Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Kephart Prong--The Rest of the Story
Well, here’s the rest of the Kephart Prong hike.
The real reason we did Kephart Prong trail was to access Dry Sluice Gap Trail. This was one of those “color the map” hikes with a little piece of trail hanging out there that was difficult to get to.
I’ve included some pictures of the map to help explain what we did. I needed that little 2.9 mile section of Dry Sluice Gap Trail between Grassy Branch Trail and Cabin Flats Trail. I’ve colored it in orange on the map. To do that section we had options, none on them easy.
The easiest way for me to get this little section of trail would have been to run a shuttle. That requires two cars or at least a ride to the start. Unfortunately, the Park does not offer a hiker shuttle service along Newfound Gap Road. There are people willing to shuttle hikers, but because of the distances involved, that can get to be very expensive very quickly. Instead of waiting around for the perfect opportunity for a shuttle with another hiker, we usually just work it out on our own regardless of the extra miles we have to hike. We’re hikers, after all; that’s what we like to do.
So, to get that 2.9 miles of Dry Sluice Gap we did two different hikes on two different days and hiked a total of 24 miles for that short section. The first hike was up Kephart Prong Trail to connect with Grassy Branch Trail. At the junction of Grassy Branch and Dry Sluice we hiked down Dry Sluice for about a mile and a half. Then we retraced our steps to the car--roughly a 12 mile day. (Route marked in Green)
As I mentioned in the earlier post, Kephart Prong is one of our favorite trails in the Park. We were happy to be doing that one again; plus we got to check out the renovated shelter. We were actually glad to have done Grassy Branch Trail again, also. The lower end of that trail just above the Kephart Shelter has been rerouted for about a half mile. It looks like they added a couple of switchbacks making the trail less steep and the trail work was outstanding with stone steps at the switchbacks and deep and wide side hill cut making it a pleasure to hike.
The last mile of Grassy Branch Trail is just beautiful. The trail reaches an elevation high enough that the trees are still leafless which allowed for some views. At the junction with Dry Sluice the forest had changed at that high elevation to spruce and fir.
On Dry Sluice Gap Trail, we hiked down for 35 minutes hoping that would be about a mile and a half. We found a spot we thought we would recognize on a later hike and sat down for lunch. So far so good. We had hiked about 6 miles and were feeling pretty good. After our lunch break we started back toward the car. That short mile and a half uphill on Dry Sluice Gap really got us. Guess we were more tired than we thought. At least the other 4.5 miles was downhill.
Before we forgot where our stopping point on Dry Sluice was, we wanted to connect the dot from the other end. So, Sunday we headed out to “get er done”. This time we went up Bradley Fork Trail to Cabin Flats and then up Dry Sluice Gap Trail from the lower end. (Route marked in the other Green)
Dry Sluice is a steep trail that gets plenty of horse use. In the first mile we had 4 or 5 stream crossings and only one had a footbridge. They were easy rock hops, but it makes for slow going. Around the streams the trail was muddy and away from the streams it was churned up by horse hooves. After the first mile, the trail improved, but it became very narrow and overgrown. I hate overgrown trail--it’s the snakes, you know.
Finally, we found our spot.
The drop in the next ridge over.
The rotting log on one side of the trail.
The orange flag (a dead give away) in the log on the other side of the trail.
I sat almost on the exact spot I had on the previous trip for a long lunch break.
Then there was the 6 mile return trip. It was all downhill, of course, but over that messy trail. I was so glad to get to Cabin Flats and then back on Bradley Fork Trail. I’ll have to admit, I’m kinda tired of hiking Bradley Fork. That is a beautiful trail for the first time, and the second time, and probably even the third time. But I’ve hiked Bradley Fork at least 7 times that I can remember. I think I’ll give it a rest for a while.
So, there you have it. An obsessive compulsive, goal-oriented hiker who will do just about anything to color that crazy map.
And that’s the rest of the story. Thanks for tagging along.