Blount County Highpoint Trip Report
Thunderhead via Defeat Ridge
Date: March 24, 2005
Author: Hiram Rogers
We started from the Lead Cove Trailhead and accessed the Defeat Ridge manway via
Bote Mountain Trail. The manway between Bote Mountain and Defeat Ridge is
something over 4 miles long and took about 3 hours 15 minutes to traverse.
The west end is fairly clear to the crossing of Middle Prong. The east mile or so
is also fairly clear. The "middle half", especially near the crossings of Bee
Cove Branch, is rough going. Much of the trail bed is covered by thick
rhododendrons, so the route clings to the steep slope below, running through
thick dog hobble, greenbrier, and blackberry. Expect a lot of crouching,
crawling and clinging. We intersected the main manway at about 3,900 feet on
Defeat Ridge. This next section took about 2 hours for a little more than 2
miles to Thunderhead. Again, the route is not too hard to follow but is tough
going particularly on east facing slopes. The manway comes out on the AT just a
bit west of Thunderhead.
As mentioned by Ken Oeser after his trip from 16 August 2003, the top would be
tough to find in the open area around the summit. Our group returned to the
Lead Cove trailhead via the AT, Bote Mountain, and Lead Cove trails finishing a
16 or so mile day in 10 hours. Since it was a warm day, we got fairly scratched
up, got a few bruises, and lost one hat somewhere along the way. Instead of
doing a semi-loop via Bote Mountain again, I'd rather have gone up via the
Thunderhead Prong nanway and returned the same way. Thunderhead Prong (which we
walked about a month earlier) is fairly clear to the 3,900 foot junction with
the exception of a few blow-downs. Much of the route to New World is a wide old
railroad grade and sees moderate use (for a manway). However, this route is
potentially longer and has several tough stream crossings. Thunderhead Prong
also has the advantage of being shown on the topo the entire distance.
I wouldn't recommend Defeat Ridge from the top down, in summer (it looked like it
would be impassable after leaf out), or for anyone who hasn't done a lot of
off-trail hiking in the Smokies.