Saturday, June 7, 2014

Smokemont Loop Hike and Chasteen Creek Cascade-- A Go Smokies Hike!

Flame azalea on Smokemont Loop
Smokemont Loop Hike & Chasteen Creek Cascade
The Whiners Hiking Club
Dana Koogler
Marlene Denton
Jeff Cole
Duane Pierce
Betsy & David Lee
Cheryl & Curtis Travis
Mitch & Rhonda Reagan
* making a cameo appearance but not hiking
GW "Five Dollar George"  Denton
Duane Allen
Sunday June 1, 2014
7 miles round trip
Pictures are here: Smokemont Loop Hike
       We met up at Sugarlands Visitor Center a 9 a.m.   We hung around a little while talking and visiting and making sure everyone who was going had arrived.   We all thought it was odd that
Marlene & GW were later than anticipated.   Turned out it was because they were having vehicle
difficulties.   The PT Cruiser got to spitting and sputtering on the way there.  GW was concerned
enough about it making it home he decided it was best if he headed back home with it while it was daylight. It is bad enough to deal with a thing like that in broad daylight much less when you are
worried about it getting dark!

      Duane Allen was heading to CS 83 down on Hazel Creek. He stopped by to greet us and shake hands.   We decided to do some car pooling out of concerns over how much parking space would be available at Smokemont Campground.   We drove over to start our days adventure.  I rode with Duane Pierce and Marlene.    We had a nice day to be out. It was supposed to be a little overcast
and cooler.  I always appreciate that at this stage of my life. 
Parking, gathering gear, bathroom breaks all over with at last. We walked down through the campground to begin our hike at the big bridge end of Smokemont Loop to hike it clockwise.
We wanted the 1,500 foot elevation gain out of the way first.  Everything after that is so much easier!

      We took group photos at the bridge. The Luftee was flowing healthy today.  



Oconaluftee River flowing past beneath the bridge. Mountain laurel was so pretty today!

Pictures and people!  

      The trail is a climb but it is gentle, well graded, beautiful and here in the Bright and Sunny South.. we believe in a thing called "switchbacks".    The air was  nice and cool which helped.
The company was good.  We chatted and joked and I did what I usually do in an uphill climb.
I got quiet. I huffed and puffed!    We continued along checking out wildflowers and trees along the way.  The trail had a lot of mountain laurel blooms fallen on it.  Peak bloom was past, but there was still some pretty mountain laurel to be seen. We also saw some flame azaleas in shades of orange and one in a very different yellow!  A hike here a month ago would have
been a nice display of trilliums and other Spring ephemerals.  

        We  had partial views along the way.   The day was overcast and a few drops of rain fell
on us when the wind blew.  It was just moisture off the tree canopy above from rain earlier in the morning and the previous night.

The Gang on the trail

       One thing I found out as did Betsy... those older trail guides that claim this wildflower or that is on a given trail are NOT to be trusted!    Don't ever use that as a frame of reference unless you want to be sent on a huge snipe hunt.    We could tell we were gaining elevation and the terrain was changing.  We met a few other hikers coming the opposite way.   It wasn't long until we could hear a road off in the distance to our left.   We arrived at the top! No more climbing!    Once we all got caught up we decided to stop and eat lunch on the trail.  I was glad for a chance to eat, drink, rest and cool off.

         We continued on after lunch and at this point it was a gradual downhill. 
The trail ambled ever down the mountain around ridges and we came to one area that was
very wet and springs of water seeped out.  A short time later we began to hear the roar of Bradley Fork.  The stream was flowing along well and I was very glad to see it was going to be a bridged crossing!  The banks of the stream here tell a story.  The stream banks are covered with a largely undisturbed carpet of deep green moss.   The area is not real heavily traveled.
We met quite a few hikers on the trail today coming the opposite direction, but I don't get the feeling the area around this stream sees heavy use or off trail travel.

Bradley Fork

The long long foot log across Bradley Fork. It is very bouncy!
    Once we crossed the foot log over Bradley Fork we all took a rest and catch up break.
We headed in the direction of the Chasteen Creek Trail.  I was surprised to find it was only 1/2 mile further along.   It was a very easy walk from the junction and we all voted to go up to see the cascade.
It was another easy 0.7 miles up to it and well worth the effort to see.   It is a low, wide cascade that is hard to get a good picture of.  It is mossy and we were the only ones there. 

Chasteen Creek Cascade

        We wrapped up our visit to the cascade and gradually began the hike back to the campground and parking area to close the loop today.    It was a scenic, easy end to the trek.
The weather had been cooperative. We did not get rained on. It was not too hot.  Everyone seemed to be in good spirits.   I had forgotten just how beautiful this area is. I hope to get back over here solo sometime to check out things in my own leisurely fashion.    I realize I make concessions when I hike with others. I try not to take too many photos or lag behind too much on the trail.  It is not the time for it.  I want to go along and get along so I am a good hiking companion and get asked back again!    For me the time for my self indulgent exploration and artistry is during times of solo hiking or with a companion who is there for the same thing.

           We arrived back at the vehicles and stowed our gear.  It was time for a dry shirt.  Time to change from hiking boots into sandals.  Time to rest and cool off.  And most of all... time for birthday cake!  Betsy Lee makes the most indulgent, wonderful cococola cake ever!  Yum! So we wished Betsy a very Happy Birthday!  She shared some of that divine cake with us and man was it good!
Time for cold drinks and visiting a bit.  Rhonda took time to show me some of her photographs
she's had success in marketing. She really is a talented photographer!

        We said our good-byes for the day and gave hugs and parted to go our various ways.
Marlene and I headed back across the mountain with Duane.   He's a good driver and even riding
in the back seat I was ready for a nap.  I was too interested in talking to him and Marlene to sleep and maybe miss something.   Its always interesting to meet new people and learn about them.
The hike today seemed short because it was fun and the company was good.  The ride back across the mountain seemed like mere minutes for the same reason.   I am pleased to get up with these
wonderful folks and spend time building friendships with them!

    Here is a short video of the end portion of the hike. I really like how it came out.
The scenery made it easy to prepare a can't miss video.  The music selection is mellow and lighthearted. Kind of like the day.  Today was another beautiful addition to the engrams in my head!
Collect moments!

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