September 22, 2022
Old Sugardlands is not a difficult trail; it may gain 1,000 ft. over 3.9 miles. It’s a historic hike full of side treks to a former CCC camp, rock walls, a rock house and sketchings of a bygone era. On this day, an easy trail turned into a hassle.
I started from the trailhead nearest to Rainbow Falls Trail off Cherokee Orchard Road. The trail is like a forest service road for most of the way. I meandered downhill for 2.4 miles only meeting one other person hiking up hill. We made quick small talk and he indicated there were turkeys at the bottom of the hill. Well, I encountered more than turkeys. Several bears scattered off from near the trail as I walked by, but at bottom a youngish, 7–8-month-old bear was sitting plum in the middle of the trail. I stopped when I saw them. It looked at me. I looked at him. We watched each other. I slowly backed up, but the bear still looked at me. For quite a while I waited. I was nervous to make noise to scare it off the trail as it seemed desensitized to me, and I did think a provocation could produce a bluff charge.
I decided on a new course of action, I would retrace my route and then drive to the Hwy. 441 terminus (I had to hike back from there anywho) and then walk to that same point in the trail. Surely, the bear would be gone by then. It was not. When I hiked back, the bear had moved down the trail some, allowing me to finish the trail, but it was still there. It looked at me again and this time started walking towards me. I gave it space and just walked back. The 1.5 miles between Hwy 441 and this bear were very pretty and ran next to Little Pigeon River.
The Smoky’s are always lively. Even little, meandering trails can take an adventurous turn.
Total mileage is 7.8 miles.
2 thoughts on “Old Sugarlands Trail”
No bear pic?
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Not this time! It was way to close and curious!!