Sunday, August 9, 2015

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Deep Creek, Sunkota Ridge, Thomas Divide Loop

I woke up really early today, 4:30 am to be exact. I got dressed, brushed my teeth, and grabbed my gear as I headed out for an ambitious hike in the Smokies. I arrived at Newfound Gap just before the sun rose and ate a snack there before heading to the trailhead for the Deep Creek Trail.
Deep Creek Trailhead

I hit the trail in the gloaming, pre-dawn light. The Deep Creek Trail begins with a series of switchbacks that descend down to the headwaters
creek with wildflowers
of the trail's namesake Deep Creek.
Deep Creek Cascades
There were lots of different species of wildflowers in bloom along the trail. I saw bee balm, Turks Cap lily,
turks cap lily
yellow fringed orchis,
fringed yellow orchis
and asters
and goldenrods
as well. The main feature of the first half of my hike was Deep Creek.
Another Deep Creek cascade
The trail never strayed very far from it.
trail and creek
Besides the creek itself, the Deep Creek Trail features campsites.
campsite 54
There are five of them along the upper stretches of the trail. Unfortunately, the trail goes right through the upper-most of the campsites: #53. I made my way through the campsite as some campers were making their way out of their tent. They probably were not expecting to see someone walking through so early in the morning.

The lower stretches of the part of the Deep Creek Trail that I hiked were wide and rutted from horse use. The trail here is obviously an old road.
road trail
Soon I found myself at the Martins Gap Trail.
junction 2
I turned onto the trail and began a fairly steep ascent.
Eric on trail
The Martins Gap Trail was only 1.5 miles long and largely uninteresting. When the climb abated a bit, I found myself at the junction with the Sunkota Ridge Trail and turned left.
junction 3
Sunkota Ridge Trail followed the very top of a dry ridge for a bit.
winding trail
There was some Joe Pye weed decorating the trail side here and there.
joe pye weed
There was also some interesting fungi on the trail,
including what I believe to be some type of stinkhorn.

I stopped for a snack at the junction with the Thomas Divide Trail and then continued on.
Eric on trail 2
I could soon hear the sound of traffic on the Newfound Gap Road. The Thomas Divide Trail not too exciting, but some of the grassy areas near the road were pleasing to look at.
grassy trail
When I had reached the road, my walk was not yet over.
thomas divide trailhead
I still had to make the 1.3 miles back to the Deep Creek Trailhead. I walked on the grassy shoulder as traffic whizzed by. Luckily there were lots of wildflowers and mountain views
view from road
to distract me as I walked. 

No comments: