03 February 2014

Drivin' that Train!

For more than a year I have been hearing about the abandoned steam engine in Injun Creek on the Grapeyard Trail in the Greenbrier area of the Smokies. I even came fairly close when we had a backpack planned for Kephart Shelter that got shut down due to snow - as a substitute we ended up hiking an off trail up to campsite #32 & back down. I did not realize how close I was to the train! But finally we had another snowy weekend that was just perfect for a low elevation backpack. So we tentatively made a plan to shuttle hike Baskins Creek & Grapeyard ~ 10.3 miles.

In keeping with our last-minute planning, we didn't even reserve a couple of sites at Campsite#34 until 9 AM on Saturday. As I was on my way to meet Brian at Greenier, he called to say the gate was closed. Thinking he meant the gate at the Greenbrier Ranger Station, I replied "Well, so we will have a little bit of a road walk tomorrow". To which he replied, "No, the gate is closed at Hwy 321 - we will have a helluva road walk out!" Turns out the entire length of Greenbrier was a solid sheet of ice & the Park Rangers were saying it would likely not be open soon. Hmmm....Well, what's a couple more miles? It's all good!

We parked at the trailhead for Rainbow Falls but soon figured out there was so much ice & snow & slush that it would be better to road walk Roaring Fork than struggle over Baskins. Even though it felt like most of the time I was skiiing more than hiking, we found after the Trillium trailhead there were few "human" tracks & instead found ourselves following wandering turkey tracks.....

Eventually we caught up with this big gobbler & his harem of hens:

Once they saw us they quickly took off up the hill. But I still enjoyed following their tracks.

Eventually we made it to the Jim Bales cabin at the start of the Grapeyard Ridge trail. Pretty neat cabin & I got some nice shots in the snow, but it is not original to the site - only the barn & the crib truly are.

The hike was really nice once we got past the rocky horse trail section at the beginning.  It was fun to go in & out the snow! I quickly warmed up & zipped my legs off. Asked Brian to get a picture of me to prove I was wearing shorts in the snow. This is what I got:

Interesting perspective. Did I mention that Brian is really tall?

By the time we got to #34 it had cooled back down & I was forced to add layers back. We were somewhat taken aback to turn the corner to find the campsite full of people & tents! Apparently there were some other last minute backpackers scrolling the GSMNP reservations site this morning as well. I guess I should not have been surprised though - this is one of the most accessible sites if you take the off trail up from the Ranger Station. We looked around a little & luckily found a small flat spot down by the creek that even already had a fire ring. Perfect!

Next morning we got a fairly early start as I was impatient to find the engine. After a steep knee pounding descent to Injun Creek, I got my wish. It is so cool! I apologize in advance for all the photos I took of it, but I could have spent all day in the creek......

And my absolute favorite:

So the story goes, it was a Nichols-Shepherd self propelled tractor used  for powering sawmills & had been used at a sawmill on  Rhododendron Creek to cut timbers for a school in Greenbrier. Around the year 1920, as it was being driven home the driver came too close to the edge of the creek & rolled it over the bank. Some of the wreckage was salvaged but the boiler, wheels & other components such as gears were left behind.

The rest of the trail was rather anticlimatic after the steam engine, although we did cross several old homestites - mostly just old rock walls & such.
 Trouble ahead....trouble behind....

Eventually we found ourselves on the still ice-encased Greenbrier Road. 

Nothing like a several mile road walk to end a nice backpack trip, but with the road closed we at least did not have to worry about traffic!

No comments:

Post a Comment