Saturday, March 31, 2012

Great Smoky Mountain National Park - Albright Grove Loop

Every year my son and I go to "The Smokies" for his spring break. This year (Easter weekend) will be the fourth consecutive year, so in preparation I thought I would add some of our hikes from previous years.
This hike was completed during our 2010 trip and we were in search of the elusive virgin stand of timber.

We eventually found the trailhead (hidden behind a Jellystone campground), and it was also difficult to find a parking spot. We geared up and watered up in preparation for the near 3-mile hike to the Albright Grove of virgin timber.

The entire 3-mile hike was uphill, so there were a few stops to rest. Ross always finds the best places to relax.

Another mile or so of climbing and it was time for another rest.

About 2.5 miles in you cross Indian Camp Creek, a beautiful little brookie stream....getting closer.

Shortly after crossing Indian Camp Creek, we start noticing a few larger trees, and Ross decides it's time to take another break.....getting close.

You know when you are in the Albright Grove - even without the trail marker. In my 40+ years on the east side of the Mississippi, I've never seen a virgin stand of timber - they just don't exist.

I've been among the ancient ones, 2000+ year old Colorado bristlecones and 4000+ year old California bristlecones, but these trees were impressive in their own right. They are survivors, somehow they survived the late 19th and early 20th century logging boom.
We decided to have a light lunch among the east coast giants. While we were having lunch, I noticed the sound of running water over the mountain behind us. After we finished eating, we bushwhacked through the rhododendron to another nice brookie stream.

After picking up a couple of little Smoky Mountain gems, it was time to head out - at least it was all downhill on the way out. Being downhill the entire way we had time to make a few stops, the first being Indian Camp Creek.

As we neared the bottom, we stopped along a small stream that I had noticed on the way up. What caught my eye on the way up was not the water but the structure alongside it.

I'm not sure what the puprose of the stone wall was, but I'm sure it took somebody quite a while to build. Could it be part of the (now rebuilt) homestead along the trail near the trailhead? Could a be from a family that was forced out of the park when the National Park was created?

Prior to this trip Ross had been running every day during basketball practice, so he was in decent shape, but he was still relieved when we made it back to the trailhead. Over 7 miles and half of it uphill - this is the sign of relief.

I'm looking forward to our 2012 adventure and reliving some of our other hikes in GSMNP.