Trail Miles Hiked: 12.6
18-19 June, 2010
Phew... I can't believe it's been two and a half months since my last hike! The end of the semester, my son's Eagle Scout and high school graduation ceremonies, Cub Scout twilight camp - all of this conspired to keep my off the trails in May & early June. But finally I had a chance to get out. This trip was with my buddy Shane and 3 boys from our Boy Scout troop.
The Ace Gap trailhead is at the park border where the Rich Mountain road comes out of Cades Cove, although we arrived from the Townsend side. The trail leads along the northwestern border of the park for its entire length until it dead-ends at Ace Gap into the Beard Cane trail which leads directly south. Campsite 3 is the first campsite on the Beard Cane trail and was our destination.
Here's Shane (our Scoutmaster) and the 3 scouts who accompanied us. It was a HOT and HUMID weekend (temperatures in the 90s with what felt like 150% humidity)! The trail meanders up and down gently along the ridge. It's a dry ridge, with a lot of pine and mountain laurel. There are numerous houses just outside the park and a number of unofficial trails that lead into the park from outside, but luckily most of the houses were obscured by the trees.
The trail passes two campsites (#4 & #7) that are no longer in use - probably because of a lack of water availability. Campsite 4 (above) was a nice open and fairly flat site. We stopped there for a snack on our way in and then for lunch on our way back out the next day. Campsite 7 is really just a wide spot in the trail with no real good tent areas.
Ace Gap trail dead-ends after 5.6 miles at Ace Gap where it meets the Beard Cane trail. From here it's just about 0.7 miles downhill to get to Campsite 3 which was our final destination.
Campsite 3 is a really nice site - flat and open with several good tent sites, and situated right at the confluence of Beard Cane Creek and Hesse Creek. I love a campsite that sits right near a creek!
When we arrived we noticed that the fire ring was in pretty sad shape. It was FULL of ashes and the rocks were all falling into or out of the ring. So after we got set up and before we enjoyed the creek we decided to clean up the fire ring. We scooped out all of the ashes and scattered them around and rebuilt the stone ring. Here's a before and after picture:
We enjoyed a nice fire in the evening and the next morning to get our day started off right. After a lazy morning of breakfasting, playing in the creek, and just generally lazing about we packed up and headed back to the trailhead. The hike back seemed to have considerably more uphill than the way in had, although the real elevation difference is only 500 ft. It was hot and humid again on Saturday, but luckily a thunderstorm blew through and provided a nice breeze and dropped the temperature considerably without dumping on us. We had an uneventful hike back, and made it safely back to the car.
All in all it's a nice trail. It seems to be pretty lightly used - we met only one other person during our entire two days out. It's both a horse and hiking trail, but horses don't seem to have done much harm to the trail as they do in other parts of the park. There aren't any spectacular views or waterfalls on this trail, but there were a lot of neat plants. You could see the basal leaves of the Pink Lady Slippers all over the trail - they probably finished flowering a month ago. It was a good length for the scouts, and not too much steep up or down which makes for pleasant hiking.
Hopefully it won't be another 2 months til I get out again! Until next time, happy hiking!