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.
trailhead
I hit the trail a little bit after 8 and made my way through the fairly deep, but powdery snow.
snow on trail (2)
The first 2 miles of the hike were uphill. Every now and then a view opened up out to the surrounding, snowy mountains.
snow and mountains
I stopped for a short time to admire a barred owl in a tree
owl in tree
and then continued on my ascent up through frosty rhododendrons
frosty leaves
to Huskey Gap.
trail junction
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.
Little River 3
At the junction with the Rough Creek Trail
junction2
I made a left and started a pretty steep ascent. The trail crosses Rough Creek 3 times.
Rough Creek
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 .
clear trail
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.
junction3

Near the junction of the Sugarland Mountain and Rough Creek Trail is a nice view of the Chimneys.
View
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
rock and view
and a few rocky landmarks
rock trailside
icicles and trail
to make the hiking interesting, but by this point I was pretty tired and so I just kept hiking away.
Eric on trail
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.                  

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