Yesterday, the day after Halloween, I led the Boogerman, that classic Smokies hike, for the Carolina Mountain Club. The picture above is of an extended (Mennonite) family group on the first Caldwell Fork bridge. We met them as we finished the hike.
Nine hikers, soon to be joined by a tenth on the trail, crossed 10 bridges on the Caldwell Fork Trail. This is my preferred route – do all the bridges and then get on the Boogerman. Caldwell Fork is always wet but this time, it outdid itself. Look at the pictures of a stream coming down the trail. Most of us just walked through the water, the safest route, though some scrambled on the sides to keep dry.
On the Boogerman Trail, I talked a little about the history of Cataloochee and how Boogerman (Robert Palmer) got his name. We examined all the artifacts on the trail, including the remains of a root cellar, stone walls, the remains of a saw mill, a spring, and a metal wheel leaning against the tree.
After the hike, we drove down the Cataloochee Valley to visit the historic buildings. For some, it was the first time in the Valley and we stopped at most of the buildings. We also saw our first elk next to the ranger station. I felt relieved since I had almost promised them that they would see elk.
In the field after the schoolhouse, there were a large number of cows and calves with a bull in the middle – No. 75.
I answered questions about the Elk Bugle Corps but we were lucky to meet Gini Post, the head volunteer who explained the dynamics of the various elk – the bigger bulls go up into the mountains to eat acorns, making them bigger for next year.
The ones who stay in the valley and just eat just grass aren’t going to be successful next year either. The rut is over so the bulls now are just hanging out with the cows. The successful bulls have left the valley. It’s just like people; successful and famous people move on after they’ve done performing. The hangers-on and wannabees stick around in case there’s something more to see and do.
November 1 was the last day of the Elk Bugle Corps Volunteer program for the year and I reluctantly returned my uniform shirt.