Great Smoky Mountains Cabins, Gatlinburg Tennessee, Wedding Chapels

Great Smoky Mountains Gatlinburg Tennessee Wedding Chapels

Great Smoky Mountains Cabins, Gatlinburg Tennessee, Wedding Chapels

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[ Featured Hike ] [ Map ] [ Tips ]

he Great Smoky Mountains National Park has 270 miles of roads, over 800 miles of trails, and more than 500,000 acres of land. How much of it have you traversed? There are 50 species of mammals, 80 species of fish, 200 species of birds, and 1,300 species of flowering plants. The Park even boasts seven trees of record dimensions. How many of these have you seen?

More than ten million people visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park yearly, but most only see the park superficially. The best part of the Smoky Mountains area is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park itself, yet most people's views and experiences of the Park are limited to the main roads, a handful of the most frequented trails, the Cades Cove loop road, and the bumper of the car in front of them. While the individuals who experience these things are richer for the experience (except for the bumper), they are missing so much. Perhaps saving the rest for another trip? That's a worthwhile notion, but most will simply revisit the places which afforded them so much pleasure before, while there is a lifetime of adventure and experiences left undiscovered.

The Boogerman Trail Loop Hike

Summary: A moderately challenging 7.4 mile (round-trip) hike that takes you by some old growth forest, picturesque streams and falls, and the remains of early settler's homesites. Plan on roughly three hours, depending on your pace and whether you have children along. The departure point is in the Cataloochee section (the North Carolina side), which is a little more difficult to get to (see the map and directions), but well worth the effort.
Elevation: You will climb to approximately 800 feet to an altitude of 3,600 feet.
Point of departure: After following the directions from I-40, NC 276, and Cove Creek Road, navigate your way to the Caldwell Fork Trail (follow the signs).

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The Boogerman Trail Hike, first and foremost, takes you away from the traffic and population of the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It takes a bit of trouble to get to Cataloochee (see the directions on the map below), but I'll bet my last dollar you'll enjoy the Cataloochee area--and you'll be back.

Smoky Mountain Hike: Cataloochee

he Boogerman Trail is named for Robert "Boogerman" Palmer, whose homesite you'll pass as you complete this moderately challenging 7-mile loop trail, which can take between 2 and 3 hours to complete. You will gain nearly 850 feet on your way to 3,600 feet at the trail's highest point.

The trail is well maintained and this hike offers up views of some of the largest trees in the area, old homesites (including Palmer's) and mountain streams. This area was spared from the logging operations which dominated much of the Smokies area before the land was purchased for the Park.

After following the directions from I-40, NC 276, and Cove Creek Road, navigate your way to the Caldwell Fork Trail (follow the signs). Cross Cataloochee Creek on a footbridge and you'll enter a stand of white pines. When the trail splits, stay right and climb a narrow edge along Caldwell Fork. You'll cross Caldwell Fork on a footbridge and enter an area of old-growth trees. You will pass through a gap, and traverse an area dominated by white pines. At mile 2.8, you will encounter the Palmer (Boogerman) homesite.

At mile 3.8 of your loop, the trail turns down to the right alongside Snake Branch, around a rock wall, and across a small stream. Here you will see some clearings, old fence posts and piles of stone, which indicate where homesites previously existed near the creek.

Nearing the five-mile point you will cross Snake Branch , and in an area of towering hemlocks you will begin crossing Caldwell Fork several times via log footbridges. The stream offers up picturesque views of both quiet, deep pools and noisy falls. Several hundred yards before crossing Cataloochee Creek at approximately mile 7.4--and completion of the loop--you will see the remains of a cabin and barn built by Carson Messer.

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The Cataloochee area can be described as North Carolina's answer to Cades Cove. Though the old homesteads are not preserved as well as those in Cades Cove, the remains, combined with the overpowering beauty of the area, give you a good sense and feel for those old times when things were simpler. The "Boogerman" Trail hike was a great way to introduce myself to the Cataloochee area, and I came away feeling stronger and more fulfilled than when I arrived.

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General Tips for Enjoying Hikes in the Smokies

he hiker should be prepared for a wide range of temperatures and conditions. The temperature on some hikes can be 10 degrees cooler than when you leave lower elevations. Combine this with the fact that the Smokies are also the wettest place in the South, and you have the possibility for great discomfort in the event of a sudden storm. The higher elevations in the park can receive upwards of 90 inches of precipitation a year.

Don't judge the complete day by the morning sky. In summer the days usually start out clear, but as the day heats up, clouds can build up, resulting in a heavy shower. Winter is a great time to be in the Smokies, but also represents the most challenging time as well. Frontal systems sweep through the region, with alternately cloudy and sunny days, though cloudy days are most frequent in winter.

When traveling in the Smokies, it's a good idea to carry clothes for all weather conditions.

Footwear should be chosen with care. Though tennis shoes may be generally appropriate for some day hikes, boots should be worn on the uneven trails in the Park. They support the ankles from sprains and the foot from cuts and abrasions.

Stay on the designated trail, because most hikers who get lost do so when they leave the path. If you get temporarily lost, try to retrace your steps until you cross the trail again. Then its just a matter of guessing which way you were headed when you left the trail. You will either continue the way you were headed or go back to your starting point--either way, no harm is done.

Always bring rain gear and a wool sweater. They don't weigh much and might make the difference between being miserable or not in the event it rains. As mentioned earlier, the Smokies get approximately 90 inches of rain a year. This is good. Its what makes the Smokies such a wonderful place to be. Don't start a hike if thunderstorms threaten--some of the most devastating damage ever to the Park has been from great storms which can be upon you with little warning.

Cross streams carefully. Getting wet, even in summer, could lead to hypothermia, which leads ultimately to disorientation, poor decision making and, in extreme circumstances, death. Having said that, don't let a fear of hypothermia, getting lost, or bears prevent you from the enjoyment to be had by trekking the trails of the Park.

When we questioned a Park Ranger about how to react to meeting a bear on the trail, he smilingly told us the most likely sighting of a bear will be its tail disappearing over a ridge. Most "incidents" occur when an ignorant visitor feeds or otherwise harasses a bear. Our own experiences with bears have proven this to be true.

To avoid crowds, hike during the week; avoid holidays; go during the "off" season. Also, go in the morning before most folks are through eating breakfast; this is a good time to see wildlife and morning light is great for photography! You can also avoid crowds by using the outlying trailheads such as those found at the Cosby and Wears Valley entrances. I'm embarrassed to say we didn't know these existed for our first 18 visits to the Smokies. But to our delight, we found new vistas, trails, and landscapes to "discover for the first time".

ith a little care and planning, your trip to the Smokies can be much more rewarding and repay you with more great memories. You can enjoy not only the visual splendor of the Park, you can view it without counting out-of-state license plates, and you can get more fit in the bargain.

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