Up Newton Bald with Friends of the Smokies

Newton Bald and Mingus Creek Trails
Newton Bald and Mingus Creek Trails

Nineteen hikers climbed to Newton Bald in Great Smoky Mountains National Park yesterday on a Friends of the Smokies hike. They obviously weren’t put off by the strenuous label.

Newton Bald Trail, off Newfound Gap Road, is not a “top of the pops” trail.

It’s a quiet trail which links the Road to Mingus Creek Trail and further up to Thomas Divide Trail.

The trail is also on the new (or current) route of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST). The picture on top was taken at the intersection of the old MST route and the current one.

FOTS2014Newtonbaldhike07A.jpgAs we all plodded up, we pointed out spring flowers. Halberd-leaved violets, hepatica, trout lilies were in bloom. Trilliums and blood root just displayed their leaves. The trail has several seepages, which attracts flowers.

At the top, I tried to explain the incorrect sign but most folks didn’t have much context. They were just happy to be done with the climb and looked forward to a downhill trail.

I have discussed this sign with several park people but they haven’t changed the sign yet. This sign hails from a time when the bottom of Mingus Creek Trail was off-limits to visitors because of a shooting range.

But where was the bald? In the local parlance, I pointed out “where the bald used to be”. Balds were kept open by grazing or burning. Before the land was part of the park, settlers brought their cattle up to graze on Newton Bald for the summer. But once the park came in and stopped the grazing, the land filled in with trees and rhododendron bushes.

We all traipsed down Mingus Creek Trail, happy to roll downhill. Most of the trail was dry, without flowers. It was a single file trail, so you only talked to the person in front or back.

At the road, Brent took us to Mingus Mill to talk about historic preservation. The mill was closed but we could admire it from the outside.

Thank you all for coming, for climbing, for being such good group hikers. A special thank-you to Brent of Friends of the Smokies who sweeps and encourages the folks in the back of the line. He has a much more challenging job than me at the front of the line.

Plan to come with us to Ramsay Cascades on May 13. Hopefully, the park will have installed a new bridge. Sign up with Brent at 828-452-0720.


My only disappointment was that it was so cool that I wasn’t able to show up my new T-shirt with the Friends of the Smokies logo. Maybe next hike.

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