On Saturday, I enjoyed perfect weather and the company of three Eagle Scouts to do a 10 mile loop hike from Springer Mountain to Long Creek Falls and back. This is one of those great hikes with a high view to effort ratio. The problem with much of the Southern portion of the Appalachian Trail, in my humble opinion, is that it is high effort, high humidity, very steep and offers limited views because you are in a tree tunnel 98% of the time. Yes, I know, this offers its own understated form of beauty and so on. But when my heart rate exceeds 145 bpms for over an hour climb up. I want–no–I demand a view as reward for my efforts.
Anyway, the Springer loop is a good hike because it’s a reasonable grade throughout and you enjoy three noteworthy destinations along the way. From the trail head in the parking lot along Forest Service Road 42, it’s only 9/10’s of a mile up to the summit of Springer Mountain. It has a decent view, yes. But, more importantly, the Springer summit marks the beginning (or end) of the 2,100 mile Appalachian Trail.
From the summit, we walked back down the Appalachian Trail to the second junction where the Benton Mackaye Trail intersects with the AT. Here, we turned right, heading north-northeast along the BMT on the ridge of Rich Mountain and then down to the Three Forks where Stover, Chester, and Long Creeks converge at FS Road 58. We’ve had a good amount of rain these past few weeks and those creeks were flowing well. If you’re counting, I consider Three Forks the second destination of note.
From Three Forks, we crossed the Forest Service road and hike up the combined AT/BMT for an additional mile to reach Long Creek Falls. The Falls, too, were flowing nicely from all the rain. There, at the Falls, we paused and enjoyed our lunch at the third noteworthy point of our itinerary.
After lunch, we walked back the 4.2 miles from the falls to the Springer Mountain parking area. I wasn’t really watching the clock, because I was in no hurry and we had ample daylight the day after the solstice. But someone in our party said we did the 10 miles in 4 hours, 45 minutes, including lunch. That sounds about right.
I don’t know what it is that compels three young adults to spend the day hiking in the woods with an old guy like me. Maybe they’re hoping to get a chance to work on their first aid skills. I don’t ask any questions, because I enjoy the company.