Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Hike Up Jakes Creek


Smoky Mountain National Park
March 11-12, 2023 

Trailhead and Ghost Town: 

I had yet to do the whole Jakes Creek Trail and decided it would be fun to hike it then stay overnight at backcountry campsite site #27. Jakes Creek located at the Elkmont Campground has sever interesting things to see at the beginning of the trailhead. There used to be a bunch of summer cottages for some of the wealthy Knoxville residents. Most of the old structures have been torn down but you will find some foundations and old stone chimneys that still stand. The park has done some restoration work to restore some of the homes so you can get an idea of what the community used to look like. (See Sources 1,2)  

At around a third of a mile you will reach the junction with Cucumber Gap. If you are looking for a short-day hike Cucumber Gap and Little River is a nice little loop hike that is around five miles. Just after Cucumber Gap you when then come to the Megis Mountain Trail junction and it is just under a half of a mile from here you will hit an unmarked side trail. 

Side Trail to the Avent Cabin: 

Hiking from Elmont around a mile and quarter up Jakes Creek on the right-hand side will be a side trail heading to the Avent Cabin. The trail is unmarked but there are a few actual steps that will lead you down to the creek and over a bridge. After crossing the creek, the side trail will angle to the right and up to the cabin.  

The Avent Cabin is one of the oldest structures in the Smoky Mountain National Park built around 1850 by the Ownby Family. It was then purchased in 1918 by Frank Avent who was married to the artist Mayna Avent who used it as a summer studio. It was eventually taken over by the National Park Service in 1932 but the family got a lease that finally expired in 1992. The cabin is registered as a national historic site. Below if you look at source not #4 the article has several examples of Mayna’s art along with a complimentary article. (See Sources 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) 

Back on the Trail: 

Once back on Jakes Creek you will continue your climb up, while not horrible, the elevation gain is quite substantial. The climb continues all the way to the top of Jakes Gap. Another quarter mile or so from the Avent Cabin side trail there is a most picturesque cascade or waterfall right before you get to a short switchback.  

After this short switchback, the trail gets a little steeper but there a several small, beautiful cascades as you climb. The creek will eventually switch back to the left side of the trail and will start to head away from the trail all together. After about another quarter to half mile I believe you will hit backcountry campsite #27.  

I decided to have lunch and pitch camp before I finished the hike. The campsite is pretty spread out and appears to have several self-made fire pits in a few different areas. There is an actual park fire ring at the first spot right off the trail by a large rock. The creek is a short hike down that makes for a plentiful water source. It is a nice campsite but does feel a little janky with spots here and there.  

Back on the trail it did not take long from campsite #27 to hit Jakes Gap and the trail junction with Panther Creek. I did the Panther Creek Lynn Camp Prong Loop a couple of years ago off Middle Prong and that was a fun hike. Hiking Jakes Creek and doing that loop then a stay at #27 or #26 along Mirry Ridge would be a nice overnight hike to do in the future. 

Back at camp I got my chores done and set in for a nice relaxing night. A few beverages, a campfire, and a beautiful evening transition into night was exactly what I needed for the soul. Sleep was good until early morning when the storms came in with some high winds. I could not really tell the winds were that strong in my tent, but I could hear the trees moving outside. I always have a little pucker factor when I hear the trees moving.  

When I finally got up the rain was still coming down at a good clip, so I decided to pack up in the tent. It finally slowed enough I was able to get a cup of coffee and finish packing without getting too wet. Another beautiful hike back to the Jeep and got to see two more deers out and about. This was not a bad hike at all, though you do have some elevation to deal with. The campsite has a couple of flat spots for tents, but I might hammock camp the next time. If you get out there or have been out there let me know what you think. As always, hike on and stay safe out there. 

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