31 May Old Road Gap Tusquitee Bald Area Loop
This loop hike includes unmaintained trails with sections that are difficult to navigate. Leg coverings such as gaiters or long pants are recommended for protection from heavy undergrowth in some sections. The area is remote and not frequently hiked, therefore precautions should be taken to avoid rattlesnakes. Headphones should not be used while hiking in this area, since rattlesnakes are nearly always heard before being seen.
May 28, 2016 – From Tuni Gap Road – Big Choga Road intersection to trail side camp on Chunky Gal trail via Old Road Gap and Fires Rim Creek trails.
Tuni Gap road was gated and closed. This may have been a temporary closure, because I later saw Caterpillar road equipment on the road along with a lot of evidence of recent road maintenance work. Old Road Gap road (FS 7099) is also gated and closed, but this appears to be a permanent closure.
Just before dark at my campsite on Chunky Gal trail, I heard a loud racket at the bottom of the hill. After listening a while, I was sure it was a group of wild pigs rooting around. There was plenty of evidence of pig activity along Chunky Gal trail on the section between Tuni Gap Road and Tusquitee Road.
That night while under my tarp, I was constantly brushing large black ants off my face and hair. With the headlamp I could see that the ants were swarming over my sweat soaked cap that sat on the ground next to my bag. There must be something nutritious about perspiration. I left the cap undisturbed, thinking that it would draw the ants away from me.
Other notable wildlife along the way was a Dark-Eyed Junco on Old Gap Road trail, a second sighting of turkey, and a grouse.
May 29, 2016 – From campsite on Chunky Gal trail to Tusquitee Road, then forest service road back to car.
I didn’t encounter other hikers during the entire course of this 2 day hike including sections on Forest Service roads. In fact, the only people I saw were a few elderly gentlemen enjoying their Sunday morning coffee at a remote township along Tusquitee Gap Road (The only road open to traffic; I saw absolutely zero traffic on this road).
I enjoyed a pleasant hike down these remote unpaved mountain roads after bushwhacking and gotten off-trail a couple of times along Chunky Gal trail.
Having completed the last section of the Chunky Gal trail, I was able to celebrate (only in my mind) the milestone of having completed its entire 21.6 mile length from the Appalachian trail to Fires Rim Creek trail. I first hiked the 5.1 mile section from the AT to Glade Gap on US Highway 64 in 2004 and the next section hike was in 2014 from Glade Gap to Little Clay Knob. There is very little maintenance on this trail. I ended up “off-trail” on each of 3 section hikes I completed.Each trip on this trail was made exhausting by the deadfall that had to be crossed or scrambled around.
The Chunky Gal trail could be used as a “shortcut” on the AT by leaving the AT near Muskrat Creek Shelter and rejoining the AT 50 miles later just beyond the peak of Cheoah Bald. The shortcut would knock 12 miles (about a day’s hike) off the AT, but would involve plenty of trailblazing and deadfall scrambling hardship along with a few miles of walking Big Choga and Junaluska roads. Besides Chunky Gal, the connecting trails would include Fires Rim Creek trail, Old Road Gap trail / Old Road Gap road, London Bald trail, and the NC Bartram trail.