Deep Creek Section – 11/21/08 – Thomas Divide Trail/Deeplow Gap Trail/Indian Creek Motor Trail/Stone Pile Gap Trail/Indian Creek Trail/Deep Creek Trail – 17 miles
Today was another opportunity to hike with Danny Bernstein and her husband, Lenny, in the Deep Creek area of the Park as we all are working on our Smokies 900 miles. We wanted to be on the trail by 8:00 a.m. for a long day. Heading out the hotel door to put things in my car, I saw the flags flapping briskly and flakes floating. Yikes! This suggested that we would encounter some snow, which could only mean that I had to put on my hiking boots instead of my trail runners. I had brought my boots inside the hotel room in hopes of drying them out some after the Eagle Creek sojourn, but they were not quite dry. Sigh…my enthusiasm for the day sputtered and struggled to rekindle.
And I must tell you that although it was a great day to be outside, it was a tough hike for me. I had the learning curve for hiking in the coldest weather yet, my feet were cold and wet all day, and it was the third day of strenuous hiking and I was tired. The snow was only a couple of inches deep but it was wet and clung to our boots and pants legs in big clumps. The tips of my hiking poles were big blobs of ice. Our route consisted of ups and downs and some out-and-backs, so psychologically it was challenging. It was hard to keep track of where the halfway point was so that I could look forward to being in the home stretch.
All this debate was going on in my head, but the company was awesome and we did have a great time. Danny and I chattered constantly (Lenny kept a safe distance ahead of us to enjoy some peace and quiet). The snow was present from the first steps on the trail and the rhododendron leaves confirmed the cold temperatures. (The leaves curl up with the cold – the tighter the curl, the colder the air.) Snowy woods are always charming. You can see the outlines of fallen trees and the contours of the land as it climbs sharply up or falls steeply away.
We began our hike at the Thomas Divide trailhead and the route constantly changed at trail intersections (the longest section was only 2.4 miles) so we were continually surprised at the good time we were making. (If you are looking at Etnier’s “Day Hiker’s Guide” our route was roughly Hike #6 in the Deep Creek section, with a little detour at the end.) The sky was cloudy, though, with little sunshine to warm us up, so break times were short. At one point we hunkered down in the hole left by a big tree blowdown to escape the cold breeze.
We returned on Thomas Divide Trail to the Stone Pile Gap intersection and Danny continued on back to her car, while Lenny and I hiked Stone Pile Gap over to Indian Creek Trail. Stone Pile Gap is a narrow connector trail with a picturesque bridge crossing near the Indian Creek intersection. From here it is about a one-mile walk on wide service roads back to the Deep Creek area parking lot. Along here Lenny and I encountered an interesting sight – a big pile of feathers (probably grouse) and a skinny, long T-shaped bone, picked nearly clean but with a little red meat on it. No carcass, no feet, no head. Looked like it had just happened…Hmmmm….
I paused for a photo or two of Indian Creek Falls. There are several waterfalls in the Deep Creek area that are within an easy walk. This one is lovely in spring, too, with more water.
Danny had picked up her car and driven to where mine was parked and she walked up the trail to meet us. She and Lenny were staying another night at the hotel, but my plan was to head to Virginia Tech to stay with friends and see the Hokies play football (we won). I warmed up with a quick shower in their room and then got in the car to drive…again. All in all, a challenging hike and a fantastic feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day.
After a day's walk everything has twice its usual value. ~George Macauley Trevelyan