The Smoky Mountains are some of the most beautiful mountains in the world. They are named for the characteristic “smoke” clinging to the mountain peaks, making the sky look like a painting of blue, purple, and pink stripes. The forests there are beautiful, especially in the autumn when the changing leaves turn the mountain-sides crimson ad gold.
The Boogerman trail is a moderately challenging, seven-mile loop trail. It takes about three hours to complete (more if you pack a picnic), and reaches a high point of 3,600 feet above sea level (you go up about 850 feet of that on the trail). The trail is regularly maintained, and includes several bridges. Be warned that in wet weather the trail can become quite muddy and slippery.
Before the Smokies became a National Park, much of the forest was chopped down for the wood. This area was not logged, and so has much older trees than most of the Park. Also, there were over ninety settlements in the Smokies before the 1930s when the government bought the land. Most of the homes and other buildings were destroyed, but for some reason the home-sites along this trail were spared. They are crumbling back into the mountains now, but you can see the remains of the Palmer (nicknamed Boogerman, supposedly because of an embarrassing experience in school as a child) and Messer homes and farm buildings.
If you look carefully, you will also see the graves of Union soldiers along the trail. They are only small stone markers, but they are still visible among the leaves on the forest floor. One hiking website praised this trail as capturing “the essence of the Smokies”.
It is located near Cherokee, NC. You access the Boogerman trail by the Caldwell Fork Trail. Cross the Cataloochee Creek on the footbridge, and enter a grove of white pines. When the trail splits, choose the right and climb the narrow ledge. This leads you onto the Boogerman Trail.
After the hike, take some time to explore the town of Cherokee. Be sure to stop at the Ice Cream Station. They have over thirty flavours of hand-dipped ice cream and frozen yoghurt. They specialize in sundaes, banana splits, and funnel cakes. Cherokee is a great little town to walk around and (window) shop in. I particularly recommend a stop at the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, located at Drama Rd at Tsali Blvd. This co-op showcases the work of over 300 Cherokee artists, with woodcarvings, pottery, baskets, and other arts and crafts. They’re open daily from 8.00-4.30, but they stay open later in the summer, so call them at (828) 497-3103 to check their hours.
If you’re in Cherokee during the summer, there are two other great things to do. The first is to visit the Oconaluftee Islands Park (Tsali Blvd). As the river (which originates in nearby natural springs) winds through downtown Cherokee, it creates two small islands. You can get to the island park on a pedestrian bridge, and on the islands you can relax, play in the water, or even BBQ (grills and picnic tables provided). According to Cherokee beliefs, one must allow time for the mind to get lost in the stream and then return in order to be complete as a person. This is part of what is called duyuktv, or the right way.
Another great summer activity is to go to the outdoor pageant, Unto These Hills, at the Mountainside Theater (call 866-554-4557 for ticket information). This spectacular production re-enacts the history of the Cherokees from the arrival of DeSoto around 1500 to their journey on the trail of tears in 1838.
I love hiking in the Smokies, and I hope you enjoy your trip to Cherokee.