Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cherokee National Forest: Phillips Hollow/Artie Hollow Loop

We were supposed to go for a family hike in the Smokies today. However, the forecast called for snow last night and cold temperatures in the morning. With Sierra getting over a cold these were not ideal conditions for a hike with her. instead, I opted to stay close to home and go for a solo hike. I decided to check out the Phillips Hollow Trail that I had mistakenly hiked away from last week. I would make a loop out of the hike by connecting with Artie Hollow, Davis Creek and Shelton Mission Road.

As I drove out into the country I saw thick clouds hanging around the tops of the mountains and what appeared to be snow on the lower slopes. Could this be winter's last gasp? I arrived at the empty trailhead, parked and hit the trail. It was a quick walk on the right-of-way gravel road to the Phillips Hollow Trail. Once on the trail I saw familiar scenery, though today it was blanketed in white.
snowwy trail
The buckeyes were leafing out, but of course covered in snow.
snowy buckeye 2
As I made my way up the old road and gained elevation the snow got deeper and deeper.  I closely followed a cascading creek.
creek and trail
The cascades looked beautiful decorated with snow on their margins.
cascades in snow
Eventually I found a decent sized waterfall.
large watefall

The trail crossed the creek several times, passing close to many cascades.
double cascade

small double waterfall
Besides the leafing out buckeye, I saw evidence of spring in a small spider walking on the surface of the snow.
snow spider
The upper reaches of the Phillips Hollow Trail  were tough.
hiking in the snow
The trail was steep and the tread was slanted. With the snowpack, I was constantly sliding towards the creek. I should've brought my microspikes! Eventually the trail made a sharp left away from the creek. I took this to be the start of the Artie Hollow Trail, though it was not signed.

The Artie Hollow Trail ascended up to a ridge and then started down the other side. It soon followed a creek. Again the tread was slanted and slippery. It was tough walking even though it was downhill. Eventually the trail led right into the creek. Was the creek the trail? It was difficult to tell. The rhododendrons that lined the creek were weighted down with snow and bent low over the water making the going tricky.
trail
"Trail"
I had just about decided that I must have lost the trail when I saw the remains of a foot path on the side of the creek. I had almost turned around. I'm glad I didn't turn around though, as the Artie Hollow Trail featured an impressive waterfall I had never heard mention of before. It is apparently called Mary's Falls.
mary's Falls

As I made my way down lower the trail got easier to follow. The sun started to poke through the clouds, warming the air and melting the snow that had accumulated on tree branches. It started to feel like I was walking in a cold sun shower. Soon I came to the junction with the Davis Creek Trail. I made a left and started to descend to Shelton Mission Road. I had to cross Davis Creek several times. My feet got quite wet. Suddenly , I found a trail intersection.
Davis Creek sign
The road which the trail had been following crossed Davis Creek again, but the official trail bore to the right and headed up to a ridge and then back down. I'm guessing this was a reroute to avoid private property. Before long I found myself on Shelton Mission Road near the foundation of a building on private property. Could the foundation have once been a mill?
foundation
There was a small stream running next to it. Shelton Mission Road featured some interesting homes like this log cabin
nice cabin
and views through the fields up to the highest reaches of the still snow-capped peaks.
snowy mountain tops
It was a quick walk on the road back to my car.       

1 comment:

luksky said...

Even though I abhor cold weather, I enjoy the snow covered scenery. Nice pictures.