20.6 Miles in Happy Valley - 12-17-11

Three of us got up early on Saturday morning for a 20.6-mile out-and-back of Rabbit Creek and Hannah Mountain Trails.  The views and company were spectacular and the return of an old friend, Buddy, made this hike memorable for sure. 

When Dapper Dan and I arrived at the trailhead and waited for Mary, our companion for the day, I quickly saw a familiar face.  Buddy, the dog I’d met on my first solo hike back in September, was nosing around in the fields at the ranger station.  I was so excited to 1) See him and hike with him again and 2) That he had a new tag on and his name was actually Buddy!  This fact made my whole day, but let’s talk about the hike now!

Mary, DD, and I set out from the Rabbit Creek Trailhead and immediately crossed Abrams Creek.  The water is the highest and swiftest I’ve ever seen.  We quickly pass the old Boring Farm and head uphill to tornado-damaged summit of our trail.  The climb goes quickly and we arrive at Scott Gap in less than an hour, 2.7 miles in to our trek. From here, we get on Hannah Mountain Trail and we’ll follow it for about 7.5 miles to Parsons Branch Road.  

The sky is still cloudy and there is a heavy layer of fog still in the air when we reach campsite 14 at Flint Gap.  We have a 1000-foot climb ahead, but we’re hoping to catch a glimpse of Cades Cove in the distance to our west.  We’d have no such luck this morning.  After making the climb, however, we do see freezing rain clinging to the trees in a delicate layer of ice on top of Hannah Mountain.  The site was absolutely stunning. After a few miles of level ridgeline walking, we descend down to Parsons Branch Road and stop for lunch.  We’re halfway finished with our day and it’s only 11:15 a.m.

After stopping for half an hour, the sky begins to turn blue and the fog is lifting.  On our way back over Hannah Mountain the frozen trees have begun to thaw and are now dripping on our heads, every once in a while dropping little ice pellets down the back of our necks.  We finally start to have some beautiful views and get a glimpse of Cades Cove far off to our west.  The hike goes fast and we end our hike at 3:30 in the afternoon, celebrating with Cokes and a tube of Pringles I forgot I had packed.  We hiked with Buddy the entire time and he headed home for a well-deserved rest when we left.