Cataloochee / North Carolina, USA

1:51 p.m. on May 18, 2012 (EDT)
REVIEW CORPS
770 reviewer rep
1,320 forum posts

The first trip of May is more ink on my Smokies map. Up next: Cataloochee, an area of trails almost all of which are open to horses and containing a large piece of the South Eastern park boundary.

After a two hour drive post Friday at work, I made a 7PM start on the Rough Creek trail at the end of the Cataloochee Ranger Station Rd.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 485845_118429758294340_903356270_n.jpg Immediately I came upon the famous occupants of this end of the park. The elk are an experimental reintroduction that started back in 2001. (the last “native” TN Elk were hunted out in the mid 1800s per the history guide)

 

 

 

 

 

 

538787_118429794961003_100003819484981_9

Due to the late start and distance to the next established camp I went ahead and stopped only 1.2 miles in at site 40 (known as Big Hemlock).

 

 

 

 

 

 553370_118429808294335_100003819484981_9

Yeah, I decided to try out the ole Fancy Feast alcohol stove and made one the night before in about five minutes. My cat is used to dry food and wouldn’t eat the can stuff, and strangely neither did the neighborhood raccoons or possums. That stuff must be terrible.

 

 

 

 

 

 547297_118429831627666_100003819484981_9

I was trying to get a “light in tent” photo but the moon stole the scene that night.

 

 

 

 

 

 535088_118429881627661_100003819484981_9

The morning of day 2, I continued the climb up Rough Creek trail. Which as you can see from the trenching was an old railroad bed.

I had reached Polls Gap after about 5.3 miles and just started the Hemphill Bald trail at 5130 feet in elevation when I got “beat-down-walloped” by a rain-storm.

Perhaps this is too personal but given the recent Trailspace discussions I’ve seen, it’s probably apropos: I had just set a bowel movement in motion when the storm hit and once set in motion you must let such things run their course. I was trying to close up my pack , keep my toilet paper dry (was in a open baggie on the ground in front of me) while squatting and finishing the task at hand all while being blasted by sudden heavy wind and rain. I even laughed out loud up there by myself on the mountain at the comedy of it all.

 

 

 

 

 

 533364_118429914960991_100003819484981_9

A little while later I was nearly smashed by three young elk that were galloping down the trail! They pulled up short within 20 feet of me and thankfully veered of in to the woods but for a moment it was sort of “adrenalizing”: spell check says that’s not a word but I’m sticking with it.. For the record, I didn’t know that elk galloped.

 

 

 

 

 

 541308_118429971627652_100003819484981_9

I do apologize for the blurry picture but I wanted to show the color of this crawdad; I’ve never seen one so bright red in the southern apps before. That little guy looked very much like a tiny lobster. He was in a spring run–off at over 5K in elevation.

 

 

 

 

 

 523036_118430001627649_100003819484981_9

Opening up to my left were views of Balsam High Top (the Benton MacKaye Trail is up there).

 

 

 

 

 

 75954_118430028294313_100003819484981_98

Again I must apologize for the poor picture but I came face to face with a HUGE wild boar at the Cataloochee Divide.

 This was another first for me; in all the years I’ve been going to the park I had seen the evidence of hogs in rooted sod and heard them grunt near my tent once, but never actually laid eyes on one.

This one was about waist high when it raised its head and luckily took off when I tried to raise my camera. I watched it move away with a whole group which even had several little piglets that were barley visible in the high grass. Can you see the black shapes in the center of the picture?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

553514_118430064960976_100003819484981_9318137_118430101627639_100003819484981_9556066_118430151627634_100003819484981_9

The trillium was also beat down from the storm so I forced it to look up for pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

581249_118430184960964_100003819484981_9179496_118430244960958_100003819484981_9

To my right I started getting excellent views of Hemphill Bald into North Carolina. The fence was also the Park border and a large section of that open land is owned by the “Cataloochee Ranch”.

You can’t really tell how high the grass was but my shoes didn’t wet through from the storm but rather from the tall grass. That stuff absolutely soaked my feet to the point of squishy steps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

562128_118430318294284_100003819484981_9

I had reached the junction of Hemphill and the divide trail about 11 miles into my day and thankfully it stopped raining.

 

 

 

 

 

 166731_118430358294280_100003819484981_9533086_118430391627610_100003819484981_9

I spied a big old fallen tree on the ranch property and crossed the fence line to spread out my stuff and try to dry out for a while.

 

 

 

 

 

 303437_118430451627604_100003819484981_9

As I descended towards Caldwell Fork (losing 2000 feet in three miles) I began to see this Umbrella Leaf plant whose leaves grow up to two feet across.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

526735_118430484960934_100003819484981_9

This was me posing with a big White Oak after the junction with the Caldwell Fork trail and taking it west towards my next camp.

 

 

 

 

 

 526175_118430531627596_100003819484981_9

This was Caldwell Fork itself as I walked a shallow ford right before the camp site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

149494_118430598294256_100003819484981_9389253_118430678294248_100003819484981_9

And after checking out the camp I kept going so I could see the giant poplars a mile past. Pictured is the biggest of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 556257_118430721627577_100003819484981_9

I returned to the camp having logged about 17 miles on the day. After setting the tent up I decided to take a bath/swim at this fine and secluded little spot about a quarter mile below the camp site and off trail. I hadn’t seen anyone in the park all day (heck for two days really) and was pretty far off trail yet I still was self conscious being nekked in the woods. We’re funny creatures….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 74777_118430774960905_100003819484981_98

The skies cleared up somewhat so I peeled back the fly and spent the evening with it “ready to deploy”. Summer is nearly here: I’ve switched to my “tech blanket” and won’t carry a sleeping bag until next Fall I reckon (or I go somewhere higher than 6000 feet this summer).

 

 

 

 

 

 401753_118430868294229_100003819484981_9

The morning of Day 3 and I went East on the Caldwell Fork trail. I don’t remember exactly where this tree was but I like it.

 

 

 

 

 

 306112_118430904960892_100003819484981_9

I followed a interesting looking spur up to this twin grave site. The history book says it is Union Civil War soldiers killed in 1865 (three of them –two in one grave).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

163509_118430978294218_100003819484981_9

Continuing on I crossed many footbridges but eventually had to wade the creek. Funny thing: whoever stretched the roped across didn’t really help the situation because that wasn’t the best place to cross. If I had used it I would have been nearly waist deep. Just downstream I was able to cross only knee deep.

 

 

 

 

 

 292152_118431058294210_100003819484981_9

I was glad this footbridge was intact!

 

 

 

 

 

 558715_118431091627540_100003819484981_9

And finally I had reached a trail I’ve been waiting to hike for years: the Boogerman Trail! No special reason for my desire other than the name! “Booger” Palmer was paid $5300 for his 255 acres when the Park bought his property in 1929.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

540079_118431164960866_100003819484981_9

Booger did a great job building this wall; it has no mortar yet still stands nearly 100 years later.

 

 

 

 

 

 537467_118431208294195_100003819484981_9

Mr. Palmer also never allowed his property to be logged and so it has many big ole trees.

 

 

 

 

 

 534364_118431248294191_100003819484981_9

I nearly stepped on that tiny little snake. He needs to look both ways before crossing the trail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

306110_118431311627518_100003819484981_9

I eventually joined back with the Cataloochee basin and my car after the last ford shown here at the end of the Big Fork Ridge trail.

 

 

 

 

 

 555336_118431354960847_100003819484981_9

I stopped at an overlook on my way out and snapped this shot of Mt Sterling.

 

 

This was a really good trip and another fine outing in the North Carolina Mountains.

Happy Trails Trailspacers!

8:49 p.m. on May 18, 2012 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
606 forum posts

I miss good ole nc but im glad I moved to nh. I lived too far east in nc, the mountains were much further than they are now.

8:14 a.m. on May 19, 2012 (EDT)
MODERATOR REVIEW CORPS
998 reviewer rep
3,555 forum posts

Thanks Patman!

Some very good photos you have there, for those who backpack & really love nature it doesn't matter if they were shot in a hurry - we understand.

You have a good narrative and let us see what the area loks like. I love seeing all the animals, trees, plants. The Trillium was a sight for sore eyes.

Mike G.

4:56 p.m. on May 19, 2012 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
913 forum posts

I really like the last two photos.  Looks like you head a nice hike.  The red crawfish brought back memories of when I was a kid and I used to catch them in the stream next to my parents cabin.

4:46 p.m. on May 20, 2012 (EDT)
REVIEW CORPS
770 reviewer rep
1,320 forum posts

Thanks guys! That is a cool area and because it's harder to get to than other part of the park (as well as being open to horses) it's not heavily used. I will admit I'm not in a hurry to do any more horse trails for a while though. They kind of wear on you after a while.

John,

I grew up catching crawdads also in the Black Water river just over the border in Alabama (I lived in Beulah, FL). Most of the ones I see in TN are more brown colored.

1:41 a.m. on May 21, 2012 (EDT)
REVIEW CORPS
827 reviewer rep
586 forum posts

Very nice. Should've ate the crawdad! Elk are funny. Seem to always wait till the last moment then they bolt! Had that happen many times in Colorado.

2:04 p.m. on May 21, 2012 (EDT)
38 reviewer rep
395 forum posts

Nice Patman.  I hope the Elk continue to do well there,  they're fun to watch and nice to listen to when the bulls bugle at night.

And thanx for mentioning the tech blanket, I might have to look into one of those.

5:58 p.m. on May 21, 2012 (EDT)
118 reviewer rep
291 forum posts

Cool trip Pat. Never run into elk yet, must have been different... Did you get to hear them at all? Some really good photos in there.

I feel your pain with the cat not eating the food, though I can understand with Friskies. Must have been pretty bad if the Raccoons wouldn't eat it.

6:21 p.m. on May 21, 2012 (EDT)
REVIEW CORPS
770 reviewer rep
1,320 forum posts

@Rob5073, Yeah that crawdad looked tasty didn't it?

@Rob, azrhino Thanks, I actually did not get to hear any of them make any noise. It was just the two incidents of meeting them on the trail and they didn't really "vocalize" at all.

@JerseyWreckDriver,

Thank very much....Yeah it was suprising that nothing would eat that freaky canned cat food, but it was less than 50 cents though....and the stove does work...

 

 

 

December 19, 2014
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply

 
More Topics
This forum: Older: GSMNP Smokemont to Cosby Feb 2011 Newer: Moss Lake, or 'What to do you do when you meet a horny bison? '
All forums: Older: WTB: M Osprey Hipbelt Newer: Love the hat! Many thanks!