To catch up with where I am in my quest to hike ALL the trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, here's the current number: 455.7 of 791.4! My goal for this year was to be at 400 by December 31, so I met that goal with plenty room to spare--actually over a month ago. I hiked over 150 miles just during the time I was out from school (I teach, remember, so I enjoy about 7 weeks of summer vacation!)
On the Monday before Christmas, we ventured back to Kephart Prong Trail to catch up one of the group who wasn't able to go the first time around. Kirsten and I had done this hike in July as part of an overnight trip in the Smokemont Campground.
|Our Smokemont Campsite during July|
On Monday though, Jennifer and I were able to do only the Kephart Prong Trail. At some point, we'll need to repeat the longer loop with her, but the days are too short right now. This was a leisurely trip back in time as we meandered along Kephart Prong leaving the trail to look at relics from the bygone days of the 1930s and 40s when this part of the Park was home to a CCC camp and a fish hatchery. What struck me as cool on Monday was how different this same hike was only 6 short months ago. Relics that were covered in bright green foliage were laid bare by the winter chill and its effects on the plant life in the area. Some things we did see during the summer, like rock gate posts and the entrance sign to the camp.
Moving on past the CCC camp site, we made our way further up the trail and came to the location of a fish hatchery which was put here to replenish the overfished streams of this great Park which provided food to locals during a time when money to buy food was difficult to come by.
At the end of this two-mile hike in, is Kephart Shelter, named for one of the men most influential in the development of the Park in the 1920s. This is a wonderful shelter that I hope to one day stay in. It is located so close to the river that you would listen to the river music as you drifted off to sleep and wake to its cascades in the early morning light. I could so do this!