May 9, 2021
I am catching up on blog posts. So much has changed, but I am so happy to be back writing and back blogging. In May of this year, I continued the Smoky 900 challenge with a delightful trail in the Cataloochee area of the park. To get to the Little Cataloochee trailhead, take exit 20 off Highway 40 and Cove Creek Road for more than 10 miles to the Cataloochee Campground. Park at the Palmer Creek Trail and hike .8 miles to the southern terminus.
The trail is 5.1 miles one-way. It is not difficult, but there is one high point, Davidson Gap. From Palmer, it is only a 1 mile push up to the gap. From Davidson, the trail descends into a sea of green. The woods are very dense before clearing at Cook Cabin. A backcountry delight, the cabin has been remodeled and has a great fireplace. At Cook, the trail turns into a forest service style road and descends gradually to the Little Cataloochee Baptist Church and continues until Mt. Sterling Road. The hard part of the hike is hiking the trail back to Palmer, uphill for 4 miles. Total elevation gain is 2,345 feet.
As I was ascending back to Davidson Gap, I turned to my left and saw two heads comically positioned as they peered around the tree. A small cub was staring at me, just above their head, mama was watching too. They were 60 yards from the trail and never came close. They watched me as I labored back up the mountain.
Bear encounters have been more frequent in the park during the pandemic. Of course, the media is intrigued by the aggressive bears, but in reality, most times bears are simply curious or run away.
Total mileage is 11.8 miles.