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    Default Eagle Creek/Jenkins Ridge Loop

    With the dry conditions it seemed like a good time to hike Eagle Creek and color in that trail on my map of the Smokies. My hiking partner had some time off work and wanted to do a 5 day trip. I did not want to tackle Eagle Creek alone. The week before I had hiked Meigs Creek (18 crossings) as an out and back day hike and was able to rock hop all of the crossings.

    The water was down but Eagle Creek was no rock hop. Nor was it crotch deep as a friend in the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club remembered.

    We parked my car at Fontana Dam and took the Lakeshore Trail to the Eagle Creek Trail. There were three crossings of Eagle Creek before campsite 89, Lower Ekaneetlee where we stayed the first night. I mistakenly thought there were only two crossings according to the brown book changed into my dry shoes. My friend scouted around and was able to rock hop that crossing by the time I got my wet shoes back on. Total trail miles for day 1 was 7.1 plus the half mile or so road walk across the dam.

    Day 2 there is an immediate crossing of a side creek at the camp site then 12 more crossings of Eagle Creek in the next 3 miles. There is one crossing after leaving campsite 97. I wore my old Merrel Moab's with low cut Darn Tuff socks for the crossings. My hiking partner wore Crocs and no socks but got blisters. The deepest crossings were lower but never more than knee deep at worst. But with rain I image the creek could rise quickly. The lower part of the trail follows an old narrow gage rail track so it gains elevation gradually and had been cleared pretty well. In the last two miles however the trail gets really steep. A couple of times I thought that I had gotten off trail an into a dry creek bed but that was not the case.

    The second night we stayed at Spence Field Shelter. Eleven people had reservations but there were on six of us there total for the night. It could have been due to the lack of water on the ridge. Spence Field spring was dry. I had carried up some water but wasn't confident that I had enough and my partner was out of water so we went back down Eagle Creek for about 1/3 a mile to get water as did the other campers and a trail crew camped nearby. Total miles for day 2 was 7, not counting going back for water.

    Day 3 we hiked the AT north to Jenkins Ridge Trail. We did not go to Rocky Top because visibility was not good. The trail had been brushed and the had been a lot of side hill work as far the the small stream at 1.2 miles. Beyond the stream the trail had not been maintained recently. The brown book describes Jenkins Ridge as strenuous in either direction and I agree. For the most part the trail stays on the ridge line with no switch backs. If the ridge line goes up or down, so does the trail. Some times it is smooth and level, but sometimes it is extremely steep and eroded. At times I either zig-zaged or had to side step to descend. Acorns on the ground didn't help. The brown book (Hiking Trails of the Smokies) is dated 2003. It listed Jenkins Ridge as 6.5 miles but signs and the dollar map list it as 8.9 miles.

    I think there has been a re-route of the Lakeshore Trail since my guide was published. At 6.5 miles there is a sharp turn in the trail and a sharp change in the nature of the trail. It suddenly becomes wide, moistly smooth an level like an old road way for about 2.4 miles where it joins with the Hazel Creek trail. We took Hazel Creek trail to campsite 83, Bone Valley.

    Day 4 I slack packed up Bone Valley trail and back. There are 5 creek crossings on that trail, 4 of which are similar to Eagle Creek crossings. At the end of Bone Valley is the Hall cabin and behind that a cemetery. After returning we hiked Hazel Creek trail to campsite 86, Proctor. There are still several old buildings and artifacts in the area. Hazel Creek trail at this point is basically a gravel road and crosses the creek on bridges. Total miles for that day was around 9 counting the out and back to Bone Valley.

    Day 5 We took Lakeshore trail west past and through campsite 90 and back to Fontana Dam. Lakeshore is kind of a misnomer because you can only see the lake a couple of times on this part of the trail. Total miles that day was around 10.


    There was a ban on campfires in the back country and the park web site indicates the hikers should use only canister stoves. But when I called the back country office I was told that alcohol stoves were o.k. but to "be careful".


    Overall a very good trip, I had an opportunity to shake down a few new pieces of gear for a potential LASH of the AT in May 2020. The weather was dry, we got on a couple of very light showers. There was a little bit of fall color.

    If I were to do the same trip again, I might spring for a dedicated pair of wading shoes. The Merrels did well but were heavy and did not dry quickly.

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    The night you were at Spence, was that before or after the rains this weekend?
    I called the back county office today and was told the water source at Spence was running.

    I assume the spot you were able to obtain water was where the trail crosses Spence Cabin Branch, right where the branch turns 90?

    When looking at a Topo, the Spence Field spring is the head water for Spence Cabin Branch. From the spring, it seems to flow almost in a strait line until just after it crosses the trail, then makes a 90 turn to the left to continue its trip down hill. Based on my Google Earth data, this spot is just shy of 0.3 miles below the spring.

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    I think there has been a re-route of the Lakeshore Trail since my guide was published. At 6.5 miles there is a sharp turn in the trail and a sharp change in the nature of the trail. It suddenly becomes wide, moistly smooth an level like an old road way for about 2.4 miles where it joins with the Hazel Creek trail. We took Hazel Creek trail to campsite 83, Bone Valley.



    yeah........that was a reroute that was done maybe 20 ish years ago....

    and it was really a series of reroutes----

    coming down jenkins-----it joined what was known as pinnacle creek...

    pinnacle creek trail went from hazel creek over to eagle creek......

    so they ended up closing down the side of pinnacle creek from jenkins ridge to eagle creek.....

    reason being was that pinnacle creek has some unbridged creek crossings with the eagle creek one being the worse....one time when i forded it-=---it was chest high...

    they kept the part from jenkins to hazel open and renamed that part lakeshore-----even though it really wasnt in the area of the other parts of lakeshore...

    then the park service decided that they would connect the other parts of lakeshore together to make one long trail from the dam over to the tunnel...

    so they renamed the pinnacle creek>lakeshore trail (from jenkins to hazel) to just jenkins....

    basically making it an extension of jenkins....

    which is what it is now called....

    and in order to connect the parts of lakeshore---the park utilized an old road bed that went from eagle creek to hazel creek..........

    and put a new campsite using the same number (88) along that stretch...

    thats "new" part of lakeshore was just north of the iron bridge on eagle creek going across to hazel creek just west of the callahan (i think thats how its spelled) house...

    theres also a couple of cemeteries along that section of lake shore...

    and yeah, that's where having a most up to date edition of the brown book along with the dollar map........


    hope all this makes sense as im typing it after getting very little sleep the last week and im in my dads room at the hospice place with nurses coming and going...

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    Registered User rmitchell's Avatar
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    I was at Spence Field on Sunday, October 6. The pipe would drip one drop about every 30 seconds.

    It rained some during the night, but not much. Hardly enough to settle the dust. There was a little more rain on Monday morning.

    And yes that does sound about where I got water. There was some flow before it crosses the trail, just a little difficult to scoop without getting sentiment.

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    The brown book (Hiking Trails of the Smokies) is dated 2003. It listed Jenkins Ridge as 6.5 miles but signs and the dollar map list it as 8.9 miles.



    yeah.....

    the mileage changed with the reroute that i wrote above....

    and since your book is from 2003-----a nice volunteer by the name of robert lochbaum wheeled all the trails multiple times to get a more accurate reading of the mileage...

    http://www.smhclub.org/Stories/Lochbaum.htm

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    Registered User rmitchell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    yeah........that was a reroute that was done maybe 20 ish years ago....

    and it was really a series of reroutes----

    coming down jenkins-----it joined what was known as pinnacle creek...

    pinnacle creek trail went from hazel creek over to eagle creek......

    so they ended up closing down the side of pinnacle creek from jenkins ridge to eagle creek.....

    reason being was that pinnacle creek has some unbridged creek crossings with the eagle creek one being the worse....one time when i forded it-=---it was chest high...

    they kept the part from jenkins to hazel open and renamed that part lakeshore-----even though it really wasnt in the area of the other parts of lakeshore...

    then the park service decided that they would connect the other parts of lakeshore together to make one long trail from the dam over to the tunnel...

    so they renamed the pinnacle creek>lakeshore trail (from jenkins to hazel) to just jenkins....

    basically making it an extension of jenkins....

    which is what it is now called....

    and in order to connect the parts of lakeshore---the park utilized an old road bed that went from eagle creek to hazel creek..........

    and put a new campsite using the same number (88) along that stretch...

    thats "new" part of lakeshore was just north of the iron bridge on eagle creek going across to hazel creek just west of the callahan (i think thats how its spelled) house...

    theres also a couple of cemeteries along that section of lake shore...

    and yeah, that's where having a most up to date edition of the brown book along with the dollar map........


    hope all this makes sense as im typing it after getting very little sleep the last week and im in my dads room at the hospice place with nurses coming and going...

    I'm sorry to hear about your dad. Hospice was a great help with my wife .

    I need to get an updated trail guide and topo maps.

    The white house with green trim is the Calhoun house. Looks good from the outside, not so much inside.

    Actually your explanation of the re- routes makes sense.

    Thanks
    Last edited by rmitchell; 10-10-2019 at 20:07.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rmitchell View Post
    I'm sorry to hear about your dad. Hospice was a great help with my wife .

    I need to get an updated trail guide and topo maps.

    The white house with green trim is the Calhoun house. Looks good from the outside, not so much inside.

    Actually your explanation of the re- routes makes sense.

    Thanks


    thanks....and sorry to hear about your wife....

    and i was thinking Callahan didn't seem right so thanks on the correction...

    but it sounds like you had a good trip and hope you saw all sorts of wildlife on what ya did...

    those two creeks tend to get a bunch of bears due to the traffic they get...

    and along the lower stretch of Hazel, people are allowed to use carts to bring gear in and this leads to more food being brought in....

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    Registered User rmitchell's Avatar
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    Did not see a bear.

    Lot of fresh scat and hog rooting .

    We were reading the Proctor information sign at the bridge and looked up to see an osprey flying downstream carrying a large trout.

  9. #9

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    I took Eagle Creek in July starting at West prong and coming down eagle creek. I was glad to not be going the other way (up to spence field) because that's a haul.

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    Quote Originally Posted by centerfieldr162 View Post
    I took Eagle Creek in July starting at West prong and coming down eagle creek. I was glad to not be going the other way (up to spence field) because that's a haul.
    I've climbed Eagle Creek twice, and when I get to that really steep part, I always think the exact opposite... that I wouldn't want to be hiking down hill at this point for fear of slipping on such a steep section of trail.
    According to one source (either thlandforms web site or Little Brown Book), the upper section of Eagle Creek contains the steepest 1/4 mile of trail in the entire park.
    Last edited by HooKooDooKu; 10-11-2019 at 15:56. Reason: street ==> steepest

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    I've climbed Eagle Creek twice, and when I get to that really steep part, I always think the exact opposite... that I wouldn't want to be hiking down hill at this point for fear of slipping on such a steep section of trail.
    According to one source (either thlandforms web site or Little Brown Book), the upper section of Eagle Creek contains the street 1/4 mile of trail in the entire park.
    That makes sense. I guess it's all relative. We had climbed all day so I was just happy to be going down, but I will say that I had to hike at a snail's pace and even still I slipped and fell twice going down

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    Registered User rmitchell's Avatar
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    The other thing about going downhill on Eagle Creek is that the crossings get progressively deeper as you work downstream. Not a problem now with low water conditions but when the rains start it will be a different story. Going down stream you are committed and there is no bail out.

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    Hiked the Lake Shore, Eagle Creek, AT loop this weekend.
    Some of the Eagle Creek crossings were a rock hop... depending upon your skill level. But me and my son just forded them all. The crossings were all about mid-shin deep. Water was plentiful up until about 0.5 miles before Spence (the spring was dry... but when you get to the creek another 0.3 miles below, there was water, but it was all spread out... hike down hill another 0.1 mile and there was a great spot with a flowing fall and large pool... so you could catch or scoop).
    Yesterday from Shuckstack Fire tower, the woods were all green, no noticeable color change could be seen... but there were lots of dead leaves on the ground already (at all elevations).

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    Thanks for the report. It got pretty chilly last night... maybe enough to finally see some colors soon


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ashepabst View Post
    Thanks for the report. It got pretty chilly last night... maybe enough to finally see some colors soon
    The NOAA Weather site reports that it went below freezing at New Found Gap and LeConte (and presumably everywhere else above 5,000').
    https://forecast.weather.gov/product...P&issuedby=MRX

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    Quote Originally Posted by rmitchell View Post
    The other thing about going downhill on Eagle Creek is that the crossings get progressively deeper as you work downstream. Not a problem now with low water conditions but when the rains start it will be a different story. Going down stream you are committed and there is no bail out.
    Well there is one bailout but it does requires another crossing: you can follow the old un-maintained Pinnacle Creek trail about 4 miles or so to Pickens Gap on the Jenkins Ridge Trail. It's really pretty in the lower section but requires a touch of route finding with some longish sections in the creek on slick rock. You pass by an old decommissioned campsite that still has a fire ring and bear cables that, though a little rusty, were still working last fall. A neat path to explore for sure for those done with thier 900.

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    that can be a nasty ford with medium to high water level....

    one year i crossed there and it was up to my chest....

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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    that can be a nasty ford with medium to high water level....

    one year i crossed there and it was up to my chest....
    I recall seeing a piling, like a old bridge support across stream at one point. Is that the crossing?

    If one wanted to bail due to high water that really wouldn't be an option.

    If traveling downstream on Eagle Creek I would want to be sure that the water wasn't going to rise suddenly.

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    Whoops, yeah you are right, I wasn't looking at the map when I posted that. Pinnacle is way too far down to be a viable bail-out. And yes that old bridge support is the spot.

    TNHiker,

    There is a deep hole right there but I usually cross just upstream of that spot and it's a little easier. Now that you mention that I also remember a year with a chest deep crossing there. The only other place I can remember a crossing that deep is the western or "Y" end of the Roundtop trail....

    of course chest deep is relative....I'm only 5'7.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PatmanTN View Post
    ... you can follow the old un-maintained Pinnacle Creek trail about 4 miles or so to Pickens Gap on the Jenkins Ridge Trail. It's really pretty in the lower section but requires a touch of route finding with some longish sections in the creek on slick rock. You pass by an old decommissioned campsite that still has a fire ring and bear cables that, though a little rusty, were still working last fall. A neat path to explore for sure for those done with thier 900.
    I thought that trail was "closed" such that it was illegal to hike (like Scott Mtn trail between Rich Mtn and Schoolhouse gap). But then again, I didn't see a closed sign last weekend when I passed the trail (I've never hiked it, but I've noticed it before... easy to find when you know where to look as old log bridge support columns are still in place).

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