Our friend, Sharon, arrived late yesterday afternoon. She stopped by briefly on her way to her lodging for the night so we could finalize our hiking plans for the rest of the week. She was here and we were ready to head to the trailhead bright and early this morning.
|A lot of Painted Trillium on the trail today|
Not far past the junction with Little Cataloochee Trail, we encountered what we thought would be our highlight of the day. Not a bear, but an elk on the trail. We kept our distance and the elk finally decided to back up a little and move off the trail to let us pass. That was pretty special. It is common to see elk grazing down on the road in Cataloochee, but it is rare to see one alone in the backcountry.
At the trail junction with Palmer Creek Trail, we crossed Pretty Hollow Creek on a foot bridge and began our climb up the mountain. We were very surprised after another mile to find the foot bridge over Lost Creek washed out. Well, it was actually on the other side of the creek and we used it for a resting bench after we got there. The crossing was not all that easy. The water was swift and over the tops of our boots. There were rocks for hopping, but some of the hops were a long stretch for my short legs. We made it, however, without getting our socks wet.
We had another creek crossing another half mile up the trail, but that one was fairly easy. A large, flat boulder offered an easy step to the other side.
At about the 3 mile mark from the beginning of Palmer Creek Trail, we entered a rhododendron tunnel. I love these tunnels, especially on a hot summer day as they completely shade the trail and give a nice break from the sun. We exited the tunnel not far from the end of the trail at Balsam Mountain Road.
At the sign at the end of the trail, we made a few photos then quickly found a lunch spot sheltered from the wind. The trail flattens out for the last 100 feet of so and we were able to find a flat, grassy spot nestled amongst the trees for a long lunch break.
Balsam Mountain Road is still closed for the season, so we did not have the option of running a shuttle. We had to retrace our steps down hill to the car at Cataloochee. The return trip was much faster than going up, and we were more experienced with the creek crossings. We moved along at a fairly rapid pace.
Our hike was a total of 9.8 miles. It was a beautiful hike along rushing water for much of that distance. It’s beautiful in the spring with the creeks full of water and the wildflowers in bloom. It would also be a lovely hike in July when the rhododendron are in bloom. With the elk, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, and river otter, we had a very special day.
We also saw elk grazing along the road in Cataloochee. That was pretty nice, too.
That’s it for today. Thanks for tagging along.