Saturday, October 24, 2015

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Beech Gap I Trail

This would be the last of the three short hikes I had planned for the day, a five mile round-trip hike on the upper section of the Beech Gap Trail. It was again a long, bumpy drive on the Balsam Mountain Road. I was relieved to get out of the car and stretch my legs.
trailhead
From the trailhead at the Straight Fork Road, the Beech Gap Trail follows an old railroad grade for a short distance before making a sharp right turn and ascending towards its namesake Beech Gap. I decided to see where the railroad grade led and followed it to Straight Fork
stream
where the water cascaded down towards Raven Fork. There was evidence that a beaver took up residence in the area.
beaver gnawing

After a quick exploration of the railroad grade, I returned to the Beech Gap Trail and started the long, unrelenting ascent. The autumn colors were amazing along this trail,
fall colors
which was lower in elevation than the other two I had hiked this morning. I slowly made my way higher and higher until I had reached my destination, the junction with the Balsam Mountain Trail.
at Balsam Mountain Trail
I then turned around and started to make my way back to the car.

The descent went pretty quickly.
hiking down
I had to be careful though, as there were lots of loose rocks hidden under the fallen leaves that could have easily turned an ankle. There were a few wildflowers still in bloom along the trail. Mostly asters,
asters
with some white snakeroot mixed in. I stopped for a snack at a tree with mushrooms growing out of it
mushrooms growing in tree
and soon after was back at the car for the drive through Cherokee and back to Greeneville.

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