BMT 2020: Day 16, Lost Cove to Pilkey Creek

I turn on Channel Six, the president comes on the news

We decided last night we would wake up at our regular time, 5:30 a.m. We also wouldn't worry about when we departed from camp.

We knew we had plenty of time to waste. Our next campsite was only one mile farther than what we walked yesterday, and despite a late start, we had no problem then getting to camp before dark.

DateSaturday, November 7, 2020
WeatherClear to partly cloudy sky with temperatures from the low 40s to low 70s
Trail ConditionsWell-maintained with moderate climbs and descents
Today's Miles12.5
Trip Miles215.6

As it turned out, we needed a little extra time this morning to finish packing. Just Awesome discovered another hiker had gotten the bear cables entangled. He needed some help before he could pull down his food bag.

The delay wasn't long and we were ready to leave our large campsite by 7:45 a.m.

A short distance away was a footbridge across Lost Cove Creek. This was typical of log bridges found in the park, with a single handrail.

This trail was shared with horse riders. The bridge wasn't constructed to handle horses, so a separate path was provided to bypass it.

After the footbridge, the trail followed Eagle Creek, which flowed into Lost Cove Creek near our campsite. The footpath for this section remained in the low drainage, so it was flat and easy.

We were walking on a trail that didn't become a trail until many years after the park was opened. The National Park Service decided in the 1990s to address some problems caused by erosion and heavy foot traffic on other trails, and that's when the Lakeshore Trail was constructed.

An iron bridge took us across Eagle Creek. It looked like an old relic of logging days, but in fact, it was erected in 1991 during the construction of this trail.

The bridge was intentionally left unpainted to look authentic to the historic features of this area. This bridge was wide and substantial enough to allow for horses to cross.

The Lakeshore Trail and BMT began a modest 560-foot climb. On the way, it passed a junction with the Eagle Creek Trail. If we were to turn there and head 8.9 miles up Eagle Creek, we'd reach the AT at Spence Field Shelter.

We stayed on track, however, and continued along a ridge before dropping to Possum Hollow. This section was 4.4 miles to Hazel Creek.

The sky had been lightly overcast when we started this morning, but by 9 a.m. was clear. The temperature was warming and becoming more comfortable.

A part of this section wasn't following the route of old Highway 288. It was trail constructed in the 1990s. I could tell the difference, not only by its width but because it didn't drain as well. There were large areas of mud.

The trail didn't go far before picking up the old roadbed again. It also passed the foundations and chimneys of a couple of old homes. We were nearing the site of an old farming and logging town, Proctor.

The town was named for Moses Proctor (1794–1864) and his wife Patience Rustin Proctor. They were the first known white settlers on Hazel Creek.

Calhoun House is the only structure that remains intact from when the town of Proctor stood here. The house was built in 1928, which was about the same time the town began to decline. It is still standing because it was used for a time as a bunkhouse for park service employees.

The area is now an open field located along Hazel Creek. Proctor had started as a sleepy farming community in 1886. Soon after tracks for Southern Railway brought the first train here in 1907, Proctor became a boomtown built by a logging company.

W.M. Ritter Lumber Company, which grew to become the largest hardwood lumber company in the world, began operating a large sawmill here in 1910.

Businesses and homes sprang up, and the town grew to a population of 1,000 residents. The boomtown days ended when most of the trees were gone and Ritter closed the sawmill.

Proctor receded back to a quiet farming community until 1944 when the remaining residents were forced to leave and the land became part of the national park.

One space that wasn't removed when the park was formed is the cemetery, though many gravestones have become worn with age. A section of the cemetery is devoted to graves of children, and many are for infants who died of Spanish Influenza in 1918-1919.

We crossed the beautiful Hazel Creek on a broad, sturdy bridge. Proctor wasn't the only community that was settled around the creek. Among them was Bone Valley, which got its name after several cattle froze to death there in 1888. It had been a settlement of Confederate soldiers after the U.S. Civil War.

We were now on the first climb in a couple of days that might be considered steep. The trail was taking us up to Welch Ridge, going 700 feet in the next 1.8 miles.

When we reached the top of the climb, I decided to see if I could get a cell signal and find out if there was any news about the presidential election. Though the election was held four days ago, a winner still had not been declared.

My timing was good. We learned that Joe Biden had been declared the winner just minutes ago. (To keep this site non-political, I won't disclose how we reacted to the results.)

We enjoyed an early lunch at the top of the ridge before resuming our hike.

We had just six more miles to go to reach our next campsite, and most of it was downhill. That was fortunate because the day was becoming warm and I was beginning to tire. I slipped and fell on the descent but was uninjured.

The trail was now much more narrow than before.

When the trail came to a small cascade at Chesquaw Branch, I thought about stopping to collect water. Then I checked the mileage and saw our campsite was just 1.4 miles away. I decided I had enough water to make it there.

The name of the stream is probably derived from the Cherokee word Tsi-squa-yi or Tsi-squa-hi, which means "bird place."

There is some speculation that an Indian village was located where Chesquaw Branch flowed into the Little Tennessee River. The premise goes on to suggest this was Chisca, a legendary gold-mining town the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto was supposedly seeking. If so, it now lies under Fontana Lake.

I arrived at the campsite at 4 p.m. Although the site is given the name of Pilkey Creek, it's actually located on Clark Branch. The creek is a half-mile away.

The campsite was once the site of a home, but except for a pile of stones, there wasn't anything to indicate a building was here.

When I arrived, JA said he saw two bears. Tengo saw one, which huffed at him while he was shooting some video. I didn't see any wildlife.

Later, as I was sorting through my food bag I discovered I had somehow miscounted the number of dinners I needed to bring. To make up for the error, I split two dinners into three and ate one of those with an extra snack bar.

I turn on Channel Six, the president comes on the news
Says I got no satisfaction, that's why I sing the blues
His wife says don't get crazy, Lord you know what to do 
Just crank that old Victrola, put on your rocking shoes

From "One More Saturday Night” by Bob Weir

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"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.