Saturday, October 15, 2016

Wet Bottom Trail

New miles completed: 1.0
Total miles hiked: ??? around 4 I think...
15 October 2016

The Wet Bottom trail has been a missing link on my trail map for quite a while.  I tried to do this trail a couple of winters ago, but it had rained a LOT and the trail was under water.  Well, it's been a long dry summer and early fall, so I figured this was a great time to knock this trail out (finally!).  Good grief...  Happy to have it done, and don't expect I'll ever feel the need to do it again.

Wet Bottom trail runs between the Abrams Falls parking lot and the Cooper Road trail in Cades Cove.  It's only a mile long, but it is TERRIBLY marked in between the Elijah Oliver Cabin and Abrams Falls parking lot, and there are LOT of side trails that look like the real thing that lead off to nowhere.  So here's what happened today.

Wet Bottom trailhead on the Cooper Road trail
We drove down to Cades Cove (bad idea on a Saturday in October, by the way) and finally made it around the Cades Cove loop and parked at the Cooper Road trailhead.  Followed Cooper Road trail 0.2 miles to the northern end of the Wet Bottom trail, and turned south.  Wet Bottom trail first runs south to the Elijah Oliver Cabin road, takes a right (west) onto the road to the cabin, and then turns south again toward the Abrams Falls parkings area.

Trail sign #1 on Elijah Oliver Cabin road 
Trail sign #2 on Elijah Oliver Cabin road
We decided to head on down to the end of the road to see the Elijah Oliver Cabin first, and then took the high water route that runs from Elijah Oliver Cabin down to Abrams Falls parking area, thinking it would be easy enough to follow the Wet Bottom back north from the parking lot...  That was our first mistake.

Wet Bottom trailhead at Abrams Falls parking area

Sarah along the Wet Bottom trail
The Wet Bottom trail leads north from the parking area through the woods and shortly reaches the banks of Abrams Creek as the creek meanders west.  The trail (or as we came to realize later, a trail that is NOT the Wet Bottom trail) meanders along the southern bank of Abrams Creek for quite a while...  Following this trail we ultimately came out to the edge of the woods near where the road to Abrams Falls parking area meets the Cades Cove loop.  And then the trail just disappeared...  Faint trails seemed to lead back into the woods, or along the edge of the woods, or out toward the road.  But the obvious trail simply was gone.  

Abrams Creek

The clear trail (that turned out NOT to be the real trail) 
Beautiful views of the end of Cades Cove from the edge of the woods.

A bit dismayed, we decided to hike the road back to the Elijah Oliver Cabin and try the Wet Bottom trail from the north end where at least it was clearly marked.  So we started back where we had already been: at the Wet Bottom trail junction with the Elijah Oliver Cabin road.

Back to where we started...

We headed south from here and the trail was pretty easy to follow.  A couple of times there were side trails, but the main trail was fairly easy to identify.  Eventually we reached the northern bank of Abrams Creek, and looked across the creek to the the trail we had been on before on the southern bank, across a relatively shallow ford.

Ford across Abrams Creek where the Wet Bottom trail crosses.
So we had been here before, but on the other side of the creek and with NO indication that the trail crossed here.  No sign indicating the ford, and an obvious trail that continued along the southern bank.  Way too easy to make a mistake here.  It was kind of frustrating, to say the least.  So we followed the trail back to the end at the Abrams Falls parking area and then turned around to head back north, having (finally!) completed the Wet Bottom trail.

So the take-home message is this:  if you decide to hike the Wet Bottom trail (not sure WHY you would do this unless you are trying to join the 900-miler club), you should definitely start at the northern end and head south.  Much easier to figure out where you are.  Starting at the southern end is a recipe for for wandering off the real trail and ending up coming out of the woods at the road.

Despite the frustration it was a nice day in the woods.  Fall is definitely in the air, although summer is holding on pretty tightly.  Another couple of weeks and we should have some real fall weather.  Sarah and I have nearly completed the Smokies Centennial Challenge Hike 100!  Planning to do Alum Bluff Cave trail up to Mt. LeConte soon to wrap up the 100 miles.

Til next time, happy hiking!

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