Boogerman Trail with Friends of the Smokies

Crossing Caldwell Fork
Crossing Caldwell Fork

I’m back from Ireland only four days and I’ve already been to Great Smoky Mountains National Park twice. There’s no better way to work on jet lag than to go hiking. I got up at 5:15 am today and it’s a great improvement from three o’clock.

Seventeen hikers came on the September Friends of the Smokies Hike today to walk the Boogerman Trail in Cataloochee. Even with four bridges out of commission on the Caldwell Fork Trail, we all were eager to hike on a perfect walking day. For many, it was the first time in Cataloochee. For a few new members, it was their first time in the national park.

On Caldwell Fork Trail
On Caldwell Fork Trail

“Please, plan to walk through the water with your boots on. With five water crossings, there’s no time to change out of boots and put on water shoes and then reverse the process,” I said.

“Besides wearing boots is the safest thing in a river. You don’t know what you’re going to find at the bottom.”

Four bridges are out but one water crossing is done twice. We had scheduled this hike in September, because we thought that the water level would be at its lowest. And it was quite low, not going more than above my knees.

But there’s much more to the Boogerman Trail than the water crossings. I hoped that the lack of bridges didn’t overwhelm the hike. We saw several classic fall flowers: bowman’s root, cucumber root with its blood red leaves, asters and pink turtleheads. The stone walls, built by the former residents, are very impressive.

Crossing Caldwell Fork
Crossing Caldwell Fork

And there’s the whole Cataloochee story, a community that lasted only a hundred years from 1834 to about 1935 when the park was established.

Having said that, most people did think about plunging into the water. You’d think that once you got your feet and boots wet, the next time wouldn’t be a big deal but it was. The crossings were slow and careful and no one fell into Caldwell Fork.

Holly Jones from the Tennessee office of Friends of the Smokies co-led the hike. I really appreciated her driving from Sevierville to help lead the hike. Thank you, Holly!

Boogerman Trail group
Boogerman Trail group

The Boogerman Trail is a classic hike. I hope the park sees this trail as a priority and replace the bridges. Though we had a good time and enjoyed the day, the water crossings is deterring most visitors from going on this trail.

The next Friends of the Smokies hike will be on Tuesday October 13. We’ll be going to Purchase Knob and the Cataloochee Divide Trail. No bridges, or lack thereof, will be involved.

To sign up, contact Anna Lee at annalee@friendsofthesmokies.org or 828-452-0720.

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