It was a hot and muggy day but Lenny and I did 19 miles in 9.5 hours in the Smokies yesterday.
We drove to Lake Shore Drive outside of Bryson City. Even that had been the source of drama. Last week, Lenny attempted to do Bear Creek on his own. He stayed in Bryson City the night before. When he drove to the trailhead at 7:30 A.M., he found that the park gates were closed. He found a ranger who told him there had been an “incident”. The incident was a fallen tree which blocked the road.
Bear Creek Trail is not exactly accessible. First we hiked through the tunnel on the “Road to Nowhere” (officially Lake Shore Rd.) and on Lake Shore Trail. We switched to Forney Creek for a very short stretch and then started the long plod up Bear Creek Trail (5.8 miles). The trail up to campsite #75 was a wide road following Bear Creek.
We met a father and two sons backpacking who could not believe that we were going to get to the top and back in one day. They left us, probably shaking their heads and figuring we didn’t know what we were talking about. But we plodded on and arrived on top at the Welch Ridge Trail for a late lunch. At that time, we had done 9.5 miles and 3,000 ft. of ascent, a nice hike on its own right. But then of course, wen had to walk back.
The horse group had obviously come in to maintain the trail and to take out the huge blowdown that had obstructed the trail at the top of Bear Creek. For that I was very grateful. I was not so grateful for the mess they had left at the campsite, including cans, plastic bottles and a large bag of trash hanging up on bear poles.
Orange-fringed orchids lined the trail. It’s a very rare flower but like other rare flowers around here, once you see it, you’ll see a whole bunch.
The photo is from the USDA Plants profile, which also lists all its characteristics.
A satisfying but tiring day.