I’m typically not a check list person and so never really cared to keep up with all of the trails I’ve hiked in the Smokies over the years. Some folks make it a hobby to journal each and mark it off until all 800 miles of officially maintained trails are complete. However, my hiking nerdiness got the better of me and I started marking them off a map with a highlighter the other day. And so this hike was admittedly done in part to put some ink on my map and its pretty fun to do anyway. (It looks like I’ve now got about 250 miles left unseen but I’ve done some sections many times over because they rock.)
I was ready to start from the Porters Creek trailhead in the Greenbrier Cove of the GSMNP. I had Sunday obligations and could only stay out one night so I did my typical rush to the trailhead after Friday at work. This cove was settled in the 1800s and farmed until the early 20ies so there is much new growth forest in the bottoms and flats.
I started by backtracking a mile down the gravel access road to take the Grapeyard Ridge trail. Pictured is the Middle Prong tributary.
I wasn’t actually touching this fellow, just trying to give perspective. The lower portion of the Grapeyard Ridge trail was beautiful.
A ways in I passed this old steam engine that derailed in the early 20ies. It looks pretty comfortable in the creek even though it’s upside down.
This was excellent camouflage.
Due to the late start, I went ahead and made camp only 3.2 miles in at site number 32 (Injun Creek…named for the steam engine not native Americans).
I like to relax with the maps and trail guides sometimes. I took advantage of the plentiful fuel and a fire ring that was well away from my tent.
It was quite a nice evening in soothing solitude.
The next day I came across this well armored little critter. (I have these in my neighborhood at home but it was still a neat picture.)
After 4.4 miles I finished the GRT and reached Roaring Fork road where I picked up my next trail: Baskins Creek.
This was a sure sign of former population right seen right away on Baskins Creek trail.
The mountain laurel was going strong up there!
I took the .8 mile – round trip detour to go see Baskins Falls and it was very cool! The trail guide says it was used as a shower in good weather by the families living in the area back in the 1800s. The falls were easily 20 feet tall.
I finished Baskins Creek and crossed Roaring Fork road again to junction with the Trillium Gap trail about 8 miles in to my day. This Hickory was on the way to the “Grotto Falls” lead section of the Trillium Gap trail.
About 10.4 miles in to the day I came to Grotto Falls. I thought I was really hot until I got in that cold mountain water. The picture didn’t turn out well but it was just too darn cold for a do-over! One dip was all I had in me….lol
I found a nice little stream to get water a mile past Grotto falls. I went ahead and used the aquamira since I knew that this trail had frequent lama traffic to and from the lodge on Mount LeConte.
I saw this little deer just before Trillium Gap.
This shot was on yet another detour to go see the heath bald on top of Brushy Mountain (really just a slope of Mount LeConte).
The Sand Myrtle was going strong.
This shot was turning to gaze back at Mt LeConte after reaching the heath bald.
After exploring the top area I returned to the pictured clearing for a long lunch after a highly satisfying 13.3 mile morning of vigorous trekking (gained about 4800 ft since starting the evening before). My second day’s route was in total just less than 19 miles and I’ve found a long rest to split up the miles to work well for me.
The top had trillium holding out despite the unusually warm spring.
After leaving the bald I took the Brushy Mountain trail to Porters Creek to complete my loop; pictured is a cool mossy falls formed by the Trillium branch.
This was more cool stuff as I descended the mountain (that trail would lose 3000 ft in elevation over 4.9 miles). Soon after, I scared up two bears about five minutes apart; one was nearly on the trail and I somehow got within 15 feet of it before it noticed me and bolted.
This was funny: I climbed that log to check out the falls above and have a second lunch. After coming back down and walking a tenth of a mile away I realized I didn’t have my camera. I went back to look and saw it nowhere. I wondered if had fallen into the stream and so cupped my hands to peer in to the pool at the bottom of the falls and sure enough there it was! The pool was about four feet deep so I had to make a quick duck under to snatch it. I will continue to carry a water proof camera.
This was a beautiful hike and really good trip in the springtime mountains! Hope you enjoyed the report, Happy Trails!