Monday, March 09, 2015

Jakes Creek Hike 

     After all the cold weather and snow last month it was good to stretch my legs for the first hike of 2015. My friend, Karen, and I chose the Jakes Creek trail for this outing. The entire trail is 6.6 miles roundtrip which is a little much for us now so we opted to go about 1.5 miles one way, retracing our steps on the return.
      The trail starts just past Elkmont campground. The Elkmont community was the center for logging operations in the Smokies from 1901 through 1939 by the Little River Lumber Company. In 1909 a daily train from Knoxville started and Elkmont became a vacation spot for. Many people bought land from the lumber company and built vacation cabins. Several of these are still visible along the beginning of the trail, standing abandoned and deteriorating.
      The trail rises in elevation but not so much to present problems to two aging out of shape hikers. We passed the junctions with Cucumber Gap and Meigs Mountain trails. Those will be hikes for another time: in the spring the area will be awash with wildflowers so we will go back.
    There was a pretty spot along the trail where a small waterfall flows into a pool. Leading down to the pool you can see loops of cable assumed remnants of the logging cable used to move the logs down the slope to the rail cars.

Waterfall along side Jakes Creek trail
Rusted rail left from railroad

     At 1.2 miles down the trail, we saw the piece of rusting rail noted in the guidebook History Hikes Of The Smokies by The Great Smoky Mountains Association with text by Michal Strutin. It serves as a reminder of the railroad which once ran along here. There was a train wreck in this area that killed 3 railroad men who were bringing logs down the mountain on wet tracks.

Karen on the Newt Prong footbridge

    We crossed the Newt Prong footbridge and walked a little further along the trail before turning back.

     We found the trail leading to the Avent Cabin on our return trip. There is no sign marking the site so without directions you wouldn't know there was a reason to veer from the trail. You would be missing something! The steps at the beginning are a little steep but with care and a couple of hiking sticks apiece Karen and I made it down. A narrow footbridge crosses the creek and leads to a rather steep, rocky path up a hill. The trail was wet and muddy from recent snow and rain but not impassable. At the top you come upon a restored log cabin. Built in the 1850s, Mayna and Frank Avent bought the cabin in 1918. Mayna was a nationally known artist who taught painting in Nashville. She used the cabin as a studio, adding the large southwest facing window and other improvements. It is the only original log home still standing along the formerly busy route.
Avent Cabin from the trail

Avent Cabin kitchen and chimney

     I highly recommend Jakes Creek trail for anyone interested in the history of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I look forward to returning to do more hiking in this area.