19.7 miles in 8 hours and 40 minutes? Is that all I remember from my latest Smokies miles?
I drove to Smokemont campground on Tuesday. It may have been the gas shortage or just the price of gas but the campground was almost empty. I stopped at the camp office to let the ranger know what I was doing: Bradley Fork to Hughes Ridge Trail to the A.T., down Hughes Ridge, to Chasteen Creek and back on Bradley Fork Trail.
It was a steamy day, the water level was low but Bradley Fork Trail was a good switchbacked road so it was an easy climb. Fall had definitely arrived at the higher elevation; hobble bush, as shown in the photo, had turned red and blue and white asters were in bloom.
When I first planned this trip, I wondered if I should backpack it. Maybe I should stay at Peck Shelter but I got to the shelter at one o’clock so I’m glad I decided to do this as a dayhike. I thought I would roll downhill when coming down the A.T. I conveniently forgot about the small ups and downs but to my amazement, I got to the car before six o’clock.
I checked out with the rangers – if you’re going to let them know where you’re going, you should let them know that you’re back – and drove through the park into Gatlinburg. Life doesn’t get any better than driving on Newfound Gap Rd. after a long, satisfying hike and listening to country music. Tourists, many on motorcycles, stopped to photograph the mountain views. It was so good to see people enjoying the Smokies for the first time and so important for me not to become blaze about the mountain views.
The next day, I went on the Foothills Parkway to do a very remote few miles on the Cane Creek Trail. I was not looking forward to finding the entrance to Goldmine Trail but a trail angel in the form of the camp host told me exactly how to get there. That saved me several miles of extra walking. Cane Creek Trail takes you to the park boundary and a big “private property” sign. Interestingly, this is the only place in the two days where I saw a fellow hiker. He was going out as I was coming in and probably lived locally.
By the way, there is no sign for the Abrams Falls campground on the Foothills Parkway. You have to go to Lookout Rock campground, make a right, a left and down, down down.
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