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GreenBoat
05-12-2010, 05:05 PM
how much action does the campground 5 miles up hazel creek see? Thinking of a july trip but dont want to have to battle the crowds. Any input? I have heard that the lower campground can be a zoo, but that the upper river gets little to no pressure.

old tom
05-12-2010, 05:24 PM
I assume you're talking about Bone Valley - Campsite #83.

The bad news is that it's a horse campsite. If you're there on a weekend, there's at least a 50-50 chance you'll have horses for company. Mid-week you'll probably be okay.

The good news is that it's a big campsite. There's a small knoll in the campsite and if you're lucky you can grab a site next to Bone Valley Creek where you'll be hidden from the horses.

You're correct that the first two campsites can get crowded, particularlly on the weekends. Lots of guides and outfitters take groups over and fill those sites. A good alternative is Sugar Fork (#84). It's about a mile below Bone Valley and it probably in the top ten nicest campsites in the Park.

Jim Casada
05-12-2010, 06:13 PM
GreenBoat
I agree with Old Tom on all counts, although I would add one caveat about Bone Valley. While the campground is divided and the horse folks are supposed to stay in the lower portion, they don't always do that. Last time I was there (about a year ago) horse campers had been in the upper portion as well.
Sugar Fork is indeed a great site, and if you enjoy history it's worth noting that the Little Fork of Sugar Fork was where Kephart made his first home in the Smokies once Granville Calhoun and his wife got him sobered up and restored to the point Kep could function on his own. He lived in a tiny little cabin on the Little Fork.

As Old Tom indicates, outfitters make extensive use of the lower sites, and not only are there lots of people; there's lots of fishing pressure. If you are planning on hiking that far, I would strongly recommend that you consider Forney Creek as an alternative. I think the fishing is every bit as good and there's much less people pressure. It's about four miles from the trailhead at the end of the Road to Nowhere.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

Mundele
05-12-2010, 08:50 PM
Crockett and I stayed at Sugar Fork last spring and it was a beautiful spot. There's a spot further down near the creek from the large opening and fire ring that is just beautiful. Close enough to hear sugarfork on one side and Hazel on the other as you are drifting to sleep. Really nice spot.

There was a long line of picnic tables chained together just up the road a few yards too. Nice spot to sit and cook your dinner. I don't know why they were there but they were convenient.

Jim Casada
05-12-2010, 09:03 PM
Mundele--The picnic tables are there in connection with Decoration Day at the nearby cemeteries. The families of those buried on Hazel Creek gather annually (different dates for different cemeteries) at the graveyards, and "dinner on the grounds" (or at least near the grounds) is part of the event. The Park provides transportation to the cemeteries for the elderly, although there have been some problems and plenty of controversy connected with the nature and effectiveness of that transport in recent years. It's a hornet's nest in Swain County, linked in the minds of many to the Road to Nowhere issue, although the 1943 agreement did not guarantee access to cemeteries.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

Younger Tom
05-13-2010, 12:25 PM
I've read some good interviews with the author and have purchased (but not yet read) the new book on the subject of Decoration Day:
http://www.amazon.com/Decoration-Day-Mountains-Traditions-Appalachians/dp/0807833975/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1273767448&sr=8-8

The book is in the queue to read on my trip with Old Tom to mountains next week. If you spend any time exploring in the park you'll come across ample evidence of the decoration day visits, including picnic tables and trails in otherwise completely isolated areas with no park maintained trails. I'm fascinated by the practice.