01 Nov Cold Miserable Rain – My Goshen Prong – Little River – Sugarland Mountain Hike
Day 1 – Oct 28, 2011
13.5 miles – Clingman’s Dome – AT Bypass Trail to AT to Goshen Prong – South on Little River Trail to Rough Creek Campsite 24. To Three Forks Campsite 30 and return to Rough Creek Campsite 24.
It was 15 degrees colder on Clingmans Dome, than at Smokemont. I saw phosphorescence peeking out of the fog in the woods below the Clingmans parking lot. Dots like unmoving animal night eyes . In the morning I had finished breakfast before first light. Scrambled egg whites with mozzarella and shallots. Black coffee.
Took the AT bypass trail to AT. Although cold, I was soon shedding layers. Later on the Goshen Prong trail in the cold rain, I was adding back layers. For a brief minute I felt sleet mixed in the rain. It rained all day. A cool cave going about 40 ft through the rock was directly on the Goshen Prong.
I took a break from the rain and explored the cave and ate a sandwich. It was only 10 am. Saw 6 people today. L.J. Is camping at CS 24 where I have set up my tarp. I reached campsite 24 by 12:30. Set up in the rain and put on dry clothes and climbed into dry sleeping bag. Ate snacks and warmed up. Ground cloth is wet. Later, hiked to campsight 30 and back. Still before 4PM. Back in sleeping bag warming up again.
After a short break from rain, it soon started raining without letting up. It is a long night when you spend it in the sleeping bag from 4PM until 6:30 AM. This was the only way to stay reasonably, but not entirely warm and dry. The outside of the sleeping bag is a little wet, but the down is staying dry. Halfway through the night, the rain turned to big wet clumps of snow,
Day 2 – October 29, 2011
16.6 miles – Hiking North on Little River Trail to Elkmont Campground – Jakes Creek & Cucumber Gap Trail back to Little River Trail to Huskey Gap Trail to south Sugarland Mountain Trail to Rough Creek Trail and back to Rough Creek Campsite 24.
The Little River Trail is a nice trail for hikers that don’t go for steep climbs. It follows a level path along a beautiful mountain stream. For a brief taste of climbing, a loop can be made using the Cucumber Gap Trail.
The lower end of the trail passes interesting ghost resort town near Elkmont. To see more of the town, continue on Jakes Creek Trail. “Daisy Town” was first created as a hunting resort next to a lumber camp. Knoxville townsfolk used the lumber company’s railroad to travel to the resort. Later, when the lumber company had felled the area’s timber and wanted to move on, it secretly relocated the tracks in the middle of the night.
During the creation of the park in the 20’s and 30’s, long term lifetime leases were given to owners. The last two leases expired in 2001. By then, it was felt that these structures might have historical value and some were placed on the National Register of Historic Places . Originally the houses were to be demolished and the land returned to its natural state; however as roofs cave in and walls fall over, the town now sits abandoned while the park service deliberates, ten years and counting.
Some of these houses have an interesting architecture reminiscent of simple vacation homes of earlier generations. The piled stone chimneys evoke Smoky Mountain getaways of long ago. The feeling is quite different from that given by the cabins of permanent residents who lived a hard and isolated existence in these mountains.
My rain gear was still wet and my mittens were soaked. I had slept in my only dry socks, but wanting to keep them dry, I put them in the dry sack and pulled on my cold wet socks. I pried my frozen boots open and worked my feet in. With a flat trail, colder temps, and wet mittens it took nearly 7 miles for my hands to warm up. It was only after a few blue patches of sky appeared that I knew for sure that I wouldn’t have a second day of cold rain.
I picked a sunny spot on the Husky Gap Trail to shed a layer of clothing and have lunch. I took off my socks and squeezed out water. The water streaming from my socks was red. It took a confused moment to realize that the red was blood soaked up from my feet. An untrimmed toenail had torn into a neighboring toe.
Sugarland Mountain Trail was my favorite of the trip. It climbs a ridge with views into the Little River Valley to the west and views of Gatlinburg and Mt LeConte toward the east.
I saw plenty of other people all day long on this beautiful, but cold Saturday.
Back at campsite 24, I found my tarp and sleeping bag safe and secure. Another group of 4 from Nashville, TN had set up tents nearby. I visited and enjoyed their campfire. I made a feeble attempt at my own campfire, but gave up quickly.
The night was clear and cold with bright stars visible through treetops.
Day 3 – October 30, 2011
11.1 miles – Rough Creek Campsite to Rough Creek Trail to South on Sugarland Mountain Trail to Mt. Collins Shelter to AT to Clingmans Dome.
Happy Birthday to Taylor. He is 22 today.
I had coffee and breakfast in the dark and was packed up and on the trail at 7:34 am. This time I headed uphill on Rough Creek Trail and soon was shedding layers. Back on the Sugarland Mountain Trail, I picked up where I left off the day before. When the trail dipped to the west side of the ridge, it became bitterly cold with snow coating the trees and ground. By now, I was down to shorts, tee, and down vest. Once again my hands became cold.
At one point I came up on a grouse in the middle of the trail without flushing it out. I stopped and watched for a minute as it seemed unbothered by my presence, its head bobbing as it alternately stepped and paused along the trail. I suddenly sprinted toward the bird. As it lifted off, another unseen grouse took flight from the growth just to my right. No, I didn’t catch either bird.
The Sugarland Mountains trail continued to impress me with its ridge walk and occasional views across the Tennessee Valley and Mt. Leconte. In the southwest a distant sharp peak may have been Thunderhead. I recommend this trail.
I eventually reached Mt. Collins shelter where I met a southbound AT thru-hiker eating a jumbo bag of potato chips. Like all thru-hikers at this stage, he was very thin. Having hiked the AT to Clingmans Dome several times before, my plan was to hitch-hike from here, but it had warmed up some and since it was such a nice cloudless day, I finished with a 3.5 mile AT climb up Clingman’s Dome.
Campsite 24 elevation is 2860 ft and Clngman 6643 feet. It was nearly a 4000 ft climb for the day.