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.
The first 2 miles of the hike were uphill. Every now and then a view opened up out to the surrounding, snowy mountains.
I stopped for a short time to admire a barred owl in a tree
and then continued on my ascent up through frosty rhododendrons
to Huskey Gap. 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.
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.
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.
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
and a few rocky landmarks
to make the hiking interesting, but by this point I was pretty tired and so I just kept hiking away.
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.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Little River and Cucumber Gap Trails

We had originally planned on going to Asheville today. Unfortunately, the weather was not very cooperative. The high temperature for today was forecast to be in the 20s with strong wind gusts of up to around 50 mph. Obviously, not nice weather for walking around outside, especially with a 2 year-old. Instead I opted to go back to the Smokies for a hike in the Elkmont area which we just visited on Friday.

I made the drive into the park and over to Elkmont. I ate a quick snack in the car, donned my coat, hat and mittens, and then hit the Little River Trail.
Immediately, I passed some of the structures
and interesting decrepit buildings of the Appalachian Club's Millionaire's Row.
I found a fancy looking stone bridge to be one of the more interesting structures in the area.
The trail, actually a gravel road, closely followed the Little River and offered lots of views of small cascades.
Due to the recent cold weather all the seeps and springs are frozen
and the icicles along the trail added to the ambiance of the hike. Soon the trail crossed Huskey Branch on a footbridge where there was a series of cascading waterfalls.
I took a few minutes to explore the falls before continuing on.

Just past the junction with the Cucumber Gap Trail,
the Little River Trail crossed the Little River on a sturdy bridge.
I continued upstream closely following the cascading river. The hiking was easy as the trail continued to follow the old road. Soon I came to a wide, relatively flat area and found a relic of the logging era right on the trail.
I continued upstream,
crossing streams several times without the benefit of bridges. One of the crossings turned out to be a bit tricky, due to icy stones to cross. I donned my microspikes and carefully made my way across with getting my feet wet. I'm glad I brought the traction devices, as I am sure I would not have been able to cross without them.

Right after the third unbridged crossing I found myself at campsite 30
and the end of the trail. I ate a snack and relaxed for a few cold minutes before turning around for the hike back to the car. The hike back to the junction with the Cucumber Gap Trail went very fast as the trail was well-graded and slightly downhill. I turned onto the Cucumber Gap Trail and climbed gently to the gap through stands of medium sized tulip trees.
At the crest of the gap there were some decent views through the bare trees towards Cove Mountain.
I descended to Jakes Creek Trail and soon found myself in familiar territory that we had explored just 2 days previously. I opted to check out the road that we did not have time to explore last time. It led to the old McNabb Cabin
and a NPS stable.
In the woods nearby was an old dump site with some interesting garbage displayed on a rock there.

I followed Jakes Creek Trail past the homes of Society Hill and back to the car. I took a quick side trip over to Spence Cabin
to check it and a neighboring cabin
out before getting into the car for the drive back to Greeneville.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Elkmont

We've got a guest in town visiting all the way from New Mexico and so we decided that today would be a good day to head over to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and do some exploring. A few months ago you may have seen a headline on Yahoo! that read "Hiker Discovers an Abandoned Town Inside Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains National Park". The abandoned town referred to in the article was Elkmont, though the town was hardly rediscovered. The remains of the old Appalachian Club resort area lies just outside of the Elkmont Campground and would mark the site of today's exploration.

After a quick stop in Gatlinburg (our guest had to see the tourist trap that is Gatlinburg to believe it) for lunch at Five Guys and a quick sampling of moonshine at Sugarlands Distillery,
we headed away from the crowds and into the national park. We stopped at the visitor center and then made the short drive over to Elkmont. I believe that Noelle and I camped at the Elkmont Campground back in 2008, but we did not know about the old resort site back then. We drove to the trailhead for the Jake's Creek and Little River trails and started to explore.

We started out by walking along the paved road through the Daisy Town section of the Appalachian Club.
Immediately we were in the thick of the old resort structures. One of the first we stopped to look at was the old Hale Cabin.
Like many of the structures in the area, this one was posted with a "No Trespassing" sign.
However, there were a few structures without signs posted that we stepped inside for a quick look around, including the Cook Cabin next door.
We made our way down the road. Among the more interesting structures were the Levi Trentham Log Cabin
and what Sierra called the "Rabbit House" which is actually called the "Adamless Eden".
Adamless Eden was a very small log structure that our friend Tish called a "Hobbit House". Sierra thought she had said rabbit house though, and so that's what we ended up calling it.

At the end of the road was the large, restored Appalachian Clubhouse.
We stopped for a short break on the rocking chairs there,
before turning around to head back towards the car.
On the way back we again admired, and even peeked inside some of the structures.
Near where we had parked we found another old building mouldering back to the earth. We decided to have a closer look. It turns out that we had stumbled upon the Society Hill section of the Appalachian Club. The buildings in Society Hill were in a much more dilapidated state than those in Daisy Town which it appears to me have been partially stabilized. We toured through the decay but did not dare go inside any of those structures.

As we made our way further up the road (actually the Jakes Creek Trail) we found more intriguing decay.
We stepped off the road for a bit to explore near the Kuhlman Cabin
and Garage. Nearby we found a faint path that led to the old water supply for the resort
and a small dump site littered with what appeared to be wine bottles.
At this point we were at the end of the old resort site
and so we started to make our way back to the car again.

As we approached the car we took a side road that led to a bridge

over Jakes Creek
and then up to the Jakes Creek Cemetery.
This was one of the most modern looking cemeteries I've seen inside the park boundary. Many of the graves were quite recent and some headstones did not even list a date of death on them which I guess means the intended burial is not yet deceased. By this time Sierra was getting quite tired and cranky and so we did not spend a whole lot of time there.

After doing some research it appears that we've just scratched the surface of what there is to explore in Elkmont. We did not make it to the Millionaire's Row or Wonderland Club sections of the old town. Needless to say, we will be back to explore this part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park some time in the near future!