I spent the night at Danny and Lenny’s home and we left early for the long drive to the Tennessee side of the Smokies. The forecast was for rain today and tomorrow, a hope of not-rain on Sunday. We met Judy at the Sugarlands VC, dropped two cars at the Sinks, and drove to the Bote Mountain trailhead. Danny has finished all of the Smokies 900 now and I needed the Lumber Ridge section of today’s route. Judy needed to cover everything but Meigs Creek (she and I did that trail together in January) and Lenny needed nearly everything, I think. Anyway, an easy to moderate hike plan for today. And although it was overcast, it never really rained.
We headed up Bote Mountain, chattering along, and quickly reached the West Prong intersection. Danny and I sat down while Lenny and Judy went .3 miles further to tag up with Finley Cane Trail. Then we all headed down West Prong, a densely wooded trail that winds down to Campsite 18, where we paused for “elevensies.” Resuming our walking, we startled two white-tailed deer (and vice versa). Was this near the place where I thought I saw two bears back in October when I hiked this trail with Mike?
As we neared the end of West Prong Trail we saw a couple of well-worn side trails, and I thought I saw people at a campsite, although there is not one shown on the Park map. This was one of those days when I had not read the trail descriptions in “Hiking Trails of the Smokies.” We quickly clued in that we were looking at flowers and therefore a cemetery. We followed one of the side trails and indeed it is a large cemetery enclosed by a fence and a gate, obviously well maintained and often visited. In addition to the photos here, there were many infant graves and a couple side by side with headstones marked “Mama” and “Papa”. This cemetery is just a short walk from the trailhead on Tremont Road, so even if you’re not a hiker, take the time to go check it out, and be sure to read the fascinating narrative about Vannie Cook in the “brown book” . Whenever I pause at a cemetery in the Smokies I feel as though I am visiting my parents’ gravesites.
We stopped briefly at the Tremont Institute gift shop. While Danny chatted with the employees, the shop was suddenly overrun by middle school children and Judy and I escaped outside. There we met one of the adults attached to the school group that was there for a field trip for several days. Hey, my school never took us to the Smokies! All we got was Myrtle Beach for the senior class trip (and there is a pact not to confess anything…)
Funny, I don’t remember much of anything about the long, slow climb up Lumber Ridge Trail. Maybe I was just looking forward to the challenges of Meigs Creek Trail again…and it did not disappoint. The 18 creek crossings were still there, about the same as when we hopped them in January. As you can see, Danny and Lenny are not the rock hopping type, preferring to avoid wobbly and slippery rocks and just get wet. This was the first time we were facing moving water since our Hazel Creek adventure and Judy was a little apprehensive, but she sucked it up and hopped them all.
At the end of Meigs Creeks Trail, of course, is the Sinks. Danny and Lenny went on to our motel in Townsend, while Judy and I drove towards Cades Cove so I could pick up a loose thread trail called Crib Gap. We parked one car at the Turkeypen Ridge parking area and then started from the Cades Cove picnic area on Anthony Creek Trail, picking up Crib Gap Trail after only a short distance. For all you critics who think we just churn out the miles, it is near here that we stopped to smell the flowers.
I must report that Crib Gap Trail is a boring horse trail (well, we did see one old chimney a few hundred feet away but did not investigate). It crosses Laurel Creek Road and continues to be a boring horse trail, always within earshot of traffic. The only interesting fact noted was that the decaying leaves seemed to glow like a silvery carpet, perhaps because of the late afternoon light. When we reached the intersection with Turkeypen, we opted to follow the unnamed horse option that passes through a tunnel under Laurel Creek Road, then turns right on Finley Cane Trail and goes back to the parking area by the road.
So much for Crib Gap Trail! Now…what’s for dinner?