Sunday, October 11, 2009

Meigs Creek Trail summary

On Sept.21 we hiked out Meigs Creek Trail, which begins at The Sinks parking lot between Gatlinburg and Townsend. The Sinks is an area of rapids/falls that runs under a vehicle bridge and empties into large pools. I've heard two stories of how the name developed - first, that a locomotive derailed and sank to the bottom; second, because the waters swirl around like the draining of a sink.

This day, surveyors were on the job sighting for upcoming renovations and a handicap accessible viewing ramp.

Often on days like this one (after a very heavy rain) you can find kayakers braving the rapids..... as we geared up and headed out the trail we saw two trucks with kayaks pulling into the parking lot.

Meigs Creek Trail runs 3.5 miles to Buckhorn Gap, our goal.

The start of the trail crosses through a marshy boar wallow (I've never seen so much activity as here, this was just a bit of it).

Then you head steadily upward, climbing a few hundred feet along a ridge.

Some nice views along this stretch.

There are at least eighteen stream crossings. That's well over 30 times, out and back, which is a lot. The most I'm aware of in the National Park.....
I was prepared, I'd packed our aqua socks... you know, those water shoes?... but somebody refused to wear his due to a blister incident several years ago that resulted from not wearing *real* socks under the aqua socks and walking a couple miles while tubing in Deep Creek. Anyway...

I wore mine nearly the whole time (~6 miles) and it was great - no worries about slipping while trying to rock hop with a pack, no blisters... just wade thru the water and keep going.
He did end up with wet shoes ... how could he not? Those rocks were plenty slick due to the drizzle and slowly receding high waters.

We hiked most of the way with ponchos draped over our backs.

All the creek crossings meant plenty of opportunities for salamander spotting and we weren't disappointed. Neat little creatures.

A brief ascent after the final creek lead thru a field of ferns and up to Buckhorn Gap. Meigs Creek Trail intersects with Meigs Mountain Trail heading east toward Elkmont and Lumber Ridge Trail heading west toward Tremont.

Closer inspection of the sign revealed a very large walking stick insect.

At back of the sign, a fairly-worn manway was visible. I followed it a brief way down a steep hill and saw it continued on.... later research revealed this is the Spruce Flats manway, which we plan to hike as a loop with Lumber Ridge Trail in future.

Heading back, we slowed the pace and looked around more.... some highly interesting fungi were observed, including this one that looks like either a pimento olive or egg yolk.

Here's a couple pretty ones....

Roughly halfway back, while admiring Meigs Cascade, a yellow jacket stung me on the back of the right calf just below the knee. It's a scientific fact that cursing reduces pain, so I self-medicated heavily along the rest of the hike. I apologize for any blue air still hanging about the vicinity.

As we reached the parking lot, the kayakers were peeling off their wetsuits and leaving as well, so we missed that action.
We were out about 5 hours and didn't see anyone else on the trail.

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