MST – Day 2 to Smokemont Campground

MST and Benton Mackay TrailStarting with 13.4 miles

Thursday morning was cold and dark. I’ve not done a backpack trip this late in the year. We take down our tent in the dark, have breakfast in the dark and pack up as it gets lighter.

The MST route now follows the Benton MacKaye Trail route. Benton MacKaye was the visionary who thought up the Appalachian Trail. He thought that people would naturally gravitate to a trail high in the mountains, punctuated by small communities where they would rest and then move on. Well, it didn’t quite work out that way; the A.T. has three-sided shelters, but that’s the extent of respite on the trail itself. MacKaye wrote about this vision but he didn’t implement much. That was left to Myron Avery who actually designed the route of the A.T., built up volunteer clubs and became the head of the A.T.C.

American Chestnut leavesI’m serenading Sharon about this history as we climb up Martin’s Gap. I can feel my left side, hips, thigh and knee and try to adjust my pack. I try not to let on and wait for her at the Sunkota Trail – more up. We crunch leaves and won’t be able to hear or see much with all the noise we’re making. Still we head a piliated woodpecker and see a hawk, scared a grouse and saw turkeys. Turkeys aren’t afraid of anything.

Down the Newton Bald Trail and instead of taking the Mingus Creek Trail, where the current MST goes, we stay on Newton Bald Trail. Two roads diverging. I don’t know about the less traveled part. We’re walking the proposed route through the Smokies. It was proposed by the Park management, as a way to avoid the long road walk on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It won’t become official for years but this makes more sense than walking on a road and going through five tunnels. The longer we can stay in the Park, the happier I’ll be.

We reach Smokemont Campgrounds where we spend a luxurious night. My definiition of luxurious is getting water out of a tap and not having to treat it. But first we have to get Sharon’s car from Clingman’s Dome and then place mine at Straight Fork for tomorrow.

We drive through the Big Cove Community in Cherokee ande pass the
educational campus, a beautiful set of buildings with Cherokee designs.
All the children from Kindergarten to Seniors are on the same campus.
They feel that younger children will learn from older ones. Two young bull graze on the grass in front of the educational complex.

Big Cove road is mostly commercial campgrounds till the community
center. When we turn right, that’s the end of Cherokee and we’re in the
park. It’s isolated.

Dinner at Big Boys. The day was 13.2 miles, 2,400 ft. up

Cumulative after Day 2 – 26.6 miles, 2,400 ft. ascent



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