Sunny skies and temperatures near 70 in town were the impetus to head out to Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park today. The weather surely did not disappoint!
On the drive across the Cataloochee Divide going up Cove Creek from Jonathan Valley was beautiful, with clear views back toward Interstate 40 and the White Oak and Panther Creek areas. One I reached the park boundary at the Cataloochee Divide trail, I dealt with some motor grader work on the gravel road portion down into the valley.
I arrived in the valley pretty close to noon, and was a bit surprised to see some of the elk herd resting in the shade along the creek near Palmer Chapel. After taking a couple of snapshots of the elk, and stopping by the chapel for a few minutes, I drove on to the trailhead of the Pretty Hollow Gap trail near the old school, made sure I had my food, water, fishing license, and car keys, and headed up the old wagon/logging road that runs along Palmer Creek.
Again, the fishing was excellent, but the catching was not so good.. I've said this before, but my idea of a successful fishing trip has little to do with whether any fish are caught. Perhaps that is just a confession of my lack of skill, but it's my story and I'm sticking to it!
I hiked and fished up the creek for about 1.8 miles to backcountry campsite #39. This site is in a hemlock/white pine grove across the Pretty Hollow Gap trail from Pretty Hollow Creek, which runs into Palmer Creek just below the campsite. I started to head farther up the Palmer Creek trail to follow Palmer Creek upstream for a bit more exploring, but the trail was completely blocked by a huge tree that had fallen recently. Not eager to bushwhack my way around this obstruction with my waders on, I headed back downstream toward the truck.
It is hard to beat a day like today, especially in March!!!