Saturday, October 25, 2014

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Mt Sterling/Pretty Hollow Gap/ Little Cataloochee/ Long Bunk Loop

With beautiful weather forecast for today, I just had to get out for a hike. I decided to head over to Great Smoky Mountains National Park to enjoy the weather and fall foliage. Since I did not want to go anywhere near Gatlinburg, I decided to do a loop hike starting at Mt Sterling Gap. The drive was long, but uneventful and before I knew it I was at the trailhead to start my hike.

The hike started with an ascent on an old road. The fall colors in the morning light were quite spectacular.
trail through trees
After about an hour on the trail I had made my way up Mount Sterling. I climbed the old fire tower and admired the wonderful views.
Mt Sterling 3
The sky was absolutely cloudless and there was no humidity making for the beautiful bluebird skies that one sees in the western US.
Mt Sterling 6
The views in all directions were just spectacular.
Mt Sterling 7
I spend about 10 minutes admiring the view and then headed down the tower and back down the Mt Sterling Ridge Trail to continue on the loop of my hike. At the junction with the Pretty hollow Gap Trail
trail junction
I turned left and descended,
hiking Pretty Hollow Gap
eventually walking along Pretty Hollow Creek.

Eventually my descent ended and I turned onto the Little Cataloochee Trail.
Little Cataloochee Trail
I was really looking forward to this portion of the hike as I had read about some of the old buildings that have been preserved in the Little Cataloochee Valley. I soon found an obviously maintained side trail that led up and up. It eventually ended at a cemetery. There was only one marked grave in the cemetery. It was that of a 2 year old boy named Charlie Burress.
Charlie Burress grave
After pausing for a minute I returned to the main trail to continue my hike into Little Cataloochee.

The first evidence of past habitation that I found was a large flat area that was obviously an old home site. There was one of the old hog traps
hog trap
set up on the flat area and nearby were a few moldering logs left from a log structure.
log building ruins
I continued on through beautiful colors
to the Cook Cabin
Cook Cabin
where I met and talked to a man from Charleston, SC. There was a brilliant orange butterfly fluttering about in the grass outside the cabin. I was able to get close enough to it to get a nice photo.
The butterfly then took off flying and landed right on my arm.
buttefly on arm 2
I admired the close view of the butterfly for a few minutes before it flew away again, this time for good. Nearby to the Cook Cabin is the old Cook apple house.
apple house ruins
The Cooks acquired quite a bit of wealth growing and selling apples.

From the Cook place I followed the trail (really a road at this point) up to the Little Cataloochee Baptist Church.
Little Cataloochee Church
It is a pretty little church. I went inside to have a look around
and even rang the church bell a few times. I then went back outside to inspect the cemetery a little bit.
From the cemetery I got back on the trail and headed across Little Cataloochee Creek
Little Cataloochee Creek
over to the Hannah Cabin
Hannah Cabin
which looked to be smaller than the Cook Cabin and was certainly less interesting. Shortly after leaving the Hannah Cabin I found my self at the junction with the Long Bunk Trail which I had hiked to from Old NC Highway 284 two weeks ago.

I h turned onto the Long Bunk Trail and began an ascent to the Hannah Cemetery.
Hannah Cemetery
I did not stop long at the cemetery as I was starting to get tired. Instead I kept moving, albeit slowly, up the trail. The Long Bunk Trail portion of today's hike turned out to be the least interesting part of the hike. I did find a tree marked with a faint white blaze with a trail nearby that led to what I am guessing is an old cemetery with unmarked graves as it was a flat area cleared of woody vegetation. There was one stone set int the ground that appeared to be a grave marker,
rock grave marker
but nothing else. When I finally arrived back at the junction with the Mt Sterling Trail, it was a quick walk back to the car fro the drive back to Greeneville.                         

1 comment:

luksky said...

Those are awesome views from atop of the tower. Beautiful.

It's said that when a butterfly lands on you it's a passed love one's spirit saying "hello"...if you believe in that sort of thing. I personally don't, but it's a nice thought anyway. :)