Sunday, May 3, 2015

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Big Fork Ridge, Caldwell Fork, Rough Fork Loop

My trip to the Smokies was a bit of an impromptu one. Noelle is getting over the same stomach bug that Sierra had and didn't want to risk going out for a hike. However, the weather was so nice I didn't want to waste such a beautiful day. I opted to avoid Gatlinburg and head over to Cataloochee to do a relatively short loop that would get me home at a reasonable time. After getting turned around and making a wrong turn en route, I found myself at the trailhead in Cataloochee after 2 hours of driving.

I parked and hit the trail
Big Fork Ridge Trailhead
immediately crossing Rough Fork on a footbridge. I then hiked the wide and mostly uninteresting lower reaches of the Big Fork Ridge Trail.
Trail through trees
There were not as many wildflowers on the lower reaches of this trail as I had seen along Porters Creek, but I still photographed some crested dwarf iris,
dwarf crested iris
and violets in bloom.
After climbing for much of the first half of the Big Fork Ridge Trail, the second half descended and its sides were decorated with lots of painted trillium. The trillium came alone,
painted trillium 1
in pairs
two trillium
and there were even trios of trillium.
trillium trio
I spooked a bear, and then crossed Caldwell Fork
on a footbridge before I found myself at the intersection with the Caldwell Fork Trail.

I stopped for a break and snack at the junction and then headed downstream to connect with the Boogerman Loop,which I had hiked last fall.
Boogerman Trail
I then turned around and headed back upstream. Shortly after passing the McKee Branch Trail, I found a well worn but steep path heading up a hill to the side of the trail. I followed it to find a small, two grave cemetery with unmarked headstones.
grave 1
grave 2
I returned to the main trail and continued on my way. I began to see more wildflowers in bloom: a different species of trillium, doghobble
doghobble blossoms
and mayapple.
I also found a large tree just off to the side of the trail which I admired for a bit
Eric and big tree
and then moved on. A large cairn marked the junction with Hemphill Bald Trail.
cairn at trail junction
Again I stopped to eat a snack before moving on.

I passed campsite 41
campsite 41
and then found a signed side trail which led to "Big Poplars".
big poplars sign
I only found one living big poplar,
really big tree
but there was a trunk and a lot of fallen branches from another large tree. Perhaps this other tree had been a "big poplar" at one time. After admiring the one really big tulip poplar I continued on the path which was occasionally lined with an interesting looking purple flower that I was unable to identify.
purple flowers
The hiking on the Rough Fork Trail was downhill and went pretty fast.
nice path
I did have to step off the trail to let some equestrians pass, but otherwise I just kept hiking until I arrived at the Woody Place.
Woody House
There is a springhouse
and home there. I explored the inside a bit and then went to the nearby Rough Fork to soak my feet as I ate a snack. As I was putting my boots back on I realized I was being watched by a few deer.
oh deer
It was a short walk back to the car at the trailhead.                         

1 comment:

Allen Pogue said...

I love those Dwarf Iris. I took a photo of one that I saw mountain biking on the lower slopes of Big Frog Mountain above the Ocoee River in Cherokee National Forest. I painted it in acrylic - beautiful flower. I have moved to Flagstaff and do not expect to see any of those again anytime soon.