As I am typing this I have a big ol' fire roaring in the woodstove to dry out my boots so I can hopefully get enough Shoe Goo on them to survive some potential water crossings for a Wednesday birthday hike. I am a big fan of Hi Tech as I can usually take them right out the box & hit the trail with little to no break in but they just don't seem to last. This pair is only a little over a year old & the rubber on the toe is separating just enough to let water/snow in, as I found out this past Black Friday.
I was lucky enough to enjoy a great White Friday over in the Smokies.
After being snowed in for a couple of days & overeating in the American tradition, I was more than ready to get out & get some new miles. The original plan was to hit Clingmans Dome (since the road closes for winter each December this would be the last chance) & get in a good downhill hike & hopefully see some snow. The problem was the huge amount of snow & ice was causing road closures everywhere in the Park... Not to mention my steep driveway was a solid sheet of ice & I was not sure of the new Element's ability to skate down it yet! I met my hiking buddy Harold at Sugarlands mid morning to work out a plan of attack - both of us hoping the roads would be open by the time we got there. They were, but when we checked with Backcountry they said there was 8-12" of snow at Clingmans & Harold had forgotten his gaiters. Everything happens for a reason, so we decided to hike Jakes Creek-Meigs Mtn-Lumber Ridge. The way this hike really worked out was as I was leaving the Park Service was closing Hwy 441, which would have meant if we had done Clingmans down one of our vehicle would have been locked behind the gate!
We started out from Elkmont at Jakes Creek & I was surprised at the number of people out, although it was quite a pretty day. The snow was not very deep & we followed footprints for a while. Once we made it past the intersection to Meigs Mtn Trail Harold noticed we were making the only human footprints on the trail, but there were plenty of other tracks. Some decidedly looked like bear, but I am not sure if it was a few bears or just one bear crossing the trail several times! We noticed some tracks followed the trail continuously - a small cat or coyote?-and a lot of sign of boar.
The trail was just beautiful!
When we made it to the intersection of Curry Mtn trail I was surprised to see people! I quickly found out why as the Huskey cemetery was very close & is apparently a destination. The light & shadows were very nice on the snow:
As soon as we were past the cemetery we lost "human" tracks again until we came to the intersection with Meigs Creek trail. We stopped for a snack & noticed many footprints heading down a track across from the trail. There was no trail shown on either the $1 map or the National Geo, but we decided there were too many prints heading down in the new snow so there had to be something good down there. And now we finally get to the title of this post. The "trail" heading down was super steep & a good mix of mud & snow/slush. As I finally made it to the bottom after self-arresting a few times with my trusty MSR Denali poles, I heard that awful sound behind me. The thud when someone behind you slides & falls. The moment you just cringe & wait to see if they take you out as well. Well, Harold didn't take me out, but he stood up & proclaimed "This hill is slicker than cat shit on linoleum" so we promptly named it Cat Shit Hill. I am pretty sure the name is not taken...
|Ok, we staged this shot cuz I didn't take one going down, |
but it's still funny!
We followed the trail down a long ways - far further than I expected - yet the foot tracks continued on. This is when I realized how much cold water was making it into my boots! We soon realized we were walking on an old railroad grade: a fact confirmed when we found a few sections of old rail. This "off trail" was not well maintained & we soon came to a crossing that we were not willing to cross.
|Trail? What trail?|
Without knowing where or how far the trail went & because my feet were getting wetter & colder, we decided to wait for a better day to explore. (Note: Since then I found out this is the Spruce Flats manway with 3-4 water crossings that eventually ends at the small waterfall at Tremont - definitely will do this loop one day!)
Once we were on Lumber Ridge Trail we started experiencing a more southern aspect & pine forests with less snow. Walking on pine needles is much like walking on a shag carpet as far as I am concerned & I love it! I highly recommend this section of trail for families or someone wanting to experience a good trail without extreme climbs or descents. The trail just rolls along & there were some good winter views along the way.
|Harold taking it all in.....|
We started the descent back down to Tremont & finished the day with daylight to spare. After a bit of a slippery trip back to Elkmont (the roads were starting to ice again) I picked the E back up for the trip back home.
Thinking I may have a new post Thanksgiving tradition.....