Boogerman Loop Needs Help

CaldwellForkBridgeno6-closedOn Friday I went scouting the Boogerman Loop in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a Friends of the Smokies hike in April. Hannah E., an AmeriCorp intern came with  me.

I have probably done the Boogerman Loop in Cataloochee more than any other hike in the park. It’s easy, historic, fun and a loop hike. Why did I need to scout it again? Am I glad I did! 

The Boogerman Loop  is a “C” shaped trail which starts on Caldwell Fork Trail. I like to go to the top of the loop, crossing on all ten bridges before starting Boogerman Loop. Another good decision. [For those who really know this hike, my bridge numbering does not include the small bridge over a puddle, only the bridges over Caldwell Fork.



The first bridge, which is supposed to be the longest wooden bridge in the park, is deteriorating. The railing wobbles, the creosote coating on the surface of the bridge is wearing off and the wood is chipped in places. I was not happy crossing the bridge and knowing I would have to cross it again. I was not going to pull out my camera and take more detailed  pictures while on the bridge.

CaldwellForkBridgeno2The second bridge tilts to one side. Like all the other bridges I encountered, the walking surface was once scored with grooves to make it less slippery but now the lines have been worn away. I wonder why the Park never went into putting chicken wire on slippery surfaces, like I’ve seen in New Zealand Parks.

Bridge 3, 4, and 5 were fine. Their surfaces could have been scored as well but that’s a detail. Bridge #6 was closed – period. See above.

There’s a crack in the middle which I now realize you can’t see well in the photo, but trust me, you don’t want to use the bridge now. So to recoup the day, Hannah and I went back to the first Boogerman Trail intersection and walked to almost the second intersection with Caldwell Fork and walked back.

BoogermanhannahtreehuggerBoogerman Trail was still as wonderful. The big trees, stone walls, burned tree that you can walk into. All the good stuff was there. Without leaves on the trees, we had great views. I calculated that taking this route, we did 8.6 miles and about 1,800 feet of ascent.

Those numbers don’t include the walking to the closed bridge #6.


With Friends of the Smokies, we would skip that. Or would we? Maybe Friends of the Smokies hikers need to know viscerally that Smokies Trails need our help. The Park can’t do it alone. So another plug for the Trails Forever program. 


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