Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Schoolhouse Gap Trail

Sunshine and sparkling silver streams were the highlights of our hike today.  We took Schoolhouse Gap trail to connect to the other end of Chestnut Top trail.

Enjoying lunch
We had on hats, gloves, and coats to start our hike on a cold morning.  The temperature was about 38 and since we started in the shade of rhododendron along the creek, it was a chilly start.  After the first mile, however, we were up in the leafless hardwoods and the sun was doing its magic.  We shed those coats and the day continued to warm to a balmy 70 something.

We began our hike on Schoolhouse Gap trail and ascended gently up what used to be called Anderson Road.  Dr. Anderson, in the mid-1800s, felt there was a need for a road from Townsend over the mountain to connect with settlements in North Carolina.  Logging companies were bringing more and more families into what eventually became the park.  Dr. Anderson felt these folks should have easier access to goods and services in the larger communities in Tennessee and North Carolina.  Dr. Anderson drummed up support for the portion of the road in Tennessee, but the folks in North Carolina let the ball drop and the road was never completed.  Schoolhouse Gap trail follows a short portion of this old road.

Spence Branch

At the lower end of the trail we followed along next to Spence Branch, a babbling mountain stream that sparkled in the morning sun.  After about a half mile, we left the stream behind and continue to climb along the old road.  We finally got to the junction with Chestnut Top trail after 2 miles.  This is the same Chestnut Top trail we hiked yesterday.  We had stopped at the top of Chestnut Top which was one and a half miles from the end of the trail.  Today, we wanted to hike that one and a half miles and ascend Chestnut Top form the opposite direction.  After 45 minutes of a gentle climb, we stopped for lunch under the same tree where we dined yesterday.

Schoolhouse Gap trail is fairly popular because it is a short trail along a gentle grade.  We saw several folks out for a walk in the park as we made our way back to the truck.  There were no wildflowers along this trail.  The guidebook says to look for flowers in late summer.  There certainly wasn’t anything blooming today.

It was another great hike and it worked all the soreness from yesterday out of our muscles.

Tomorrow we have chores to do so there won’t be any hiking.  That’s it for today.

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