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Rocky Face Mountain December 14, 2014

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
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Rocky Face Mountain is located near Cosby Campground.

Rocky Face Mountain is located near Cosby Campground.

I was looking at maps trying to get new ideas for destinations. Suddenly I noticed the interesting name of Rocky Face Mountain. The first thing that jumped out at me is that it’s not actually a mountain at all. It’s a ridge. The second thing is that I’ve never heard anyone even mention it, let alone climb it, even though it’s just across the Toms Creek valley from the Panther Stairs, a popular destination.

I did find in the old Smoky Mountains Hiking Club handbooks that the club went to the high point of the ridge from the Toms Creek drainage, back in the 50s and 60s, but did not traverse the ridge.

It’s a bit too far away from Mt. Cammerer to make a convenient route to that mountaintop. You come out on the A.T. not far from Low Gap. Of course it’s still possible to trundle over to see the lookout tower, depending on time and inclination.

I have pictures only from the first part of the trip because… the classic idiotic thing… my battery died. The night before, I looked at the little squares that show how much battery life is left. They were all black. Great! Somehow, I reversed the indication in my thinking. WHITE indicates a fully charged battery, not BLACK. When I took the first photo of the hike, I saw the black squares, and this time my brain worked properly. “Well,” I thought, “maybe the battery will last out the trip.” It didn’t.

The weather was strange that day. It was sunny and clear when I left home, and still sunny as I approached Cosby. But the sky over the mountain was overcast. From the ridge, I made out sunny valleys not far away.

From the junction of the Low Gap and Lower Cammerer trails, I could see the ridge easily. It wouldn’t be quite so obvious in times of leafed out canopy. I simply angled over to the start of the ridge where it is broad and gradual. I passed through an area of dense vines.

This stretch was thick but not as hard to get through as rhodo or greenbriers.

This stretch was thick but not as hard to get through as rhodo or greenbriers.

The ridge steepened and narrowed. There were patches of greenbriers woven together in mats, but usually I could bypass them.

Looking toward Toms Creek valley.

Looking toward Toms Creek valley.

The map seems to show contour lines fairly evenly spaced over much of the ridge except for a nearly level part before a steeper cone-shaped knob in the middle. But in reality the ridge had a series of stairsteps. On the steeper parts I encountered bluffs. Oddly enough, the rock is different from the large smooth boulders of the Panther Stairs. This rock had many narrow strata that made for  good handholds. The only problem was that a few of these strata were loose and pulled out in my hand. So I had to test them before trusting them to bear my weight.

A couple of places were difficult and I  had to drop down a bit on the Toms Creek side and come back up. The other side is more or less a cliff.

There were some nice views. When I reached the A.T., I felt as though I’d had a good enough adventure for the  day and didn’t go over to Cammerer.

The photo below, a little study of galax and laurel, is the last one I took, before I reached the bluffs.

Taken at about 3400'.

Taken at about 3400′.

 

“Falling Rock” in Cataloochee November 23, 2014

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
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Falling Rock location.

Falling Rock location.

The strange thing about the famous “Falling Rock” is that it is not located on Falling Rock Creek. It’s located on Palmer Creek, very close to the mouth of Lost Bottom Creek, on the left side of Palmer as you go upstream, but below the confluence with Falling Rock Creek.

For those of you not familiar with the story, here’s the deal: Sometime in the 1920s, Reverend Will Camel, a preacher from Cosby, TN, went camping up Palmer Creek with a friend. It was a cool evening in the spring when they found a cave-like rock formation and decided to stay there for the night. They lit a big fire to keep warm. Sometime during the night, the heat of the fire warmed up a rock slab to the point that it came crashing down on Reverend Camel, pinning his body to the ground and killing him.

His companion was not able to roll the slab off Camel’s body.  He went for help in Cataloochee and enlisted several men and a few schoolboys from Beech Grove School to help, and they succeeded in lifting the slab.

Some people may recognize the story from Wayne Caldwell’s novel, Cataloochee.  Details were changed in Caldwell’s version: in his telling, the rock formation was located at the headwaters of Lost Bottom Creek.

My friend Ken proposed that we go look for the rock formation. We had seen or heard several versions of where it was located. One version stated that it could be found 200 yards above the mouth of Lost Bottom. Other versions said only “somewhere near the mouth of Lost Bottom.” The 200-yard version sounded so specific that we believed it. Turns out it was wrong.

The junction of Lost Bottom and Palmer features a dense rhododendron thicket. In the belief we needed to go 200 yards upstream, we stayed on the trail past the worst of the rhodo before dropping down to the stream. We crossed the stream and worked along slowly—partly to be sure we saw the rock formation and partly because various obstacles of vegetation and boulders made it impossible to go quickly.

The weather had warmed after two nights of mid-teen temperatures, but plenty of ice remained along the stream.

Each rock had its own tailor-made slipcover of ice.

Each rock had its own tailor-made slipcover of ice.

  A pretty little waterfall.

A pretty little waterfall.

Ice and pool.

Ice and pool.

Large pool.

Large pool.

It took us a couple of hours to go the short distance to the Beech Creek/ Falling Rock Creek junction. We had not seen the rock formation, and we realized that we had probably bypassed it just above Lost Bottom. We climbed up to the trail and walked back, looking over at the left streambank to see if we had missed it somehow—perhaps it was higher up the slope.

We found a good place to go back down to the stream, a little above where we’d hit it before, and walked along searching for it again.

We found it, within a stone’s throw—so to speak—of the mouth of Lost Bottom. I took a picture. The picture, and you’ll laugh at this, didn’t come out. Of all the photos I took, that one came out blurry.

But you don’t really need the photo. Just go up Palmer a minute or so from Lost Bottom, and you’ll see it. Have fun!

Ken beside the stream.

Ken beside the stream.

Communing with ice November 19, 2014

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, photography, Smoky Mountains, Southern Appalachians, weather.
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7 comments
Up close and personal with ice.

Up close and personal with ice.

It’s been a bit cold lately. Approximately 20 degrees colder than normal temperatures for the date.

There’s a blog put out by the folks at the lodge on top of Mt. LeConte. Yesterday they had a 24-hour high of 9 degrees and, I think, a low of -1. (Actually not that wide a range—they must have been in fog or clouds.) People were talking about how cold it was. Someone chirped up with a comment along the lines of, “It’s a high mountain! It’s supposed to be chilly up there!”

This person didn’t understand the concept of the weather history of a particular spot. Yes, summits are colder than valleys (usually—except when there’s an inversion). The point is that on the date of November 18 each year, there’s an average temp. This year, it is way below average for that summit.

I took a short walk this afternoon to my favorite local destination, an unnamed waterfall on the East Fork of Fisher Creek in the Plott Balsams. You have to bushwhack a short distance to get to a good viewing point at the bottom.

I communed with ice.

Blobs of ice.

Blobs of ice.

I  liked the blobs so much, I did a closeup.

I liked the blobs so much, I did a closeup.

The flow of water is frozen in time. Wait a minute---I mean, it's actually frozen.

The flow of water is frozen in time. Wait a minute—I mean, it’s actually frozen.

Ice formed on the rhodo over the stream.

Ice formed on the rhodo over the stream.

The whole upper section of the waterfall. It has two main sections.

The upper section of the waterfall. It has two main sections. You can’t take a picture of the whole thing.

I have been to this waterfall many, many times in all seasons, but I like it best in the hard uncomfortable season of ice.

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