Courthouse Rock

My sons standing in front of a rock about 50' above the Quliams chimney.  I have had people tell me it was a place to store food, a place they housed animals and a place to hide a moonshine still.  I do not know.  The rock slit is not very large and there is a set of stacked stones at its entrance.

Turning to the right at this area follow to trail to a rock outcropping on the right.  Take time to soak in this view!  Look under the rock and you will see this...

There is another rock outcrop to the right at the bend in the trail.  It overlooks Gatlinburg and you can see all the development that is going on.  Pass by that rock and keep on going. 

                                                                        Courthouse Rock

On the edge of Courthouse Rock

Qulliams Cave? Quilliams Rock? Quilliams Falls? What is it exactly?

Just off NFG Road on Road Turn Branch is an interesting set of rocks at the head of ths creek.  I have heard it refered to Quilliams Rock, Cave and Falls.  Wildlife Wilderness Week began taking groups up there a few years ago (but some only to Courthouse Rock) and other guided hikes have been there as well.  Let me take a paragraph and describe what I see.  If you follow Road Turn Branch high up past the Quliliams farm area you will stop at a very large set of cliffs.  Begining on your left, the rocks form out of the ground at the exact top of the valley you are in and the next one to the SW.  At this begining the first rock is just a few feet high and offers you the opportunity to see into both drainages.  Moving to the right the rocks get very high, very fast.  Here the top is probably 20' and gains elevation as you move to your right.  In about 30 yards you will find a rock with an indention in it large enought to have a few people stand under it and be protected from a rainstorm.  Move to your right more and they really take off!  Now we are looking at a cliff that is probably approaching 100' in height with a water fall coming off the top.  The last time I was there was in December '09 after a rain and boy was there a lot of water coming off the top!

The Quilliams Rocks at the far left side

At the water fall you can easily walk behind it with no trouble.   To the right of the water fall there is a shelf some 20' or so off the ground that I climbed upon to take a picture of the "rock house".  The shelf in this rock face is at ground level and has its floor litered with massive slabs of rock that have fallen from apparent "freeze and thaw" method.  However it is a very large room that is unique to the Smokies.  It is also very dry in there.  I could smell the musty, mold odor of a cave.  If you have allergies this place would set them off in a hurry!

Interesting formation at Qulliams Rock area

Quilliams Falls

Quilliams Rock (AKA Cave).

So, what word does one use to describe this area?   Quilliams "Cliffs".   The cliffs have cliffs, a waterfall and a rock overhang.  I did not see a cave.  If there is one would someone please tell me where it is?!

From the very back of the "cave" looking out toward the waterfall.

Little Duck Hawk Ridge

I have been to LeConte about 60 times.  The majority of those trips have been up Alum Cave Bluff Trail.  Between Inspiration Point and Alum Cave Bluff is a great view of a steep, vertical rock formation known as "Little Duck Hawk Ridge," "Kissing Camel Ridge" or "Eye of the Needle."  It is associated with Peregrine Peak which is the large moutain to its NE. Another view is after you pass Alum Cave Bluff the trail makes a turn to the right.  Look to your left through the trees.  You will see a side trail ending at a cable across the trail with a sign.  That is a far as you can legally and morally go. 

Below is the quote from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park of its "Title 36 Code of Federal Regulations , Chapter 1, parts 1-7 authorized by US Code Section 13" with specifics to this area.  Simply put, if you have not made it to Little Duck Hawk Ridge before the closure, you are too late.  Its closed....

Section 1.5 deals with public closures.  Here is the statement:
"Trail and Backcountry closures

The rocky ridge adjacent to the Alum Cave Bluff area,commonly known as: "Eye of the Needle", "Little Duck Hawk", and "Raven's Roost" is closed to public access. The closed area is a narrow rocky ledge that runs in a north/south direction. Closure signs will be posted approximately 100 yards from the junction with Alum Cave Trail along a manway leading to the mentioned ridge. This closure is to prevent disturbance of nesting Peregrine Falcons. The success of Peregrine Falcons in raising their young is significantly decreased by human disturbances. Successful nesting has been observed."

I have seen and heard the falcons!  What a sight.  One day I heard it fly over me before I saw it.  Magnificent!  So, I respect this regulation in defense of the falcons.

Below are a few pics from before the closure. I climbed out to the hole in the rock and took a picture of Alum Cave then went to Alum Cave and took a picture of the hole.  I am glad I did it when I did!

Here is Alum Cave from where I was standing at the hole in the rock at Little Duckhawk Ridge.  Note the hikers standing under the overhang.

Norwood Boiler below Clingmans Dome

When I was growing up I heard about a train that wrecked on Clingmans Dome and rolled down the mountain.  Of course that was a definate legend to chase!  So, a few years ago I found that it was a MYTH.  Here is the story as I know it.  Before 1926 the Norwood Lumber Company clear-cut basically the south side of Clingmans Dome.  I do not know how far down however.  What I do know is that there is a lot of evidence remaining.  Many RR grades, skidder trails, rails, coal, etc. are all over the mountain.  The "train" that is below the Dome is actually a boiler which produced steam to operate a winch to pull logs up the mountain to train cars.  If you have been to the massive piece of metal it is lying in its side.  I saw a picture (which I am trying to get a copy of) that has the boiler standing upright.   When I get a copy I will post it.  Here is the boiler...

As you can see, I am standing on the flat grade.  From the Clingmans Dome parking area take the trail toward Andrews Bald.  Turn right onto Forney Creek Trail. Go about a 1/4 mile and look for a cairn on teh right.  The old RR grade is pretty obvious.  Turn right off Forney Creek trail onto the grade.  You will see rails, coal, etc and then will come upon the boiler.  So, its a MYTH....a train did not wreck on Clingmans Dome!  HOWEVER there is a boiler there!

Raven Fork, Three Forks and the Big Pool

Matt, Brian, Aaron and me at Campsite 44 after our 10 hour 3.4 mile day. We hiked from 44 over Breakneck Ridge and down a drainage to Raven Fork at the Big Pool. The legend of the Big Pool is larger than the pool itself but nonetheless we had an incredible three days of backpacking and exploring a section of the Smokies I had never really spent a lot of time in. If you are wanting to just get to the Big Pool (aka Three Forks) just hike to campsite 44 then follow the spring branch down hill. When you get to the creek you are at the Right Fork of Raven Fork. Now turn left and go down stream a mile to the Three Forks. Return the same way. Allow about two hours to go down and three hours to go back up. Once you get in Right Fork it will be a creek wade...not a rock hop. Make sure you go back up the correct drainage to campsite 44 however. Someone has flagging at the mouth of a similar looking drainage but be aware. Trust your map reading skills. GPS had a hard time receiving satellites!

Finally at the Big Pool. You can see it just above my shoulder. It is 2.1 miles from Campsite 44 along Breakneck Ridge to Raven Fork. We left at 9:00 a.m. from the campsite and arrived at approximately 3:00 p.m. The rhodo was thick but not that bad. I have seen thicker rhodo in other areas of the Park. But it was slow going. Breakneck Ridge was very pretty with all the spring wildflowers and budding trees. We even found an anglers fishing net hanging from a tree up there.

About a 1/4 mile from Raven Fork (and to the west of the old trail which is not to be seen again once you leave Breakneck) we found this tunnel in the creek. It was one of the neatest things I have seen in a while. It reminded me of a miniature Arch Rock. It was about 15' long and about 3' high. (Click on the image to see it larger in a different window).

One of the respites during the hike off Breakneck was finding fallen Spruce trees. This one was probably 125' tall and provided us a place to walk out of the rhodo. Behind me is Matt, Aaron and Brian. This was a welcoming "sidewalk" through the rhodo!
Once at Three Forks/Big Pool area we fished a little, made hot drinks, had lunch, found the old campsites (which are still very well used), Aaron and I went swimming, Brian caught a small rainbow and we fixed his blisters. Around 4:00 we crossed Raven Fork and went up the Right Fork. We tried to rock hop for a while to keep our feet dry but after a hundred yards or so we gave up and just waded. If you return to Campsite 44 this way, make sure you know exactly where to turn off Right Fork to go up McGee Springs Branch. If not you will be thrashing around hopelessly! We arrived at the site at 7:00 so it took us about three hours to go up.
In the blue hikers guide printed in the 1970's by the Sierra Club, there is a description of the area including Breakneck Ridge and also in Ken Wise's book he gives a good description and a photo of the old campsite with old canvas tents with stove pipes coming out of their sides. Great photo. Again, if you are just aiming to go to Three Forks go down from Campsite 44 and back up. Allow from the site about five hours not including your time at Big Pool/Three Forks.

Gunter Fork Trip

Bushwhacking down Gunter Fork

Rhodo so thick its hard to see two people here. Most of the time we swam on top of it!

Gunter Fork Falls. Just above here is the Cascades. Just below is where the old RR grade comes in from the east.

Walnut Bottoms. Check out that Byer of Maine "Parachute Traveler Hammock"

March 27-28 I went with some new friends up then down Gunter Fork. What a wilderness! We went up the trail to the Balsam Mountain trail then bushwhacked all the way down to the RR trestle ruins below the falls. We found lots of old lumbering material and the old RR grades. The upper part of the creek itself contains many sharp rocks rather than the normal round rocks in most of the Smokies streams. I gotta go fishing there the upper part. A pretty falls and an incredible cascade are worth the trip too! I was trying to relocate a Cessna 150 that crashed in the 1960s. It is still there but I could not find it.

Mill Creek Falls

I have seen this falls on my old maps for years. I visited once back in 1986 and did not have my camera so I went back last weekend. This is a terrific trip. The photo above shows the falls/cascades from about a hundred yards away. From the Cable Mill area, drive up the gravel road (Forge Creek) until you drive over the bridge. Just after the bridge look for a swampy area to the right and a small gravel pull off on the left. Park there (on the left). Walk into the woods and you will hear Mill Creek to your left. Don't go there quite yet; continue walking slightly uphill. After a few minutes you will see a rise to your right. Go there. On that rise is an old road. Actually there are two parallel roads. If someone can tell my why there are two parallel roads I would appreciate it. Stay on the road going away from your vehicle. You will cross many blowdowns along the way. After a few minutes the road will abruptly end at Mill Creek. Walk across the stream into the flats. Continue walking upstream now for about two miles. I tried to follow the road bed as much as possible going up but I took an easier route coming back (I stayed above the creek to the north...there is an unmistakable bear trail that you can follow that is out of the rhodo and away from the creek). Eventually the road will peter out and the going will get a little steeper. At the end of the steep section the terrain will suddenly flatten out and you will see the falls about 200 yards beyond. Take note of the interesting rock formations to your north and south. Cool cliffs and rock walls abound. In the Sugar Cove area between there and the end of the road, there is supposed to be a mill stone in or near the creek. I could not find it. Anyone know where it is?
So, here is the famed Mill Creek Falls. Myth or Fact? FACT!

Bote Mountain Mystery Rock

What is this? I have seen this rock on the right side of the trail on upper Bote Mountain Road for years. When I first saw it I immediately thought of a corn meal grinder. Or maybe a mortar and pestle? Anyway, its been there for years and is intriguing.

Steel Tooth near Collins Gap

My buddy Dwight McCarter and I hiked with Bob Lochbaum and Ken Wise on an unmapped trail near Collins Gap to find this relic. The trail comes to an abrupt halt and nearby is this steel tooth. We believe it was from a piece of road making equipment. The area where this trail is does make sense to build a road. A trail could have been planned this way and stopped. However this piece remains a mystery. Its about a foot long and is very heavy. I think it attaches to a backhoe or shovel machine and it came off or was discarded. In fact on modern road construction equipment these teeth are replaced rather than having to buy a whole new bucket or scoop.

Eagle Creek Copper Mine

Another "legend" I heard about growing up was the Eagle Creek Copper Mine. It supposedly had all the mining equipment still there, several pits and railroad ties to see. After investigating this legend I found out that it does in fact exist. I have been there four times and keep finding neat things. From Eagle Creek on Fontana Lake, go toward Campsite 90 but turn right into another draw. I will post its name later. Paddle about a mile and on your left will be an obvious opening in the woods. Immediately you will find railroad ties almost operating as steps up to the mine site Once there you will see the fenced in pits to your right and machinery to your left. Up on a rise to the left is this winch that my son is standing near.

These are the ties at one of the fenced pits.

Again, a photo of the winch.

Panther Creek Slate Quarry and Rail Car

Fact or Fiction? When I was growing up I heard about a train car still on its tracks in the Abrams Creek section of the Smokies. I hiked in three times to the Panther Creek area and finally hiked up far enough to find the answer. I will add more later but in a nut shell there are remnants of the quarry activity there! Below is the sky line that went from the north shore to the cart.

Here is Mike Wood kneeling at the arch behind the cart. The skyline apparantly looped here for its anchor.

An here is the cart...still on tracks! Not very large but a cart nonetheless! So....FACT!

Tri-pacer Airplane Crash

Here my friend Charlie Wimmer is at the crash site. This is close to Double Springs Gap shelter just off the AT a few yards.

The plane crashed in a snow storm and the pilot survived! I will add more details later.

Another look at the Piper Tri-pacer

Sugarlands Rock House

You gotta wonder who built this house, who visited it, who slept in it, what was cooked, how deep the snow ever got, how many animals came by and finally who was the last person to stay in it before it was torn down.

This is looking south from the fireplace hearth. Notice the beds to the right. I think I counted four sets of beds inside and outside the house. Two are beautiful with neat designs at the feet.

The hearth in the larger of the rooms. Pots and pans are still there lying even on the mantle.

Here is a map to the cabin.

This is a gas stove. It has three burners (which are still there).