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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Middle Prong Trail At Last

Back home in Wisconsin I'm busy emptying out the fifth wheel for the season and taking antibiotics for an ear infection.  I suspected I might be coming down with more than "allergies" while in the Smokies but I was in denial.  After seeing my photos can you blame me?

On Monday after fooling around under the bridge over what I think is Thunderhead Prong which merges with the Middle Prong of the Little River I strapped my camera backpack on, grabbed that tripod and hit the Middle Prong Trail.

The town of Tremont used to be a logging town that was set up when tracks were moved here for the Little River Lumber Company's operation. Originally the area was owned by William Walker, and he disliked the idea of a large-scale logging operation mowing down his virgin forest so he refused to sell any of his section along the Middle Prong to the Little River Lumber Company when they moved into the area at the turn of the century.

In 1918, Walker suffered a stroke that left him largely incapacitated. On December 26 of that year, he finally agreed to sell Middle Prong to Little River Lumber after Colonel Wilson B. Townsend gave him his word that he wouldn't harvest trees along Thunderhead Prong. Six months later, Walker died after suffering a second stroke. On Townsend's orders, a small train carried Walker's coffin ceremoniously to the Bethel Baptist Cemetery in Tuckaleechee, where it rests today.

That tripod I remembered to bring?  Turns out I didn't have the piece for attaching the camera to it, it got left back home in Wisconsin so all my shots of the cascades and cataracts I found were done hand-held.  I stashed the tripod under some bushes across from a bench part of the way up the trail.  Seems like no matter how much you check to make sure you have everything there is always something left behind.

Colonel Townsend sold his Little River tract to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Commission in 1926, but he did so with the agreement that he could continue logging in the area for 15 more years.

Further up along the trail there is evidence of the logging camps, but due to all my delays getting there I only went about a mile up the trail.  I think the next time I'm back completing this trail might very well be the first thing I want to do.

river carving its way through the rock

From Wikipedia: While the logging operations provided an economic boost to the northwestern Smokies, the rapid deforestation of Little River's watershed proved devastating for the river's ecosystem. With the formation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1934 and the end of logging operations in 1938, however, the forest quickly regrew. The Civilian Conservation Corps converted Little River Railroad's railroad beds into roads and trails. Today, other than the occasional stray skidder cable or railroad tie, there is little immediate evidence that logging ever took place in the area. 

cool fungus

If you want to read a good write-up on the trail, hiking in the smokys has one.  I refer to that website and my "Hiking Trails in the Smokies" book a lot when trying to decide which hike I want to do next.  If you buy it from the Great Smoky Mountain Association link I provided or in one of the visitor center stores a portion of the sales goes directly to the park.

It's not easy deciding which trail to hike because they all sound so good! Something else I did when we stopped at the Townsend Visitor Center was buy a yearly membership to the GSMA for $35.  In addition to supporting the park I get a 15% discount when shopping and additional discounts at participating area attractions.  Now I have to go back, right?  I'll also get copies of Smokies Life Magazine sent right to my home, and I used my discount to buy three back issues at the visitor center because it looked so interesting.

What's down this way, I wonder?

This trail has lots of little nooks and crannies to explore as you make your way up the gradual incline. The trail itself is wide and mostly even without much to worry about as far as footing hazards go.  It was nice to be able to look up instead of down at my feet as I moved along.

I had to watch carefully whenever I moved off trail towards the Lynn Camp Prong though, those boulders and tree roots were wet and slippery.  I forgot to look while I was moving around setting up a shot and slipped and fell hard onto a mass of exposed roots.  I had a couple of bruises to show for my lack of mental focus.

But can you blame me for getting distracted when I kept getting presented with scenes like this?  I mean, holy cow!  Please don't stay on the trail when you do this one, there is much hidden just a few feet from the trail that just took my breath away.  I literally gasped out loud when this spot came into view.

After my earlier fall I took my time moving around on the rocks to get some different angles.  I didn't want to leave, but there wasn't much else I could do without taking some serious risks, something one shouldn't do when hiking alone!

If you're out looking for fungi this fall, don't forget to push aside some of those leaves piled up on the ground.  It doesn't really show in this picture but this mushroom had a bit of a bluish tinge that was something I hadn't seen before.

After I popped out from that last cascade I heard horses on the trail.  The group was really friendly and when I saw one of them struggling to get a selfie with their phone I offered to help out.  The next group of horses that passed me on my way down didn't even reply or smile when I said hello.  You just never know.

I thought this trail would be a really good one to explore on horse, but then I remembered all those little cascades that weren't visible from the trail.  Hikers have it made, don't they?  All you need is determination and a good pair of shoes.

While I saw no one on the way up it was a different story on the way back down.  It was a little after 11:00 a.m. and the "crowds" had arrived.  It was still pretty mild compared to some of the better known trails, but I sure was glad I had parked the way I did.  I still had to take my time getting around the horse trailers parked alongside the road.

Next I'll show you the result of the continued rain in the area, it got wet and wild!


  1. Well, you must be really steady since the waterfall pictures turned out so well.

  2. I am loving your Autumn posts here! Keep 'em coming!

  3. Yup - I've done that before too - forgot the plate that attaches my camera to the tripod. Beautiful trail - and nice waterfalls.