July 8, 2020
Pandemic or not; I am jumping back on the Smoky 900 trail challenge. My family and I have dutifully stayed at home since March 12, 2020. We have cancelled all vacations, trips, extracurricular activities, outings, not eaten out or gotten take-out in an effort to flatten the proverbial curve. Alas, most Americans do not give a tinker’s dam about anything. Don’t get me wrong, I am joyous that my family is healthy and no family members have been infected. It is simply disheartening to me the way that America is behaving right now. We have crossed the rubicon, may God have mercy on our country.
First a few ground rules, my trips to hike are always no-stops. I take “Leave-No-Trace seriously, even when it comes to going to the trailhead. I do not want to be asymptomatic and stop to somewhere to eat and infect someone else. Secondly, I always carry a mask with me. I put it on as soon as I see another person on the trail and make sure to give them more than the CDC recommended 6 feet wide berth. I want to protect myself and my family, but I also want to protect others.
The Cataloochee Divide Trail is a 6.4 mile out-and-back trail that looks remote. It is not. The trail is located at the southeastern border of the Smoky’s and abuts private land. It starts off Cove Creek Road (dirt) and goes to Double Gap, just below Hemphill Bald. It is the quintessential ridge trail. It undulates slightly and presents several good views of both private land and Mount Sterling Ridge. After a mile and a half, a non-rustic house is located right against the National Park Boundary. Soon thereafter a resort and inn, The Swag appears. Wasn’t what I was expecting. Hiking the trail in July, I was treated to the delights of flame azaleas and mushrooms springing from every corner of the forest floor.
Total mileage is 13.8 miles.