April 12, 2023
I’ll be completely honest; this trail is janky. Yes, Andrews Bald is pretty incredible, but overall this trail was not fun to hike. Perhaps that’s what makes the Smoky 900 so interesting; you hike trails that you would never hike otherwise. For those reading this and thinking, “this man knows nothing;” you’re likely correct. That’s the fun part of adventuring and hiking, it’s a highly subjective experience.
From Clingman’s the trail descends for 1.1 miles to Andrews Bald, named for a cattle herder, Andres Thompson, who is said to have let his cattle grazed there in the mid-19th century. It’s a great alpine descent to the bald with spruce firs everywhere. The views from Andrews are spectacular. Then the descent begins and it is certainly a tough trail. The scrubby drier woodland appears and much of 3.4 remaining miles are on a tiny slither of a trail that is precipitously close to falling off the mountain. Evidence of boar was everywhere closer to Board Camp Gap and the beginning of Springhouse Branch Trail. Much of the trail is uneven, forcing all of your weigh to one ankle.
From the gap I took Springhouse to Forney Creek. At campsite #71, I talked with a fly fisher out backpacking for the night, really nice guy. The afternoon was glorious and I hiked the remaining miles to the tunnel to nowhere.
Total mileage is 15.8 miles.