Sunday, December 13, 2015

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Little Brier Gap and Little Greenbrier Trails

This day's trip did not start out as planned. First, I got a speeding ticket in Pittman Center on my way to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Next, I arrived at the trailhead, only to find out one of the trails that I had intended to hike, the Metcalf Bottoms Trail, was closed. I had parked in the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area parking lot, crossed the Little River on the auto bridge
Metcalf Bottoms Bridge
and turned onto the trail
Metcalf Bottoms Trailhead
when I saw the sign.
Trail Closure sign
My plans for the day had changed.

I headed back to the car and drove to the Little Greenbrier School Access Road only to find that it too was closed. This actually turned out to be better than had the road been opened. I parked in the small lot there and proceeded to walk the road to the Old Greenbrier School. It was a quick walk and when I arrived at the school site, I had it all to myself. First, I checked out the small cemetery.
little Greenbrier Cemetery
Wilkerson grave
Then I headed over to the school to have a look around.
Little Greenbrier School
It's difficult for me to imagine going to school in a building like this,
inside Little Greenbrier School
but that's just what people did about 90 years ago.

From the school, I headed out on the Little Brier Gap Trail towards the Walkers Sisters Cabin.
Little Brier Gap Trail
It was an easy walk on a gravel road. In 1.1 miles I found myself at the cabin and other outbuildings that belonged to the five sisters who lived here until the last of them, Louisa Susan, died in 1964.
walker sisters property
The first building you find is the springhouse.
springhouse
I peeked inside and found a good, strong flow of water emanating from the ground. Next I walked over to the corn crib.
corn crib
Finally I went inside the cabin to have a look around.
walker sisters cabin
What I found most interesting was the old advertising print that still clings to the walls in some areas of the inside of the cabin. I found advertisements for Sun Maid Raisins
advertisements on wall
and trapping equipment.
more ads
I climbed up into the loft and then headed back outside for a snack on the porch.
Eric on porch
After my snack I found a faint path that led to a big tree just outside the cleared area around the home.
big tree
I headed back towards the home, past some yuccas
yucca
and back to the Little Brier Gap Trail to continue the climb up to the Little Greenbrier Trail.
trail sign

Shortly after leaving the Walker Sisters Cabin , the old road which I had been hiking narrowed to a footpath.
Eric hiking
I climbed through open forest of scrubby pines to the ridgetop and the Little Greenbrier Trail. At the junction I made a right and continued an ascent up to another junction, this time with the Laurel Falls Trail.
junction with Laurel Falls Trail
This was my turnaround point. Most of the rest of my hike would be downhill. There's not too much greenery in the plant world this time of the year, other than the obvious conifers. However, I noticed two different species of ferns that still have green fronds and this plant whose name escapes me.
green plants

I retraced my steps to the junction with the Little Brier Gap Trail and continued on. The trail mostly followed the ridgeline that serves as the park boundary.
straight trail
Every now and then a view of Wears Valley opened up through the trees. The best view was just outside the park boundary, from a wooden viewing platform that had been built near a gap in the trees.
Wears Valley
I enjoyed the view from the platform for a few minutes and then continued on. I knew I was close to the trailhead when I saw a family out hiking. The father was carrying his son in a way that no one could do for very long. I reached the road
Trailhead
and made a left to head back to the car. 
entrance sign

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