Mt. Sterling Trail, Long Bunk Trail

July 11, 2022

It is fascinating to let your mind wonder when hiking in the Smoky’s, because certain paths have feelings and sensations that are unexplainable. Almost as if one can sense the timeliness of the trail. Perhaps the Cherokee or some precursors cut this path to reach water or to hunt. Did settlers bring cattle and horses this way? When was this path created? Who was Sterling? What does Long Bunk mean?

Walking in the woods in the great expanse of foliage that July brings forth; I am flooded by these questions. Perhaps that’s the benefit of forest bathing, for when else in modern culture do we let our minds venture to such places? Sacred. That’s the word I look for as I walk along this wondrous path, this path is sacred.

Per local tradition, things in the mountains are often named after what they are or look like. For example, I have lost track of the number of “Snake Mountains” or “Deep Gaps” or “Low Gaps” I have come across. The definition of bunk is “a narrow shelf like bed, typically one of two or more arranged one on top of the other.” As best as I can tell, the Flats of the Bunk, Long Bunk Mountain and the trail are derived from that term. Indeed, the trail is shelf like in nature, meandering at an even terrain for much of the trail. From reading Ken Wise’s entry regarding Long Bunk in his Hiking Trails of the Smoky’s it seems that the history of the area runs quite deep. The Hannah’s are buried at the cemetery I found at the end of the trail and were among some of the first settlers in Cataloochee. Many of the names encountered from the map, Pig Pen Flats, Scottish Mountain, Dude Branch were most likely named by these settler’s that inhabited the land along the trail.

Hiking the Smoky 900 has exposed me to trails I would have otherwise never walked upon. Long Bunk and Mt. Sterling are two of my favorites.

Total mileage is 12 miles.

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