Great Morning Jaunt

I've parked at Tremont so many times over the years to go on overnight backpacking trips, and had never heard about Spruce Flats Falls. What a great spot and a nice pay off for a quick hike. I headed up at the crack of dawn in sub-freezing temps to find the trail empty and the falls flowing. This was my first trip to the Smokies in 5 years, after moving back to Tennessee from California. It was a great reminder of that certain air and age that only these mountains seem to possess.

Sykes Psych

Trash or no trash, people or no people, backpacking to Sykes Hot Spring is something you should definitely take part in if you have the opportunity. It truly is a unique nook of the forest; a gift to those who travel there, and thus it should be taken care of and not abused, as it so often is. But if you are reading this-you already know that. My usual plan is to drive down to Big Sur at night and hike the first stretch of trail to the Ventana Camp, at the crest of the initial long and arduous uphill section of the Pine Ridge Trail. You will wake up to views of the distant ocean to the west, and to the east upcanyon you will see the Double Cone. You will also be miles ahead of anyone starting from the trailhead that morning. As you up-and-down your way through old growth trees, keep an eye out for those in which the acorn woodpeckers have made their home. You are sure to see a few of these rare and beautiful birds. At this point, you will have begun to cross paths with those on their way back out to civilization, knowing that the more you encounter, the fewer there will be when you reach your destination. It is rare that people spend more than one night at Sykes. Stop and fill your bottle at Terrace Creek, a low elevation point where you may see a tent or two. You'll know that you are nearly to the springs when you begin a long descent, and the welcome sound of the Big Sur River visits your ears once more. You will most likely get your feet wet as you head north (left) up the river. The springs will be on the bank to the left. There could be anywhere from 3 to 5 tubs depending on what state things are in. They are usually very well kempt. The water is clear and less odoriferous than most hot springs. Camping is available across from the springs and the best spots are a bit further past them. I don't recommend proceeding on up to Redwood Camp-the trail is way less traveled and you are sure to bring home ticks and some of that poison oak everyone is talking about. I find that Sykes is a nice with a group or as a solo hike. You are sure to find plenty of people to talk to; I've passed as many as 65 people coming out. Many of them are large groups of college students. Therefore, weekdays are always better if you can swing it. Have a great trip.