What I had in mind for the day was an ambitious 19 miles, but nothing overbearing. The elevation change would be minimal compared to other hikes just short of being that long, so I felt the miles would pass quickly. I would have to ascend Meigs Creek and much of Meigs Mountain Trail would be relatively level out to Elkmont. Now with the oppressive heat that has been lambasting the lower elevations of Tennessee this summer, some might frown upon my decision to do this hike now. Well, there are several other factors that come into play. One, it's a new hike, so new miles to be added on. Two, there are some wildflowers that bloome here at this time of year that I've never seen. And three, Meigs Creek apparently has eighteen stream crossings according to my guide books, so tackling this trail while the water is down is an advantage. And if I started early enough, I could get done before the heat of the day even arrived, so I stuck to the plan.
When I pulled into The Sinks, nobody was there, so I snatched my good parking place and took my time enjoying the newly paved parking lot and restructured balconies overlooking the falls and Little River. There were numerous fenced enclosures with signs sealing off areas requiring revegetation due to the work done. One spot had some red cardinal flower, but it was too far into the woods to get a decent picture, so I had to hope I saw it elsewhere on the trail. I took some shots of the water now while there weren't people everywhere. But lingering wasn't an option, for I had many miles ahead of me.
In no time I was reunited with the Meigs Mountain Trail and would begin the long push east to Elkmont. After the ascent to Upper Buckhorn Gap, the rest of the way is gradual in its slight climbs and drops except for one stretch past Campsite #19. But before I got there, I had to revisit a 1.9 mile section that I had done the first week in April. At that time the trail was often lined with violets, hepatica, bloodroot, and trillium. This time around, there was nothing. In fact I never saw wildflowers the entire way. Nothing but green woodlands and heavy hot air. The lone exciting moment came when I spooked a toad across the trail.
I knew I was getting close to Elkmont when the hillsides became broader and evidence of former settlements popped up. There were some rockwalls and rusty artifacts left behind in several places. Shortly after crossing a footbridge and a short rise to the junction with Jakes Creek, I finally reached my turnaround. I wanted somewhere to sit comfortably and cool off a little while I had lunch, but there was nothing appealing at the junction, so I wandered back down to the footbridge and sat on a streamside boulder.
I wasted no time heading back, just wanting to get the miles and heat behind me. At this point I was soaking wet, despite the very few short climbs. At least there weren't anymore of those ridiculous spiderwebs. It was a relief to eventually be back on the Meigs Creek Trail because I knew I had the stream crossings again. About a half mile from the end I started hearing traffic down on the Little River Road and the sounds of people frolicking in The Sinks. At one point the trail sort of backtracks away from the parking lot and crossings a flat flood plain. The first time around I missed it, but this time a caught a decent patch of cardinal flower just off the trail. A welcome sight, because this would have been the first hike of the year where I didn't see any wildflowers along the trail.