Walking to the Smoky Mountains, Day 5, June 2
US 76 to Halloway Gap 15 miles
After my complimentary breakfast at the Douglas Inn (some of that screw tap cereal) I caught a ride back to the trail head for the next stretch which will in a few days take me over the Tennessee line. The west side of the highway is much like he east, with the trail winding between developments, alternating short bits of trail with road walking. I was surprised how far out the development goes, it when it finally broke through the BMT offered some of the best paths— winding down narrow draws beside streams in some older growth woods. This area has been extensively logged so it is rare to run up on what Suzanne Simard calls “Mother Trees” but there are still stands that soothe the soul. The tree size signals logging as does the presence of faint, often overgrown logging roads. The designers of the BMT took advantage of those already formed tracks, and the trail often turns onto one for a while.
Today the trail also turned onto another long road walk, this one through old and often derelict farms. The developers are only just now arriving, but it is still possible to see what the area was like when the people were fairly isolated from the flatlands. Lots of confederate flags still flying. By noon I was finished with the day’s road walking and entered the national forest for some beautiful winding trails with a lot of ascent and descent. I’d checked the weather and expected afternoon showers which arrived on schedule— mostly just sprinkles for several hours. But of course it intensified just as I was nearing the day’s end— a really great campsite just down off the trail a bit beside a stream. I hustled to it just as the skies opened, pitched my trusty ZPacks tent as fast as humanly possible and crawled in to wait out the storm. When I arrived I was surprised to find a tent already pitched. By and large this has been a solitary trek, with only encounters with day hikers and few of those. Imagine my surprise when the rain stopped. I crawled out of my tent and went over to introduce myself to an empty abandoned tent (glad it was empty!). So once again, it’s just me and the bears.
T. Hugh Crawford