Checking out the Boogerman Trail

Anna Lee crossing Caldwell Fork - no. 5
Anna Lee crossing Caldwell Fork – no. 5

Sometimes you have to plan ahead and check out trails almost a year in advance.

For several years, the Boogerman Trail in Cataloochee has been inaccessible to many hikers because several bridges were out of commission. Rumors flew as to the number of bridges that were down and where. I couldn’t pin anyone down on the details.

Finally, I had to see the trail for myself. I convinced Anna Lee of Friends of the Smokies that if we wanted to offer the hike as a Classic Hike next year, we really needed to scout the trail now.

“It’s still warm and the water level will be at its lowest,” I said.

First (and last) Caldwell Fork crossing
First (and last) Caldwell Fork crossing

We decided to go today – October 2 – on my birthday. It was a perfect early autumn day. Trees were showing off their color. Lots of acorns on the ground would provide a lot of mast for bears and squirrels.

The Boogerman Trail is only 7.5 miles with 1,150 feet of altitude gain. However, the water crossings might make the hike challenging.

The long bridge over the Cataloochee River had recently been fixed after having been washed away by a flood; it had been out of commission for a year or so. The park was able to reuse the same locust tree that had been there before.

The first bridge on Caldwell Fork Trail was gone. People had created a bridge of rocks and tree branches.20141002FOTSboogermantrailcreek2 006A.jpg We managed to cross without getting our boots wet. Well-done, hiking friends.

On Caldwell Fork Trail Oct. 2, 2014
On Caldwell Fork Trail Oct. 2, 2014

Turning into the Boogerman Trail, we climbed up Den Ridge and passed many old-growth trees. This is where the artifacts are–stone walls, a couple of springs and even a burned out log. That hasn’t changed. The metal wheel seems to have disappeared, though.

Back on Caldwell Fork Trail, we needed to cross the creek ten times. I started taking pictures methodically of all the bridges. The first two bridges were precarious. Bridge 3 and 4 were more solid. 20141002FOTSboogermantrailcrossing5 027A.jpg

Bridge #5, counting from the top of Caldwell Fork Trail, is gone. Here there are no crossing aids. We just plunged in the water. Here’s Anna Lee.

We met a park maintenance crew, working on smoothing out the trail and putting in wooden crosspieces to deflect the water.

“So when do you think the park will move on the two bridges?” I ask.

“There are some problems. Locust tree make the best bridges and there aren’t many locusts here anymore. Hemlocks, another candidate tree, have been hit by the adelgid. So the park is studying its options.”

I’ve heard this explanation several times.

Please, just put a bridge in, even if it’s not made of natural material. Let’s get the Boogerman Trail back in circulation.

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