September 23, 2017
It feels good to be back in the woods. I originally thought that I would be well done with the Pisgah 400 (hiking all the trails of the Pisgah Ranger District) by now; alas I’m out there now and really enjoying this time of year.
I made my way again to the Turkey Pen Gap area for two trails in the South Mills River area: Poundingmill Trail and Cantrell Creek Trail. From Turkey Pen the hike is a nice 12-mile lollipop hike.
For exactly two 2 miles the trail is nice and steady along the South Mills River. Marked to the right (north) is the sign for the Poundingmill Trail. The name is derived from that which it sounds like; a poundingmill was a mill that pounded corn. According to a 1920 Outing magazine issue, Horace Kephart described it as “a most-wonderful machine” that represents “a long step in human progress.” Utilized from the power of water and almost balancing conveyor is set up whereby a bucket is filled, and attached to the bucket in the opposite side is a pestle. As the bucket fills, the pestle is raised, when the bucket releases the water, the pestle drops to smash the corn.*
I absolutely loved this trail. Hidden and unfrequented by the masses; the creek gently rolling past the narrow trail through the thickets. I would have sworn that no one else had been on the trail this year, save a footprint that I saw at the end. The trail from south to north is slightly uphill, but only gently and relatively short at 1.5 miles. I love that feeling of immersion in the woods. Hints of times gone by and on this day the cascading of fall leaves to the ground, littering the forest floor like confetti; nature rejoicing at the conclusion of another year.
At the northern terminus of Poundingmill, I turned left (west) upon Squirrel Gap Trail. For 2 miles I climbed gently until I reached the northern trailhead for Cantrell Creek Trail. It was a nice downhill hike for 2 miles. There were countless creek crossings, no bridges, so I enjoyed the refreshing mountain streams upon my feet, stopping occasionally in the middle to just stand. I looked up, down to the side just being in nature, just taking in the moment.
Total mileage is 11.9 miles.
*Great Smoky Mountain Stories; W. Clark Medford