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Sawdust Pile - 8/26/06
Hazel Creek, Great Smoky Mountains Natl. Park

This was our 6th trip to Smoky Mountains Natl. Park. In the tradition of pushing ourselves a little further each trip, we traded the canoe paddle across the lake for a longer hike through the mountains. Instead of paddling ourselves across this time, we took the ferry from Fontana Marina to the start of Hazel Creek Trail on the north shore of Fontana Lake. Before the area was flooded to make Fontana Lake, Highway 288 connected the small towns in the area with the rest of the world. When the lake was created, a portion of the highway became submerged and the old towns were on the north shore were abandoned and forgotten. The portion of that old highway that is still above water is now called "Hazel Creek Trail" and follows Hazel Creek deep into the Smoky Mountains. I should point out that this "highway" is just an old gravel road. The road and it's bridges over Hazel Creek are still maintained by the park and are used by rangers to patrol the park as well as by hikers (like us) to explore the park's beauty. Along the road there are several ruins from the old town that was there long ago that make for fun exploration. At the start of the trail there is an old house called the "Calhoun House", which has been maintained through the years and is apparently now used as a ranger station of some sort. From where the ferry dropped us off, we hiked 3.6 miles to campsite #85, which is known as Sawdust Pile. As I said, the "trail" is actually an old road, so that made for a relatively easy hike in terms of terrain and the only issue was distance. Josiah was such a trooper and made it there and back in one piece, with his pack on his back the entire time. The campsite area was pretty big and even though we had to share it with another party, there was enough distance between our camps to give each party enough privacy. Hazel Creek was really pretty and its water was refreshingly crisp and cold, which made for great drinking water when the time came. There are lots of trout in the creek, so it was common to see people fishing its waters every now and then. We had plenty of fun relaxing and exploring the area. When the sun went down, we lit up our Snow Peak gas lantern for a bit. The light attracted tons of flies and other insects as well as 2 smart frogs who provided us with some cheap entertainment as they used their long tongues to feast on the bugs garthering around the lamp! We slept under a wonderfully clear nighttime sky and about 20 feet from the soothing sounds of Hazel Creek. The next morning, we packed up and headed back to make the 1pm ferry pick up back down at the Fontana Lake. All in all, it was a great trip and only fueled our desire to do more, see more and push ourselves even harder next time. The best thing that we got out of this trip was that Josiah got to built up a little character. At one point on the trail, he really wanted to give up and go back to the first campsite, but he pushed on and learned the value of not giving up, accomplishing a set goal and the personal satisfaction that comes with doing that! Enjoy the pics and the movie clip!

Click on the small images below to view the larger versions

Closeup of the map showing the the route up to Hazel Creek and then the trail up to campsite #85, which is known as Sawdust Pile campsite.

Fun on the ski boat ferry ride across Fontana Lake to the start of Hazel Creek Trail. Josiah drove the boat pretty much the entire way and did a perfect job!
The still waters on Fontana Lake as we start up Hazel Creek.
Coming up on the ferry drop-off point, which is an old road that is now partially underwater.
The official start of things!
Looking down Hazel Creek Trail, which is simply the old road from way back when. This road is now used by rangers as they patrol the park.
We passed the first campsite, #86 (Proctor), about 0.4 miles up the trail. Josiah wanted to stop here, but we convinced him that this first site was for babies!

After 0.7 miles, we came up on the first bridge over Hazel Creek. A sign points the way. Dani and Josiah pause for a snapshot on the bridge, with Hazel Creek running underneath.

Stopping for our first rest, we explored the ruins of some old buildings from the town that was here before they flooded the area to make Fontana Lake. Note Dani getting some gravel out of her shoes. Fun!
The remains of some sort of structure going down to the creek. Maybe this was some sort of a pump house?

At around 1.5 miles, we crossed the 2nd bridge over Hazel Creek and took a few pictures. This bridge was just built in 2004, so it's in really nice shape.
Crossing over the 3rd and final bridge on our way to our destination, about 2.5 miles from where we started.
About 3 hours after starting our hike, we finally arrive at campsite #86, which is called Sawdust Pile.
Camp is all set up and Dani works on a much needed lunch.
An exhausted Eric takes it easy for a few minutes.
Hazel Creek, about 20 feet from our campsite. Check out a video clip of Hazel Creek here.
Dani and Josiah enjoy some yummy Chili-Mac for lunch.

After we settled down, we went to explore a bit further up the trail. Josiah led the way, of course. A nice of shot of Hazel Creek taken on our exploratory walk.
A tired Josiah gets some love from mommy!

Dani and Josiah get ready to get some z's.
Up and at 'em. Packing up things in the morning to start our hike back to the ferry pick-up.
Josiah feels like such a big boy, having made it all the way!


Making our way back to the ferry pick-up.
Stopping for a group pic during a rest on the way back.

At about 1/2 a mile from the ferry pick-up spot, we stopped to take a few pics of the "Calhoun House", which is a fairly well maintained house that dates back to 1928 when there was a small town around this area. As I've said, the town was evacuated when they flooded the area to make Fontana Lake, but this house has been maintained and is apparently now a park ranger station with ranger vehicles and horses adorning the property. We had passed this spot on the way in, but decided to check it out in more detail on the way back.
Josiah, tuckered out on the return ferry ride.
Another fun family trip comes to an end!

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