Sunday, July 15, 2012

Wild Women of Deep Creek

Wild Women of Deep Creek – 6/2/12 - Deep Creek Trail/Indian Creek Trail/Martins Gap Trail/Sunkota Ridge Trail/Loop Trail/Indian Creek Trail/Deep Creek Trail Loop – 13 Miles

Another adventur- ous weekend for the Wild Women, this time based in another of my favorite camp- grounds of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Deep Creek.  The crew:  Leida, Karen, me, Ellen, Joan and Carol.  

Leida, Ellen and Joan are WW veterans.  Karen is Ellen's neighbor, likes hiking and camping.  Carol is a long-time Girl Scout buddy of mine and an experienced backpacker.  So no real newbies this time, but still an opportunity to make new friends in the outdoors. 

We set up camp on two sites right beside the creek on Friday afternoon – then rain began to pour.  We went into Bryson City, got a rain poncho for Ellen, and then to pass the time we drove out to the Lakeshore area of the Park via the Road to Nowhere.  My idea was to just show the Wild Women the tunnel where the road ends and tell them the background story, the initial plan to build a road along the north shore of Fontana Lake and the subsequent decision to abandon it.  We walked up to the entrance to the tunnel, as spooky to me as ever, and peered through to the small glow of light at the other end.  Then… they began to walk right through.  I was astounded that they were not afraid, as I certainly had been the first two or three times I encountered it.  Remember, these gals worry constantly about bears behind every tree.  Apparently they did not think bears lurked in pitch black tunnels.  Moreover, they were wearing sandals which must be protection against icky snakes and creepy-crawlies.

But we fearlessly walked through the tunnel, and at the far end Karen climbed up on top of it to see what she could see.  We walked a few dozen yards beyond until the wide road bed narrowed, then turned and walked back through the tunnel.  And it had stopped raining and the sun was beaming.

(A more in-depth article on the history of the Road to Nowhere is here.)

Back in town, Carol arrived, we had Anthony’s pizza for dinner, then headed back to camp for a small campfire before snoozing.  Big plans tomorrow!

Morning, an elaborate breakfast of eggs, bagels, fruit, etc.  Someone asked me if this was a lot different than what we eat on a back- packing trip and I laughed.  On backpacking trips most people don’t even bother to light a stove for hot water.  Peanut butter spread on a granola bar is elaborate. 

Several hiking options:  I chose a 13-mile loop route that efficiently covered a portion of the Deep Creek trail map, a route that Carol had hiked with me before.  She planned a loop route that matched mine for the first few miles; then when I turned left, she turned right so she could cover some new miles.  So we hiked side-by-side loops with a shared central trail, like a butterfly with wings.  

The remaining four women planned a loop that passed by the waterfalls on Deep Creek Trail, Indian Creek Trail and Juney Whank Falls Trail. 

Carol and I headed out first on Deep Creek Trail right out of the campground.  Tom Branch Falls is just .2 miles from the trailhead. 

A right turn onto Indian Creek Trail brought us almost immed- iately to Indian Creek Falls, looking robust today.  As we paused here we met a group of a dozen hikers from Haywood County (I think?).

We passed Stone Pile Gap Trail on the right where Carol would close her loop hike, and then the Loop Trail on the left where I would close mine.  Ten minutes later we saw a “no horses” sign that indicates a cemetery.   
I had done some research online and had my eyes open for two cemeteries along Indian Creek Trail, and this was the first one, the Laney Cemetery.  Most graves were marked with bare rough stones.

Grave marker for Liza Conner Parris, born 1841, died 1918, possibly a victim of the flu epidemic of 1918?

At the intersection of Indian Creek Trail and Deeplow Gap, Carol and I parted ways.  I was at this intersection in April 2012 during my birthday solo backpacking trip.  Carol turned right onto Deeplow Gap and I continued on up Indian Creek Trail looking for the second cemetery I had read about.  Unfortunately, I didn’t find it, but gave up the search and settled in to enjoy the climb up Martins Gap Trail to Sunkota Ridge. 

A tree burl

New spring green on the rhodo- dendrons

Lovely green ferns

My mom called this running cedar.  She would wind it around a wreath form to make a Christmas wreath for the front door.

Flame azalea

At the intersection of Martins Gap Trail and Sunkota Ridge I stopped for a short lunch.  Just a couple of minutes later a fellow came running up behind me, waved and said hello, and turned to run back down.  The Deep Creek area is very close to the town of Bryson City, close enough that residents consider it like a town park, and it is heavily but lovingly used by runners and walkers for daily exercise.  I have to remember that I am not quite in the “back of beyond” here. 

After my brief rest I resumed the last bit of climbing on Sunkota Ridge before the big downhill back to Deep Creek.  Now, do I hear voices?  Hey, it’s the Haywood Hikers, they’re hiking the same loop in the reverse direction. 

It’s a long way down Sunkota Ridge, 3.8 miles, and then it tees into the center of the one-mile Loop Trail.  Since I’m surreptiously marking a second map of the Smokies 900, here I decided to hike the right half of the Loop Trail down to Deep Creek, then returned and hiked down the other half to Indian Creek Trail and continued on backtracking to the campground. 

An impressive blowdown on the Loop Trail.  Always wonder what it would be like to see this happen.

In mid- afternoon I turned back onto Deep Creek Trail for my last mile.  The parade of tubing folks was steady, toting or dragging their tubes, some dads carrying kids on their shoulders.  For the first float down the creek, people hike more than a half a mile to the farthest put-in.  Each subsequent float is shorter as the thrill of the ride is eclipsed by the work of the hike. 

I was the last hiker to make it back to camp.  Everyone was set up down at the creek, trying to unwind.  (It was working.)  We compared adventures of the day – Carol saw snakes, the other gals explored a cemetery. 

Karen, Joan and me

Watching the tubers go by – most of the adults asked for a beer

Another in my series of “feet first” photos

After a couple of hours of doing absolutely nothing, Leida gave us our assign- ments for cooking dinner:  a delicious stew in one Dutch oven and my fabulous “bear scat” cake in another one.  Ellen threw some veggies wrapped in foil on the coals just in case the main course did not turn out as advertised.  I must say that the stew was the most delicious dish I have ever tasted and everyone had seconds. 

My wild women friends are just wonderful.  They are learning more with each trip and I think they are ready to take off on their own.  Gee, I hope they invite me!

“Don’t wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful.” ~Mark Victor Hansen

1 comment:

Linda W. said...

How great to have a group of women to go hiking and camping with! I need to put together a group of my own.