain. The walking was slippery on the road, but still quite easy. The views from the road were spectacular,
road to viewing platform
especially on the sheltered side of the mountain. Trees, plants and the skeletal remains of last summer's flowers were crusted with ice and snow.
snow flowers
I found a sign for the fire tower as I approached the top of the ridge
tower sign
and shortly thereafter I found a short trail which led not to a fire tower, but to a viewing platform.

The viewing platform looked relatively new, so maybe there had been a fire tower at the site recently. I climbed the stairs to the top of the tower and was rewarded with wonderful views of the surrounding mountains and lowlands.
Eric on Meadow Creek Mountain Viewing Platform
There was no snow remaining at the lower elevations,
looking to lowlands
but the higher areas were frosted with sugar-like snow.
frosty trees and mountains
I admired the view for a bit and then retraced my steps back to the car. The return hike was uneventful. However, the drive back towards Greeneville was pretty spectacular.  The last of the clouds that had enveloped the summits of the mountains had burned off and the views to the peaks, including nearby Camp Creek Bald were amazing! 
Camp Creek Bald from Tennessee Highway 107
        

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