Scratchin' the Itch travel blog

No leaves on the trees here.

Finally, a break

Trail junctions are clearly marked in the Smokies

Hannah Cemetery

A relic from by-gone days

The streams were all full of water.

Two more trails have been colored in on my Smokies map.

We got an early start this morning, leaving the house at 6:15 for the hour drive to the Mount Sterling Trailhead. The portion of this drive which is in North Carolina is along a very bad, narrow dirt road. We were surprised at the number of people we met along that road at the crack of dawn this morning. Mostly, it was hunters trying to find their dogs. However, there was one couple who was obviously confused and/or lost. They had been traveling east on I-40 and seemed somewhat disoriented when they were forced off the interstate at the state line. They were ahead of us and finally stopped and flagged us down for directions. As bad as the road was, they were more interested in continuing the 25 or so miles along that bone jarring washboard than taking the 100 mile detour. When we stopped at our trailhead, Gene once again showed them the map and wished them well on their journey. Hope they made it. We’ll have the privilege of going over that road again to get to our trailhead for tomorrow’s hike.

We started our hike uphill along the Mount Sterling Trail for a half mile. There we connected with the Long Bunk Trail and enjoyed a very pleasant walk through hardwood forest for 3.7 miles to the end of the trail. As with many trails in the Smokies, there was evidence of pioneer settlements especially as we neared the junction with the Little Cataloochee Trail. We walked through an old homestead where we could see the remains of fence posts and some rusting pots. You can always tell when you are near someone’s old home place by the yucca plants that are now growing wild. A half mile from the end of our trail, we came upon the Hannah Cemetery. There are many of these old cemeteries within the park boundaries.

With the abundance of rain lately, the creeks and streams were full of water. In places the trail was pretty wet, also. We were high enough in elevation that the trees had already shed their leaves. Those leaves were on the trail making the hike difficult and somewhat treacherous. Concealed by the leaves were all the trail hazards we have come to love--rocks, roots, ruts from horse travel, horse doo, and mud. YUK!!

At the junction with the Cataloochee Trail, we stopped for a short break and then retraced our steps to the Mount Sterling Trail. We had already done the first half mile of this trail and only had 1.8 miles left. That 1.8 miles was a doozy, gaining almost 2000 feet in elevation. Our break at the top could have easily turned into a nap. We were dog tired by that time.

At the end of the day, we had hiked 11.8 miles and climbed nearly 3000 feet and I got to color about 2 inches on the map. Doesn’t hardly seem worth it.

Tomorrow, we will head out early again and drive about 3 miles beyond our stopping point today to the next trailhead.

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