Porters Creek hike — wildflowers and historic sites

April 28, 2019

Messer Family cantilevered barn in GSMNP

The FOTS April Classic Hike of the Smokies was Porters Creek Trail. The hike leader was Danny Bernstein, who has hiked all the GSMNP trails, the Appalachian Trail, and South Beyond 6,000, 40 mountains over 6,000 feet in the Southern Appalachians.

by Danny Bernstein

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

T.S. Eliot was very depressed – and wrong. I wish I could have taken him on the Porters Creek Trail with Friends of the Smokies.

Porters Creek Classic Hike hiking group

The Porters Creek hikers enjoyed wildflowers, the creek, and historic sites.

Yet, again, the weather forecast for the day was for a good chance of rain in Gatlinburg.

Still 26 hikers came to experience the trail.

It was “Bring a Friend” day, so several people were brand-new to our hikes. Lots of experienced Smokies hikers showed up as well as new faces.

A new couple from New York State just soaked up every bit of history and culture I could throw at them. A retiree from Indiana comes on our hikes every time he plans his Smokies vacation.

“Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a national park and Friends of the Smokies is a national organization,” I said.

Spring wildflowers were abundant

Porters Creek is located in the Greenbrier, Tennessee, section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is known for its spring flowers.

The trail didn’t disappoint. It was a riotous combo of almost every spring flowers in the Wildflowers of the Smokies book. And then some.

Hikers crossing log bridge on Porters Creek Trail

Hikers cross a log bridge over Porters Creek.

The Porters Creek hike is 7.2 miles roundtrip with a gentle but steady uphill.

In the first mile, we stopped off at the remains of the Ownby settlement including a well-maintained cemetery and the remains of a vehicle.

We passed several types of trilliums, both white and yellow, and loads of toothworts, anemones and spring beauties. Almost all the bloodroot were gone by now.

After you cross the creek, the climbing starts and so does the carpet of fringed phacelias.

Smoky Mountains Hiking Club Cabin

The Smoky Mountains Hiking Club Cabin was used by the club until 1981.

Halfway up the trail, we stopped at Fern Falls for pictures and a break. The trail parallels Porters Creek.

We continued our climb until the top at campsite #31 where we had lunch. We came down carefully, not to slip and also to identify more flowers

At the trail junction, we took a left to the historic homesite of the Messer family.

The Messers were an old and prosperous family on both sides of the mountains.

We explored a cantilevered barn (see photo at top of blog post) and the cabin used by the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club.

Thanks to all and a big thank you to Steve Winchester, who was the sweep for this hike.

Classic Hikes support Trails Forever

Hiker and photographer Linda Spangler provided the photographs from the hike. You can see more of Spangler’s photos from the hike on FOTS Facebook photos.

The Classic Hikes of the Smokies are the second Tuesday of the month through December. Each Classic Hike is $20 for FOTS members and $35 for new and renewing members, which includes a one-year membership. 

The May hike is on May 14, in the historic Cataloochee Valley, including Big Fork Ridge, Caldwell Fork and Rough Fork Loop. The 9.4-mile hike is considered difficult. You must register in advance.

The Classic Hikes of the Smokies series is a fundraiser for Trails Forever, a partnership between Friends of the Smokies and the National Park Service.

Trails Forever funds a full-time trail crew to reconstruct and rehabilitate some of the park’s most impacted trails. In November 2018, the crew completed the two-year restoration of Rainbow Falls Trail and now is restoring Trillium Gap Trail.

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