Starting with 26.6 miles, 2,400 ft. ascent.
We pack up in the dark and start up Bradley Fork at 7:45 A.M. Chasteen Creek Trail is the big climb but now we’re just dayhiking. The MST route that the Park proposed follows the Benton MacKaye Trail. It may seem convoluted but from the park standpoint, it makes sense. Since the Benton MacKaye leaves the Smokies at Davenport Gap, the MST has to climb toward Mt. Sterling before it comes down.
We’ve been promised rain but so far, it rained for about an hour in the middle of the night, enough so we packed up wet tents.
The colors are magnificent and we can’t stop taking pictures. Are we fascinated by the scenery or just taking breaks? Lots of small things as well, like this fungus.
We only meet two small groups coming down from the campsite on Chasteen Creek Trail, a campsite with no flat spot. This is not exactly a well-traveled area of the park. You really have to want to be here – and we do.
On Enloe Creek Trail, we follow the Creek for a good long while. It’s a picture-perfect postcard creek but mostly we’re happy we’re going down. We cross Enloe and there’s even a bridge – see above.
Then the water flows the other way and we realize we’re now following Raven Fork – bigger and more powerful. It will require a bigger bridge.
Campsite #47 on Enloe Creek Trail is pitiful. It’s small and slammed against the rocks. There’s no room for proper bear cables and you have to cross the bridge each time you want water.
I stayed there when I was doing the Smokies 900 and I’m glad we’re not staying there again. The Park improved the trail and put gravel on the bridge to make it less slippery, probably less slippery for horses.
Then up Hyatt Ridge where we pick up Beech Gap Trail II and down, down, down. The sky opens up and we get the rain we’ve been promised since yesterday. We reach Straight Fork Road and see a line of MGs coming around. They must have driven the one-way Balsam Mountain Rd.
Sharon heads home; she has two Girl Scout meetings tomorrow. I stay in Cherokee because I have an Elk Bugle Corps meeting in Cataloochee tomorrow. That’s the problem with section hiking. You have to go back to your other life right away.
Section hiking is not easy.
The day was 13.8 miles, 3,900 ft. up
Cumulative after Day 3 – 40.4 miles, 6,300 ft. ascent