Tag Archives: Friends of the Smokies

Boogerman Trail with Friends of the Smokies

Crossing Caldwell Fork

How much do you need to know about a hike before you sign on?

How concerned are you about getting your boots wet when the weather is warm and the water low and your fellow hikers are friendly?

September’s Friends of the Smokies hike was postponed from a rainy, miserable day last week to a perfect weather day with blue skies, warm temperatures, and low water levels.

Today was a wonderful day to be doing a classic North Carolina hike. The Boogerman Trail may be the most well-known hike on the North Carolina side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The hike has ten major water crossings on the Caldwell Fork Trail. A few years ago, a storm washed away several bridges. Other bridges were damaged, though still standing. Still, we hiked the loop and just got wet.

Mike K.

The park has replaced the first two bridges with sturdy, high structures that will withstand a lot. But other crossings require agility. The park has put in large, flat boulders instead of bridges. That’s where the agility comes in. Still you’ll get your feet wet.

The bottom of the creek is very rocky and uneven. Hikers were experienced enough to cross with their boots on and with hiking poles. Sandals, or worse, bare feet, is just asking for trouble.

Still, I would not want you to think that we were just preoccupied with water crossings.

Mike K., our leader, did a fine job of talking about the history of the Boogerman Trail. We bushwhacked to the Boogerman home site. He took us to a cemetery and the Messer property. He also pointed out huge trees.

Late summer and early fall flowers were bountiful.

We could recognize cucumber root, gentians that were almost pure white, doll’s eyes, and Jack-in-the-pulpit fruit clusters. A few turtle heads were still hanging on, though probably not for long.

The next Friends of the Smokies hike will be on Tuesday, October 10 from Purchase Knob. Fall colors ought to be at their peak at that time and no water crossings will be involved.

Sign up here.

Friends of the Smokies at Fontana

Hall Cabin in Bone Valley

If anyone thinks that the United States is one big homogenized interstate with lots of fast-food restaurants, I would like to invite them to Fontana Village and Hazel Creek in far-western North Carolina.

Friends of the Smokies (FOTS) held an overnight trip to the Fontana area, about 30 miles west of Bryson City. FOTS leads day hikes throughout the year but once a year, we organize an overnight around the park. We don’t rough it but stay in a building with beds and a shower. The exception was our overnight trips to LeConte Lodge.

Monday, we met at Fontana Village at noon and drove to the Twentymile Ranger station – that’s even more remote than Fontana. We hiked the Twentymile Loop Trail, a lollipop, which involved three trails – Wolf Ridge, Twentymile Trail and Twentymile Loop Trail.

Dan Pierce

Dan Pierce, Professor of History at UNC-Asheville, came on the hike. On a break, he talked about moonshine in the mountains and Quill Rose, a memorable moonshiner in this very remote part of the park.

Dan was also the evening speaker on Hazel Creek: The Life and Death of an Iconic Mountain Town published by the Great Smoky Mountains Association.

The next day, FOTS offered two hikes: a short hike on Lake Shore Trail to the old cars and my hike to the Hall Cabin.

The seventeen hikers going on Hazel Creek and into Bone Valley took a pontoon boat from the Fontana Marina across Fontana Lake to the Hazel Creek area. As we turned the corner, we spotted a mama bear and two cubs scampering up a branch on the shore. Most hikers pulled out their phones but I just watched – sorry, no pictures.

Crossing a creek

With 15.5 miles to walk and a return boat at 5 pm, we didn’t have time for interpretation. Dan Pierce had prepped the hikers for walking through the town of Proctor and on Hazel Creek Trail.

We then turned on Bone Valley trail and crossed five small creeks – without a bridge. Our wet shoes felt good after a long morning walk to the Hall Cabin. We had lunch and walked to a cemetery in back of the Hall Cabin, which I referred to as the Hall cemetery – Not sure of its official name.

On our way back, we formed little clumps of people but we still had an official sweep –  a strong hiker who made sure that no hikers were left behind. A rattlesnake was lying quietly in the shadows on the side of the trail. Anyone who wanted to see the snake had the opportunity.

We stopped at the Calhoun house, home of Graham Calhoun, an entrepreneur and the last person to leave the Hazel Creek area in 1944, when it became part of the Smokies.

We saw only two other hikers the whole day – a runner and a woman who had paddled to Hazel Creek. It’s not easy or cheap to get across the lake here. The companionship and interpretation is priceless.

The next Friends of the Smokies hike will be Tuesday September 12 on the Boogerman Trail. Sign up now!

Getting Ready for Fontana – Twentymile Trail

Marielle and Anna

I don’t use the word “remote” easily but the Twentymile area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is remote. It is certainly the most distant from population centers in North Carolina. Imagine going to Fontana Village off US 28 and then driving another 15 minutes.

Anna Z., Marielle D. of Friends of the Smokies and I headed that way to plan our Classic Hike overnight trip to Fontana Village. On the first afternoon of our trip, we’ll be leading a half-day hike on the Twentymile loop. The hike is a lollipop consisting of Twentymile Trail, Wolf Ridge Trail, Twentymile Loop Trail (yes, they sound the same) and back on the Twentymile Trail. It’s 7.6 miles all together.

As soon as we started from the Twentymile Ranger Station, we knew we had come at the right time. Carpets of wildflowers were in full bloom: violets, hepatica, bloodroot, and a couple of early nodding trillium. But the star in my estimation were the Sessille Trillium. See the photo above.

Stream in Twentymile Area

Sessile trillium are big maroon flowers. Their distinguishing characteristic is that the flower is attached directly by its base without a stalk. They’re also known as toadshade, big  enough the shade a toad, I guess.

Each part of the loop trail had its own stream. We were never far from a stream, creek or cascade. We crossed and recrossed several streams on sturdy split log bridges. Maybe the area isn’t as remote as I think.

The waterfall worthy of a name, Twentymile Cascade, has its own side trail but is difficult to photograph. So no pictures. You’ll just have to come out and see it for yourself.

After the hike, we headed back to Fontana Village where Anna and Marielle worked out where to have all the events of the overnight trip. I hung around the parking lot, talking to a group of young New Yorkers who had come down with their Ferraris, Mazaratis and other car names I can’t spell to drive the Tail of the Dragon. They even had a support vehicle with equipment to keep their cars clean.

I found the guy who I felt was the leader, at least the persuasive leader, and encouraged him to take the group into the park – a national park. And I told him about Friends of the Smokies.

The trip to Fontana will be on Monday-Tuesday August 28-29, 2017. We’ll have hikes both days with one going to the Hall Cabin. Sign up now!