Smokemont loop with Friends of the Smokies

Smokemont-FriendsoftheSmokiesgroup

Back in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

After 12 days of walking on the road in the Coastal Plains on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, it was great to get back to the Smokies. I led a Friends of the Smokies group on the Smokemont Loop Trail.

Holly Demuth, North Carolina Regional Director of Friends of the Smokies, had conceived of this hike as part of an effort to acquaint North Carolina folks with the Smokies. If people were a little tentative about the Smokies – where is it? how do you get there? how do you get on the trails? – this hike was an easy introduction to the North Carolina side of the park.

Still, only four people actually came from the Asheville area. The others were from Waynesville and several came from the Tennessee side.

We were lucky as it was a beautiful day. I led and Holly was the sweep. Sweeping is always the hardest job, as you need to take care of folks in the back.

The walk on Bradley Fork Trail was full of flowers.Smokemont-trilliums

Everyone was impressed by the banks of white trilliums. We also saw purple, white and halbert-leaved violets. Thee was a big discussion about hepatica and anemones. I was carrying my Wildflowers of the Smokies book but still I wasn’t sure of all the early spring flowers we saw.

After the bridge, which we all took expertly, the climb started. This was the only climb of the day. Most folks kept on climbing but a couple of people fell to the back and stayed back with Holly for the rest of the hike. I reached the top at 12:20 P.M. and most of the group got up there withing 10 to 15 minutes. We had lunch, caught our breath and waited for Holly’s group.

I got worried and went back down to see where the other group was. I dropped 300 feet (I have an altimeter) and decided that was enough. I climbed up and thought that maybe they decided to turn back. The lunch group was getting cold and antsy so it was time to leave.

Smokemont-BradleycemeteryWe strolled down and took the side trip to the Bradley Cemetery.

Most in the group had never seen a Smokies cemetery or realized how many settlers lived there before the park came in.

By the time we got back to our cars, took off our boots and made use of the facilities at the Smokemont campground, Holly’s group showed up – victorious. They did struggle up but they did it! They missed the cemetery but they got up to the top and down.

We drove to the Smokemont Chapel and then on the the new Oconaluftee Visitor Center.Smokemont-OVC

What a building! What wonderful exhibits. You all have to go there and bring your wallets.

 

 

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