It always pay to scout a hike

Grapeyard Ridge crossing #2

Yesterday I went to the Greenbrier section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I planned to scout a hike that I’d be leading for Great Smoky Mountains Association membership weekend – Sept. 9 to 11.

I was asked to lead Grapeyard Ridge Trail to the engine remains and back. Only about 5.5 miles or so, but it had been a while since I hiked it. I was going to take out casual hikers, not Carolina Mountain Club members.

Grapeyard Ridge snakerootI started up the trail and reached the first crossing of Rhododendron Creek.

“Umm,” I thought, “people will need to be careful as they go down to the creek and back up again.” A few rattlesnake plantains were blooming.

The second crossing resulted in full boot immersion. It was hot and muggy and wet boots felt good. See the picture above.

Grapeyard Ridge crossing #3 By the third crossing, it was obvious that this was not appropriate for GSMA members. And, according to Hiking Trails of the Smokies, there were three more crossings coming up. Now what?

I turned around, got back to the trailhead and drove to Porters Creek. Maybe I could convince Marti, the staff member who is working on the hiking part of the meeting, that I should lead Porters Creek Trail.

I walked up that trail, past the intersection with Brushy Mountain trail and turned around. I had an afternoon meeting and still had to drive through Gatlinburg.

I talked to Marti and found out that someone else was doing Porters Creek. What about Old Sugarlands Trail? The last time I walked Old Sugarlands was when Sharon, SmokyScout, finished all the trails in the Smokies in April 2009. That was a long time ago in my hiking life.

I’m not taking any chances. I’m going to have to go out and scout this trail before I lead it.    

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