Total Miles Hiked: 13.6 (+ a side trip of undetermined length...)
15 May 2020
Today I got to nearly finish up all the trails on the Tennessee side of the park by doing the Beard Cane trail. The only one left on this side is the Boulevard, and I'm saving that one for last.
In 2011 a tornado ripped through this end of the park and uprooted ginormous trees and played havoc with the trails. Beard Cane trail was in the tornado's direct path and as a result was closed for 2 years - I honestly didn't think it would ever open up again. But in 2013 it did, although campsite #11 appears closed for good, and there are lots of online warnings about how overgrown the trail can be if you go in the summer, the trail is open so today I decided to tackle it.
I parked on the road outside the park boundary near the Goldmine Trail to begin my journey.
|Goldmine Trail trailhead at the park boundary.|
|Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) in flower|
I started on Gold Mine trail and on to Cooper Road trail, both of which I had done before. After the first 1.4 miles I arrived at Cane Gap where this is a manway out to the Lail Cemetery. I've been to this gap before and wondered where the "extra" trail led - one of my maps calls it the Buchanan Cemetery (but the "real" Buchanan Cemetery is on Cane Creek trail); the others call it the Lail Cemetery, and that's what it turned out to be. There is a single headstone in a clearing in the forest here memorializing the twin Lail sons. It's a sad story. The trail out from Cane Gap to the cemetery is probably 1 or 1.5 miles round trip with some big ups and downs.
|Headstone for the Lail twins, Ralph & Raymond|
Beard Cane trail starts on the ridge and follows a dry, piney, sunny route as it slowly descends toward Beard Cane creek. The mountain laurel were really getting going! In less than a mile the trail joins up with its namesake creek which it will follow all the way up to CS#3. For this first section you can really see the devastation wrought by the tornado. Many of the large canopy trees were felled and their trunks are piled willy nilly in the forest surrounding the trail. I can't even begin to imagine the amount of work it took to clear this trail to get it ready for hikers again! The trail itself is more of a wide, grassy, mucky, lumpy path through thick undergrowth on either side. I have always read NOT to attempt this trail in the summer when it becomes very overgrown and I can see why.
About a mile up the trail you come to the site of backcountry CS#11 which is permanently closed since the tornado. It looks like a jumble of Lincoln Logs - hard to believe there was ever a clearing big enough for a campsite!
|The site of backcountry campsite #11|
|Beard Cane trail and creek are the same!|
|CS#3 trail marker|
|CS#3 fire ring & sitting area|
Hoping to get to spend some time over on the NC side this summer, maybe down in Bryson City to do a bunch of hikes out of there. Finishing my map seems simultaneously more and less reachable these days...
Til next time, happy hiking!