Rocky Face Mountain December 14, 2014Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
Tags: Mt. Cammerer, Panther Stairs, Rocky Face Mountain
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.
The ridge steepened and narrowed. There were patches of greenbriers woven together in mats, but usually I could bypass them.
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.
Communing with ice November 19, 2014Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, photography, Smoky Mountains, Southern Appalachians, weather.
Tags: East Fork of Fisher Creek, Fisher Creek, Plott Balsams, winter weather
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.
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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