Tag Archives: Friends of the Smokies

Porters Creek with Friends of the Smokies

Yellow trillium

The weather forecast for today was 100% chance of rain in Gatlinburg. That’s not chance; that’s certainty. Still almost forty people came on the April Friends of the Smokies hike. New hikers, returnees, locals and some who live several states away.

Porters Creek in the Greenbrier, Tennessee section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is known for its spring flowers.

Our Friends of the Smokies hike today didn’t disappoint. It was a riotous combo of almost all the spring flowers in the book. And then some.

The Porters Creek hike is a little over seven miles with a gentle uphill grade. If you want to wallow in flowers, you don’t have to go much further than the first  mile. Besides the flowers, you’ll find remains of the Ownby settlement including a well-maintained cemetery.

Crossing Porters Creek
Crossing Porters Creek

Next, you pass a cantilevered barn and house that became a cabin for the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club. After you cross the creek, the climbing starts.

Some hikers found the bridge a little unnerving. You have to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other, hold on and keep moving. I always ask the group to limit the number of people on the bridge at one time. Because this is a long bridge, I limited it to three people at one time.

I follow this practice when I lead after the Cave Creek disaster in New Zealand. There, a viewing platform collapsed after several students jumped up and down to check out its stability. For years afterwards, every backcountry bridge in New Zealand had a sign stating the maximum number of people it could hold. Though no one was jumping up and down on our bridge today, limiting the number of hikers on backcountry bridges is probably a good idea.

Dwarf-crested Irises
Dwarf-crested Irises

By the time we started down the trail, the rain had stopped. I was soaked from head to toe, and a little cold.  We stopped for a couple of flowers that we might have missed but mostly we moved.

The next FOTS hike, on May 10 , will go to Hyatt Ridge. If you’re wondering where that is, well, you’ll just have to come. Don’t wait too long to sign up.

Go to hike.friendsofthesmokies.org  or contact Anna (of course).

Up Mt. Sterling

On Mt. Sterling Trail
On Mt. Sterling Trail

Yesterday, Anna Lee Zanetti and I went up to Mt. Sterling in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to scout a Friends of the Smokies hike. Now why would we be checking out a hike that we’re going to lead in July?

We’ve already scouted the April hike, which, by the way, is almost filled. The next two hikes can’t be checked out right now because either the road is closed (Hyatt Ridge) or I didn’t want to trudge in snow at almost 6,000 ft. (Charlies Bunion). But Mt. Sterling was just right for the day.

We started out at Sterling Gap on NC 284, historically known as the Cataloochee Turnpike. If you read about the Mt. Sterling hike in Hiking the Carolina Mountains, you’ll learn about the historic significance of Sterling Gap. I’ll also retell it on the hike.

Anna Lee in the snow
Anna Lee in the snow

The trail takes you up, up, up to Mt. Sterling at 5,850 ft. Plenty of snow on the trail but it was soft snow that people had tread on.

The conditions will be different when we lead the hike. But we’ll still have to climb about 2,000 feet to get to the top. And this is the shortest way up to the mountain.

Most of the hike is in the trees. As we got closer to the top, we walked by Frazer fir and red spruce trees. We came upon an open view that makes me stop every time.

Top of Mt. Sterling
Top of Mt. Sterling

But the best view is from the top of the tower.

I usually climb to the top but yesterday the steps were icy and I went back down after only getting past the first staircase. The tower, which was a classic fire tower, is now used for a radio repeater.

No one was staying at Campsite #38. I tried my hand at a video from my phone. Obviously I have a lot to learn about how to handle the phone as a video camera.

It must be spring break for the area colleges. We met two women on top and several groups on the way up as we came down.

Friends of the Smokies will be leading this hike on Tuesday, July 12. Right now is not too early to sign up at hike.friendsofthesmokies.org.

Little Cataloochee Hike on March 8

preview6As I look out the window now, it is snowing and very cold. But in the Southern Appalachians, spring will be here very soon. Time to make some hiking plans.

Sign up for the first of many Friends of the Smokies Classic Hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Tuesday, March 8th. We’ll visit historic structures including the Hannah Cabin, Cook Cabin, and Little Cataloochee Baptist Church (see the photo above, right). You can even go into the church, which never ceases to amaze me.

Why did settlers come to Little Cataloochee? And in what direction did they come?

Today, how do you get to the Little Cataloochee area of the Smokies anyway? Though I keep saying that there are no secrets in national parks, some areas are harder to locate than others. And Little Cataloochee is tricky to find. That’s why you come with Friends of the Smokies Classic Hikes.

Anna Lee discussing FOTS work
Anna Lee discussing FOTS work

I’ll be leading along with Anna Lee Zanetti, Outreach and Development Associate for Friends of the Smokies. Little Cataloochee Trail, 6.6-miles roundtrip, is moderate in difficulty with a total elevation gain of 1,450 feet. It’s a good start to a great year of hiking.

Monthly membership guided day hikes are $20. New members may join Friends of the Smokies and hike for $35. Donations benefit the Friends’ Smokies Trails Forever program.

You can register for all ten hikes for the price of eight by mailing a check for $160 to Friends of the Smokies, 160 S. Main Street, Waynesville, NC 28786.

Visit hike.friendsofthesmokies.org for additional information.

Undecided and new to our Classic Hikes? Experienced and want to reconnect with your  hiking friends?

Join Friends of the Smokies at REI Asheville for a Find Your Park presentation on Thursday February 18 from 6:30-8:00 PM to learn more about day hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s free but REI wants you to sign up. See you there.