Sunday, October 6, 2019

Chestnut Branch Trail

New Miles Completed: 2.1
Total Miles Hiked: 4.2
6 Oct. 2019

Quick post for a short hike - I got to do a Leave No Trace trainer course in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park this weekend. It was a really fantastic course, and I'm really grateful to those organizations that supported the course: Friends of the Smokies and Great Smoky Mountains Association, and to the folks that ran the course.

There was a little time at the end of the course which was run in the Big Creek area, so I took advantage of the opportunity to do the Chestnut Branch trail. This is a short connector trail that runs from the Big Creek road near the Ranger Station up to the Appalachian Trail. It's 2.1 miles long and gains about 1200 feet in elevation.

Trailhead selfie
 The trail follows the Chestnut Branch for about the first half before it climbs steeply up the ridge toward the Appalachian Trail. It's a very pleasant trail - following the creek, there is a lot of Rhododendron and some nice views of the creek itself. The trail is in good shape generally - some rocks and roots, and some gullying, but overall well-maintained.

Chestnut Branch is a very picturesque little stream
We've not had a significant rainfall for about 6 weeks now and EVERYTHING is drying up. There are reports of springs drying up all over the park, and all of the plants look thirsty. I've never seen Rhododendrons look so sad... 

You know it's either really cold, or really dry when the Rhododendron leaves curl up! Wow - we need some rain!
 Chestnut Branch trail moves along at a reasonable slope for the first mile-ish, then you hit a pretty steep section near the middle where the trail moves away from the creek and starts to climb the ridge on the way up to the AT.

Steep section near the middle of the trail.
There were several nice flowers or fruits on display today.

Indian Cucumber

Fall Aster

Showy Gentian

Turkey Feather
 My feet keep expanding/growing/flattening... The size 12 1/2 Salomon boots I've been wearing for the last year or so have started to beat my toes up. So it was time to try something new. I wanted to give the Altra Lone Peaks a go since they're the new favorite of thru-hikers. This was my first hike with them and I really like them so far. I could feel the different muscles being used in my shins and calves by these zero-drop shoes, but I felt really free in the lightness of the shoe, and I like the big toe box. I'm cautiously optimistic that these will work well for me!

My new shoes - Altra Lone Peaks
 In the last 1/4 mile or so the trail hits another super steep section, but you can start to see the light shining through the trees at the top so you know you're getting close. I always like to touch the white blazes of the AT. Someday...

The Appalachian Trail!
It was great to get out for a quick hike. Looking forward to some temperatures that are less than 90 degrees in the coming weeks, and hopefully some rain. Happy Fall, y'all!

Til next time, happy hiking.

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