Category Archives: Trail Log

Rabbit Creek Trail to Hannah Mountain Trail – Yo-Yo Hike

Date: March 18, 2016

Miles: 9.0 miles           Elevation Gain:   1,834↑         Elev./Mi:   203        Grade:  4%          

Difficulty:  Class 3        Hiking Time: 3:07       Pace:  2.9  mph         Avg. Temp.:   72        

Section:  Cades Cove            

Rabbit Creek - Hannah Mt.Abrams Creek area is one of the best backpacking experiences in the Park.  It is off the beaten path and away from the high traffic areas although it is pretty popular with the horse riding community.  The beauty of Abrams Creek itself is shown off in many places and this out-and-back hike is no different.  The trailhead for Rabbit Creek Trail is directly across from the ranger station at the front of the campground.  Parking is just a hundred yards ahead.  This particular hike was originally planned to be a part of a backpacking trip on the previous weekend that included most of all the other trails in this section but at the end of that hike, the notion of adding another 9 miles was not met in my mind with great enthusiasm.  As it turned out it was fortuitous as the day turned out to be blessed with a sacred moment.  For a day hike, this is definitely not a bad choice.  There is plenty of water on the trail and Campsite #16 is in Scott Gap at the intersection between Rabbit Creek Trail and Hannah Mountain Trail.

Footlog on Abrams Creek

Footlog on Abrams Creek

This hike started about 9:00 on a clear morning.  The trail crosses Abrams Creek at less than 0.2 miles from the trailhead and there is a footlog bridge.  It should be made clear that at the time of this hike, the footlog was NOT actually across the Creek, but laying along the side as if turned on a hinge.  The cabling broke free in a fairly recent bout of high water and left the bridge in a sad state, meaning the hiker must ford the Creek.  As I am fond of this stretch of water, coupled with the warmth and beauty of the spring morning, wet feet were a small price to pay for contact with its refreshing flow.  The ford was easy as the current was slow.  The depth was no more than calf high.  The first half mile of the trail is nicely level as it passes through lands that were once farms and homesteads.  At 0.5 miles the trail begins it’s gradual assent up Pine Mountain.  At 1.7 miles, there is some of IMG_2543the same wind storm damage you find along Beard Cane Trail.  At 2.3 miles, views of Chilhowee Mountain come into view.  The trail crests Pine Mountain at 2.5 miles and descends to the intersection with Hannah Mountain at Scott Gap.  After 56 minutes and 2.7 miles of hiking, a short break was due in Scott Gap before heading on to the palindromic Hannah Mountain Trail back toward Abrams Creek.  After 0.4 miles there is a nice stream and a better water source perhaps than the one at CS# 16.

Abrams Creek at Hannah Mountain Trail

Abrams Creek at Hannah Mountain Trail

IMG_2555

The end of Hannah Mountain Trail at Abrams Falls Trail

The hike goes through a pine forest complete with pine straw carpeting.  At 1.7 miles, a wonderful sound comes to ear.  It is the song of Abrams Creek.  You arrive at the creek at 1.8 miles.  Here, the 900 miler must face an ethical dilemma.  The Hannah Mountain Trail officially ends at the intersection with Abrams Falls Trail, which is across the creek.  Those hiking the Cooper Road – Abrams Falls Loop would come there but have no reason to ford the Creek.  In February, it was my plan to hike the large loop that included the east side of Rabbit Creek back to Cades Cove.  Alas, the water was treacherously high and the current too swift.  But back to the ethical dilemma.  Here I was on the other side with the decision before me.  Do I ford the Creek and complete the last 30 yards or just wave at the sign across the water and check it off?  It was a quick decision.  I have a keen bond with this river (somehow the name “creek” does not afford enough majesty and respect to this ribbon of water) and today, the weather was warm and the water was low.  With the aid of a couple sticks, the ford was complete in about 5 minutes.  Now, this being a Yo-yo hike, there is no avoiding the fact that I had to turn around and come back.  Two baptisms in a row!

Once safely on the west bank, it was time to dry off and have lunch.  Every time I hike alone, I invite a guest to come along.  I have enjoyed conversations with the great Christian author, N.T. Wright, several great poets and the grandfather of my core philosophy as a hiker, John Muir himself.  The freedom and openness of the wilderness makes great literature come alive in a way that other spaces simply cannot.  This day was a discussion with Mr. Wright in his book, Following Jesus.  He used a river as an example of explaining Heaven.  You look across and see a car on the other side.  The only way it got there was to cross through the river and yet, there is no way it could have made it. There’s no bridge and the water is too wide and deep.  But you know it did.  Wright is fond of describing Heaven as being God’s space and it’s not as far away as some traditions would make it seem.  In fact it’s only a separation of dimension. A mere breath away.  And sometimes, that veil is pulled back, if for only a moment, and in that one moment one experiences a sacred encounter.  Having just crossed the river and returning, this insight suddenly became very real to me.  “You see what I’ve been trying to tell you?”  When one is allowed to see past the veil, the experience cannot be measured in time because on that side, time is eternity.  Seconds, hours, days all come together in a mere moment that lasts forever.

I don’t know how long I was there and I dared not defile the experience by noting the time.  All I do know is that I pulled my shoes back on and retuned the way I came.  The hike back to Scott Gap continued the conversation with Mr. Wright bouncing around my imagination, highlighted by a warm gentle breeze.  The 2.7 miles on Rabbit Creek Trail started with a short climb of 0.5 mile to the crest of Pine Mountain.  The descent made for swift hiking back to the trail head, exceeding 3 miles/hr.  The creek comes into view as the trail levels out.  Amazingly, there were daffodils on either side of the trail; perhaps a remnant of a former homesite.   I don’t know how I missed them on the way out but given the blessings of the day already, I wound’t have discounted any explanation.  At the end, I had to ford the Creek one last time; four times in the day.  This last one was a bit of a thank you for the day, wet feet and all.

There are trails and hikes on the 900 miler journey that are not exciting, nor are they memorable.  Sometimes they are purely annoying.  But you have to hike them so you can color your map.  I approached today as one of those uninteresting orphans created by weariness on a previous hike.  Adding to the annoyance was the long drive back into Abrams Creek Campground to get to the trailhead.  But this one thing is for sure; had I gone ahead and hiked this section in February or on the previous weekend, I would not have had the experience I have shared.  Had I decided to forgo fording the Creek at Abrams Falls Trail, perhaps I would not have taken the break and had the conversation with N.T. Wright in that space and in that moment.  Sacred encounters are just that way.

HikerHead 2  Be well.  Strider Out…

 

Cooper Road Trail

Date:    02.26.2016, 03.11.2016 – 03.12.2016

Miles:  10.7 miles           Elevation Gain:  1150↑         Elev./Mi:   107.5        Grade:     2%          

Difficulty:  Class 2             

Section:  Cades Cove    

Cooper Road TrailCooper Road Trail presents a host of options for different loop hikes leading out of Cades Cove and Abrams Creek Campground as it intersects with 5 different trails and has two distinct trailheads.  As for hiking it is downright delightful in that it only climbs 1,100 feet over its 10.7 miles.  It is definitely one of the longer treks in the park if hiked one-way but that is the challenge.  It really doesn’t fit in a one way scenario, nor does it work as a simple loop.  For the 900 miler, it will end up being hiked in several sections over a few days. Such is the case here.  IMG_2272Cooper Road was a main thoroughfare servicing Cades Cove before the establishment of the Park and much of it enjoys wide double track and relatively well graded terrain as any former roadway or railroad bed.  In fact, Rich Mountain Road and Parsons Branch Road were similar in their day and the Park Service chose to maintain them as access roads.

There are a few access points.  The trailheads are at Cades Cove Road on the east end and Abrams Creek Campground on the west end with ample parking at both.  The third access point is via the Goldmine Road Trail about 2.6 miles from the Abrams Creek Trailhead.  Surprisingly, there is only one campsite directly on the trail, which is CS #1 about 1 mile in from Abrams Creek at the trail junction with Little Bottoms Trail.  CS #2 is reasonably close at 06. miles down Cane Creek Trail.

Cades Cove to Hatcher Mountain

Cooper Road #1The first section completed was part of a loop hike that included Abrams Falls.  The section started at the Cades Cove trailhead.  It was 39 degrees and overcast on the morning of Feb 26, 2016.  At 0.2 miles, the Wet Bottoms Trail intersects to complete a nice loop trail around IMG_2271Abrams Falls.  At 1.0 mile, the trail rises gradually and levels off to a nice rolling stroll.  A concrete bridge appears at 1.4 miles as the trail crosses Arbutus Branch.  A moderate climb continues to about 1.7 miles where views appear although on this day, the clouds robbed the hiker of any panoramic landscape.  The trail reaches a ridge at about 2.5 miles and continues fairly flat before a slight descent at 3.0 miles.  At 4.0 miles, you cross Stoney Brook in a rock hopper.  Two prongs of Wilsons Branch are encountered around 5.0 miles that are negotiated with some skillful rock hopping.  Following the two creek crossings, there is a bit of overgrown brush and briars that only last a few hundred yards or so.  There is some blow-down evidence in this area accompanied by some pine tree growth.  At 5.7 miles the trail intersects with Hatcher Mountain Trail and continues on to Cane Creek Trail which is 1.8 miles ahead.  For this hike, I left Cooper Road down Hatcher Mountain to make the Abrams Falls Loop.

Abrams Creek Campground to Goldmine Road Trail

Cooper Road #2Continuing on the trail description is going to be a bit tedious and out of sync as the next section was hiked starting at Abrams Creek Campground as part of a 2-day backpacking trip that occurred March 12-13, 2016.  The trailhead is at Abrams Creek Campground where there is good parking, even IMG_2474in the off-season when the campground is closed.  The trail begins at the back side of the campground and continues for the first mile or so along Abrams Creek.  The trail only ascends 250 ft. over this 2.6 mile section making the climb barely noticeable.  At 0.9 miles, the Little Bottoms Trail intersects from the right and Campsite #1 is just beyond.  It is fairly nice site, especially being so close to a trailhead.  By now the trail picks up and follows Kingfisher Creek for the next mile.  At 2.6 miles the trail intersects with the Goldmine Road Trail, which leads 0.8 miles to the Top Of The World Community on Chilhowee Mountain.

Goldmine Road to Cane Creek Trail

Cooper ROad 3From Goldmine Road, the friendly stroll continues almost flat to Cane Creek Trail in 0.6 miles.  Campsite #2 is about 0.6 miles down Cane Creek Trail.

 

Cane Creek to Beard Cane/Hatcher Mountain

Copper Road #4The first 1/4 mile from Cane Creek is the first indication that Cooper Road Trail climbs at all, climbing nearly 200 ft, which is 800 ft. per mile but it quickly levels out for more of the very gentle climb this trail has enjoyed from the trailhead.  This 1.8 mile section was complete in 32 minutes which is a 3.3 mph pace… with a backpack.  A testament to how level the trail is in this section.  The section ends at the intersection with Hatcher Mountain Trail and Bread Cane Trail. From here it is 5.7 miles back up to Cades Cove.

HikerHead 2  Shalom.  Strider Out…

 

Little Bottoms Trail

Date:    03.12.2016

Miles:  2.3 miles           Elevation Gain:  385↑         Elev./Mi:   167        Grade:     3%          

Difficulty:  Class 2      Hiking Time: 0:59       Pace:  2.3  mph         Avg. Temp.:   65        

Section:  Cades Cove       

Little Bottoms Trail  Little Bottoms Elevation

Abrams Creek on the descent of Little Bottoms Trail

Abrams Creek on the descent of Little Bottoms Trail

Little Bottoms Trail is a connector between Cooper Road Trail and Hatcher Mountain Trail.  It provides a number of Loop Hike possibilities as it is close to the intersection of Abrams Falls Trail and Hannah Mountain Trail.  From Abrams Creek Campground, the hike to Abrams Falls via Cooper Road to Little Bottoms to Hatcher to Abrams Falls is 5.3 miles.  Campsites #1 and #17 are both nicely situated along this path.

 

 

 

Campsite #17

Campsite #17

Abrams Creek at CS#17

Abrams Creek at CS#17

From Hatcher Mountain Trail it descends almost in roller coaster fashion (short bursts of up and down) as it follows Abrams Creek on its wonderful journey to Abrams Creek Campground.  The trail is fairly narrow as its genesis was a manway or footpath.  The water music from the Abrams is easily heard in the background and keeps you merry company as you move ever closer.  At 0.7 miles you pass the very popular Campsite #17.  Its popularity stems in part by it’s close proximity to the Abrams Creek Campground and good parking, but its most endearing feature is Abrams Creek, which is just across the path.  This is a large site with many great tent spots and surprisingly low impact.  The site on this day was well maintained and clean.  Certainly a place to note for an peaceful overnighter with a concert to sing you to sleep.

The trail moves along relatively flat for the next mile or so as you hug the edge of Abrams Creek.  This is a bit of bait and switch.  At 1.6 miles the trail suddenly leave the Creek and head uphill at a surpassing rate until it crests on the ridge at about 2.0 miles, then it swoops back down to pick up the Cooper Road Trail at 2.3 miles.  Campsite #1 appears on your right as you reach the end, which is about 0.9 miles from Abrams Creek Campground.

HikerHead 2  Shalom.  Strider out…

Goldmine Road Trail

Date:    03.11.2016

Miles:  0.8 miles           Elevation Gain:  309↑         Elev./Mi:   386        Grade:     7%          

Difficulty:  Class 3      Hiking Time: 0:17       Pace:  3.1  mph         Avg. Temp.:   65        

Section:  Cades Cove       

Goldmine Trail Goldmine Elevation

IMG_2481The Goldmine Road Trail is merely an access trail to Goldmine Gap and the Cooper Road Trail.  The Brown Book describes its starting point as 2.5 miles up the Cooper Road Trail from Abrams Creek Campground, which is true.  The trail terminates at the Park Boundary, which is only a hundred yards or so from a residential street in the Top Of The World Community.  This community is accessible from the Foothills Parkway.  Flats Road intersects near the entrance of the Look Rock Campground and twists along through the Top Of The World Community.  Look for Joroulman Dr. on the right and take the first right after that onto Stiffener Circle.  The trail access is on the right just before a sharp curve to the left.  Look for a cabin with a red metal roof across the street.  There is no official parking area but the is some space on the side of the road.  Watch for horse trailers though.

From the Cooper Road Trail, Gold Mine trail ascends steadily the whole 0.8 miles.  The Brown Book has some interesting history about this old track but otherwise, there is nothing really remarkable about it other than a good access to Cooper Road and Cane Creek Trails.

Cabin near access to Gold Mine Trail

Cabin near access to Gold Mine Trail

HikerHead 2 Shalom, Strider out…

Beard Cane Trail

Date:    02.26.2016

Miles:  4.2 miles           Elevation Gain:  420↑         Elev./Mi:   100        Grade:     2%          

Difficulty:  Class 1      Hiking Time: 1:31       Pace:  2.9  mph         Avg. Temp.:   68        

Section:  Cades Cove       

Beard Cane Trail  Beard Cane Elevation

Beard Cane Trail offers quite a diverse hiking experience in that it probably the straightest trail in the park and it has three distinct sections over its 4 miles. The first section is characterized by the massive blowdown damage in the cove along its first mile and a half.  Once through the blowdown section the trail enters the woods for a nice flat hike with 16 creek crossings, many of which are wet crossings, affording the hiker the chance to test the waterproof capability of their boots.  And, as this trail is most likely to be hiked as a roundtrip, it doubles the number of wet creek crossings. Finally, there is a steady climb to the end of the section through mixed hardwood forrest.

There is no trailhead.  The trail can be accessed from the intersection between Cooper Road Trail and Hatcher Mountain Trail, or in Blair Gap at the end of the Ace Gap Trail.  The trail does not fit well into a loop hike but there is a nice campsite for an overnighter.  This hike was part of a backpacking trip out of Abrams Creek Campground and was hiked as a roundtrip.

IMG_2493From the intersection with Cooper Road Trail, the trail descends gradually for the next 3 miles to Campsite #3.  At 0.4 miles, the trail enters a cove between Hatcher Mountain and Beard Cane Mountain.  The Brown Book of 2001 described this section as nicely shaded but that is a remnant of history as at some point there was a devastating wind storm that came through the cove sipping out virtually all the trees.  There is evidence of a huge tangled mess of blowdowns through which the Park Service did a great job of cutting through.  The trail is edged by briars and new undergrowth.  There are two ways to consider this trail.  One as an ordeal to survive for the 900 miler but rather, it is a chance to experience how creation renews itself following a devastating event
that is very much a part of the cycle of life.  The trail runs through several wet swampy parts over its first mile or so.

IMG_2495At 1.0 miles, there is a signpost typical of those marking the backcountry campsites.  This one announces Campsite #11 but there is no campsite to be found among the solid blowdowns and thorny undergrowth.  There is not even a remnant of a flat place where the campsite might have been.  CS #11 is on many of the older maps but it is not active on the Park Service Backcountry Reservation website.

 

 

 

IMG_2497At 1.2 miles there is relief from the blowdown wasteland as the trail moves back under forrest cover.  This is the segue into the second section of this trail, which is the wet foot section.  While the trail continues along a pleasant flat terrain, the first wet creek crossing occurs at 1.7 miles.  Rather than document all the crossings in the narrative, perhaps it is most efficient to list them. The majority of these are wet crossing meaning they do not have convenient placement of rocks or logs to cross without waking in the creek.

Creek Crossings on Beard Cane Creek:

1.7     1.9     1.9     2.3     2.4     2.5     2.6     2.6     2.7     2.7     2.9     2.9     3.0     3.0     3.1     3.5     4.2

 

 

The arrival at Campsite #3 is the sign that the wet crossing are through, unless you’re bound for a return trip.  Campsite #3, Hesse Creek is a very nice spot with space for a a few tents.  It is off the trail sufficiently and very little impact.    After crossing Hesse Creek, the trail ascends rather sharply toward Blair Gap and the intersection with Ace Gap Trail.

Intersection of Ace Gap and Beard Cane

Intersection of Ace Gap and Beard Cane

HikerHead 2   Shalom.  Strider out…

Cane Creek Trail

Miles: 2.1 miles           Elevation Gain:   325↓         Elev./Mi:   154        Grade:  3%          

Difficulty:  Class 2        Hiking Time: 0:48       Pace:  3.2  mph         Avg. Temp.:   74        

Section:  Cades Cove           

Cane Creek Trail  Cane Creek Elevation

Cane Creek is the kind of trail that gets orphaned for the 900 miler.  There is no easily accessible trailhead and it is not part of any loop.  Furthermore, it is a roundtrip.  The closest trailhead is 1.5 from the Goldmine Road Trail but that is an obscure access in a small residential area in the Lake In The Sky community off the Foothills Parkway.  The other option is Abrams Creek Campground, 3.7 miles down Cooper Road Trail.  This hike was part of a backpacking trip that included most of the trails in the Abrams Creek area.

IMG_2484

Campsite #2 – Cane Creek

The trail starts at Cane Gap at the junction with Cooper Road Trail.  The trail leaves the gap in  gentle descent through mixed hardwoods.  There is a creek crossing at about 0.5 miles that is a rock hopper, followed by Campsite #2 – Cane Creek at 06. miles.  Cane Creek Camp is a little used site that is pretty nice on Cane Creek.  Just passed CS #2, you cross over Cane Creek again, which is a wet crossing save for a downed log just up the creek about 20 yds.

 

 

 

 

IMG_2488

Buchanan Cemetery

At 1.2 miles is a side creek crossing which is another wet crossing. The Buchanan Family Cemetery comes up at 1.3 miles.  There are graves dating back to the early 1900’s.  The trail continues flatly to the park boundary.  Another wet stream crossing occurs at 1.9 miles.  At the park boundary, the trail appears to continue on through what is probably private property.  The Google Map of this section indicates that the Cane Creek Trail continues on out to Millers Cove Road in the Lake In The Sky community.

Abrams Creek Backpacking Trip

Date: 03.11.2016  – 03.12.2016   

Miles:  25.2              

Abrams Creek Backpacking TripAbrams Creek is an incredible section for hiking, if for no other reason than Abrams Creek itself.  The section is far enough from Cades Cove that you can avoid the typical crowds and if you want to catch the Falls, you have a spectacular approach from the bottom of the Creek rather than the traditional trailhead from the Cove.  Although there are no high top vistas, there are nice view of the ridges in the area and a plus is the fact that the climbing is fairly benign.  The trailhead is at Abrams Campground, which was still closed for the season.  It is a primitive campground in that there are no facilities for campers needing electricity and water.  It’s tents only.  The area is a favorite among horseback riders.

For the 900 miler, there is quite a bit of out-and-back hiking to make the loop.  In this case, Cane Creek is an unavoidable roundtrip as was Beard Cane in this particular route.  Added to that is the Gold Mine Trail and a mile of Cooper Road at the trailhead, resulting in a total of 9.3 miles of repeated hiking.  Here is the route for this trip:

  • Trailhead:  Cooper Road Trail at Abrams Creek Campground.
  • Cooper Road Trail to Goldmine Road Trail              2.6 m
  • Goldmine Road Trail to Trailhead and return         1.6 m
  • Cooper Road to Cane Creek Trail                                0.6 m
  • Cane Creek Trail to end and return                            4.2 m
  • Cooper Road Trail to Beard Cane                                 1.8 m
  • Beard Cane to Blair Gap and return                           8.4 m
  • Camp at CS#3
  • Hatcher Mountain Trail to Little Bottoms Trail     2.6 m
  • Little Bottoms Trail to Cooper Road Trail                 2.3 m
  • Cooper Road Trail to trailhead                                     0.9 m

As for documenting the trails, it was a bit challenging in that the route had three offshoots from Cooper Road Trail dividing it into three distinct sections.  There are 4 campsites in this section; # 1, 2, 3 and 17.  There is ample water throughout the section.

IMG_2474My base pack weight for this hike was 16 lbs. and total weight as 22 lbs.  I got started at about 9:00 am on a cloudy day heading down Cooper Road Trail.  The hike starts out typically as a double track jeep road along Abrams Creek.  I passed a couple fisherman.  There are a couple creek crossings in the first mile. Campsite #1 is just past the trail junction with Little Bottoms Trail at 1 mile.  For a campsite so close to a trailhead, the site is only lightly impacted.  I met a 74 year old day hiker and we exchanged a few hiking stories.  At 2.6 miles you reach Goldmine Gap and the Goldmine Road Trail leading to the park boundary.  The trailhead is in a small neighborhood and is rather obscure as there is no marking for the trail.  Upon completing the 32 minute roundtrip to the trailhead of the Goldmine Road Trail, I continued on Copper Road to Cane Gap.

 

 

IMG_2488Cane Creek Trail intersects at .6 miles up from the Goldmine Road trail.  There is a stream crossing just ahead of Campsite #2, a nice little site although one would do well to watch for widow makers in some of the dead pine trees.  I stashed my pack up the bear cables and move on to the end of Cane Creek Trail.  Just past the campsite, there is a wet stream crossing.  There is a small cemetery about 1.6 miles accounting for the fairly wide trail.  There are a number of Buchannans buried there dating back to the early 1900’s.  At about 1.8 miles, there is the third wet stream crossing before the end of the trail at 2.1 miles in.  It is a bit of a shame there is no connector with Beard Cane along the park boundary.  The sun popped out on the return trip to CS#2 for a bite of lunch.

At 1:15, I was back out at Cooper Road headed for Beard Cane.  The temperature rose to 78 degrees.  Cooper Road ascend a bit to top out on a ridge for a half mile.  Toward Beard Cane Trail, the foliage opens up as a result of the windstorms that devastated many of the trees in this area.  I use the voice recorder on my phone to capture voice notes and sometimes I forget to turn it off before it goes back in my pocket.  So I captured about 17 minutes of hiking with my phone recording the sounds from my pocket.  In a weird sense, it sounded very much like a heartbeat and blood flowing through the circulatory system.  I cleared this last bit of the Cooper Road trail, 1.8 miles in 33 minutes and headed down the Beard Cane Trail.

IMG_2495

The Campsite formerly known as #11. The sign post is all that remains.

The severe wind devastation begins about a half mile in.  My original plan was to stash the pack and camp at CS#11 which was about a mile in.  Upon getting there, I found the post announcing the site but there is no site to be found.  There are blow downs everywhere.  The site is still listed on the Park Service Backcountry website but it does not allow reservations.  This section of Beard Cane is disappointing on the one hand but also pretty amazing in the fact that the Park Service managed to clear this tangled mass of blow downs so it can be traversed.  Now we get to watch how creation re-invents itself after a traumatic event.  The trail is muddy and swampy in places but for the most part, the briars and undergrowth are cut sufficiently back.  My memory of this section from the last time was a very long stretch over several wet creek crossings but to my pleasant surprise, the blow down section ends after only a 3/4 mile or so.  The balance of the trail is fairly level but there are several creek crossings that will involve wet feet.  CS#3 is 3.7 miles in.  I stashed the pack and finished the section at Blair Gap and returned to CS#3.

 

 

 

Home Sweet Hammock

Home Sweet Hammock

My evening at CS#3 was pleasant and lonely.  The site is on Beard Cane Creek itself and I was sung to sleep with water music.  The next morning, I headed back the 3.7 miles to Hatcher Mountain Trail. I have already hiked Hatcher Mountain on my previous Cooper Road – Abrams Fall Trail loop but it was nice to see it again as there are wonderful views of the Abrams Creek through pine forests and the hiking is generally downhill.

By 9:33, I started down Little Bottoms Trail which rolls up and down and it nears Abrams Creek.  Campsite #17 is 0.7 miles in.  It is a great site next to Abrams Creek.  There are plenty of open flat spots for tents and it is a place to remember for a short overnight creation fix.  There is no a lot of dead and down wood but there are few other signs of impact with low tree cover and pine needle carpet.  The trail continues along the creek nice and flat until about 1.5 miles where it ascend the ridge rather dramatically for a half mile or so where it descends steeply back to Cooper Road Trail.  After a rock-hop creek crossing and 56 minutes, Little Bottoms Trail was complete.  I hiked the 0.9 miles blackout to Abrams Creek Campground for some lunch.

The plan was to continue with the  lower section of Rabbit Creek and Hannah Mountain but that was going to add about 9 miles to the trip and I opted to do that another day.

HikerHead 2  Shalom.  Strider out…

Maddron Bald Trail and Albright Grove Loop

Miles: 7.2 miles           Elevation Gain:   3,762↑         Elev./Mi:   510        Grade:  10%          

Difficulty:  Class 5        Hiking Time: 3:51       Pace:  1.9  mph         Avg. Temp.:   35        

Total Hike:  15.1 miles            Total Hike Time: 7:32               Avg. Pace:   2.0 mi./hr.

Section:  Cosby            Total 900 Miler Miles:   85.1          Total Miles Hiked:   117.1

Madron Bald Trail  Maddron Bald Elevation

One of the great things about living in East Tennessee is the passing of the seasons.  And of the great things about being near 5,000-6,000 ft. mountains is the passage of seasons in one hike.  February 27 was one of those days where at 1,800 ft., there were near springlike conditions.  My hiking partner for the day was Annie O’Grady, a 900 miler to be with about 47 miles left on her first map.  She needed Maddron Bald and I had not bagged it yet for map #2.

Maddron Bald can be part of a nice 21 mile backpacking loop out of Cosby Campground along with Snake Den Ridge and Gabes Mountain Trail.  We chose an out-and-back.  There is ample water along the trail and in fact, there are at least 3 potentially wet stream crossings.  Campsite 29 is also on this trail.

IMG_2453The first challenge was actually finding the trailhead.  You travel nearly three miles on US 321 out of Cosby and you have to be vigilant for a left turn called Baxter Road.  Keep to the right while passing through a residential section you come across a very small parking area at the trailhead.  The Brown guidebook mentions that the parking area may not be safe but I have never had a problem.

Our hike started at 9:00 am with a brisk 35 degrees.  The trail starts out as a wide double track and rises gently for the first mile through mixed hardwoods..  At 0.7 miles is the William Baxter Cabin dating back to 1889.  The Brown Book mention the cabin was built out of American Chestnut, perhaps even out of one tree.  These impressive giant tree people died out in the early 1900’s due to an Asian fungus called the Chestnut Blight.  Oh how our park would have been different with these gentle giants roaming the ridges.  There may be hope as several research projects are underway to develop a blight resistant Chestnut tree but our generation will never see them in their original glory.  The best we can hope for is to once again greet them as we saunter.

IMG_2403The trail begins its steady 500 ft./mile climb about a mile in and by at 1.2 miles is the intersection with Old Settler’s Trail.  By 2.0 miles, the trail become more single track and the climbing continues steady.  At 2.9 miles, you intersect with the lower part of the Albright Cove Loop Trail, a 0.7 mile loop that connects back to the Maddron Bald trail 0.3 miles further up.  According to the Brown Book, this short trail was named for Horace Albright who was the second director of the National Park Service and a strong advocate for the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  The grove is home to numerous examples of old growth trees such as Tulip trees and Eastern Hemlocks.

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_2406At 3.1 miles, you cross Otter Creek.  The thing about crossing streams, especially in the winter, is that you have an incentive to rock hop as much as you can.  The problem with winter rock hopping is that the rocks, although ordinarily slick, can become coated with thin, invisible  ice.  My contention is that I fall into the water more often when rock hoping, than I do when I plunge right on through, accepting the fact that I will get me feet wet.  This is the bargain I have made with creation.  Water is good.  The chances of getting your feet wet in any case are good.  Proper equipment and planning makes hiking with wet feet, even in the winter, a reasonable, if not somewhat comfortable option.  In this case our rock hop was successful.

IMG_2412

Campsite #29

The trail crosses Indian Camp Creek three times over the next two miles.  At 4.7 miles, you have your second opportunity to moisten your feet at Coppoerhead Branch.  At 5.7 miles, you cross Otter Creek again in another wet crossing before you reach Campsite 29 at about 4,600 feet.  CS #29 is small but it seems to nice spot.  By this time there was about 6 inches of snow on the ground and the campsite was covered in a white frozen blanket.

The trails narrows and become rocky until at about 6.3 miles, Maddron Bald opens up with fantastic views at nearly 360 degree.  We were hiking in about 8 inches of snow by this time and the trees were covers in a beautiful dusting of the stuff.  The trail intersects with Snake Den Ridge where we took our lunch in the deep snow before heading back down.

 

 

 

IMG_2417  IMG_2418  IMG_2429  IMG_2439

IMG_2435

HikerHead 2  Be well. Do good. Strider out!

Abrams Falls Trail

Date:    02.26.2016

Miles:  4.2 miles           Elevation Gain:   551↑         Elev./Mi:   131        Grade:     2%          

Difficulty:  Class 1      Hiking Time: 1:29       Pace:  2.8  mph         Avg. Temp.:   55        

Section:  Cades Cove       

Abrams Falls TrailAbrams Falls Elevation

IMG_2329Abrams Falls Trail is a marquee trail of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  It is very approachable for most any hiker and it features Abrams Falls, which is one of the most spectacular sights in the Smokies.  The trailhead is at a parking area off Cades Cove Loop Road.  The Brown Guidebook states that Abrams Falls was named for Cherokee Chief Abram.  There are no campsites on Abrams Falls Trail and there are no substantial water crossings.

 

 

 

 

Abrams Creek at Hannah Mountain Trail

Abrams Creek at Hannah Mountain Trail

Most hikers will take this trail from the trailhead at the parking area and return as an out-and-back.  But there are a couple loop opportunities that add depth and variety to the hike that are well worth considering.  This particular hike was documented in a loop hike that started at the Cooper Road trailhead just before the parking area for Abrams Falls.  This loop went from Cooper Road Trail to Hatcher Mountain Trail to the far end of Abrams Falls Trail which is how this hike is documented.  Another great loop is to take Abrams Falls to Hannah Mountain (fording Abrams Creek) to Rabbit Creek and back up to the Abrams Falls trailhead.  Note that the ford at Abrams Creek is normally passable in knee deep current but in times of high flow and swift current, the ford is too dangerous to consider.

 

 

IMG_2335The end of Abrams Falls is at the junction with Hatcher Mountain Trail and Hannah Mountain Trail at a beautiful place on Abrams Creek where you must ford the Creek to continue on Hannah Mountain Trail.  The trail starts out pretty level and continues for a half mile until it begins a gentle rise in elevation.  The trail follows Abrams Creek all the way to the falls proving company and a symphony of river music.  At about 0.8 miles there is a small creek crossing.  As you reach 1.3 miles, the trail moves away from the Creek causing the sound of the river music to change keys as though a different movement of the symphony began.  By this time the trail rises significantly above the Creek with a great view of the cascades down below.

 

 

 

 

IMG_2336At 1.5 miles, the falls come into view through the wintertime foliage.  At 1.7 miles,  you cross the foot bridge, which is a door of sorts to the inner sanctuary that is Abrams Falls.  This particular day, the Falls is flowing more than normal due to heavy rains in the past few days.  There are few visitors here giving a little solitude to the experience.  On a summer weekend, you will encounter dozens of visitors, many of which will risk a dip in the pool that receives the Falls.  I captured more of my personal experience in my entry for the loop hike.

 

IMG_2338  IMG_2362

IMG_2364

After a good break, I continued up the trail toward the trail head.  The elevation continues to rise gently and the trail widens.  At 3.3 miles  the trail starts to distance itself from the creek by veering away from the gorge.  At 4.1 miles you reach the bridge that leads across Mill Creek to the Trailhead just beyond.

Bridge at the trailhead

Bridge at the trailhead

HikerHead 2  Be well.  Do good.  Strider out…

Hatcher Mountain Trail

Date: 02.26.2016

Miles:  2.8 miles           Elevation Gain:   782↓         Elev./Mi:   279        Grade:  5%          

Difficulty:  Class 1    Hiking Time: 0:58       Pace:  2.75 mph         Avg. Temp.:   42        

Section:  Cades Cove       

Hatcher Mountain Elevation

IMG_2273Hatcher Mountain Trail is a remote connector between the Cooper Road Trail and Hannah Mountain Trail.  It can be utilized in a number of loop possibilities starting both from Cades Cove and Abrams Creek Campground.  It is also one of those trails a 900 miler will hike at least twice.  The original date of this hike was part of a loop hike that included Cooper Road Trail to Hatcher Mountain Trail to Abrams Falls Trail.  There are no major water crossings nor are there any campsites on Hatcher Mountain Trail.  The closest campsite is CS#17 about a half mile down Little Bottoms Trail.

The section starts at the intersection of Cooper Road Trail and Bear Cane Trail and heads southwest in a gently steady descent and continues to be a very pleasant hike for the entire length.  At about 0.5 miles, the trail comes out on a ridge with views across to Chilhowee Mountain, which is the ridge that hosts the Foothills Parkway. At 1.0 mile, the landscape opens up to great views due to what I presume was a windstorm or tornado of some years back.  The evidence of this storm is prevalent throughout this end of the park and can be experienced  especially on the Beard Cane Trail and in several other spots.  Here the trail is in good shape with very little underbrush and quite a but of new pine tree growth.

Devastation from a past windstorm

Devastation from a past windstorm

View of Chilhowee Mountain

View of Chilhowee Mountain

Widespread Devestation

Widespread Devestation

Just past 2 miles, the views to Chilhowee Mountain continue and you can see how widespread the devastation from the windstorm was across to the next ridge.  Here also you begin to hear the river music from Abrams Creek down below as it comes into view.  The descent continues to the intersection of Little Bottoms Trail at 2.6 miles, which leads to the Abrams Creek Campground.  The trail comes gradually closer to Abrams Creek until it ends the the trail junction of Hannah Mountain Trail and Abrams Falls Trail.

 

View of Abrams Creek from Hatcher Mountain Trail

View of Abrams Creek from Hatcher Mountain Trail

HikerHead 2  Be well.  Do Good.  Strider out…