Saturday, April 18, 2015

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Sugarlands Rock House and Old Sugarlands Cemetery

After my hike of Porters Creek, I braved the horrible Gatlinburg traffic and drove over to the Sugarlands Visitor Center to use the restroom. This also provided me an opportunity to finally purchase myself a copy of the definitive hiking trail guide to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Hiking Trails of the Smokies, also know as the "Little Brown Book". From the visitor center I made the short drive over to the Old Sugarlands Trail parking area. The parking area is small and was full when I arrived and so I continued on a short distance to a pull off on the other side of the road.

I walked the road for a short distance and then hit the trail after playing Human Frogger in the thick traffic. My destination for this second hike of the day wold be the infamous Sugarlands Rock House. There's a lot of speculation about the structure, but many seem to think it was secretly built by the Civilian Conservation Corps as a place for bigwigs to stay when visiting. I'm skeptical about those claims, but I can offer no better explanation. I printed directions to the rock house off the internet at the Wildlife South website.
They were very accurate and got me to my destination without any problems.

There were some wildflowers in bloom along this hike, but not as many as I had seen earlier in the day during my hike of Porters Creek Trail. I saw some yellow trillium,
yellow trillium
and some dogwood
amongst other specimen.  I followed the Old Sugarlands Trail over the old highway bridge and over to what is supposedly the old CCC camp incinerator.
At this point, rather than follow the Old Sugarlands Trail, I took the grassy road to the right.
grassy road
This road provides access to the Old Sugarlands Cemetery. Of course, I had to stop at the cemetery and have a look around.
sugarlands cemetery
There were some interesting headstones to read, as usual.
cole grave
A lot of the names were familiar to those who spend time exploring cemeteries in the Great Smoky Mountains. There were Ogles,
Ogle grave
Partons, Huskeys,
Huskey grave
and Ownbys.
Ownby grave
McCarter grave
After a short visit of the cemetery I moved on back to the road.

I followed the road to a point where a bunch of small tree branches had been placed across it. There was an obvious trail here leading to the left. I figured this must be the trail to the rock house, and it turns out I was correct. The trail was pretty well worn and weaved through evidence of former habitation in the area. I approached and crossed a small stream and then steeply climbed the bank on the other side. Then I laid eyes on the rock house.
rock house
I spent about 20 minutes exploring the crumbling ruins.
in doorway
tree growing inside
window bars
There is no roof remaining, but the walls are mostly intact.
There is some debris inside including: bed frames, a shovel head,
and an old cook stove.
I sat and rested for a bit
sitting in rock house
and was visited by an insect friend.
Then I bid farewell to the rock house and retraced my steps back to my car. Along the way I saw a bear! Of course it ran away before I was able to photograph it. Still, I was glad to have seen it.                      

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