So, since I have the majority of the summer off (yay teacher benefits!) my Dad and I have been hiking a lot lately. We decided to do West Fork Trail a couple days ago because I had never done it before. West Fork Trail is one section of the Benton Mackaye Trail. It was a rather simple hike honestly. The trail comes out at West Fork Rough Creek (my dad kept referring to it as Short Creek. Apparently that is what locals call it).
A short distance from there he took me off trail to show me a rather interesting Beech Tree. (I will make a separate post for it… it is a really interesting find. I did include one picture of it on this post though!) We kept going another mile or so up the old road and Dad showed me the remains of the old bridges and culverts that were once used. The road and bridges were closed in 1986 when the area was added to the Big Frog Wilderness. He also told me a story from when he and one of my uncles were hunting up in there 30+ years ago. He said they were hiking up that road when it started showing. Dad said the snow was coming over the mountain like giant waves. I love hearing his old stories. 😊
Anyway, we had to cross the creek 3 different times to get to the end of the road where the camp site was. We managed to successfully cross (with pup in hand might I add) all three times without getting our feet wet. **Note to self: Bring a pair of water shows to make crossing ten times easier?!
Did I mention we saw a bear? It was ADORABLE. I believe he was playing in the creek when he heard us, panicked, and hauled ass up the side of the mountain. Overall, it was a fairly easy hike. Moderate at most. The elevation gain was minimal. According to my book (Hiking Trails of the Cohutta and Big Frog Wilderness-AMAZING) the trail actually loses about 240 feet of elevation going down the trail and then gradually gains elevation back until it ends. =)
I would (and will) hike again
Trailhead: Forest Service Road 221 (Starts on southern slope of Chestnut Mountain)
Top L-R: The pup and I believe a woodpecker feather, Crawfish I caught flipping rocks, and salamander!
Middle L-R: Another salamander (found in rotted log) and some kind of creepy translucent worm that was in the creek.
Bottom L-R: Another salamander (notice his scarred tail and missing back left leg 😢.. I should note he still seemed to be thriving though! 😊), Dung Beetle (aka: Tumble Turd… this is what we grew up calling them. 🤣), and that same creepy worm from above in my hand.
I think this is a small Magnolia tree. I’ll look it up and edit this post if I’m wrong! The ADORABLE bear. 😍
Benton Mackaye Trail marker with Dad in background.
Part of one of the old culverts/bridges.
One view of the creek!
Acorn that fell off the tree and impaled itself into this Rhododendron leaf.
Another creek/bridge/culvert view.
One of the camping spots we saw!
Creepy freaking face we found carved in a tree.
Camping spot at the end of the trail!
Wooden trail marker. First of these I’ve seen!
That magnificent Beech Tree I mentioned above. Be watching for the next post that has more pictures of it!
All the little fungi I found. Well, most of it anyway.
Pretty little flowers I saw (but have not yet ID’d)