November 9-11, 2021
Fall in the Smoky’s. Sounds cliché, but it’s something that must be experienced. The leaves create a canopy of orange and yellow; it envelops you and delights your senses.
On a crisp morning, I parked at Cosby campground and hiked the easy Gabes Mountain Trail (6.3 miles). Hen Wallow Falls is roughly a mile in and is a nice waterfall, albeit small. A slender stream cascaded down the rock, the mist cooled the mountainside. By campsite #34, I moved quickly, listening to the latest Snail Mail album, enjoying the fall weather.
I hiked to the trailhead of Maddron Bald Trail and backtracked from the parking lot, just to check that portion off. The Willis Baxter Cabin was well-preserved and an amazing structure. It was originally constructed from chestnut but has been restored with poplar.*
The trail ascends steadily until campsite #29. I hiked the amazing Albright Grove Loop Trail, full of amazing old-growth poplars and arrived at campsite #29 in mid-afternoon. This is a tough campsite. There are hardly any level spots, and a nice cold wind descends to the valley from Old Black. It was a chilly night, full of sliding off my sleeping pad.
I woke early and set off for Cosby Knob off the Appalachian Trail. Since it was only 7 miles, I arrived mid-morning, made a fire and had lunch. It was a nice time.
I was relaxing when a couple of older guys came in. One of the gentlemen went by the name Chopper. Perhaps that was from an affinity for motorcycles, but it also could be because he was endowed with the gift of gab. He talked relentlessly. He did gift a leather keychain with the AT emblem that he made. That was nice. However, he and his friend got up at 4:45 and then got ready in the shelter for 45 minutes (loudly). That was not nice.
The morning sunrise was tremendous and before long, I was on the trail and hiked down Low Gap and back up Camel Gap. By the time I got back up to the AT, the weather was turning cold with a harsh wind. I tracked back along to the AT and descended to Cosby Campground and my car. This was a vintage fall hike and I loved (almost) every minute.
Total mileage is 32.6 miles.