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Little Brier Gap to Walker Sister’s Place – GSMNP

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The trail head is located just north of MetCalf Bottoms picnic area.  It starts off at an old school house where classes were from taught from 1882 till 1935.

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The trail follows along side a small branch called Little Brier Branch as it gradually climbs out of the hollow.  At about six-tenths of a mile, you will reach a foot bridge.

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At about 1.1 miles you will reach the side trail that leads over to the Walker’s Sister Place a short distance away.

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Old Spring House.

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This was again a very pleasurable hike and it’s good to be able to learn about some of the history of the Great Smoky Mountains area.  Temperatures were perfect and nothing but sun in the sky.  For anyone interested in the history of the Walker Sister’s Place, I’ve quoted some information below, thanks for reading folks!

 

Little Green Brier achieved a degree of national fame as a result of the Walker Sisters. The five spinster sisters who lived here refused to sell their 123-acre farm to the national park, and were able to maintain their traditional mountain life into the 1960’s.

John Walker, a Union Army veteran, and his wife, Margaret, moved onto the homestead in 1870. Over the years, as his family grew to eleven children, John expanded the cabin and made several improvements to the farm. At one point the homestead consisted of several outbuildings, including a barn, blacksmith shop, applehouse, springhouse, smokehouse, pig pen, corn crib and a small tub mill. Today, only the cabin, springhouse and corn crib survive at the site.

In 1909 Walker deeded the land to his youngest son, Giles, and five of his daughters; Margaret (1870-1962), Martha (1877-1951), Nancy (1880-1931), Louisa (1882-1964) and Hettie (1889-1947). By this time the other children were already married and had moved away. After John died in 1921 the farm was passed to the five daughters (later in that same year Giles would deed his share of the land over to his sisters).

While the surrounding mountain communities slowly began to modernize after World War I, the Walker Sisters continued to pursue their traditional way of life, which emphasized independence and self-reliance. The five sisters would continue to raise sheep, grow crops, plow their own fields and make their own clothes from the wool and cotton they raised.

Change, however, would be forced upon the Walker Sisters. In the 1930s the Great Smoky Mountains Park Commission, responsible for purchasing property for the new national park, tried to persuade the sisters to sell their farm. Realizing that the park was wading into a public relations minefield, GSMNP Superintendent Ross Eakin sent a memorandum to the Director of the National Park Service on Nov. 18, 1939, stating; “These old women are ‘rooted to the soil.’ We have always understood they were to be permitted to spend the rest of their lives on their property. . . . If they were ejected from the park we should be subject to severe criticism, and in my opinion, justly so.”

Finally, in late 1940, faced with a condemnation suit, the Walker Sisters accepted $4,750 for their land, provided they were “allowed to reserve a life estate and the use of the land for and during the life of the five sisters.” On January 22, 1941, ownership of the Walker Sisters’ land finally passed to the national park. A local legend claims that President Franklin Roosevelt paid a visit to the sisters and convinced them to sell the farm to the new park. Although Roosevelt was in the area to dedicate the national park in 1940, there’s no evidence of him having visited the sisters.

The National Park Service assumed control of the land when Louisa, the last of the Walker Sisters, died in 1964. The National Park Service restored the cabin in 1976, and in that same year, all three surviving structures on the site were placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Porter’s Creek Trail – GSMNP

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Today’s been a good day for a hike!  Porter’s Creek Trail was the trail and Fern Branch Falls the destination.  This trailhead is very close to another great trail called Ramsey Cascades.  Oh, and by the way, Ramsey’s is closed (trail maintenance?) so call the park before heading over if you have plans to do that particular trail.  Also, Alum Cave Trail is still closed Monday through Thursdays for trail maintenance.  Ok, enough about closed trails!

Where was I….oh, Porter’s Creek Trail!  The first mile or so of the trail goes along an old road that runs next to Porter’s Creek.  You will pass by some stone walls on your right at about 2/3 of the way in.  This is the old homestead of Elbert Cantrell.  Just pass the homstead you will see Ownby Cemetary on your right

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At the 1 mile mark, the old road turns into an actual trail and there’s a spur trail to the right that leads to the John Messer farm site.

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Pic’s along the way…

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At 1.6 miles you will cross a footbridge.  I kept trying to get a shot that would make this bridge look more menacing but I couldn’t…It was a little nerve racking crossing it.  It’s a lot higher off the creek than it looks in the middle.  All was well, no rescue of a clumsy hiker needed today!

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At 2 miles, I finally reach my destination, Fern Branch Falls.  There was barely a trickle at the very top.  Sorry pic is zoomed out.  I had read that the falls is pretty spectacular when there’s higher water flows, but honestly didn’t expect much with the lack of rain we’ve had lately.  Not disappointed, I’m sure it’ll start flowing when it gets ready.

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Did I say the trail was all up from the very beginning?  Well, it was.  Only 2 miles in, 2 miles out for a total 4 miles.  There were a lot of people on the trail today and I had the pleasure of speaking to a few.

Thank you all for reading!

Elkmont Campground / Cucumber Gap Loop Trail

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Last night, I tent camped at Elkmont Campground in the Smokys.  I’ve had friends that have stayed there so I thought I’d give it a go.  I really enjoyed it a lot.  With no cell signal or wifi, I was absolutely forced to just enjoy the evening watching the fire and relaxing.  The campground sits right next to my planned hike for the following day so it made sense to tent camp at Elkmont, pack up the next morning and head to the trailhead.

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I won’t bore you with a history lesson.  Google can teach you about the area if you’re interested in learning more about Elkmont.  Part of the reasons for this trail and my upcoming couple of hikes is the history around the area.  There are many old structures at the start and end of this trail that are really cool to see.  I never knew this “Elkmont Ghost Town” existed.

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My first hike for this week is the Cucumber Gap Loop Trail.  The trail is a total of ~5.7 miles and gains around 800 feet in elevation, about 400 of that feet is in 1 mile.  It’s rated moderate mostly because of the distance and the elevation.

The trail starts on Little River trail and runs adjacent to Little River for the first 2.5 miles and is absolutely beautiful.

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At 2.5 miles the trail intersects with the Cucumber Gap Trail for the remaining portion of the trail.  This second half makes a fairly steep climb through the forest.  It’s eerily quite after hiking the first half next to the sounds of the river.  There are a lot of roots on this section and they seemed to like tripping me every other step!

Thanks for reading folks!

Headed to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

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Hello all!  Hiking season is upon us and I’m happy to be heading out for a little solo adventuring this coming week.  Destination GSMNP.  I’ve been wanting to do a trip like this for the past couple of years and I’m glad to finally be making it a reality.

Depending on signal/wifi, I’ll be trying to do trail reports daily.

Chimney Top’s Trail GSMNP

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This Sunday, the son and I decided to take a road trip over to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and hike the Chimney Top’s Trail. I’ve been itching to do this trail for some time and with it being only 4 miles round trip, it was about the length we needed so that we could be back earlier Sunday evening.

The trail climbs about 1,400 feet in 2 miles and definitely makes for a steep trail. With all the rain from the previous day the trail was muddy in spots, but I have to say the trail crews have been busy and have made a lot of improvements. The construction is still in progress. The Trails Forever program is a cool program that’s getting this type of work done on many of the trails within the GSMNP. Check them out here.

For most of the hike, it was really foggy with a little drizzle. I was at first disappointed that we wouldn’t have the great views, but the fog actually added to the experience of the trail and I’m so glad we decided to go ahead and do it regardless of the weather. If you wait for the weather, you’ll never do anything! Below are some pics along the way…

Map of the area.

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Below is the new bridge that washed out in 2013.

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At this point you make a right to go on up to the Chimney Tops.  If you stay straight, you’ll come out at Newfound Gap and can continue out on the Appalachian trail towards Charlie’s Bunion.

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AJ exploring the base of the rock climb to the top.

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On the way back down, the sun starts to shine through the clouds.

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Here’s a Runkeeper of the hike.  Short video below.  Thanks for dropping by!

Mt. Leconte via Rainbow Falls

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Hello folks!  Just wanted to post on our most recent hike to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  This time, we planned a trip to hike Mt. Leconte via the Rainbow Falls trail and then back down the Bullhead trail.  We have both done Alum Cave trail, so we thought we’d try a couple different trails and start to knock off all the trails leading to Leconte.  We have two more left, Trillium and Boulevard.  We’re planning on doing those two early spring.

The weather was a bit cold at the start of this trip, but overall it was great.  Leconte still had about a 1/4 inch of snow and some ice but other than a few slips the trail wasn’t too bad.  The skies were clear, making for some good views on the way and especially good views up top at Myrtle Point and the Clifftops area.  The temperatures in the morning were in the low 20’s and topped out in the mid 40’s/50’s during the day.

I have to tell you, Tommy and I have both been training fairly hard to get ready for this trip.  We’ve both been walking/jogging, doing stair steps, going to the gym, etc.. and I believe it paid off.  The whole way up Rainbow we felt really good and would often just take 30-40 seconds stops to take in everything and have a quick breather, then we would move on.  Recovery times have definitely improved!  The length of Rainbow Falls trail is about 6.6 miles to the Mt. Leconte Lodge and took us around 4 1/2 hours to complete.  We didn’t break any speed records for sure, but we had a good time and it seemed a lot easier than similar hikes (Alum trail) in the past.

I last hiked the mountain in 2011 via the Alum Trail and it was good to be back on the mountain and at Leconte Lodge again.  I always enjoy the feeling you get when you arrive in the area and see the set of stairs leading down to the cabins.

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Coming up Rainbow Falls Trail:

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Rainbow Falls pictured below. Not a lot of water flow this time of year.

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One of the larger cabins at Mt. Leconte.

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After sitting down in the sun at a picnic table and eating some grub (not to mention grabbing this years Bandana and patch for souvenirs), we were ready to hike up to the summit, place our rock and continue out to Myrtle Point.

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Myrtle Point never fails to impress me.  On a clear day, you can see for miles and it’s just breath taking.  We spent about an hour taking in the views, having some more snacks, and just relaxing with the boots off!

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We backtracked towards the lodge and took the spur trail off to the Cliff Tops.

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Tommy enjoying the view right before the Cliff Tops.

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We returned back to the Leconte Lodge area and started the trip back down the mountain via the Bullhead Trail.  At this point we had put in a little over 8 miles and had 6.8 miles left to the trailhead.  Bullhead was difficult because of all the leaves covering the trail.  This made it hard to see all the loose rocks (which there were a lot of) and roots causing a slow and stumbling trip down the mountain.

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At about 6.4 miles Bullhead intersects with the Old Sugarlands Trail.  .4 miles on the Sugarlands Trail to right takes you to the parking lot.  The overall hiking time was about 9 1/2 hours with a total trip time of 12 hours.  We were quickly losing daylight hours and made it back to the car about 30 minutes before nightfall.  The longest I’ve hiked in one day previously had been 13 miles.  I got to say, I was ready to be back to the car after 15 miles of hiking.  We had a great time though and can’t wait to see what the next adventure has in store for us!

Check out the video below (video includes some footage from Cades Cove on the previous day):

-David
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Upcoming hike – Mt. Leconte

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Me and the other guys have had a Mt. Leconte trip in the works for months now with a date tentatively set for the morning of October 26th.  We were concerned that the National Parks would be closed during this time because of the partial Government Shutdown, but now that they are back open for business, we’ll be able to head out next week for our trip!

Since we’ve all been to Leconte before via the Alum Cave trail, we’ve decided to take a couple different routes this time.  We’ll be summiting Leconte via the Rainbow Falls trailhead and returning via the Bullhead trail.  This trip will be the longest mile wise that I’ve done in one day at approximately 16 miles!  I’ll be sure and get a trip report together afterwards.

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