Saturday, November 27, 2010

Rich Mountain & Indian Grave Gap Trails

Trail Miles Completed: 3.4
Trail Miles Hiked: 8.4
27 Nov. 2010

Back about 10 years ago when Jesse was 7 years old and a Tiger Cub Scout we hiked the Rich Mountain loop, but that left a chunk of the Indian Grave Gap trail un-hiked, as well as the Rich Mountain Trail.  So on this weekend after Thanksgiving I got out to finish off these two little pieces.

Rich Mountain trail starts at Rich Mtn. gap where Rich Mtn. road comes out of Cades Cove and down into Townsend.  From the gap the trail rises 1500' in 2.3 miles up to meet Indian Grave Gap trail near campsite #5.  From there I took Indian Grave Gap trail southwest to where it meets up with Rich Mtn road - an elevation loss of about 1000'.  And then I turned around and went back...

There were a few cars at the trail-head when I arrived around 9:30 am - some bicyclists who were going down the Rich Mtn road, and some horse folks who were going up the Ace Gap trail, but I had the Rich Mtn. trail all to myself most of the day.  The trail starts rising right off the bat and is pretty relentless all the way up.  The trail skirts the northern border of the park for much of its length and there are some good views down into Dry Valley on the Townsend side.

It was hovering right around 32 degrees when I started out this morning and there were some cool "ice flowers" along much of the trail.  I also saw a cool Earth Star (a puff-ball-like fungus).

The trail crests near campsite #5.  This is a small campsite in a narrow draw - probably not room for more than 2 or 3 small tents, but with a nice campfire area.

Just up the trail from the campsite is the junction of the Rich Mtn. trail with the Indian Grave Gap trail.  I had hiked the 0.8 mile section of the Indian Grave previously, but needed to re-hike it to get to the 1.1 mile section between the Rich Mtn loop and Rich Mtn road.

Indian Grave Gap trail drops 1000' over 1.1 miles, and travels along some nice open ridges with great views down into Cades Cove.

There were lots of grape vines in the trees through here, and the trail was littered with fallen grapes.  I'm surprised the bears didn't get to them.

In one spot you could really see the devastation from the Pine Bark Beetle that has killed off large swathes of pine trees in the park.

The trail dead-ends at the Rich Mountain road.  I stopped here for a snack and a drink and to soak in some sunshine.  The temp was around 45 degrees here at about 12 noon.

From here I turned around and retraced my steps.  The hike back seemed a lot easier, and I was back home by 2 pm.  A great way to spend a Saturday morning, and nice to get back on the trails.

Til next time, happy hiking!