2/7/09 – Lakeshore Trail/Forney Creek Trail/Bear Creek Trail and Back – 19 Miles
My husband Jim was my hiking partner this weekend. Now he has hiked with me one weekend out of every season. What a guy! Jim is a very strong road cyclist, therefore he has the legs and the lung power for some serious hiking, but his feet usually suffer. Every time we go out hiking he remembers that he needs new hiking boots. When I fussed that he needed the proper equipment, he calmly reminded me that he had the most important item already – the right attitude. Can’t argue with that. This weekend was forecast to be beautiful warm weather or we might have stayed home, because I was at the end of a bad cold and Jim was just beginning it. I give the guy a lot of credit because he really toughed it out.
On Friday we drove towards Bryson City but took a detour into Dillsboro to visit the Dillsboro Chocolate Factory, bought way too much candy and had a relaxing cup of coffee while reading the local papers. Then we backtracked to Sylva and walked around town, stopped at the City Lights Bookstore (a special bookstore where I bought my copy of "Day Hiker's Guide" that started all this craziness) and had dinner at Lulu’s (great food and local atmosphere). Finally made it to Bryson City and our hotel room and sleep.
Early Saturday morning while we were eating breakfast with one eye open, I noticed a young couple with daypacks. We walked outside about the same time, so of course I asked the usual questions, hey, what’s your name, where are you hiking, etc. They were Shannon and Rebecca from Savannah, GA, and they planned to hike up Bear Creek Trail to Campsite 75 for an overnight. What a small world! That was our route for our dayhike. On the way to the Lakeshore Trail trailhead I stopped to get a couple of photos of the early morning glory looking over the mountains.
At the parking lot we saw Shannon and Rebecca again and they snapped a photo of Jim and me as we set out for the day. Now, I was my usual unenthusiastic self about going through the tunnel yet again, but this time it was not nearly as bad. The low early morning sun lit the interior so much that it was never truly dark. I could see my feet and the sides of the tunnel all the way. We could see where water had seeped along the walls and frozen and fallen off in big chunks.
Don't let this photo fool you - it was taken three-quarters of the way through the tunnel as I approached the far end. It's a long 'un!
By the way, Jim had a surprise for me as we got ready to leave the car – his new hiking hat! A short story: while at a craft fair in Blacksburg, VA last fall, Jim met the fellow who made my now-famous hat. (His name is Ryan and he is a fascinating guy – check out his website here.) Jim told Ryan about my adventures and how popular my hat is – it is on Ryan’s customer photographs page. Anyway, Jim bought this dragon hat so he too can be attractive and unique on the trail.
On to the hike – We walked several miles on Lakeshore Trail, a route I now know well, having been on it several times. I saw a side trail that I remembered when I was here a couple of weeks ago with Carol and Stephanie and mentally bookmarked it to look at on the way back down. At Campsite 74 we turned right onto Forney Creek Trail, walked .4 miles and turned left onto Bear Creek Trail. A large auto bridge crosses Forney Creek here – looks a might chilly, doesn’t it? We began our long walk up Bear Creek, formerly a railroad bed for Norwood Lumber Company. Somewhere between .5 miles and 1 mile, I think, is an intriguing trail off to the right, unmarked except for one of those “no horses” symbols. I made a mental note to also check it out on our way back down if there was time.
Campsite 75 is a nice little spot by Bear Creek. There was a tent set up and packs hung from the bear cables but no people moving around. We stopped for a bite to eat and then began some serious climbing (from 2700 feet to 4890 feet in 3 miles) up Jumpup Ridge. Jim is faster than I am, which makes me want to go faster than I should, the end result being that I wear myself out and get a little cranky. At the crest of Jumpup Ridge we hit some snow that was deep enough to be challenging and just wet enough to be slippery, so I slowed down even more. It was hard work, thus the short sleeves while hiking in the snow. I am not smiling.
At the intersection with Welch Ridge we kissed the ground and take a break. From here we would walk back the way we came, my longest out-and-back hike ever in the Park. Funny, the walk downhill in the snow didn’t take very long at all. We tried to step back in our footprints. Along the way we met Shannon and Rebecca. They had set up their stuff at Campsite 75 and were hiking up to Welch Ridge and over to High Rocks, site of a former fire tower and a great view of Fontana Lake. I remember it well from my first trip back in April. When Jim and I passed Campsite 75 we stopped again, this time meeting the occupants of the first tent, who apparently had been snoozing when we were there earlier. They were also heading up to High Rocks. Then look out – here comes yet another group hiking in to stay at Campsite 75. What a party! I was amazed to see that many people at one remote backcountry campsite.
I noticed that Jim was much quieter and not smiling so much on the walk down – those bad boots were giving him a tough time. He stopped at one point to apply magic duct tape on the hot spots, which was pretty much his whole foot. Needless to say, I did not investigate the first side trail that was probably a fantastic old cemetery. At the second side trail we walked about 100 feet, just far enough to see a set of picnic tables, at least six of them set end to end, and the trail kept going. Probably the world’s most important secret homesite – I’ll have to see it another time.
The tunnel finally loomed into view and we made it back to our car. There was a pizza with our name on it at Anthony’s in Bryson City and we enjoyed every bit of it. Jim and I were both extremely tired after our 19 miles and Lord only knows how we were going to get up and do it again tomorrow. We needed a big old dose of the “right attitude.”