When you plan to scout a hike, you’ve got to go – rain or shine. So when I asked Ashok to lead Bradley Fork Loop in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the Smokies 75th anniversary, I told him I would help him check it out. And we did, even though the weather forecast predicted a very high chance of rain.
Bradley Fork Loop is an easy hike from Smokemont Campgrounds, a few miles north of Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Smokemont was first known as Bradleytown, named for the first settlers who came to the area. In the early 1900s, Champion Fibre Company established a large logging and sawmill operation
First, we had to visit Smokemont Baptist Church, an old church that hides in plain sight on the way to the campground. Like all the chapels in the park, it’s always open. The park administration believes that if you lock up a structure, vandals will try to break in but if you leave it open, people will just walk in. And that’s what we did. It’s very plain church with benches on three sides and no decorations at all.
When we drove into the campground, we discovered that the back part of the campground is locked. I guess there’s not enough business to keep it all open and patrolled. We started on the Bradley Fork Trail along the rushing river. Fifteen minutes into the hike, it started raining. And it kept raining until we got home.
Toward the end of the hike, we took a mandatory detour to the Bradley Cemetery. Only a few stones are readable and most are stumps.
We were soaked when we got back to the cars but that didn’t stop us from going for ice cream in Maggie Valley.