Short outings near Hot Springs NC September 10, 2012Posted by Jenny in hiking, nature, Southern Appalachians.
Tags: Appalachian Trail, Blackstack Cliffs, Garenflo Gap, Hot Springs NC, Shut-in trail, Smoky Mountain Diner
My friend Gary, his mother-in-law, and his son Zach were in Hot Springs over Labor Day weekend visiting a family friend. I drove up from Sylva to see them, starting the day with a bounteous brunch at the Smoky Mountain Diner. Gary and Zach and I then did two short hikes in the Hot Springs area. Do not think they are wimpy hikers. The next day they came down to Sylva, where I inflicted the Blackrock hike on them. They held up just fine.
Our first hike near Hot Springs went up the Shut-In trail to Garenflo Gap on the Appalachian Trail. (Don’t confuse this with the Shut-In trail near Asheville.) This was a climb of two miles and 820 vertical feet. We saw lots of wildflowers, including two types of lobelia: cardinal flower (see at top) and blue lobelia.
The trail crisscrosses the mossy boulders of the east fork of Shut-In Creek. Low water levels made the stream crossings easy.
The mushroom season is at its peak.
Vegetation of all kinds was thriving along the path, nearly obscuring it in places. The challenge of the hike was the nettles. All of us were wearing shorts. When we came back down, I felt so reluctant to wade through the gauntlet of stinging leaves again that I took my rain jacket and fashioned it into sort of a low-hanging apron by tying the sleeves around my waist. That left only my ankles exposed.
We saw some nice hearts-a-busting along the way.
Back down at the car, we decided to do another short hike. We drove north along Big Laurel Creek and then turned west to cross over the Tennessee line, where we followed a gravel road to the ridgeline of the A.T. From a parking area near a cell tower, we had a good view of our destination, Blackstack Cliffs.
We crossed a meadow spangled with goldenrod before entering the woods and following the A.T.
The views from the cliffs extended over intricate patterns of ridges down to the flat country around Greeneville.
I had last been there two years ago with my friend Seth, when we hiked up the Jerry Miller trail. We spent the whole day in hypothermic fog and slushy snow—and we still had a good time!
Gary and Zach and I continued a bit further to a section of exposed ridge with good views (which Seth and I had bypassed in the foggy conditions), then turned around to return to our starting point.