Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Living It Up

Whittier Weekend – Day One - 1/23/09 – Deep Creek Horse Trail/Deep Creek Trail/Juney Whank Falls – 4 Miles (I Think) 

  After a few hundred thousand emails, plans were made between Carol, Stephanie, Taryn and me for a hiking weekend in the Deep Creek area of the Smokies. Now, before I describe the hiking, let me say that the highlight of the trip was our accommodations. Until now I have used Smokies campgrounds and inexpensive hotels, but with the four of us it was time for some high living. Through a hiking friend on Trip Advisor’s Great Smoky Mountains forum, I splurged on a cabin called Bear Necessities in Whittier, NC. While it’s a little bit of a drive to and from Deep Creek, take a look at the website and you’ll see why it is so special. Two words: HOT TUB.

At the last moment Taryn was feeling under the weather, so Carol, Stephanie and I left Charlotte on Friday morning. Our first order of business was to locate the cabin in daylight. We wound our way up a snowy road to a majestic ridge and dumped our stuff at this fantastic spot, noting the view that we would have to hurry back to. Then we headed for Deep Creek.

The hiking agenda was an easy walk with difficult-to-calculate mileage. There are multiple short trails to access Juney Whank Falls and I tagged them all. We started out on the Deep Creek Horse Trail, walked down to the bridge in front of the falls, and turned back and continued on to the end of the horse trail. A red-tailed hawk flew alongside us for a time, going a hundred feet or so ahead of us through the trees, stopping, then taking off again as we passed, stopping again. It did this four or five times before finally sailing out of sight. We took it as a good sign for our weekend aventures.

Deep Creek Horse Trail is nothing to write extensively about, just a good warm-up for this day and something for us anal-retentive map completers to walk on. Icy leaves crunched under our feet and we did have to watch our step. Here Carol demonstrates a slip-and-fall technique (foreshadowing for tomorrow?)

At the end of the horse trail we turned right onto Deep Creek Trail, heading back towards the parking area. Tom Branch Falls was looking frosty today. Before the parking area there was another side trail to Juney Whank Falls, so we took this, went over the bridge to the falls again and then back on the horse trail again back to our car. (The next day I saw yet another side trail to the falls and ran up it and then back down it to make sure I had completed them all.)

We had a phone message from Taryn that she still was not feeling well and would get back to us in the morning as to whether she felt up to joining us. We went into Bryson City looking for some dinner and finally found it at Jimmy Mac’s. I had the best chicken sandwich with mushrooms and melted cheddar that I have ever had in my entire life. Then we found our way in the dark back to our first class cabin on the mountain, where we jumped in the hot tub, cranked up the bubbles and looked at the stars up above and the human lights down below. Now this is the hiking life!

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