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Maddron Bald via Greenbrier Creek February 20, 2011

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
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Pinnacle Lead still had some snow

This was a solo bushwhack. Last March I bushwhacked up Buckeye Lead, and today I went returned to follow the stream next to it, the right fork of Greenbrier Creek. I’d been up there years before with the Hiking Club.

I arrived at the Maddron Bald trailhead and emerged from my comfortable car into a chilly gloom. In an effort to work off the chill, I made the 1.2-mile climb up to the Gabes Mountain trail junction in 23 minutes, equals 3.13 mph. I know a lot of people are faster than me, but that is fast by my standards!

I slowed down as I traversed the Gabes Mountain trail, winding in and out of its many stream valleys. At campsite 34, three guys were cooking their breakfast. I said hello, stopped for a moment to check my map, and then started following the left bank of the stream. I looked over my shoulder and saw that the guys were staring at me—“What the heck is she doing?”

Left bank of Greenbrier Creek

The stream had many small cascades and nice little boulder gardens. I liked the Christmas ferns growing atop this boulder.

Christmas ferns

There were quite a few blowdowns across the creek, which made for slow going. I noticed many as well as I came down the Maddron Bald trail. I think last Monday’s very gusty winds brought down quite a few trees.

Continuing on through a spotty drizzle, I ran into another obstacle: witch hobble, or hobblebush, as some people call it (a kind of viburnum). I don’t remember the valley being so clogged with it when I came here in 1984. And neither do I recall seeing so much of it anywhere else in the Smokies. When its leaves and flowers come out in the spring, it looks pretty, but in the winter it is really an ugly, shapeless plant, with limp gangly branches that rival rhodo branches for snatching you around the waist and holding you back. At around 4000′ I ran into a combination of boulders and witch hobble that was so annoying that I started gradually working my way to the right, closer to Buckeye Lead.

Witch hobble

The climb became steep (600 vertical feet in a third of a mile), and I worked my way past some bluffs and eventually intersected the upper part of Buckeye Lead. Incidentally, last year I never saw any buckeyes on Buckeye Lead, but there were some in the stream valley.

This buckeye had a strange-looking wart on it

The last few hundred vertical feet were a rhodo crawl, but eventually I popped out on the trail near the hairpin turn at 4900′. I strolled up to the bald, which is no longer bald but still has some nice patches of myrtle, and ate my lunch.

I passed quite a few people as I went down the trail, some at campsite 29 and others lower down. I saw a total of about 20 hikers, all of them men. Women hikers, where are you?!

I stopped at the overlook and saw that the sun was making an attempt to come out.

Spots of sun

Below the overlook, I encountered the three guys who had been at campsite 34 on the Gabes Mountain trail, chugging along with their heavy packs. They couldn’t believe it when they saw me. I just said, “I took a short cut.”

All of the stream crossings were high because of snowmelt, and I got a wet foot on one of them. Nevertheless, I always enjoy the trail down to the very clear dividing line where you emerge into spindly second-growth forest and the trail widens out into a road. I find this last part tedious. The Baxter cabin near the bottom is the only highlight along the way. And so my hike ended.

Baxter cabin

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Comments»

1. Wandering Owl - February 20, 2011

I’m really looking forward to having trails without snow. Nice post and the pics of the area are great.

Take care –

Jenny - February 20, 2011

I’m kind of superstitious about more snow—if I say we’re sure to get more, then maybe we won’t! I did see the leaves of some wildflowers poking up (like yellow trilliums), but the blooms are still a ways off. Thanks for your comment.

2. TWL - February 21, 2011

A deceptively simple and direct account of a another inspiring hike.

Thanks for sharing. I love the photographs too.

Many times, in my urban and too-busy life, I read your articles and sigh, “I needed that!”

Jenny - February 21, 2011

Thank you! A little escapism never hurts….

3. Thomas Stazyk - February 22, 2011

Looks like a great hike–made me think of spring!

4. brian - February 23, 2011

Had to laugh at you meeting those three guys on the way down. A lot of times I’ve stayed at Tricorner on off trail trips and people ask which trail I arrived on. If I say I climbed up this or that valley they seem to lose interest. So I just ask them about their own hike.

While it may have been true that the number of women hikers was limited on Maddron Bald, 100% of the sample was bushwhacking versus 0% of the men. That has to count for something.

Jenny - February 23, 2011

For all I know, some of the guys I passed might have come down Otter Creek or Copperhead Branch. But I doubt it. They didn’t look dirty enough.


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