Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

West Prong & Finding the Walkers

Saturday and Sunday, July 14 & 15 2018                                                    Most Recent Posts:
Great Smoky Mountains National Park                                       Tremont-An Old Friend with Falls #8
Tennessee                                                                The Little River, Husky Branch Falls and Millionaire’s Row


Yesterday on my way to Tremont to hike to the lovely Husky Branch Falls, I passed a trailhead just before I got to the Great Smoky Mountain Institute.  Today I’ve come back to hike the West Prong Trail.

This is the West Prong, as opposed to the Middle Prong of The Little River which in my mind isn’t so little.  I don’t know if there is an East Prong too.  But the West Prong connects with the Middle Prong at the famous Y at the Townsend end of the park which I came by today and on days I go to Cades Cove.


The trail does not start out by the river but it does start out climbing up.  In the mountains, the climbing is of up and down and up and down but some trails, like this one, are mostly one and then the other.  Given a choice to climb up first at the beginning of the hike or last at the end, I’ll take my ups first and save the down for when I’m not so fresh..

The up is fairly gradual at this point but around the bend it gets more serious.  At first I’m in a dark forest with a thick canopy blocking the light and little undergrowth.


As I go higher, the sun greens up the trail sides.  It’s a very quiet and peaceful hike along the side of Fodderstock Mountain.


One wonderful thing about the trails in the Smokies is all the varied colorful and interesting mushrooms.  Every time I see them I wish there was a GSMNP specific mushroom guide like the great wildflower guide.


These two look  like the same mushroom based on color and the dark sprinkles or whatever they are but I don’t think the second one is going to open out into this  nearly umbrella shape.

As I climb, I come to this fork in the trail and of course I take it.  To the left that is.  The right goes down to one of the many Smoky Mountain Cemeteries.  I’ll catch it on the way back.


This stream crossing is easy.

The trail eventually turns down toward the river and after just over two miles I see the one log bridge crossing the Prong and  leading to back country campsite #18 which is as far as I’m going today.


I’ve been hearing the West Prong most of the way after the trail headed down but it’s wonderful to see it and be right next to it.




There is one campsite just across the bridge or at least a large open flat area that would certainly work but this sign by a trail heading beyond and along the stream indicates that there are others as well.


Here’s the view from the first one.  I imagine listening to such music as I fall asleep.


Along the bank I meet some of the neighbors.




I find a rock along the edge and stay for a while.



Here’s the campsite.  Big enough for a number of tents.  I don’t know if you have to reserve it and thus wouldn’t have an unlimited number of people sharing it with you or not.  For the sake of the environment I hope so but then that means you can’t just hike until you decide you want to stop.  Sort of like the problem with RVing.  The need for reservations takes the spontaneity away.


The little crib turns out to have been created to sit on around the fire.  Looks like it was designed for a group of friends who came together.


Time to head back up the river toward the bridge.



After a few more pictures, I see it there in the distance.


I’ve been on several of these one log bridges that lean rather seriously and I wonder if that was intentional or if they are in the process of falling over.  You can tell it isn’t my camera by the vertical trees on the other side.   Whatever the answer, it gets me safely across the West Prong.  Without it I’d have very wet feet.


When I’m putting the blog posts together I always try to pick my favorite mushroom and today I think it is this one.  I love the little ridge like shelf/skirt?   What does it remind you of?


My last look at the West Prong before hiking up and away.


Nice to reach the downhill switchbacks heading back toward the cemetery fork.


Some yummy looking berries along the way but the leaves show they aren’t wild blueberries.  Anyone know what they are? 


IMG_7918When I reach the fork, rather than continue on straight I turn down the path not taken.

It turns out to be narrow and steep and after a while I wonder what’s happening when I run into quite a blow down and have a hard time finding the trail.

Eventually I hear voices and go toward them.  They turn out to be a group from The Great Smoky Mountains Institute.  Apparently there is a much easier path coming up from behind their lodging area.

The cemeteries in the park vary a great deal in how large they are and how well they are taken care of.  This one is clearly maintained well.  I wonder if the Institute has adopted it.


It is a large cemetery and I learn from the folks who were leaving when I arrived that it is called the Walker Cemetery.   Lots of Walkers in these mountains obviously.


The hand carved stones are often hard to read but they are very poignant.   This one reads Sarah L Carter Feb 24 1930.

The upside down heart with a sort of arrow through it was interesting.  I couldn’t read the writing on the first  line but the second and third read Cacle Click and the fourth January.  Below that it reads the 12th and below that 19 and 2 I think.  The last number was unreadable.


I wondered about Myrtie.  Born in 1888 she has obviously died by now but has not been buried beside W. A. who was buried here after the creation of the park.  The inscription reads “There is no parting in heaven”.  


Another pair of Moores have Mama and Papa inscribed on the top of their stones.


Clearly this cemetery is still being used.   I hope the path from the institute is an easier climb than this one.  Otherwise I can’t imagine how they would get the deceased up here.


I manage to find my way back up to the main trail and then down to the car.  What I’ve seen today motivates me for tomorrow.


In the Walker Cemetery yesterday I did not find many Walker headstones.  There were many simple head and foot markers with no indication of whose grave it was so those could have been Walkers.  Today I decide to go find the Walker Sisters graves.  They are the famous sisters who lived out their lives in their family cabin into the 1960’s.  You can
read that post here.

I head out toward the back of the campground.  In this photo you can see why this is not a favorite campground of mine but with the impossibility of being in the park for two months, it will do.


About 4 sites down from me, not visible in the picture above is a cute covered bridge which leads to a couple of Cabins the park has for rent and to a very popular RV storage area.  I have found that many of the people here are some sort of “birds” staying here for long periods of time and then going “home” and having their RVs stored.  Bonnie Donna whose 5th wheel is out my front window lives in Orlando and comes here for April through October.   I haven’t found it to be cooler here in July and August than it is in Florida unless you are actually in the park.  The campground is in Wear’s “Valley” and the temperatures have been in the upper 80’s and low 90’s so far though the 90’s stuff may be over if the 10 day forecast is correct.   This is a big disappointment to me given what is published as “average” temperatures for this time period.  I should have known given statistics.   Just another reason I don’t like reservations.  Too great a financial penalty for changing my mind and moving over to North Carolina for my second month where it does seem to be cooler.  My recommendation is visit the Smokies in April and May.  September and October might also be fine but the park is as over run then with leaf peepers as it is with vacationers in the summer.

Back to my “hike”, I go out the chained back entrance which they use to move the rigs to storage.  They obviously don’t go through the covered bridge.  I turn left on Mattox Cemetery Road and climb the hill.


I turn left again at the Firehouse and climb up some more.


The stone between the two roads leading into the cemetery says EST MID 1800’s.  I guess nobody really knows when.


The view  is lovely even if it does overlook the RV park.  When the trees grow just a bit taller, it won’t be seen.   There is a wide variety of head stones here from simple uninscribed head and foot stones, to those with hand made inscriptions to the very elaborate.


My goal was to find the Walkers and I did.  It appears that newer ground stones have been placed behind the original markers for the parents, Margaret and John.


John was a Civil War Veteran and it is inscribed on both of his markers.


Note that Margaret’s original headstone is more difficult to read than John’s.  Her name is very faded and I recognized it only when I could read “wife of” the much clearer John N. Walker.

The daughters are buried in a row beside and beyond their parents.


The markers are similar but not the same other than having the word Sister somewhere on the stone.




I assume the Walker family’s other children are buried with their spouses and children.  I could not remember their names and hadn’t brought a list with me so I now wandered around.  I admit to finding cemeteries interesting though I seldom visit more modern ones and probably would never have hiked up here had it not been for the Walkers.

I wonder if this is an honoring stone for all Confederate Soldiers or if there actually is a specific unknown soldier here.


This is one of the oldest stones I saw. The stone reads Sally wife of James Cameron and the dates are 1813 to 1869 I believe.

A cemetery is usually a very solemn place for me, but this sign and a similar with similar steps leading clear down into the trees called Scenic View A, nearly crack me up.


Unless this is the stone carver’s sister, this person spared no expense.


Apparently Ray either worked on the railroad or was fond of trains.


William has his picture on his stone and permanent vases with his initials.  I suppose he must have been an 18 wheeler driver at some point in his life.


This was rather sad.  Apparently when they lost their 4 year old son the Rimels had their headstones made to wait for them.


The setting here is really lovely and before I left I paused to consider what I actually think about cemeteries.  Some say they take up too much land and the markers are too expensive but others says they keep the land undeveloped and give the loved ones and future generations a specific place to go to honor their ancestors.  With the loss of written letters these days, I wonder how we will know anything at all about the ordinary people who have lived their lives.  I would hate to see us all become even more anonymous.  Thanks to the Walker Sisters for motivating my morning here.