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Archive for the 'Hikes & Walks' Category

Indian Creek Was The Legendary Angler Mark Cathey’s Home


Mark Cathey (1871-1944) once ‘owned’ Indian Creek. It was where he lived — a short distance above these falls — and it was where he mastered the art of fly fishing. Cathey was a colorful character who would modestly admit “I have been accused of being the best fisherman in the Smokies.”

Today, most visitors to the Deep Creek area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park take the short one-mile walk to admire Indian Creek’s beautiful falls. But after learning more about legendary angler, you may want to continue your walk northward through what was once “Cathey’s Place”.

Bryson City naturalist George Ellison related two classic Mark Cathey stories in his Smoky Mountain News “Mountain Views” column in 2001. Ellison wrote, ‘He earned his living as a lumber-herder, trapper, and hunting or fishing guide. When the splash dams on the creeks in the Smokies were released, lumber-herders ran along the banks to clear jams. Some few, like Cathey, had the agility and courage to ride the logs down the creek, ducking branches and risking sure death in the event of a miscue.” Read entire article.

In his new book Fly Fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Jim Casada writes about Indian Creek and it’s most famous resident. When fishing Indian Creek, Casada writes, “…you can take quiet comfort in knowing that you are wading and casting in the footsteps of Uncle Mark Cathey.” Download a PDF excerpt from Jim Casada’s new book and read chapter 23 “Indian Creek”.

Download a PDF map of Deep Creek’s trails and waterfalls.

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Happy Trails in the Smokies


An easy way to trek miles of backwoods trails in the Smokies is on the back of a horse. It’s definitely easier on the feet, although possibly not as easy on the seat. Three riding stables offer guided horse rides in the North Carolina Smokies — one is near Fontana Dam, one in the Nantahala Gorge and one in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee.

Photo by J.R. vanLienden

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A Time To View and Photograph the Smokies’ Waterfalls


When the weather forecast calls for a wet rainy weekend, that could be the very best time to visit the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina …especially if you love waterfalls. It’s when the creeks and rivers are in their finest whitewater form.

Indian Creek Falls is always beautiful. But it has never looked better than in the above photo, which was shot a few hours after a heavy Spring rain swept through the Park. Indian Creek is one of three scenic waterfalls in the Deep Creek Area of the National Park two miles north of Bryson City. All are within a mile of the trail head parking lot.

You’ll find information on these and other waterfalls in the Bryson City area on the Waterfalls page of the Bryson City Smoky Mountain Vacation Guide web site.

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It’s All Downhill From Here


From the very top of the Smokies at Clingmans Dome, Sharon McCarthy (aka “Smoky Scout”) surveys the mountains that have become very familiar to her over the past year. She’s in the process of hiking all 900 miles of trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to raise money for the Girl Scouts in North Carolina.

Sharon anticipates that her final hike will be the Old Sugarlands Trail near the Sugarlands Visitor Center on April 11. Including the additional miles she’s walked to access each of the trails, she will have hiked more than 1000 miles altogether. It’s a feat that will reward her with membership in the elite 900 Miler Club, a group that has added just 250 hikers since its founding in 1995.

You can read Sharon’s journal on her blog “Great Smoky Mountains Girl Scout Challenge“. And while there, why not support the Girl Scouts with an online contribution?

Photo by Jim McCarthy

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’75 Hikes on the 75th’ Will Cover All 900+ Miles of GSMNP Trails


Here’s an adventurous way to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park — join Jerry Span and the Fontana Hiking Club for their “75 Hikes on the 75th” series of hikes.

Participants have the option of joining any number of the hikes throughout the year (schedule). And the more ambitious hikers who complete the entire program will enjoy the added benefit of becoming members of the 900 Miler Club, an elite group of folks who’ve hiked all the trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Some of the backcountry trails are a bit more challenging than others. Above, hikers Graham Averill (front) and Jeremiah LeRoy (back) negotiate a log crossing on the Cold Spring Gap Trail north of Fontana Lake in western Swain County. Photo by Jerry Span.

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Hikers Find Relics of Smokies’ Lost Communities

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the nation’s most visited park, but only a few of those visitors attempt to see it all — like Sharon McCarthy, who’s well on her way to hiking all 900 miles of trails in the Park. And she’s doing it as a fundraiser to benefit outdoor programs for Girl Scouts across North Carolina.

Sharon (aka Smoky Scout) chronicles her hikes on her blog “Great Smoky Mountains Girl Scout Challenge“, an online journal illustrated with dozens of photos, like the one above of fellow hiker Judy Gross. While hiking along Lakeshore Trail, near Fontana Dam, the two came across the old car.

In her journal, Sharon writes, “…this part of Lakeshore Trail (all of it, really) is a fascinating walk back through time when there was no Fontana Lake and there were thriving communities here. We did take the time to explore some of the old cars that were abandoned when this was a road.”

Photo by Sharon McCarthy.

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Canada Geese on the Banks of the Oconaluftee

Canada Geese at Cherokee\'s Island Park

At Cherokee’s Island Park, the shoals of the Oconaluftee River are as popular with the wild ducks and geese as they are with visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains. Above, South Carolina visitors Sherri and Mitchell McCutcheon enjoy the geese on an early Fall afternoon.

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Clingmans Dome — On Top of Old Smoky

At 6643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Located in the northernmost part of Swain County along the North Carolina–Tennessee border, the temperatures at Clingmans Dome are often 10 to 20 degrees cooler than Bryson City’s. On a clear day, take the (steep) half-mile walk from the parking lot to the observation tower, and you’ll be rewarded with a stunning 360-degree view of the Smokies and beyond. The seven-mile road from US 441 to Clingmans Dome is open Aprll thru November. Photo by J.R. vanLienden, Masterpiece Portraits.

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Ghost Town in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Ghost town in the Smokies

A hundred years ago, Proctor, NC was a bustling lumber town on Hazel Creek with more than 1,000 residents. Except for the ruins of the Ritter Lumber Company’s kiln (above), the cemetery and one house used by the Park Service, nature has reclaimed Proctor and left few visible reminders of its fascinating history. And with the building of Fontana Dam and Lake in 1944, the remote Hazel Creek area became virtually isolated and only accessible by boat.

This summer, there’s a unique opportunity to visit Proctor when historian and author Lance Holland conducts guided tours of the abandoned lumber town.

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