The FOTS Classic Hikes of the Smokies are underway for 2021. The hikes are held each month from March through December.
The hike leaders for the March, April and May hikes share their hiking experience. Thanks to Linda Spangler, Beth Ransom and Marielle DeJong for providing photos of the hikes.
March – Mingus Creek Trail
by Danny Bernstein – hike leader
Twenty-five hikers – the maximum allowed on the hike by the park – hiked the March Classic Hike on Mingus Creek Trail. I was amazed at the diversity of locations that people came from besides Western North Carolina – Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina and even Michigan.
We hiked up the Mingus Creek Trail for a mile and turned right at the cemetery sign to hike to the Mingus Family Cemetery.
Visitors had placed rocks and even coins on the stumps that marked the graves. That indicates that people had visited the graves and therefore still remembered the departed.
After completing the Mingus Creek Trail, we returned to the cars, we climbed up to the Enloe Cemetery that holds six graves of enslaved African-Americans who lived in the park. The land where the enslaved people are buried belonged to the Enloe, Mingus and Floyd families.
April – Big Creek Trail
by Steve Winchester, hike leader
We picked the perfect morning to hike up Big Creek to campsite 37. Approximately 20 joined the hike, including many new attendees as well as some old friends. Danny Bernstein was our sweep.
We shared the trail with other hikers due to the number of wildflowers in bloom. We were lucky enough to have a number of individuals on the hike with us who knew Appalachian wild flowers quite well so between our knowledge, the Smokies flower book and these hikers, we were able to ID most of the plants we saw along the way.
We ‘unofficially’ broke into two groups – the first group would recognize and point out the plants we saw of interest but kept moving on at a pretty steady pace.
The second group tended to stop and review the flowers in more detail. That said, the first group did not reach our destination (Campsite 37) much faster than the second group.
As we approached the campsite, everyone was most impressed by the fringed phacelia that was all around. Since the campsite was closed to overnight camping due to bear activity, most of the flowers there were undisturbed.
We stopped for a lunch break and Linda Spangler took a group photo. Danny announced that our hike was also one of the 100 Favorite Trails of the Smokies and Carolina Blue Ridge Map that recently was updated.
From that point, we recommended everyone walk back at their own pace. At the end of the hike, many hung around the parking lot visiting and planning their next hike experience I am sure.
May – Baxter Creek Trail
by Beth Ransom, hike leader
The Baxter Creek hike out and back was 6.1 miles times two with 4,000 feet in elevation gain.
Seventeen hardy hikers completed the hike.
We started out with overcast skies but all that had cleared by the time we made the summit at Mt. Sterling. We had great views and a nice lunch at the top.
Many wildflowers were in bloom, including painted trillium, bleeding hearts and violets.
Some hikers opted for the side trail toward the end of the hike to see the still standing fireplace that was once part of a lodge that was once owned by the Crestmont Lumber Company
Trails Forever improve GSMNP trails
Proceeds from the Classic Hike series benefit Trails Forever.
Today, the endowment has grown to more than $6 million and funds a full-time trail crew in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to reconstruct and rehabilitate some of the park’s most impacted trails.
This year, Trails Forever is restoring the Abrams Creek Trail.
Learn more about contributing to the Trails Forever endowment.