On Friday, I headed out with three other hikers for a 3-day hike on the AT. We’d do 29.2 miles and gain more than 9200 feet in elevation before the weekend was through. This weekend was tough, but it truly made me feel alive!
We all met up at the Cosby Campground at 1 p.m. to fill out the permit and head up to campsite 29 via the Snake Den Trail. Snake Den Trail starts out in the B loop of the campground, so we navigated our way back to the site where the trail begins. As soon as we reached the trailhead it began to rain and we all suited up in our rain gear to being the 4.5-mile, 3000’ climb to Maddron Bald Trail.
Snake Den Ridge Trail begins on the roadbed for an old fire road. It is very well-graded and has a small incline. At 0.2 miles there is an intersection with Low Gap and Lower Mt. Cammerer Trails, but it is labeled as a horse trail. We turned a corner and headed up towards a cemetery on the right and the end of the fire road at mile 0.7. The trail began to narrow and became rocky and muddy and we continued onward, crossing Rock Creek on a log and sturdy foot log. Now we were able to get rid of our rain gear as we were all warmed up and the rain was just a sporadic drizzle. After some more climbing and a switchback or two, we crossed Inadu Creek, which wasn’t too high and easily rock-hopped. It was shortly after this and another switchback where we ran into a man from Dandridge who was hiking up to the AT and back for the afternoon. He gave us some information about the F4 plane crash in 1984, the wreckage of which we’d see on Day 2.
The trail climbed and climbed through the green and foggy forest, sometimes rocky and slick in spots due to moss on the wet rocks. At mile 4.2, the trail has a big, open clearing that looked like an awesome spot for a break. JD let me know it was only 0.3 miles to the trailhead though, so we pushed on to Maddron Bald Trail.
Our companions caught up and we took a short break before heading downhill to campsite 29, a reservation site on Maddron Bald Trail. After 0.5 miles, we reached the bald but no views would be seen today. Just before leaving the bald, the fog got thicker and it was hard to see anyone more than 10 yards away. We continued downhill through a rhododendron tunnel and a few gentle switchbacks, losing 1000’ elevation in 1.5 miles. We reached campsite 29 to find we were the only group there for the night and that there was no firewood to be had. We searched high and low up and down the trail, but all we had were small twigs. The campsite was, however, on a creek, so water was abundant. It wasn’t too cold that night and the rain held off, so it was a pleasant fall evening in the back country.