The quest was actually started on a cold, rainy Saturday when I accompanied Brian to scout out a hike he was planning in January for the Smoky Mtn Hiking Club. We were searching for Courthouse Rock & Quilliam Cave in GSMNP. I was somewhat surprised that this off trail was not listed in Kenneth Wise's "Hiking Trails of the Great Smoky Mountains" as I have found that book an indispensable guide. (Note: If you have a copy don't even lend it out - it is nearly impossible to find anymore!) Regardless, Brian had been once before & we look forward to any excuse to wander in the woods so off we went....
We found the correct pull-off quite easily & a well trod path led up to the old roadbed in the woods. Which way - north or south? When in doubt, always head uphill (because it's never the easy path, right?). So we did. Now it got fun as there were so many trails heading off the old road to choose from. We started up one that quickly faded out & backtracked to try again. Next trail was more defined & we contoured around past an old homesite that was pretty cool. We had a couple of easy creek crossings & dropped onto a very well defined trail that (you guessed it!) led upwards.
We then followed the trail behind the old chimney as that was the one that should take us to Courthouse Rock & the cave. We found a side trail going to an overlook that would likely have great views if it was not so misty & rainy. We continued onward & upward & soon crossed the creek only to lose the main trail. After climbing over trees & sliding around in the mud for a while, we decided to head back down to try again another day when visibility was a little better. Following the trail back we mentally marked where it split off the old roadbed. I was surprised at how well hidden it was - maybe an attempt to keep it not too easily accessible?
Despite the lack of views, I still saw a few cool things:
Stay tuned for Part 2 - when we actually make it!