Big Creek and Deep Creek

7:00 p.m. on April 4, 2013 (EDT)
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This is a quick summary report of my last two weekenders.

First up was an old reliable loop around the Big Creek area in the GSMNP with only one night and one day to use.

I chose this hike based purely upon distance from home being that my time was limited. I can get to this trail head in about one hour and 10 minutes.






I started from the Big Creek Trail head near dark after a Friday at work. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the parking lot empty. My car was the only one there! Makes you wonder if someone knows something you don’t….






After trekking about 5.5 miles I arrived at Walnut Bottoms a bit after dark and made a quick pitch on the semi-snowy wetness. It was a very nice night.






The next morning I finished the Big Creel Trail and took Gunter Fork; the sign warns that during times of high stream flow that this trail is impassable. I was hoping for the best.






I came across this group of backpackers that had apparently been trying to cross the stream for quite a while before I showed up. When I got there they had some kind of rope attached to a log and were trying to walk across that slick wet log. I quickly warned them they were doing something dangerous and showed them how I cross streams. The youngest followed suit and came across after me but turned around and went back after I told them of the other crossings that lay ahead. They decided it was a bit more adversity they wanted on that trip. Fair enough. This picture is the young fellow going back across so they could change their route.






This was a nice shot going up the fork.






Hmm, the trail was completely obliterated by a storm last year. That was a tricky section to get across.






I finished Gunter Fork and took Balsam Mountain over to Mt Sterling Ride trail (the Benton MacKaye trail also).






This is a good route all times of year in my opinion.






I’m unable to pass the fire tower on Mt Sterling without at least a quick scramble to the top.






The weather obscured the views however.






I took Baxter Creek back down to the parking lot to finish my loop and 23 mile route.






This coyote track looked huge but the size was an illusion caused by the melting snow.

And so ends the Big Creek trip.



Next up was a trip borne of opportunity created by business travel. I had to be in Cherokee North Carolina for work on a Monday and so headed up to Bryson City the Friday previous to hit some trails in the Deep Creek area that I had never seen.






The trip starts at the Deep Creek trail head with a quick swing by to Juney Whank falls.






Another nice fall was just down the trail a bit.






And yet another just beyond that. Nice.






After hiking about seven miles up Deep Creek to Nettle Creek Camp Site the rain caught me and I hastily pitched my tarp.






It was a tarp-bound evening for the most part but it wasn’t very cold and I enjoyed myself and the solitude. I spent that night alternating between reading and just listening to the soothing sound of rain on nylon.






I also brought the fleece slippers for camp comfort.






I did take a walk or two with my umbrella; once to get spring water for use with supper. Note: it rained from 4:30 PM on Friday afternoon until 6:20 AM on Saturday morning.






The next morning I made my typical 1000 calorie breakfast. Here is the recipe for my standard oatmeal: Heat ¾ cup water to boiling. Add ¼ cup of steel cut oats (not instant), continue to simmer for about 45 seconds. Remove from heat and add 1 tablespoon honey, a pinch of nutmeg, 1/4 cup whole raw almonds, 1/4 cup pecan halves, 1/5 cup walnut pieces, 1/5 cup raisins, mix and enjoy! (and get plenty of exercise because well, it is about 1000 calories)







Packed and ready to go on day 2.








Deep Creek trail is punctuated buy these lovely confluences all along the way. The whole valley is a huge water shed with feeder stream coming from both sides. I backtracked down the Deep Creek to see the area again.






This is Bryson Place; it was the last permanent camp of Horace Kephart who is known around these parts for writing Our Southern Highlanders, working to create the park and preserving the history of the people who lived here. My Hiking guide says there is a millstone marker here but I couldn’t find it.






I took Martins Gap trail up to Sunkota Ridge to loop around the area for the day. I took advantage of the brief sunlight to hang out my stuff to dry as much as possible.






I doubled back on Indian Creek trail and it was really an old road, long closed to motor vehicles. The creek was beautiful with little falls and cascades all up and down it’s length.






I thought this was neat. My guess is that this is what happens when an old country road is turned into a trail and the hikers choose to go down the middle.






After trekking up Martins Gap to the top of Sunkota, I came back down and went up Deeplow Gap to Georges Branch. While I usually don’t make fires, that site was covered in old fallen snags and I took advantage to make some smoke which helped with the unexpected gnats.






It was the kind of night that Eddie Rabbit loves; it rained from about 9PM until 7AM the next morning. But I was cozy. In fact, it’s time to put away the winter bag for me I think. My Western Mountaineering Lynx is a -10F bag and far too warm for above freezing temps.






As I trekked up the Indian Creek Motor Trail (not open to vehicles that’s just what it’s called) the next morning, the fog began to slowly lift.






This bridge with the partial handrail was on the Stone Pile Gap trail.






Thirsty Tree Roots.






Another pass by Indian Creek falls was enjoyable too.






I hiked a few more trails, but I want to end with this picture of the only occupant of the picnic area changing room. He didn’t seem surprised to see me at all; I think he was a greeter.

Hope you enjoyed the blog/report.

Happy Trails!

7:11 p.m. on April 4, 2013 (EDT)
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Cool lil trips ya had going on there. Question for ya...

I remember a bit back your pack was a chew toy for a bear.

What happened with that(fix?)

Sorry if ya posted in regards to this and I missed it.

9:30 p.m. on April 4, 2013 (EDT)
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What happened to your Golite umbrella?

The Stone Pile Gap footbridge is just the kind of wet slick bridge I usually don't use and instead ford.  What kind of wading shoes do you use for high water crossings?  I used to go barefoot but now prefer my croc campshoes---dual purpose, etc.

11:36 p.m. on April 4, 2013 (EDT)
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Looks like some good trips.  I bet the stream crossings were a bit on the cool side.

When you come out here, you'll have to try out the local nuts and honey varieties for your breakfast.  I have a number of western honey varieties that span a wide range of flavors.

6:31 a.m. on April 5, 2013 (EDT)
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2,296 forum posts

Thanks guys,

Rick that bear-mauled pack is the same grey one you see in most of my reports. Mystery Ranch did a good job patching it up. I'll post a thread on it soon in the gear repair section....


My golite fell out of my pack on one of my last trips, not sure which one.

I still cross barefoot...




I'm looking forward to it! I'm about to start experimenting with food packing techniques for our upcoming trip. The bear canister will be new for me.


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