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Steven
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 22, 2011

Turkeypen Ridge, Schoolhouse Gap, Scott Mtn. Loop



There are over 800 miles of trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Not all of them have a pretty waterfall, a high mountain vista, or even some historical reason to get out on them. But if you're going to hike all 800+ miles, then you have to hit all the trails - even when they don't present anything upfront. In all honesty, this was a pretty boring loop. If for some weird reason I should ever decide to walk it again, I’ll walk it in a clockwise direction instead of the direction we went. I’d highly recommend anyone interested in going on this loop do the same thing.  I also don’t recommend carrying trekking poles either – at least until trail crews clear out the big blow-down on Scott Mtn. Trail.


I took Derek from work with me. I sometimes forget that I’m not in my 20’s anymore. Derek and his buddies help keep me in check whenever I hike with them. This was his first trip to the Smokies, and I think we still had a good time - even if there wasn't anything outright scenic about this particular loop.

We parked the car at the same trailhead that I used  to walk the loop I did in the previous post. Only, we didn’t cross the road. We took off down the Turkeypen Ridge Trail, and within a short period, we came up on this little booger:


He’s just a garter snake. No worries. I almost stepped on him.

That was about the highlight of  the Turkeypen Ridge Trail. We arrived at Dorsey Gap  and the Schoolhouse Gap Trail at a spot that looked like an illegal campsite. It’s sort of confusing there too since there’s a trail that leads up into the cove to Whiteoak Sinks. I’d like to come back and visit the Sinks after the leaves have fallen and the snakes have gone to den for the winter. I hear it’s an interesting spot. Look for a post this fall or winter about it.

Schoolhouse Gap is an old road that leads out of the park. It was somewhat plain as well. No views or vistas. Just an old road that goes up and down from one point to another. The gap itself didn't have a schoolhouse there either. In fact, there was only a more modern vacation cabin. It kind of shocked us at first. No one appeared to be home, so we made use of their picnic table along the road where we stopped for a lunch break and a little nap.




Just before we got onto the Scott Mtn. Trail, we saw another sign that was for a trail leading into Whiteoak Sink again. There was a warning sign about entering caves and White Nose Syndrome, which is killing bats at an alarming rate.

Scott Mtn. Climbs up to the park border, along a ridgetop. At one point, we could hear a weed eater, and even smell the smoke from it. It even looked as if someone had cleared the grass from sides of the trail for a little ways. We never saw a house or the person operating it though. Weird.


Scott Mtn climbed and climbed and climbed. It was a very narrow trail cut into some steep sections of mountainsides. At some points, I was wishing that my left leg was about 3 or 4 inches longer than my right.

We also came across a blow down that was completely blocking the trail. It spanned a tight section of cove, and we opted to try and climb across it instead of trying to go above and around it – The hillside was just too steep and the crown of the tree made it nearly impassable.


About the time I ran out of water, we came up onto Campsite #6, which wasn’t much to look at, but we checked it out. Not a whole lot of room. Maybe a couple of good tent sites, and we never found a water source worth mentioning. It wasn’t until we got way down the Crooked Arm Ridge Trail that I manage to get some more water. By then we were practically back in Cades Cove.



Once we got back into Cades Cove, we made our way over  to the Camp Store, where I grabbed a Gatorade, a big bottle of water, some M&M’s, and a hot dog. We sat out in the shade by the pavilion and watched the tourists come and go. At one point, I thought about getting in the creek. It was the heat of the day, and I was feeling it. I was ready to be done, even though I was about worn out.


We made our way out of the cove up the Anthony Creek Trail. The junction with the Crib Gap Trail came surprisingly fast. Once we made the turn, it was a lot farther back to the road than I thought. We climbed up way more that I thought we would too. At one point, we were practically right beside the road, but we were several feet above it. We eventually made our way back around, only to have to cross Laurel Creek Road and walk about another mile on the northern side of it. This section was mostly downhill, but it was rocky as all get out.


Finally, we made it back to the Turkeypen Ridge Trail. After a brief climb, we were back at the car. When we got back to the Townsend Wye, I decided to go for a little dip to get all the salt and summer funk off me. We found a parking place and I scrambled down the riverbank to a large boulder by some deep water. The water was over my head there, and the current was pretty strong, so I didn’t get all the way in. I just did a little birdbath there to freshen up. Later that weekend, a tuber that couldn’t swim would lose their life in that same area. I can see how it happened, especially since they couldn’t swim. My heart goes out to the lost one’s friends and family. Funny how one minute, you can be cruising along, enjoying life, and the next minute, you can lose it all… Makes me count my blessings.

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