Old Settlers Trail (GSMNP) as a shuttled overnight

7:38 p.m. on February 9, 2013 (EST)
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Long suffering on that list of “someday” hikes was the Old Settlers Trail. I knew its points of interest were mostly historical in regards to remnants of dwellings and past lifestyles. There are no grand scenic vistas, high elevation grassy balds, or big mountains to climb. But what I was surprised to find was a rugged area that demanded constant attention due to numerous crossing trails, creek fords and blow downs; it was a really great hike.


I debated whether or not I would even go up until the morning of the trip. For some reason I often like to agonize over the destination at the last possible moment and then pick a route. So it was with this hike. I actually called the shuttle service, received no answer and had mentally changed plans to a different trip when they called me back.


It was a late mid-day start (trailhead arrival 12:00 PM with 10.4 miles to camp


So AAA Hiker Service picked me up from my car (end of hike) and shuttled me to the beginning of the hike some 19.2 trail miles away.





Starting from the Maddron Bald Trail Head it was 1.2 miles to the eastern end of the OST. Can you see the trail in front of me? It was a little tricky to stay on it in the fresh snow; it is always fun to break fresh tracks though.






The first major crossing had a footbridge. Nice!






The second one did not. Not so nice. The ambient temp was 23F and this creek was too deep to keep my boots on. I did not want to start the trip with frozen ice block boots.






Buuurrrr, I know this is nothing for those of you that live and play in seriously cold places but it was harsh enough for me, lol…






Not far from there was…you guessed it, another creek to ford. I won’t show all of them because it was a constant effort.






I followed my turkey friend for a while.






Yeah OK maybe I’ll show a few more creeks….this one was pretty deep too and I had to cross it to keep on route.






This trail winds through many old home sites with numerous rock walls. The walls were mainly to keep wild boar out of gardens. I began to consider the enormous amount of labor required to collect and stack all that rock.






Most of the actual home sites only had chimneys still standing.






I wasn’t exactly sure how much further it was to campsite 33 but the snow starting coming down in a white-out fashion and I began looking for a flat place to camp. Luckily, about the time I deemed it unsafe to keep trudging with limited visibility, I was at the designated site. My shuttle driver Mark had clued me into the best campsite which was actually up the mountain in a hemlock grove well away from the trail. The trees also provided excellent canopy cover.






The snow slacked off to just a light fall and I propped my umbrella over top of my trekking poles and tent peak for a make-shift porch. It wouldn’t stand up to any wind of course but was sufficient to keep the light snow out and provide a nice relaxing view from which to watch the woods get dark.






Funny looking isn’t it?






The next morning I timed my rouse and breakfast to finish just before another snowfall hit but didn’t quite get everything packed up without some intrusive wetness.






Here was the tent of a late arriving neighbor that approached from the opposite direction as me and camped near the trail.






It was a really nice crisp morning to begin the 9.2 mile trek out.






Passing another home site, it sure seemed like the same person had a hand in the design of many of these old chimneys.






I followed coyote tracks for a while that morning until they suddenly darted off the trail.






Eventually the trail widened out and led down in to the Greenbrier valley.






And of course one last wide ford.


Due to storm damage they had closed the primitive road to the trail head so I had to road walk the last two miles back to my car at the Ranger Station. I prefer to avoid road walking but it did provide nice views of the water.












My adventure ended as one was about to begin for four kayakers!




Happy Trails all!

10:27 a.m. on February 10, 2013 (EST)
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Nice one, Pat. I like the shot with the tent and the porch with the umbrella looks cozy. The ghostly old ruins are evocative.

I can't believe people kayak in such weather!

10:03 a.m. on February 11, 2013 (EST)
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Wonderful jaunt in the snow, Patrick! I am remiss at not being able to get out in it, but I did get some fun sledding in near my house on Signal :) 

Don't you just love following the tracks of wildlife in the snow! I just can't help but plunge of trail to follow when I come across the tracks of a Bear or Boar, I guess it brings the kid out in me, Ha! 

7:33 p.m. on February 11, 2013 (EST)
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Hey thanks Jon...yeah after taking off my boots to splash through a few of those creeks I would not be inclined to jump in one of those little river darts, wet suit or not.

But of course others may look at what we do as recreational backpackers to be beyond the pale.

Kayakers sure are a colorful bunch (often in personality as well as attire), and good to share the park with!


Hey now, sledding on Signal mountain is not to be sneezed at brother! That sounds super fun!

I didn't have time to go off trail following tracks this trip and that coyote picked a very steep spot to diverge from the trail of course. But I indeed took special delight in being the first to break that initial 10 or so miles; it’s rare to be “first” in a place as popular and well used as the Smokies.


9:00 p.m. on February 11, 2013 (EST)
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Great photos Patman! I'll have to add the OST to my list now..

10:09 a.m. on February 12, 2013 (EST)
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I dig the umbrella. Care to post a review?

11:20 a.m. on February 12, 2013 (EST)
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The OST is a good one to hike but like you said, no views or balds or climbs but a lot of history.  The trail looks a lot better than the time I did it (rained for 2 days).

12:33 p.m. on February 12, 2013 (EST)
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hey thanks guys!




I may review that umbrella....it's the golite chrome dome ($19.99):



I actually bought it at the suggestion of Ed (whomeworry on trailspace) for the Grand Canyon trip two summers ago to keep the sun off my head. It didn't ship in time for that trip, but I like it quite a bit; only 8oz in weight.

3:20 p.m. on February 12, 2013 (EST)
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Patman Great Photos and trip report. Liked the umbrella porch you came up with great idea...Always look forward to your reports..


7:01 p.m. on February 27, 2013 (EST)
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Awesome photos!  Can't wait for it to warm up so I can get back on the trail!

April 25, 2018
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