Trail Miles Hiked: 16.2
7-8 October 2011
Autumn is upon us, and what better time of year for hiking is there? This weekend was an opportunity to get out and enjoy fall and take care of some trails in the extreme western end of the park for me. I've been up the first part of Cooper Road trail (out of Abrams Creek Campground / Ranger Station) MANY times, but had never done the Gold Mine or Cane Creek trails, both of which dead-end at the park boundary. This means they are by necessity up-and-back sorts of trails. I had originally intended to make a bit of a loop at the end of the hike by taking Hatcher Mountain trail, but it remains closed due to the tornado that went through the park last May.
Cooper Road trailhead
Trail marker at the park boundary
Old barn just outside the park boundary at the end of the Gold Mine trail
Coming back down the Gold Mine trail
Trail marker at Cane Gap
It was nearly dark when I arrived so I put up my tent, gathered some firewood and got a nice fire going before cooking dinner. I spent a wonderfully relaxing evening just enjoying the fire. The moon was beautiful that evening and the moonlight made amazing patterns coming down through the trees.
The temperature was perfect for camping. Cool enough in the evening to enjoy the fire, but warm enough for comfortable sleeping. I finally climbed out of my sleeping bag on Saturday morning to a crisp 40 degree morning, but feeling very refreshed and ready for a 10-mile day.
Trail marker for Campsite #2
Fire ring / sitting area at Campsite #2
Cane Creek trail
The gravestone above was especially sad to me. Two children from the same family, born 17 years apart (1892 & 1909), both of whom died when they were less than a year old. The top of the marker reads "Our darlings together in heaven." It's not uncommon to see infant graves in Smokies' cemeteries, and it always makes me think of how hard life must have been for the settlers who lived here over 100 years ago.
The end of Cane Creek trail is at the northern park boundary, and it's quite clear that one should go no further. I've heard that there is a manway that connects the Cane Creek trail with the Ace Gap trail further to the north and east, but it lies on private property with No Trespassing signs clearly placed.
No Trespassing sign at the end of Cane Creek trail
Fall colors along Cooper Road trail; Chilhowee Mountain in the background
Self-portrait at the Cooper Road - Beard Cane - Hatcher Mtn trail junction
Turkey tail feather?
New England Aster & Goldenrod
I'm looking forward to another hike again soon. My friend Margie who's also working on doing all the trails in the park (see her blog here) is coming over in a couple of weeks and we're going to tackle the Grapeyard Ridge Trail. So - get out there while it's still autumn and check out the fall colors!
Til next time, happy hiking!