Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Start: Deal’s Gap Motorcycle Resort | Finish: Slickrock Creek | Miles: 9.0 | Total: 106.2
8:15 AM – Breakfast at the Pub. Here I was calling it the Tavern the whole time, but it’s Pub & Grill. Playing classic rock at 8 am. It will be a late start today. My choices are camp sites at 11 miles and 16 miles. 11 should be doable if I am on the trail by 10.
Local weather report says chance of rain around 4pm, but most likely dry. But it’s supposed to rain tomorrow, mid morning. So plan to be up and out early. After today I may try to increase the mileage.I would have to string together a week of longer days to cut a day to Reliance or Thunder Rock.
6:30 PM – Slickrock Creek. I misread my mileage earlier, and had to stop at 9 miles for the day, at 4:30. If I had started earlier, even by 1 hour, I probably would have pushed for the 16, but as it is I would have been setting up camp at 8 pm. Stealth camping is always an option, but prepared camp sites are usually nice enough that anything else feels like a compromise.
Today – checked out at 10:30. Viewed my late morning as my compromise “zero” – not even a nearo, but still. 1/2 mile road walk to TN state line, then 3 miles on an overgrown Forest Service maintenance road. The land here is owned by a hydroelectric company as far as I can tell. The trail then turned over a ridge and began its descent to the Cheoah Dam. This section, the “Tapoco Section” had been burned in a wildfire a few years ago, according to a sign. Many of the blazes had been obscured or lost, and yellow flagging tape would serve as the route marking. While many of the trees in the area were bare, the undergrowth had come back with a vengeance. Briars and brambles will surely survive a nuclear winter, so we can at least look forward to blackberry cobbler in that event.
Between the undergrowth, and the fallen trees and branches, finding the trail was at many times a wild guess. Back on Enloe Creek I joked that I could have used a machete, but here it was truly needed. All exposed skin was crisscrossed with bleeding welts.
The Tapoco section seemed like forever, but was actually quite short. The trail briefly joined US 129 (5 minute motorcycle ride from the start of the day) to cross the Little Tennessee River at the Cheoah Dam. That dam is one interesting looking chunk of concrete – almost steampunk or brutalist. Needs to be sketched, but was not in the mood. Maybe a separate trip is in order.
After the river, the trail entered the Joyce Kilmer forest. The rest of the day was dirt-path-in-the-woods classic hiking. The forest is quite scenic here, as is the camping spot. It is next to a small creek, lots of moss on the trees and rocks.
Tomorrow needs to be an early start due to it being a 19 mile day. That will be the longest so far, on this hike. Odometer turned over 100 today.