September 4, 2022
I continued my exploration and hiking of the Smoky trails surrounding Mt. LeConte and Greenbrier, but this time hiked with my good friend Perry. Initially, we planned to hike Old Settlers Trail, but instead opted for Baskins and Grapeyard. In July of this year, flooding closed some trails and campsites at Greenbrier, even washing out part of Greenbrier Road and several bridges. Perry and I left one car at the entrance of Greenbrier and then drove to Cherokee Orchard Road with the other.
Baskins Creek is a lovely little trail. From the Roaring Fork Road trailhead, it’s 1.5 miles to Baskin Falls. From those falls it’s 1.2 miles to Roaring Fork Road and Grapeyard Trail. The order of the day for Perry and I were wild animals. We saw 5 bears, 1 boar, and a rabbit. Hiking in this area has somewhat desensitized me towards bears. At one point on Baskins, I asked Perry if he wanted a water break and turned around to see a large bear meandering across the trail that we had just passed 30 seconds prior.
As nice and well-maintained as Baskins was, Grapeyard was rugged and overgrown (as of the date of hiking). No doubt, since Greenbrier has closed, NPS has not kept up with the trail. If it were cut down, this trail is phenomenal. I greatly enjoyed the switchbacks and glimpses of wildlife. Perry and I switched taking lead as trekking pole swashbuckling action was necessitated to clear the cobwebs. About 5 miles into Grapeyard, I turned to Perry and said that if these spiders were poisonous, we would have been dead 7 times over.
The first maps published of this area do not include Grapeyard. It was made sometime between 1933-1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Camp David Chapman was located at Greenbrier Cove at the confluence of Middle Prong, Rhododendron Creek, and Little Pigeon River. It must have been terribly hard work to cut this trail for 7.6 miles. Perry and I talked about the name Grapeyard and surmised as to the genesis of this name. I found a reprint of a 1927 issue of “American Forests and Forest Life, the magazine of The American Forestry Association that talked about the abundance of “wild grapes and muscadines” growing on Roaring Fork. Indeed, a 1932 nomenclature recommendation from North Carolina and Tennessee (which included the famous George Masa) to the U.S. Geographic Board recommended renaming Round Top as Mount Winnesoka, the supposed local Cherokee name for grapes.
The forest clear near Rhododendron Creek and a wondrous natural tunnel appeared. Soon we saw the famous remnants of an antiquated steam engine that made a fateful end on what is now part of “Injun Creek”.
At the end of the trail, we had a nice hike back to the car via a deserted road. I highly recommend this trail.
Total mileage is 14 miles.