Middle Prong Trail

Click on image in check out the GPS tracking of this hike.
Click on image in check out the GPS tracking of this hike.

The 4th of July is typically one of those holidays where we don’t travel. However, this year, we took an impromptu trip to Townsend, TN for the extended weekend so that we could hike something new. After some cursory research, we decided to try out the Middle Prong Trail located near the Tremont Institute in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was a good decision.

Middle Prong Trailhead Sign
Middle Prong Trailhead Sign

There are a couple of options while on this trail. We hiked to Indian Flats Falls and then continued a bit further along the main trail to where it intersects the Greenbrier Ridge Trail, and then headed back. In total, we hiked about 8.3 miles. My GPS however, recorded only 8.1. You see that weird flat, straight spot on my trail map? That’s where my GPS decided to pause itself. Luckily, I caught it before we got too far down the road.

Lynn Camp Prong
Lynn Camp Prong

This trail follows a rushing creek the entire way. It had been raining all week, and the water was up and moving. Happy whitewater ions helped enhance the overall awesomeness of this trail.

About 3.9-4.0 miles in, the trail divides into two. The path to the left is the main trail that leads you up to the Greenbrier Ridge Trail. The path to the right–the one that looks unkempt in comparison–is the one you really want to take. It leads to a beautiful series of waterfalls known as Indian Flats Falls.

Panorama of Indian Flats Falls
Indian Flats Falls

From there, we returned to the main trail and continued along to the Greenbrier Ridge Trail. Really, this extra bit of trail wasn’t too impressive and didn’t add anything extra to the experience. It’s also probably the steepest of what’s already a constant uphill climb. If it’s views you want, stick to the falls and then head back.

The marker at Greenbrier Ridge. What you can't see in this photo is that it was pouring rain at this point.
The marker at Greenbrier Ridge. What you can’t see in this photo is that it was pouring rain at this point.

This trail is a slight, constant uphill hike, though nothing that’s too strenuous. With it being an in and out hike, that means that the entire way back, you are walking slightly downhill the entire way.

Oh, and it rained. We got caught in several downpours, which didn’t hamper our mood at all. In fact, the rain was quite refreshing.

Overall, this was one of my all-time favorite hikes. We’ll definitely be back, and perhaps take some of the other offshoots.


Summary

Trail Length: 8.3 miles
Trail Rating: moderate
Parking: No parking fee
Facilities: Go before you get there. Luckily, there are several places where one can go in the woods as needed

Hiked on July 3, 2015


Gallery

Click on thumbnails to view full screen

 

//

Appalachian Trail – Woody Gap West

Click on image in check out the GPS tracking of this hike.
Click on image in check out the GPS tracking of this hike.

Woody Gap is one of the most popular starting points for Appalachian Trail day hikes in the North Georgia area. If you go east from the parking lot, you come to one of the most beautiful views in Georgia–Preacher’s Rock.

20150530_092112
Woody Gap Sign

However, for this particular hike, Greg and I went southwest. We hiked 2.63 miles with no particular destination in mind, and then turned around and came back. Why 2.63 miles? Honestly, it all due to my malfunctioning GPS (which I finally got started at what we determined to be our turn around point). We hiked for an hour and a half in, stopped for a quick rest and to fiddle with the GPS app on my phone, and then recorded the rest of the hike while heading back to the parking lot. So the map above only traces our return trip.

Pasture Rose (Rosa Carolina)
Pasture Rose (Rosa Carolina)

This time of year, there’s all sorts of wildflowers bloomed along the trail, giving extra color and beauty to the trail. The trail is heavily wooded, with several small streams crossing the path. However, there are several spots where the forest opens up to give you a glorious view of the mountains.

Mountain view from the Appalachian Trail
Mountain view from the Appalachian Trail

Totally less than 5.3 miles, this was a relatively short hike, but since it’s the Appalachian Trail, you can go as short or as long of a distance as you like. The portion that we hiked was relatively flat and of a low to moderate difficulty.


Summary

Trail Length: 5.26 miles
Trail Rating: easy to moderate
Parking: No parking fee. Get there early as spaces are limited.
Facilities: Chemical Toilets located next to the east parking lot.

Hiked on May 30, 2015


Gallery

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Smithgall Woods State Park – Martin’s Mine & Cathy Ellis Trail

GPS Map - Smithgall
Click on image in check out the GPS tracking of this hike.

Smithgall Woods is a hidden gem of Northeast Georgia. A small state park located on alt-75 between Cleveland and Helen, this area is absolutely gorgeous. There are several trails that traverse the park. Don’t let the brochures fool you. Though the trails are listed as only being .5 to 2 miles long, you cannot park at the trail heads. Unless you are handicapped, you must walk to bike to the trails from the parking lot at the visitor’s center. So though the Cathy Ellis Trail is only .5 miles long itself, it takes an additional 2.7 miles to get there. With the peaceful walk to the trail heads and the two trails themselves, we clocked in at 7.38 miles, and it took us 3hrs 50mins.

Getting to the Trail Heads

The first section of the approach road is paved.
The first section of the approach road is paved.

As mentioned earlier, vehicles are not allowed beyond the parking lot at Smithgall Woods. To get to many of the trail heads, you must walked down the road to reach them. This trek in-itself is quite nice. The first section of road is paved, and then turns into a gravel road just beyond the covered bridge. The road travels through the woods and follows Duke’s Creek for the most part.

Along the road, about half a mile in, you pass by an apiary. These beehives won’t sneak up on you though. There are signs marked “Caution: Bees” along the road. They are a safe distance away from the road. I didn’t see a single bee up close, but you can most definitely hear them buzzing about, and if you look carefully, you can see the little buggers swarming about their hives.

Bay's Bridge
Bay’s Bridge

About halfway to the Cathy Ellis Trail, you come across a covered bridge, “Bay’s Bridge,” dedicated to Elizabeth “Bay” Smithgall Watts, a late professor of  anthropology at Tulane University, who passed away from a brain tumor in 1994. Bay was the daughter of Lessie and Charles A Smithgall Jr., whom the park is named for. If you’re interested in learning more, I suggest googling her name. I found her research and history to be quite interesting (Her PhD dissertation is “A Comparative Study of Skeletal Maturation in the Chimpanzee and Rhesus Monkey and its Relationship to Growth and Sexual Maturity”). 

About 2.1 miles away from the visitor’s center, you’ll come across Martin’s Mine Trail. The trail head is located on the left side of the road.

Martin’s Mine

Martin’s Mine is listed as a .9 mile trail. However, there is an extension to it that makes it a bit long, nearing 2 miles in total. It is a loop trail, so you will wind up back on the road where you started.

Waterfall on the Martin's Mine Trail extension
Waterfall on the Martin’s Mine Trail extension

If you’re into learning more about local history or gold mining, I strongly suggest grabbing the interpretive brochure from the visitor’s center. This trail winds along the woods on top of an old gold mine. Several of the mine shafts are still visible, and the toll the operation took on the landscape is evident and fascinating. The waterfall is accessed via the extension trail and is a site to behold. While not overwhelming in its size or flow, it is still beautiful and serene.

 

Once you’re back on the road, continue southeast for an additional .6(ish) miles to the Cathy Ellis Trail.

Cathy Ellis Trail

The biggest hills on the trail are found at the beginning and end of the road. Luckily, they’re not too steep. If you power through them (or, well, up and over them), you’ll make your way to the Cathy Ellis Trail (also known as the Chunannee Falls Trail). From the trail head, it is a short trek through the woods to reach a pleasant waterfall.

Chunannee Falls
Chunannee Falls

While not heavy with water (at least not when we were there), is it a tall one and still gorgeous. The picture does not do it justice. Greg and I just sat there for several minutes, taking in all the happy ions the falls were producing.

The trail can feel be a bit claustrophobic, with walls of rhododendron, doghobble, and all sorts of other vegetation lining the way.

The Cathy Ellis trail is named after a young woman who was swept over a waterfall in the Chattahoochee National Forest in 1972.

From the falls, it is a 3.2 mile hike back to the visitor’s center. If you’re up for more, there are several other trails along the way that you can enjoy.

 


 

 

Summary

Trail Length: 7.38 miles
Trail Rating: easy to moderate
Parking: $5.00 fee, paid to cashier in visitor’s center
Facilities: nice, clean bathrooms located at the visitor’s center

Hiked on June 28, 2015


 

Picture Gallery

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

St. George Island – May 2015

Greg and I found beach-vacation nirvana when we visited St. George Island, FL this week. Quite beaches, miles of bike path, dog-friendly, hiking, and more. It was a wonderful few days.

Mt. Yonah Hike: April 26, 2015

Today was the perfect day for hiking. The sun was shining, but it wasn’t too hot and there was a lovely wind blowing. Greg and I kept it local and scaled a mountain that’s basically in our backyard – Mt. Yonah. I wish I could post my GPS map, but I screwed it up royally by starting it late and then forgetting to run it off until we were back on the highway. One of the fun parts about Yonah is that near the summit, there are multitudes of trails that interweave around the mountain and cliff face. I think we take a different route up to the top every time. Another fun part is that Yonah has some of the best views around.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Panther Creek Falls: April 12, 2015

PantherCreekHikeMap

Panther Creek Falls is one of our top three hikes. It’s the perfect length to make you feel accomplished. It’s not too hilly. And there’s a gorgeous waterfall at the end. This is the first time our hiking corgi, Scotch came along. There were places he struggled with, especially near the waterfalls, but he pulled through like a champ.

Panther Creek Falls is an in-and-out hike that totals 7 miles. It’s mostly an easy hike until the last half mile or so where the terrain becomes steep, rocky, and there’s one place where the path is completely washed away. It took Greg, Me, and Scotch 4 hours and 35 minutes in total. We stopped for short rests and snacks three times.

Parking is $4.00

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Bear Hair Gap Trail: Feb 7, 2015

Back in February, Greg and I visited Vogel State park and hiked the Bear Hair Trail. I didn’t take any picture, but I did do something new. I actually tracked the hike using MapMyHike (an off shoot of MapMyRun, if you haven’t guessed). I hope that with this tracking information, I can provide better information on the trails I hike, rather than just regurgitating the info I find on the internet, which is often conflicting.

GPS Tracking of Bear Hair Trail Loop in Vogel State Park
Click on pic for full image   
Or go to http://www.mapmyhike.com/workout/868339939 for more details

It took me a little while to get the damned app sorted out, but once I did, we were well on our way. The walk from the parking lot to the trailhead and back again adds an extra mile to the hike. So in total, you’re looking at about 4.6 miles in total. We walked at a casual pace and took a quick break at the summit of the mountain making the full duration of our hike about two and a half hours.