Baskins Creek Trail

Baskins Creek Trail
Baskins Creek Trail

Baskins Creek Trail
New Trail  Miles: 2.7
Total Trail miles: 5.4
Date Hiked: August 25, 2013

Today was Hike #1 of my goal to get in at least 20 days of hiking before moving to Atlanta. I chose the Baskins Creek Trail  because of the shorter length. I haven’t done much hiking or any exercise for that matter and really just wanted something a little easier. Plus there was the added bonus of their being a waterfall in the middle of the hike. And who wouldn’t want to see a waterfall?

The trail basically starts at the beginning of the Roaring Fork Motor Trail which is a one way road that goes through the forest. The trail ends at about half way through the one way road. To get to the Baskins Creek Trail I parked on the left side of the road right where the one way road starts and walked 2/10 of a mile to where the trail starts. There is a spot for one maybe two cars at the trail head but if there is not then you are forced to drive the one way road.

I didn’t get started hiking until about 11:15. Luckily for an August day it wasn’t too hot already. I have to say that there is nothing spectacular about this trail. And by spectacular I mean mountain top views with grand vistas. Any trail in the Smokies is always amazing to me. I was hoping that I might see a few summer wildflowers but I must have picked the wrong trail for that.

Baskins Creek Falls
Baskins Creek Falls

About midway through the hike there is a side trail that takes you to Baskins Creek Falls. It’s a pretty easy side trail until you get close to the falls and then it gets rockier and steeper and I have no doubt really slippery if it’s been raining out. If you go to the falls make sure that you cross to the other side so that you can see the whole thing. I am glad there was someone there to tell me that or I would have missed it.

After a short break and a snack I headed back to finish the trail. At the end of the trail there is a cemetery. You can’t wander through this one like you can other cemteries. There is a sign that says it is closed for restoration. But I think the signs have been up there for a while. I took another short break at the end of the trail and a couple came up and started talking to me. I told them about the waterfall and they were really excited. They didn’t know there was a waterfall on the trail. They in turn gave me some trail magic in the form of a cold tea.

I knew I had to make the 2.7 mile trip back to the car. It really stink sometimes hiking by yourself. You have to do a lot of in and out hikes. It didn’t take long for me to catch up to the couple that gave me the tea and we hiked together the rest of the way to the falls. It was really nice having conversation on the trail. We parted ways and I continued my uphill journey back to my car.

Taking a break
Taking a break

On the way back I decided to do something that I don’t do very often. I pulled off the side of the trail and sat on a rock in the middle of the creek. I took my boots off and let me feet soak in the water. I need to remember to do this more often. I’m a pretty slow hiker so I get fixated on getting to my destination.

If you are only wanting to hike to the falls and don’t care about hiking the entire trail I would suggest driving to the trailhead that is about 1/2 way though the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. It is easier doing this way and there is more parking.

The race is on……

smokiesto knock out as many of the trails in the Smokies that I can.

I will be moving back to the Atlanta area in February. Which means I will be further away from my beloved  Smokies than I am now. And I am not really that far now. A mere hour from some points.

I figure I have about 23 full weeks before I move. In theory I could do 46 hikes before moving but that would probably be overkill and my body would revolt and laundry wouldn’t get done. And the apartment probably wouldn’t get cleaned. Besides the fact that winter is coming which will knock out some days of hiking. And rainy days too. Well I guess I could learn to tolerate hiking in the rain. Maybe. We’ll see on that one.

So my goal is to get 20 hikes in before I move. I would like to knock out as many trails on the Tennessee side of the park that I can. I think will diligent planning I can knock out quite a few of them. Of course if I had someone to hike with we could stage cars at 2 points but that is not an option for me so I will be doing a lot of in and out hikes. That way when I move to Georgia I can work more on the North Carolina side of the park since it will be closer.

I’m a little bummed about moving further away from the mountains. I don’t get out enough as it is

Lollilop Loop in the Smokies – Camel Gap Trail – Trip Day 2

Camel Gap Trail
Camel Gap Trail

Camel Gap Trail, Appalachian Trail, Low Gap 1 Trail, Big Creek Trail

Date Hiked: May 4,2013
Miles Hiked:15ish

Day 2: I wake up to a very cold, damp and windy day. Luckily it didn’t rain much in the middle of the night so I didn’t have to the dreaded task of packing up everything wet. While packing I decided to go ahead and fix me some breakfast. I don’t generally cook breakfast but decided on grits with some Velveeta added and some precooked bacon strips. It was the first time I tried the precooked bacon and will definitely bring it on the trail again. I managed to get everything packed up and hit the the trail.

Pretty little flowers
Pretty little flowers

The first trail of the day was the Camel Gap Trail up to the Appalachian Trail. I loved this trail. It is a nice well graded trail that runs along the side of a creek for most of the way. The Camel Gap Trail is 4.7 miles long and only gains about 1600 feet in elevation. The sun never managed to come out and the wind started blowing like crazy. Even though I wasn’t hiking that steep I was hiking against the wind sometimes and that is hard. And then it started raining. Not very hard but just enough of a rain to make one miserable. I actually got cold while hiking and had to put my long johns on and my jacket. I tried to find my hat but couldn’t find it anywhere. This got me started worrying. I knew that tomorrows hike was going to be about 10 miles of ridge walking and the forecast was 70% chance rain. I knew I had a decision to make.

Trail Along the Creek
Trail Along the Creek

I had to decide if I was going to continue my hike as planned or was I going to abort and head back home. I would decide when I got up to the Appalachian Trail. The decision was quickly made when I made it to the AT. It was even colder and more windy there. I didn’t even take a break to have a snack. I made my decision rather quickly and instead of turning left on the AT to go to Tri Corner Knob Shelter I turned right and headed north.

After a few miles I made it to the Cosby Knob Shelter and ended up taking a break there. I knew I had a long way to my car and wanted to make sure that I fueled up. One of the backcountry rangers showed up at the shelter and checked everyone’s permits. Another hiker asked him if he knew the weather forecast for the next couple of days. Tomorrow had been bumped up to 100% chance of rain AND they were expecting 2- 4 inches in the next 24-36 hours. I realized then that I made the right decision.

Dark Skies Looming
Dark Skies Looming

I headed on my way continuing north on the AT until I got to Low Gap I trail (there are 2 Low Gap Trails) where I would downhill for 2.5 miles. Low Gap 1 is just about as miserable as Low Gap 2. Steep downhill with lots of rocks and roots. I didn’t think I was ever going to make it to the bottom but finally made it to the Big Creek Trail intersection where I would hike 5 miles back to my car.

Trail Lessons:
Double check to make sure you have all your gear. (I don’t know if having my hat would have made a difference but it might have)

Full Gallery of Pictures

 

 

Lollilop Loop in the Smokies – Big Creek Trail – Backpacking Trip Day 1

Big Creek Trail
Big Creek Trail

Big Creek Trail

Dates Hiked: May 3  2013
Miles Hiked: 5.1

So I finally managed to get a few days off (in a row) from work. It had been a while since I had been backpacking and wanted to hit the woods pretty bad. My original plans were for the trip to be a 4 day 3 night trip but it turned into just a short overnighter.

I got a late start (which is nothing new for me) so I had already decided to alter my plans slightly. Instead of heading up the Chestnut Branch Trail to the AT and down Low Gap to CS #37 I was just going to head up the Big Creek Trail. I had already hiked this trail so I knew it would be an easy hike straight to the campsite. This change in plans was further validated by my decision to park at the wrong trail head.  I wasn’t supposed to be at Cosby Campground. I was supposed to be at the Big Creek Campground. Doh! So I found myself on a twisty turny  road trying to get to the correct destination.

Vasey's Trillium
Vasey’s Trillium

When I pulled into the Big Creek Campground my phone started ringing and then it just went crazy. It wouldn’t stop ringing. I couldn’t turn the phone off. I couldn’t turn the volume down. You can’t remove the battery from this phone. What was I going to do? I couldn’t take it with me into the woods. I ended up wrapping it up in my get off the trail clothes and putting it in the console of my car. I figure at some point it would just die. I finally got loaded up and hit the trail. I’m kinda glad I chose the Big Creek Trail. It was covered in wildflowers. Fire Pink,

Showy Orchis
Showy Orchis

Dwarf Crested Irish, Trillium, Spring Beauties and more. I took my time and took lots of pictures. After  my previous wildflower excursions to Ramsey Cascades and White Oak Sinks I found myself really searching for wildflowers. I was actually using my trekking poles to peek under leaves. I love my camera. It takes awesome close up pictures and it’s just a basic point and shoot. Big Creek Trail also has Midnight Hole and Mouse Creek Falls, both of which were more impressive than the last time I was here.

I finally made it to CS #37 after a few hours. There was only one other tent set up in the area so I walked around and found a spot to set up my home for the night. It wasn’t long before other hikers began arriving. There is definitely  a difference between Appalachian Trail hikers and non AT hikers. AT hikers seem to be a bit more friendly. While no one was mean or seemed shady or creepy people just kept to themselves. I stepped out of my comfort zone and went and talked to a couple of the hikers for a few minutes.

Home for the Night
Home for the Night

As the afternoon went on it started sprinkling on and off. It couldn’t decide what it wanted to do so I decided I had better go ahead and cook my dinner. I promise you that it was nothing exciting. Well unless you consider ramen noodles with some Velveeta exciting and a few slices of precooked bacon. I really must work on adding a little excitement to my trail food. I remember hiking on the Foothills Trail (report coming soon) with Jermm back in 2010 and she made these scones out of Bisquick and honey. OMG they were so good. I should have paid more attention to how she made them.

I finally decided to retire to my trusty MSR Hubba for the night. I popped a Melatonin and quickly fell asleep. Which did not last long. At all. I swear there was a critter or something nudging at my tent right near my head. Of course when I got up and turned my headlamp on it would stop. So I laid down and tried to go back to sleep. And it happened again. And I actually felt the tent hit my head. Sigh, this was going to be a long night. I figured that I might as well get up and tinkle. Luckily it was pitch black now and didn’t have to walk very far to be hidden. While I was out I inspected my tent. There were no chew marks on my tent. There were no claw marks in the dirt.

That was when I saw it !!!!!

The wind had picked up quite a bit and was shaking my tent pretty good. I really felt kind of stupid but was relieved. This meant I should be able to relax and get some sleep.

…..to be continued

White Oak Sink

White Oak Sink

Date: April 26,2013

Catesby's Trillium
Catesby’s Trillium

After my trip to Ramsey Cascades earlier in the week I was excited to see more wildflowers. And I couldn’t wait. I was afraid that if I waited they would all be gone by the time I got there. I mean it was late April and I just wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss anything. I hadn’t ever heard of the White Oak Sink area but the people on the Smoky Mountain Wildflower Facebook page were talking about the area. I did a little Google research and realized that this was a place that I for sure wanted to visit. Not only were there going to be wildflowers but there were also caves and a waterfall. Wildlife South has some great info on this area and even a map of the sink area that you can print out.

I recruited my friend Jim to go with me on this trip. It’s almost always more fun to go with someone else especially if you are going to be taking a lot of pictures. So we met up at the Bass Pro Shop so we only had to drive one car. Our first stop was the Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg. If you have never been you must go. They have the nicest fluffiest pancakes and you always get your order really fast.

Waterfall Cave
Waterfall Cave

With bellies full we went on our merry way into the park. I was enjoying the ride along Little River Road. Usually I am the one driving so it was nice to just get to look around and enjoy the beauty of the Smokies. We finally made it to the Schoolhouse Gap Trail parking area. OMG, the parking area was filled plus people were parked on the side of the road. I knew this must be a special place. We had to drive up the road a bit and turn around. Finally we got parked and situated and headed up the Schoolhouse Gap Trail.

Blue Phlox circling tree
Blue Phlox circling tree

To get to the White Oak Sink area you have to hike just a little bit over a mile on the Schoolhouse Gap Trail. This is a fairly easy trail. It’s on old road so it’s wide and well graded. After reaching the intersection of the Turkeypen Ridge Trail go about 50 yards and there will be  trail to your left. There is no name for this trail but there is a “no horse” sign. This is the trail that will take you into a whole new world.

It’s only about .8 miles down into the sink area. It’s mostly pretty easy but there is a steepish downhill section which means that on the way out there is a steepish uphill section. Thankfully it’s short. There is so much to explore in this area. Unfortunately I had to be back in Knoxville to go to work so our time was cut a little short. There are 4 caves. No you can’t go into them. One even has a waterfall that falls into the cave. There is also the Blowhole cave. It is blocked off but you can walk up to it and feel the cool air coming out. There is a rocky cliffy area above the cave and this is where I spotted some Columbine.

Columbine
Columbine

And of course there are more wildflowers than you can imagine. Although I saw a bunch I am sure I didn’t see near as many that are actually there.  And I am thankful again for all the nice people that were out on the trail this day. They were more than happy to share their knowledge. If it hadn’t been for them there would have been several flowers that I wouldn’t have seen such as Wild Ginger.

I can’t wait to go exploring more in this area.

White Oak Sink Gallery 

 

 

Yellow Lady's Slipper
Yellow Lady’s Slipper
Wild Ginger
Wild Ginger
Shooting Stars
Shooting Stars
White Oak Sinks trail
White Oak Sinks trail

 

Ramsey Cascades

Ramsey Cascades
Ramsey Cascades

Ramsey Cascades

Date of Hike : Monday, April 22 2013
Miles: 8 miles total
Weather: Absolutely beautiful

I was feeling ambitious today. I haven’t really hiked since early last summer and my workouts have been sporadic at best and here I was about to go out on an 8 mile hike. This was an in and out hike, so 4 miles of uphill and then 4 miles downhill back to the car. I picked this trail because I had heard on the Smoky Mountains Wildflowers Facebook Page that the wildflowers were beautiful on this trail and then of course there was a waterfall at the end. What more motivation did I need?

Trail with Dwarf Crested Iris
Trail with Dwarf Crested Iris

I got started hiking around 9:45 AM. It was quite chilly at first and started out with my rain jacket on. But it didn’t take long before I was taking it off. The trail started off on an old road bed so it was wide and also a nice gradual incline. I have to say that I was kind of disappointed with the wildflower display. I guess I was expecting these millions of bright colored flowers blanketing the sides of mountain and all along the sides of the trail. And that is not what I was seeing. Yes, there were wildflowers, just not what I was expecting.

I finally made it to the 2 big tulip trees. These things were huge. But then I went around a small curve and there was a

Huge Tulip Tree
Huge Tulip Tree

really huge one. Of course I had to ask the couple that was there if these were the trees they were talking about in the Little Brown Book. They confirmed that yes these were the trees. We talked for a few minutes and took pictures of each other in front of the tree. I was glad I ran into them. It’s hard to get pictures of yourself when you hike alone.

I sat down to eat a snack and enjoy the beautiful weather. I caught up later with the couple again.  And not because I am such a fast hiker but because they were slow and were looking for birds. Wwe started talking and I learned that were in town for the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage. They come every year for it. They had come up early to some of their own exploring. I was telling them that I was a little disappointed in the wildflower display and she looked at me like I was crazy. We started walking together and she started pointing out a few flowers such as the Yellow Mandarin. I would have never have noticed that flower because of my preconceived notion of what I was expecting.

Yellow Mandarin
Yellow Mandarin

 

I thanked her for sharing with me and went on my to the falls. I decided to push myself a little bit and see how fast that I could there. Of course I got slowed down even more when the trail turned really steep and rocky. But I finally made it to the falls. They were amazing and it was so worth the 4 miles of uphill hiking. I think the most amazing thing was that I actually had the falls all to myself for about 5 minutes before other people got there. I enjoyed conversations with several other people before I made way back down to my car.

 

 

Ramsey Cascades
Ramsey Cascades

Lessons from the trail:
~ All wildflowers aren’t brightly colored. Some are white, some are green, some look like weeds, and some look like fungus.
~ Talking with people on the trail restores my faith in humanity. People are generally nice and want to share their knowledge with you.
~ I can hike 8 miles even being out of shape.

 

Full Gallery of Images

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