The story below is an excerpt from our May/June 2014 issue. For the rest of this story and more like it subscribe today, view our digital edition or download our FREE iOS app!
Mary Ellen Hammond
Mary Ellen Hammond pauses on a hike in the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness, which is made up of about 17,000 acres in North Carolina and Tennessee.
Mary Ellen Hammond is the publisher of outdoor adventure guidebooks at Milestone Press in Almond, N.C. Milestone’s new hiking app, “Great Hikes of the Southern Appalachians,” is available for iphone and android.
I’m standing on a bridge at Deep Creek, just inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park, surrounded by intensely green forest, watching the clear, cold water rushing from its source in the high mountains flow smoothly beneath me. The sky is bright Carolina blue; the wind rushes through the trees. I haven’t seen another human being all morning on my walk here.
This is the most visited national park in the country, and even the Deep Creek entrance, on what is known as the “quiet side” of the Smokies, is popular. On hot summer days the trail can be crowded with tubers looking to cool off in the frigid creek. So how is it possible to come here and not see another soul? The answer is simple. I looked at a map, learned where the waterfalls are, and discovered where the trail loops around to make a day hike I can manage in the time I have available. I’ve left the trailhead – and most of the crowds – behind.