While Odyssa might have been finishing up her journey that day, Elise and I were having our very own “rockstar hike.” We finished this 10.3 mile hike in 3:50 and were loving the fact that we’d have a night free on Sunday!
We had originally planned to go up Newton Bald Trail, over to Sunkota Ridge, and come out somewhere in the Deep Creek area. Unfortunately, a friend of ours couldn’t make the hike and my sting was still itching (and we weren’t sure how it would do on the uphills, as it burned quite a bit Saturday), so we made an executive decision to finish out Thomas Divide and go down Newton Bald for a short day hike. We were hoping for some extra scenery, but the brown book let us know we weren’t in for anything special really on any of the trails we’d planned on originally hiking anyway. We slept in Sunday and prepped for a short hike. After David dropped us off, we set off at exactly 10:30 a.m. and on to the undulation of the Thomas Divide Trail. The first 1.8 miles went REALLY quickly and from there until Newton Bald it was exactly the same trail we’d hiked the day before.
We reached the Newton Bald trailhead rather quickly, I think in less than 2 hours and set off for a short uphill climb to the bald. Shortly after campsite 52, we ran into three backpackers that Elise had met the day before when she returned Mary and Rebekah to the trailhead at Kanati Fork. They’d stayed at 52 and were following Benton McKaye Trail up to campsite 50 for the next night. We wished them a happy hike and continued on our way up. After reaching Newton Bald, we knew the trail would be downhill all the way.
Shortly after starting our descent, the sky began to get dark. It was so interesting heading downhill because we were on the darker side of the hill. We could see blue skies and dark skies on either side of us. We hoped the rain would hold out, but it didn’t. Today’s rain was very light and only lasted maybe an hour, which was good for Elise since she’d left her poncho in her trunk! The only thing we really saw of note on this trail was one measly indian cucumber. Plenty of green ferns everywhere once we got down to the halfway point, but really not any flowers. We didn’t see a single hiker until we hit 0.3 miles to the end, where a horse concession trail meets up with Newton Bald Trail. This last 0.3 miles was terribly eroded and muddy and nearly impassible. It’s truly a shame that horses are still allowed on the fragile trails in the Smokies, but that’s another discussion for another time (later this week on my blog, actually).
Anyway, we saw we could finish the hike in less than 4 hours and we were totally stoked! The sun came out full force for the last 1 mile or so and it was a race to the finish. We get to the trailhead at the 3 hour and 50 minute mark and I was really excited to make such a good time. We finished out the hike with some stretching and putting our tired feet into the Oconaluftee River at the end.
At the end of the weekend, Elise and I banked 26.9 miles. Not too bad for a couple of day hikers.