Usually when a backpacking trip is planned, it either falls through because the weather is really bad or its not as fun as it could be because the weather is really bad. This past weekend though, the weather was actually really good. I had thought the trip was going to be to go up Mount Sterling Trail to campsite 38 and then come down Baxter Creek Trail. Instead of going down Baxter Creek we ended up doing Mount Sterling Ridge to Swallow Fork to Big Creek. It was a longer trip, but it got me a few more miles I get to mark off.
Campsite 38 is a rationed campsite. Michele had mad reservations so that we would have a place to camp when we got there. At first it appeared that all the sites were taken up. After further investigation we found a place near the horse hitching posts. It was away from the other campers and close to the bear lines. Campsite 38 is also where the Mount Sterling Firetower is located at. Unlike the Look Rock Firetower, you can climb all the way to the top of it. Since there was still daylight, that’s what I did. Here’s a picture that I took from the top. You can see just how nice the weather was.
After going up to the firetower and enjoying the views, it was time to come down and set up camp. We gathered up the firewood and started to make dinner. Hot Dogs and Bush’s Baked Beans are most enjoyed when they are cooked over a campfire. The temperature was forecasted to get down to below freezing that night. Campsite 38 is actually at about 5,820 ft in elevation. It is the highest unsheltered campground in the Smokey Mountains. It probably got down to about 30 degrees, but I stayed sufficiently warm. I was actually awoken sometime around 2:00 when I heard something that sounded like a bunch of kids playing around our campsite. It was probably just a pack of coyotes.
After breakfast, we packed up our stuff and started our 10.9 mile journey back to the Big Creek Picnic area. The first leg was along the Mount Sterling Ridge trail. The sky was actually a little overcast, but visibility was actually pretty decent. It offered some good views… also coupled with some warm weather in the previous weeks, wild flowers had started to bloom. Swallow Fork had about 3 or 4 stream crossings. We stopped for lunch at the junction of Swallow Fork and Big Creek.
After about 3 miles down Big Creek we came to Mouse Creek Falls. For those that are looking for a nice easy hike to do, I’d recommend coming up to Mouse Creek Falls. It is actually only 2 miles from the Big Creek Picnic area, and the elevation grade is really light. If you were to start at the Picnic area, hike up to the falls, and then back down to the picnic area; your hike would only be 4 miles. A great beginner hike for those that are interested in getting into hiking. It also probably won’t be near as crowded as Abram’s Falls.
Also nearby is Mountain Mama’s. If you go on your trip to Mouse Creek Falls, bring some money with you so you can go to Mountain Mama’s for lunch/dinner. You can’t miss Mountain Mama’s. Its on the road that you have to take to get to the Big Creek Picnic area. When we went, it was right around dinner time, so we also got to be entertained by the “local folk”.
I had also planned to meet up with Angela this weekend. Originally, we were gonna do something Saturday night, but after realizing it would be late and I would probably be sore and tired, Sunday would be the better time. We were talking and somehow Red Lobster’s came up, so that’s where we went. I seriously could eat at Red Lobster’s more often and not get tired of it. I also decided that its been a while since I’ve been to West End, so I would visit. Of course this would be the day they announce the resignation of 3 elders and the appointment of 3 new ones.