This past week, I scouted the Caldwell Fork Loop in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Yeah, I know, I’ve done this hike so many times. I’ve even written about it in Hiking North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains but things change.
The morning started cold but it didn’t stop the elk from being all over the Cataloochee valley.
As we climbed up on Big Fork Ridge, I prepared to stop at the elk pen.
To my surprise, the park had removed the elk pen.
When the park brought in elk, they didn’t just say “Here you are, elk. Have a nice life.” They built a huge pen to acclimate the elk to their new environment and probably to check that they didn’t bring in diseases. After a few months, they freed the elk to let them wander on their own. But the last elk came here in 2002. The wooden structures deteriorated and finally taken down. So now, this is a historic picture.
This has been a rough winter with many blowdowns.
I took a few pictures but the park maintenance folks know that they will have a lot of work to do this spring.
It may be tempting to ask them to clear the trail for our Friends of the Smokies hike but I’m not going to change their priorities. They’ll get to this trail when they get to it.
Lunch was at the big poplars on Caldwell Fork Trail. Here are mother and son, both strong hikers, though it must be tough, coming from the Florida flatlands. We met several hiking groups, including three generations doing a slow backpack around Cataloochee.
A group from Indiana was led by a dog. “You aren’t supposed to bring a dog in the backcountry,” I told the leader quietly. I’m getting better. I used to get more upset with hikers who had a dog. But I added, “If a ranger sees this, you will be fined.” But how are visitors supposed to know that? Unfortunately, you have to go deep within the website to learn that dogs are not allowed in large, nature national parks.
We walked down Rough Fork to the Woody House.
Those new to the historic house were surprised at the amount of graffiti on the walls. Unfortunately I’m accustomed to it. What are people thinking? Probably not thinking.
But I looked at the ceilings, searching for bats. Instead, I saw this graffiti. Does it signify anything?
We’ll be leading this hike on Tuesday, April 14. To register for a Classic Hike of the Smokies, contact AnnaLee@friendsofthesmokies.