Saturday, March 25, 2017

Long Bunk Trail

New Miles Completed: 3.6
Total Miles Hiked: 8.2
25 March 2017

This year our wedding anniversary get-away took us to a cabin in Cosby, TN. Since we don't often get over to this side of the park, we wanted to take the opportunity to do a new trail. I picked out the Long Bunk trail as a reasonable out-and-back hike.  It's a 1/2 mile up the Mt. Sterling trail from the road to the beginning of the Long Bunk trail, 3.6 miles down Long Bunk to its junction with Little Cattaloochee trail, and then we retraced our steps.

First things first - Old NC 284, aka Mount Sterling Road is a gravel, winding, narrow mountain road. While it's only about 9 miles from the Waterville exit on I-40, it took a LONG time to drive...

Second - the Mount Sterling trail is steep.  Even though you only have to go up a 1/2 mile, it's up, up, up.

Trail Head for Long Bunk trail at its junction with the Mount Sterling trail

Ok, the Long Bunk trail. This trail is near the eastern boundary of the park. It connects the Mount Sterling trail with the Little Cataloochee trail, and my guess is that most people who do this trail do it as a part of a bigger loop.  It is early spring now, so the trees are all still bare which makes for some cool hiking - you can see a long way through the trees and get a good feel for the lay of the land.

Bare trees = good views through the trees
From the trailhead the Long Bunk trail generally descends through open woods, around and over small ridges, crossing or following small creeks, along the eastern flanks of Long Bunk Ridge.  The trail is at times rough and rocky, but for the most part is reasonably wide and smooth. It's almost never steep, but does have occasional long descents/ascents (depending on which way you are traveling).

Mossy tree trunk along the trail leading down to a creek crossing

One of several very shallow creek crossings
There are several places where the trail crosses very shallow creeks, but these are all easily rock-hopped or just waded through.  Nothing challenging at all. There are some views off to the east to the range of ridges just outside the eastern boundary of the park.  Most of these will be gone when the leaves are back on the trees, but today we could see across the valley to the neighboring ridges.

Metal pieces from some long-forgotten contraption.

This valley was settled prior to the park, and you can see occasional evidence in the form of random pieces of metal, old cans, and rock mounds.  And while it is early spring, there were very few wildflowers out on this trail.  We saw Spring Beauty, Squaw Root, and a few Violets, but nothing else.  There are also a lot of grape vines on this trail, many of which are quite large.

Spring Beauty

Squaw Root
Grape vine climbing a tree
Near the bottom of the trail is one of the historical highlights - the Hannah Cemetery.  It's right on the trail, so you can't miss it.  Not a huge cemetery - maybe 20 or 30 graves, mostly folks from the Hannah family.  Some very old - folks born in the 1830s!  And some pretty recent too, with folks buried here who died in the 2000s.  As with most Smokies cemeteries there are several children, which is always sad to see.

Hannah Cemetery
And just a little further down the trail you reach the junction with the Little Cataloochee Trail and the end of the Long Bunk Trail.  As we were hiking down this section we could hear the bells of the Little Cataloochee Baptist Church which was just a mile or so away.  We stopped here for lunch and a rest.

Long Bunk trail - Little Cataloochee trail junction

Lunch-time selfie!
From here we turned around trudged back UP-hill... The way back up wasn't quite as much fun as the way down, but it was still a beautiful day with a beautiful person celebrating a beautiful marriage. So all is well.

Til next time, happy hiking!

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