Walking Home

reveries of an amateur long-distance hiker

Walking to the Smoky Mountains, Day 18

June 17th, 2021

Walking to the Smoky Mountains, Day 18, June 15

Procter Fields (#86) — Chambers Creek (#98) 15 miles

The humidity dropped, so apart from some general malaise (just feel like I’m running out of gas), today’s walk was excellent. Relatively steady altitude with sweeping curves up into the coves, rock hopping a spring or stream, then long moderate climb to cross the next ridge. There were none of those points where a steep climb made me sweat through everything and have to put my (already in waterproof case) phone into a plastic bag to avoid sweat-short.

The first bit was on the old turn-of-the-century railroad bed. Rails and ties were taken up long ago, but the bed remains in good condition. Later in the day, I was consulting the Guthook navigation app about upcoming waypoints, and was puzzled that they were all at the same attitude. Later when I got to that part, the trail joined that old railroad bed for most of the afternoon. The Lake Fontana can be seen through the trees, just a few hundred feet below. Was thinking about what it must have been like riding the logging train out from Procter, then realized that the train stopped running before the lake was built, so that was not their experience even as it was mine. I remember reading that, before the chestnut blight wiped out most of the forests here, a National market for American chestnuts was developed by running narrow gauge trains up into the Appalachian coves. I wonder if that train was part of that commerce.

Trying to plan out the end of this trip, and the last days will be brutal— several 18 milers ahead and the ascent and descent will be steep and long. Will just have to see how things hold up— I can abandon over near Cherokee if necessary.

T. Hugh Crawford