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I'm from the foothills of the North Georgia mountains. I was a woodworker for about 12 years. Well, up until I had the rug pulled out from under my feet, and I was laid off. I got back into photography in 2008 and decided to give that a try professionally, but haven't made any money so far because rednecks, white trash, and hicks are cheap. So, I'm working in a local grocery store where some days I hear and see the craziest stuff. I tend to complain a lot about things, but I'm too poor to afford a good therapist. So, I decided to make a blog and complain online to all of you instead. But I digress. I really just wanted to do the blog to share ideas and stories with the interwebz. =D
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Monday, August 8, 2011

Lead Cove, Bote Mountain, Finley Cane Trails…

In almost every guidebook and park trail map, there’s a section that tells you to take a raincoat, no matter what the season. In cooler weather, I consider it a must. Getting wet and then being cold can lead to hypothermia, and that’s never good. For summer hikes though, I’ve left the jacket in the car a time or two; especially in the lower elevations during hot, muggy summer days. To be honest, I did have it with me for this hike, and I seriously doubt it would have done me a lot of good though. This was a cloudburst. I’ve been out in rain before, but this was ridiculous. I’ve taken showers and not gotten so wet.

Bote Mountain is pronounced like just like the English word boat. On this trip, I felt like I could have used one too. Actually, “Bote” is how the Cherokee said the word “Vote.” (They couldn’t pronounce V’s) The ridge that the Bote Mountain Trail is on got it’s name when it was voted as the ridge of choice to build a road for farmers to take their cows up to Spence and Russell Fields for the summer months. If you look at topo maps, you can see nearby Defeat Ridge, which obviously lost out.

Anyway, I parked the car along Laurel Creek Road, just before you go over the hill into Cades Cove. Several trails meet up here, but there’s not really any indicator other than the usual trail signs. There is parking on both sides of the road there though. The area is usually a little more congested than some of the other pullouts along the drive, which kind of helped me find it.

Originally, I had a different route planned, but lighting and thunder forced me to cut it short. The first part of the hike up Lead Cove Trail to the top of the ridge where it meets the Bote Mountain Trail, remained the same. Lead Cove was steep and somewhat boring. I met a group of backpackers coming from Spence Field and an elderly couple that had no idea where they were going.  They asked me how much farther I thought it might be to the top. I hadn’t checked my watch when I left, but I assumed that I had been walking about forty minutes or so, and by that I estimated that we couldn’t have been more than 100 yards or so from the junction with Bote Mountain Trail. While in the midst of our conversation, I heard a snap, and looked up the hill, and there was a bear sitting, probably about 30 yards or less, eating something. I broke out my camera phone and the elderly couple took off. I snapped a photo or two, and I started up the trail in the opposite direction from the elderly couple. Then, out of nowhere, just yards from the trail, a bear cub slid down a tree. He stopped just short of the ground and just hung there, looking at me. I took a couple of photos and then let out a yell at him as I continued up the trail. He didn’t budge. I hurriedly went on my way, rounded the corner, and there was the junction at the top of the ridge, just as I had predicted.

I stopped to drink some water, and look at my map, all the while looking up to see if mama bear and her curious cub were nearby. I continued down the trail back towards Laurel Creek Road. I’ve been on the upper reaches of Bote Mountain before. Twice I’ve walked up Anthony Creek to Spence Field Shelter, and once to Russell Field. The lower end is a pleasant ridge walk along what used to be an old road. The upper end is like walking in an over-eroded ditch for much of the way. One day, I want to come back and complete the gap between Lead Cove Trail and Anthony Creek Trail.
Down I went, losing a lot of altitude, while the clouds were on the increase. I could see off to the south in several places, and I could see the skies darkening. The wind picked up, and I decided to take a quick look at my map to see what my options were in case of a thunderstorm. After a very brief stop, I was back on my way down the ridge.

After a little while, there was a quick burst of rain, nothing much to fuss about, but I hadn’t eaten my lunch yet, and I was getting hungry. I kept on moving though. I wanted to at least make it to Finley Cane before I stopped to eat. Walking down Bote Mountain was pleasant. It would descend rather sharply, and then level out for a spell. It swapped sides of the ridge a few times before  it finally made it to the Finley Cane junction. Finely cane literally came out down the steep embankment on the side of the trail.  I might have missed it if it weren’t for a horse party that came out just before I got down the hill to it. By this time the rain had let up just a little. I got under a laurel thicket and sat on the back to eat my lunch. The rain stopped for a few minutes, so I went across and sat on a nice log that was on the side of the trail. Once I had eaten, I decided that I would take the shorter route via Finley Cane back to my car.

Finley Cane was a fine trail. It wasn’t too steep, and was easy to follow. Well, I spent a good bit of it looking through wet and foggy glasses, so really, what do I know? About a quarter of a mile down the trail, the wind picked up and it began thundering in earnest. The storm was upon me. I picked up my pace to just short of a jog in places. Then… the bottom fell out.

I didn’t even have time to get my jacket out. Within minutes, I was soaked to the bone. I didn’t want to stop either since it was lightning rather frequently. I just kept my head down, and kept my pace as fast as I could. Soon, my boots were soaked. By this point, I was convinced that I just wanted to keep moving until I could see the road and my car. And so that’s what I did. The trail was like a creek in places. I just slogged on through. You know, once you get to a certain point of wetness, you just don’t seen to care much about it anymore, right?

I didn’t know about the horse tunnel junction either, and I ‘m glad I went the way back that I did. Had I went the other way, it would have added more to my walk, not to mention that it would have been uphill – in the rain – with soggy boots.

Anyway, I soon reached the Lead Cove trailhead and the car. Hike completed. It was a great return to the Smokies after my broken leg from last year. Yes, I’d recommend this hike to friends that are looking for a fairly easy day loop, but I’d recommend that they take a look at the weather forecast before they go. =)



Anonymous said...

Steven, Thanks for this post. I was looking for the correct pronunciation for Bote when I stumbled on your website... I do a lot of hiking and am working on finishing every trail in the Smoky Mtns. Maybe I will run into you someday on a trail. gary.mcgill@comcast.net

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