Friday, April 27, 2012

Chasteen Creek Trail

This is another hike from the Smokemont Campground and the trailhead is at the back of the campground.  To get to Chasteen Creek Trail we had to follow Bradley Fork Trail a little over a mile to the trail junction.  Not only does Chasteen Creek Trail junction with Bradley Fork Trail at this point, but Chasteen Creek enters Bradley Fork at this point also.  Luckily, there is a very fine footbridge here, for which we are always grateful.

Chasteen Creek as it rushes toward Bradley Fork
It had rained almost the entire night before we did this hike and had only just stopped raining when we were ready to get started.  This was a long hike (11.2 miles round trip), but with a relatively gentle climb at the beginning, saving most of the elevation gain for the last mile and a half.

The guidebook describes Chasteen Creek Trail as notorious for being muddy from poor drainage and heavy horse use.  Given the rain from the night before, we figured we were in for a real treat.  We were pleasantly surprised and again grateful to find the first mile of the trail had been repaired and graveled.  No mud, not even water for that matter, anywhere on that section of trail.

Past this first mile, which is a very gentle grade, the trail becomes noticeably steeper, but not so bad.  It is at this point still an old roadbed--very wide.  It gets a lot of horse use, but drains better up here so we didn’t have muddy spots.

A little past half way along the trail, we came to backcountry campsite 48.  From the trail we could see there were a couple tents pitched near the creek so we stopped for our break on the trail rather than disturb those folks.

Found another pink lady slipper today
Beyond the campsite, the trail narrowed and almost immediately become steeper for its final push to Hughes Ridge.  About the first half mile of this section was very rocky.  I understand that the rocks help hold the dirt in place, especially on horse trails, and help to keep erosion at bay, but they sure are murder on a hikers feet.

Past the rocks the trail surface became dirt, which was a real pleasure to walk on.  This last mile seemed to go on forever.  At every switchback, I’d think we were there, only to see the trail bend around yet another corner.

Finally, we walked through a short rhododendron tunnel and popped out the other side at the junction with Hughes Ridge.  Unfortunately, this was not where we thought we’d be and we were dismayed to read the sign telling us that Enloe Creek Trail junction was still a half mile away.

Hughes Ridge junction offered several logs for sitting, so we sat down for lunch while we contemplated going that extra mile round trip to Enloe Creek.  After a nice break, we felt better and decided that it’d be better to do it now than later.  Even though the trail led uphill, it was an easy climb and we were at the Enloe Creek junction in no time.  We touched the sign and headed back from whence we’d come.

None of the trails in the  Smokies are blazed except the Appalachain
That was the hike so now for the side stories.  Some hikes have their moments.  We had a couple today.

First, a word about Chasteen Creek Trail.  This trail, together with several others within the National Park, is part of the Benton MacKaye Trail, a long distance trail which begins in north Georgia at Springer Mountain and runs almost 300 miles to Davenport Gap in the Smokies.  The trail enters the Smokies at Twentymile Ranger station on the southwest side of the park and ends at Dig Creek campground on the northeast side.

I mentioned that we saw tents pitched at backcountry campsite 48.  It looked like a real encampment down there with a couple of tents and a couple of tarps pitched so the hikers could get out of the rain to cook.  There were also lines strung from trees which were being used to dry clothes.  In the Smokies, those clothes still won’t be dry a week from Tuesday; it’s just too humid.  We saw just one person down there sitting on a log reading or writing or something.  After our break, we continued on our way up hill.  We were making pretty good progress when, all of a sudden out of nowhere, a man appeared heading downhill.  It’s certainly not strange to see hikers on trails, but this guy just didn’t have the look.  For one thing, it was pretty early to be coming down from that high up.  For another, he didn’t have a pack; just a water bottle stuffed in his shorts pocket.  He seemed friendly enough, though.  We chatted a few minutes.  Actually, Gene chatted, I was really looking the guy over and listening intently to every word trying to decide if we were in danger.  He seemed to be the hiking partner of the other guy we’d seen down in the camp.  The things he said seemed to all fit the circumstances, but I was leery when he said he and his partner had been camped there for 3 days.  The guy seemed to be too clean and freshly shaven for that length of time and that made me even more suspicious.

We parted ways and for the rest of our ascent to Hughes Ridge I kept thinking about the two hikers who became missing in the park several weeks ago, wondering if there was any connection between these guys and them.  As far as I know, they’ve never been found.  I worried and stewed over that, but pretty much forgot about it during lunch.

After lunch we headed up Hughes Ridge to Enloe Creek junction.  As we approached the junction we saw a horseman coming up Enloe Creek Trail.  This guy was very friendly and immediately struck up a conversation, as he took up his position right in the middle of the junction and wasn’t going to move that horse for anything.  As he sat atop his steed he soon came to the point of his conversation.  He was there to lead us to his best friend, Jesus.  Gene dubbed him the “prophet of Enloe Creek”.  We finally escaped his sermon, but not until he’d asked, “if you die today, where will you spend eternity?”  Don’t get me wrong--I admire the man for his conviction and courage to share the Good News with any old hiker he meets on the trail.  However, I had 6 miles to go to get down from that place on high.  I’d been standing up for 5 hours and had several more steps to take before my journey was over.  I wasn’t much in the mood for a sermon.  Besides, that “if you die today” question made me worry all over again about those two fellows at campsite 48.  His parting words were of love.  He assured me that Jesus loved me and he loved me, too.  Well, I have no doubt that Jesus loves me, but I’m not as assured of his love.  If he truly loved me, he’d give me a ride on that horse back down the hill.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for tagging along.

1 comment:

  1. Love the nature shots, especially the pretty.
    Interesting story of the horseman.