Laurel Falls Trail

April 25, 2023

I’ve thought about hiking this trail more than any other over the past two weeks. Is it nice? No. Is there a lovely trail to the falls? No, it’s paved the whole way. Are the falls that impressive? No way.

For some reason, this trail is one of the most popular in the park. It is so popular and well-traveled that the park is inviting public comment of any proposed changes to the trial. Look at the picture in that link, that’s what it looks like daily. Two weeks prior, I hiked the .9 mile sliver of Laurel between Little Brier Gap and Cove Mountain Trail; today, all that was left was the 3.1 miles from Little River Road to that junction. The first 1.2 miles is paved. The most shocking thing is the sheer amount of trash on and off the trail: water bottles, toilet paper, plastic, diapers, beer cans, wrappers. If you’ve carried it on a hike, someone has dumped it on Laurel! I have hiked 635 miles of the park’s 800 and this was absolutely my least favorite portion thus far. Who in their right mind changes a plastic diaper and then throws it on the damn ground on a path? I knew this path would be crowded, so I was at the trailhead before 7:30 am to beat the throngs of would-be litterers. Once past the falls, the trail is actually chock full of giant poplars and some nice-sized hemlocks. En route back down, the sheep were present. I passed perhaps 50-60 people from 9:00-9:30. The craziest was a bus load of Mennonites. Literally, a group of a dozen brethren took a bus to hike this trail. It is absolutely unreal, the number of people hiking this thing. My goodness, I could think of hundreds trails that are prettier. I do not have a Worst Hikes header, but this would be at the top of the list. It’s garbage.

So, why is Jonathan thinking about the trail over and over? It brings to mind this weird dichotomy. Litter is the lowest-hanging fruit when looking at late stage capitalism. It’s what we see daily. Next time you’re taking a road walk, look at the ditch or embankment: tons of beer cans. Litter is human selfishness and ironically, it’s the easiest thing to fix (Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute). Perhaps the harder question are the corporate polluters that choke our nation and world. Industrial pollution is the greater evil and causes deeper damage. But, that’s not something readily seen to the naked eye. Those sins take time to see: the cancers, invisible toxins, animal deaths, changes to the waterways, and slow warming of the world that changes all foliage and patterns. That’s the real problem. Perhaps my anger is that the Smoky’s are supposed to be a reprieve from all those iniquitous issues. Just like we don’t give a shit about a plastic bag wafting along the road, but as soon as we see that same Walmart bag at the beach we lose our cool and think we’re going to hell in a handbasket! It is our expectation of preserved beauty. We are in end stage capitalism, peradventure I should just shut my yapper and volunteer to help clean up this trail.

Total mileage is 6.2 miles.

3 thoughts on “Laurel Falls Trail

  1. I get it, for sure. One of my favorite places in the Park (despite the crowds and mostly for sentimental reasons) is Deep Creek. Every time I go, I carry a bag to pick up trash and every time I fill the bag. But then along the road where I live (Caney Fork in Jackson County) there is often lots of trash as well. I find myself getting more incensed about Deep Creek than my own road. You’re right–it’s likely due to the expectation that our Park will be appreciated and preserved by those who visit. Alas, they are not.

    Liked by 1 person

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