Only one trail today, Rough Fork. We estimated a low of about 30 degrees last night, which I have decided is about my own personal low until I am willing to carry more clothing. And wouldn’t you know it? Ten minutes into our steep pull up Rough Fork, we were once again ditching the outer layers. I love hiking! As long as you keep moving, you can regulate to your comfort level no matter what the air temp is.
Once we passed the junction with Caldwell Fork Trail all three of us were in familiar territory – Danny has completed the Smokies 900, of course, and Carolyn and I were here together back in July of '08. In the hazy heat and thick vegetation of summer I didn’t notice this Dutchman’s Pipe vine, but I should look for it again during bloom time. The ropelike vines are wonderful, but I’d love to see a bloom too.
The last couple of miles of Rough Fork flatten out to a wide road bed. We enjoyed lovely views of Big Spruce Ridge in the foreground, which separates the Straight Creek and Caldwell Fork drainages. In the background is (I think) Maggot Ridge and behind it is Little Spruce Ridge. Don’t you wish you could have served on the nomenclature committee with Horace Kephart and George Masa when the Park was being formed? (Note: great book ~ Place Names of the Smokies by Allen R. Coggins)
Snack break - best seat in the house
Way too soon we arrived at Polls Gap, the end of Rough Fork Trail. It was time to leave our old friends, the Smokies trails, and tramp a few miles on the pavement and out of the Park’s boundaries. We felt a little tug of sadness as we walked away.
Following that double yellow blaze
Heintooga Ridge Road is a spur road of the Blue Ridge Parkway, normally closed after October 31, but cars today indicated that the gate was still open. The lucky ones who slipped in could still enjoy the overlooks from the comfort of their auto- mobiles. I have also been guilty of cruising through some overlooks, sometimes not even rolling down the window to inhale the mountain air; however, walking on the road today brought a new perspective. I had not been looking forward to this part – and it is still not my favorite – but I gained an appreciation for those overlooks as we paused, read the signs, and breathed.
It seemed that we trudged a long time in the sunshine, yet suddenly Heintooga was joining the Parkway. Our cars were waiting for us less than a mile northbound and it was still only midafternoon. We could get home for supper! Funny, at the end of every hike we are so glad to see the cars, but on the drive home we are already comparing notes and planning new adventures.
(Click here to read Danny's blog about our day.)
Anybody who says the scenery gets old is not paying attention ~ Cecil Rowe, oldest person to complete the Smokies 900 (age 78)