To the Mountain - Approach and MisdirectionWe drove from Nashville to the Big Frog area on Good Friday, 2008. We stopped at the Ocoee ranger station for a topo map (was REALLY glad to have that later). The drive to the trailhead (Big Creek) took about an hour, as we went east from the ranger station for a technically-shorter drive in, but the roads that way were deep gravel and made for slow driving in my Saturn. We hiked in just over a mile on a beautiful ridge beside Big Creek. Unfortunately, we got off-route a bit after a creek crossing (we ended up following Peter Camp Branch for about a mile instead of Big Creek). To avoid this mistake, shortly after you cross Peter Camp Branch (well-marked with signs), continue on the trail that goes up and left when you come to a fork. It was fairly late before we realized our mistake, so we camped at a lovely spot beside Peter Camp Branch.
Around the Mountain - Grassy GapSaturday morning, we awoke to fine weather and got ourselved oriented on the correct trail. We headed up Big Creek Trail a ways to the junction with Grassy Gap Trail, and took that west. This trail was not well-maintained, and was quite narrow and leaf-covered, making for slick, bad footing. It also crossed about a million creeks and streams, which was nice for the first two or three, then somewhat annoying. They were rather high which made for dicey crossings (I had fallen on a crossing earlier in the trip and so was rather nervous with each one). There was no actual danger, but one does not want to get wet on such a hike, so I was wishing for fewer crossings. All-in-all, I would probably avoid GG trail at this time of the year.
We saw lots of bear evidence on this trail and the others, including poop (similar to a horse's with lots of grass), fur, claw marks on trees, and many wooden signs ripped to shreds.
Up the Mountain - Wolf RidgeGrassy Gap ended at Wolf Ridge, which we took to the summit. Other than our being quite worn out from GG, this was an enjoyable bit of trail. Very steep at the end, and seemingly much longer than 1.7 miles (though we do trust the mileage - just tired!) The summit was nice, though we were "greeted" at the top by an angry barking dog belonging to a family setting up camp on the summit. I'm sure THEY know their dog doesn't bite, but we didn't know that when confronted with him, and it made for a nasty startle at the end of a tough climb. Very uncool.
Down the Mountain - Big FrogAfter a stop for pictures and a breather, we headed down from the summit (it was too cold and windy to camp at the top, which we'd had an idea to do). Unfortunately, there was nowhere to camp off of Big Frog Trail until we got down to Low Gap, so we had a long descent before we were able to stop. Low Gap had a perfect camping spot, but we weren't the first to think so. It was obviously well-used, but we tried to leave it in more pristine shape than we found it. The next morning, we took the Yellow Stand Lead trail back to our car. The road out was much better heading west, but it still took about an hour to civilization, and coffee! We stopped at the first signs of such, at a diner called (I think) the Dam Diner, and they were nice enough to make us breakfast even though it was after breakfast hours. So, many Dam thanks, Dam Diner!
Oh, we used Tim Homan's book on the area, and I highly recommend it. One of the best trail books I own (our getting lost was completely our own doing!)