Postcard from the W/E-Backpack #79

We went on a backpack this weekend.  By all accounts it was short and easy but we haven’t been on a backpack in almost 4 months so it felt like starting again.  Duane Simmons, my first backpacking partner went along for the exercise and social aspect.  His stories kept us entertained and laughing on the trail and in camp.

The hike began in the Elkmont are of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  We parked behind the campground (closed for the season) and amongst the cabins in Historic Elkmont. Historic Elkmont has an interesting history beginning with the Little River Logging Company then summer homes for the elite in Knoxville and surrounding areas.  After years of a tug of war between environmentalist and supporters of preservation, a compromise was reached.  This little piece of history and status update appeared in the Knoxville News Sentinel on January 27, 2017″

“Elkmont is one of the most popular destinations in the Great Smoky Mountains and offers a glimpse of life in the decades before the property became a national park.  Logging operations began harvesting timber from the area around 1880.  

The timber industry was eventually replaced by a resort town where people enjoyed the area’s natural beauty.  Vacationers bought property and built 74 cabins along the rivers and creeks as part of the Appalachian Club.   Elkmont’s resort community was comprised of three neighborhoods:  Daisy Town, Millionaire’s Row, and Society Hill.

When the Great Smoky Mountains became a reality, the National Park Service allowed owners to keep their cabins until the early 1990s.  Since then, the vacant buildings have crumbled.  Signs now warn people to keep out of the unstable structures.

In 2009, the National Park Service announced plans to preserve 19 of the cabins and tear down the remaining 55.  Of the 19 cabins spared, 17 are in Daisy Town where paved roads and parking lots allow visitors to drive directly to the site. “

While I initially worked with environmentalist to tear down the structures,  I am glad a glimpse of this history will be preserved. Elkmont is a different but important piece of park history.

But back to the backpack…  We hiked on the Cucumber Gap Trail which merged with Jakes Gap to Campsite #21, our destination for the night.  The trail is an easy walk and most places are wide enough for three across to walk comfortably. Because it was cold or more likely the last weekend in January, we had the campsite to ourselves, a rare pleasure in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Below are a smattering of pictures from the evening:

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John unloading gear into the tent. 

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Duane doing the same. 

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One of many rock walls remnants left over from cabins built in the park.  

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The sun seems to set early in the mountains.  In reality we loose visiblity as it slips below the taller peaks. 

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Winter starkness.

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We saw too many of these snags in the campground where people had obviously hacked away at living trees, most likely for wood.

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Being dead of winter when the number of backpackers are seriously reduced, we had no trouble finding wood for our evening fire. 

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Of all the people we hike and backpack with, no one can build a fire quite like Duane.  A one time Boy Scout and always a perfectionist, he has the “art of the fire” figured out. 

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A warm fire kept us comfy and talking for hours. 

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A glimpse of the Elkmont resort community restoration.

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