Yesterday afternoon we took on the Boogerman Trail in Smoky Mountains National Park. This trail is a loop of 7.4 miles, and has an elevation gain of 1040' over about 5 miles of it. Counting the .8 miles each way along the Caldwell Fork Trail to get to the Boogerman trailhead from the parking lot came to 9 miles total. Because of the number of footbridges that were out, we had to do some bushwhacking to find a safe place to ford the creeks, and then find our way back to the original trail, which added to the total. I have spent considerable time on the treadmill since January 1 trying to get in shape for spring hiking, but I wasn't quite ready for the Boogerman. I was a sore, stiff wreck when we finally got back to the parking lot about dark.
The first difficulty we encountered was a footbridge with no bridge! This was right at the main road, so we had to decide whether to wade the creek or abort the mission. We forded, not knowing this would not be the last time we would have to do this. (Click on photos to enlarge.)
A bridge with no planks
Take off your boots and wade!
The water obstacle we had to overcome meant we had the trail mostly to ourselves. Most people bailed when they saw the bridge was out. The first hiker we encountered on the trail was this black snake enjoying the spring sunshine. He was a nice size one - probably about 5' stretched out.
We had heard that there were some huge, old growth trees along the Boogerman. We found this yellow poplar that was the biggest we saw along the trail.
A national champ poplar? Maybe.
We also found this poplar with a burned out trunk. It had enough room inside for all three of us, but somebody had to take the picture.
A natural shelter
Shannon was still trying to figure out his new GPS on this trip. There are several trails that spur off of the Boogerman, so getting confused was a possibility, but Shannon kept us on the right trail and got us back to the car safely.
Where are we?
The two guys I hiked with went at a much faster pace than I'm used to. Since I usually travel with photography in mind, I move a little slower, taking time to look around as I hike. Trying to keep up with these two meant I didn't get as many pictures along the way as I might normally get, but I did stop to photograph this trillium.
There were several mountain communities on the land that Smoky Mountain National Park now occupies. Occasionally, you can find remnants of old homesteads like this one.
Old stone wall from an old farm
Left behind tool - We had no idea what it is
All that's left of an old farm cabin
After taking much longer than we planned, we finally made it back to the car. We were all exhausted (me more than my younger companions), and just a bit scraped up. I was the only one wearing shorts which was a bonus on the stream crossings, but not so good for the bushwhacking parts of the hike.
My leg after doing battle with a laurel thicket
A hot shower and a good night's sleep helped immensely, but I'm still a little stiff this morning. Time on the treadmill this winter certainly helped, but the Boogerman still proved to be a formidable adversary for me. The steep, uphill sections of the trail really took their toll. I survived, but just barely. I guess it's back to the treadmill for me!