21 Jul Cosby Knob Hiking (GSMNP)
Day 1 – Carolina Silverbells
July 12th, 2013
Cosby, Low Gap Trail to Big Creek Trail, return on Big Creek Trail to AT – 7.5 miles
Appalachian Trail (AT) to Mt Cammerer. Mt Cammerer to Lower Mt Cammerer trail to Gilliland Creek Creek Campsite 35. approx 9.2 miles
Total Day mileage – 16.7 miles
Climbing Low Gap Trail I first began noticing a tree with white flowers strung along underneath branches. Having read about the Carolina Silver Bell tree back when I was hiking the Slickrock Creek wilderness, I was happy to finally have seen it in bloom. In the days to come I would continue to see Carolina Silver Bell flowers both on the trees and covering patches of the trail.
I dropped my pack in some weeds where Low Gap trail intersected the AT. I continued down the eastern side of the ridge all of the way to Big Creek where I had camped several years ago. I turned around and made the round trip back to my pack at Low Gap. On the way down I saw a curious little bird that made it’s nest next to the trail in a little opening between rocks. It startled me a little as it flew past me and settled on a branch above my head. I inspected the ground until I found the hidden nesting cave from which it had magically appeared. Meanwhile, the bird angrily chirped at me as it hopped from branch to branch.
I met a several people along the AT and soon encountered a ranger who checked my backcountry pass. I complained about the new system (implemented in February) this year that required payment for backcountry campsites. It turned out that this ranger was a “new hire” that had become employed using the collections from this new Park Service revenue stream. My guess is that the small amount collected would barely pay for the ranger or two that was hired to enforce the collections. I stopped for lunch at Mt. Cammerer and tried to relax as I watched dark storm clouds gather on the eastern ridges over the Big Creek valley. The no see-um and other tiny bugs made it hard to relax. There was a steady stream of visitors at the Mt. Cammerer overlook. Speaking with one of the visitors, I found out that he was an ultra long-distance runner.
The view from Mt. Cammerer is spectacular. It has an incredible prominence for these mountains which makes it easily identifiable. After about 5 more miles of hiking north on the AT and southwest on Lower Mt. Cammerer trail I came to a spot where Mt. Cammerer seemed to loom directly over my head. It had seemed that I had come the long way. From where I was the top of Mt. Cammerer seemed a short mile hike straight up.
At Gilliland Creek Campsite all spaces seemed to be taken. I moved off the left of the trail and into the woods to set up my tarp in an overgrown area. I later found out that I was in the horse rider’s camp. Farther down the trail was a broad open area for hiking campers. Only a single tent was set up there. I was exhausted and moving a little slow, but the gentle downhill of Lower Mt. Cammerer trail had made the last several miles easy.
Day 2 – Big Poplars in Peaceful Rain Soaked Forest – 15.5 miles
Campsite 35 on Lower Mount Cammerer Trail to Cosby – 3.3 miles
Gabes Mountain Trail – 6.6 miles
Albright Cove Loop Trail side trip – 1.1 miles
Maddron Bald Trail to Otter Creek Campsite 29 (elevation 4560 ft) – 4.5 miles
It was still early morning and just beginning to rain by the time I walked up to the Cosby parking lot and hopped into my van. By the time I had driven back up highway 321 and settled into the snack bar at a gas station convenience store the rain was coming down hard. While waiting on an order of omelet and pancakes I drank coffee refills as I read the local advertising rag. I shopped the snack aisle. After a filling my stomach and cleaning up in the bathroom I felt recharged and ready for Gabes Mountain trail. By the time I returned to Cosby, the rain was tapering off; not to return.
The soothing muffled silence played through towering rain-soaked trees of Gabes Mountain trail. It filtered out sharper sound, leaving only the usually suppressed sounds of dripping leaves, far-away bird calls, and a light footstep. Such memories provide the sort of feelings I try my best to capture for later recall when needed.
Only yards before the intersection of Gabes Mountain trail with Maddron Bald trail I surprised a bear as I rounded a bend in the trail. The bear turned toward me and kept turning toward the lower side of the trail as he trotted off into the woods.
I had planned to lunch on a bench that I had recalled being on Maddron Bald trail right at this trail intersection. With a little apprehension, I put a short distance between myself and the bear before settling down to lunch at a sunny spot a couple hundred yards farther up Maddron Bald trail. Even then, I thought that the bear might smell my tuna fish and wish to return for a share of my lunch.
Albright Cove Loop trail didn’t seem to offer large Poplars any more impressive that Poplars I had seen on Maddron Bald trail or even parts of Gabe Mountain trail. I recommend Gabe Mountain trail and Maddron Bald trail as trails that be hiked to enjoy their beautiful large trees. In addition, Gabe Mountain trail is easily hiked without much slope and with easy trail bed. A day hike from Cosby to Hen Wallow Falls and return would be a less strenuous way to have an enjoyable day.
Day 3 – A long day of fast hiking along ridges, rocks, boulders, and creeks – 19.3 miles
Maddron Bald Trail to intersection with Snake Den Ridge Trail – 1.6 mi
Snake Den Ridge to Appalachian Trail and return to Cosby via Snake Den Ridge – 6.0 mi
Ramsey Cascades Trail and Return – 8.0 mi
Brushy Mountain Trail to Porter Creek Trail to Porter Flats Campsite 31 – 3.7 mi
I was easily the first one out of a crowded Otters Creek Campsite. By the time other residents rolled out of their sleeping bags, I was probably on Maddron Bald or perhaps at the AT intersection.
I moved quickly enough to surprise some guys camping along Snake Den Ridge a nice open, but unofficial campsite. Hope the trail police don’t find them.
Back to the van and another trip this time to the convenience store where I loaded up on Papa’s pizza and gatorade. Using their bathroom, I cleaned up again as I left socks, etc. draped over the van to dry a little.
By the time I loaded up and drove over to Greenbrier Road and crossed the Little Pigeon River to arrive at the Ramsey Cascades trailhead, it was past 3 PM. With the day growing short, I continued a fast pace as I began passing many other walkers on the way to the Cascades. The sun was dropping and it was growing late by the time I reached the falls. The last couple miles of the trail were difficult with rocks and boulders and uneven short steep climbs. I actually worried about a few slow moving hikers that had yet to reach the falls and needed to return before sunset; however, I had my own concerns. I had to return 4 miles to the trailhead, drive to Brushy Mountain / Porters Creek trailhead, and hike to Porters Flat campsite. Upon reaching the road portion of Ramsey Creek Trail, I began alternating runs with quick paced walks.
At the Brushy Mountain parking lot I met a couple of guys getting out of the car. They were also hiking to Porter Flats for the night. After a few words, they started down the trail while I pulled out the remainder of a cold pizza from the box and began wolfing down supper while seated in the van. Packing up and checking my gear, I started up the road at a quick pace. About a mile before Porter Flats, I finally caught the pair of hikers. We made the campsite with plenty of time to set up in the light.
Day 4 – Kanati Fork Trail
Kanati Fork Trail and return – 5.8 miles
Returned along Porter Creek trail, then drove back through Gatlinburg and up 441 over Newfound Gap. At Kanati Fork trail I pulled over and did a quick day hike to Thomas Divide trail and back. I kept on the lookout for views of Newton Bald and believe that I was able to pick it out.