March 30, 2023
Spring days do not last long enough, as the sweltering heat of the south comes too quickly and stays too long. Those late March days of temperatures in the mid-60’s are precious. It would be unconscionable to work on a day like that, so I drove to the Smoky’s for an epic up-and-down hike near Metcalf Bottoms.
The Little Greenbrier/Metcalf picnic area is located near the juncture of the Little River Road and Wear Cove Gap Road, where the Little River flows through. Before the creation of the park and after the displacement of the Cherokee, many white settlers inhabited this area. “During the construction of Little River Road in the 1920s, members of the Metcalf family supplied drinking water to road construction crews, and in appreciation the picnic area later established in the area by the National Park Service was named for the Metcalfs.” *
My first trail was Curry Mountain. A nice 3.3 mile jaunt up the slopes of Curry He and Curry She Mountains to Meigs Mountain Trail. There seems to be a debate regarding the genesis of the name “Curry He” . Whether from the US Army or the Cherokee, it’s interesting. Curry was a nice, slow rise from the picnic area, only 1,243 ft. There are nice switchbacks that give some up-close views of amazing wildflowers. Beyond Curry Gap, the trail has some neat extended views of the Meigs Mountain area.
After I returned to Metcalf, I hiked up the Metcalf Bottoms Trail (only .7 miles) and Little Brier Gap Trail (1.5 miles). The highlights of this trek are the Little Greenbrier School and the Walker Sisters Cabin.
The Walker Sisters were five spinsters who all lived together in the valley. The adhered to a traditional, white settler existence and then received some degree to national notoriety from a 1947 Saturday Evening Post article about them. The Park is currently renovating the cabin, and I watched the workers for some time as they removed windows and fixed beams.
The last trail of the day was Meigs Creek Trail. A 3.5 mile out-and-back hike that crosses the creek 18 times. I somehow kept my feet dry, as the creek was not flowing too fast, but it was quite adventurous leaping on the rocks. There was one creek towards the end that necessitated me taking off my shoes, as it was too deep.
As I was hiking back, I happened on a three-person tree crew out treating the hemlocks (still surviving) for the woolly aphids. I had read that this area of chock-full of snakes, but I had not seen any. They had been off trail all day and confirmed that they had seen a ton. One guy, mouth full of tobacco, spit and starting telling me about the canebrakes that will sun on fallen tree branches and sometimes meet you eye-t0-eye. I do love how locals will try to scare you every now and then.
Total mileage is 18.2 miles.
*Vic Weals, The Last Train to Elkmont (Knoxville, Tenn.: Olden Press, 1993), pp. 85-88.