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Bent Arm manway April 19, 2010

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
Tags: , , , ,

We were all taking pictures of flowers on the manway

Bent Arm manway is an unmaintained path that connects the Miry Ridge trail at Dripping Springs Mountain with the Cucumber Gap trail near Elkmont.  On this outing of the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club, a dozen hikers waded through ankle-deep wildflowers along the manway.  Under a beaming sun, the forest floor was waking up and coming alive, sending up flowers here—there—everywhere!

We had all the necessary ingredients for a perfect spring day.  Sky of robin’s egg blue—check.  Plenty of warm, benevolent sunshine—check.   Temperatures that rose from an invigorating chill to something you could bask in—check.  Trees unfurling their delicate green leaves—check.  Flowers?  Yes, flowers: spring beauties, anemone, phlox, squirrel corn, trout lilies, foamflower, white, purple, yellow violets of every size, shade, and height, and trillium: two or three white kinds, a painted one, family groupings of yellow ones, one or two kinds of red.  Check.

Our leaders had decided to do the manway from the top down, so first we climbed up from 2300 feet at the Jake’s Creek trailhead to 4800 feet on the Miry Ridge trail.

Bridge on Jake's Creek trail

We passed banks of trillium.

These were "Trillum erectum albiflorum," I think

I noticed some squirrel corn, with its beautiful fringed dark green leaves.

Squirrel corn

Our group stopped for a snack at campsite 27.

At campsite 27

Just about all of the Smokies backcountry campsites have hardware for hanging packs and bear bags.

Too bad for hungry bears!

We turned onto the Miry Ridge trail and continued climbing until we reached a patch of heath where you get good views to the main stateline ridge.  Through the luminous sky, we could see Thunderhead off to the right.

There was a bit of serviceberry blooming in the foreground

Before long we reached the point at the east end of Dripping Springs Mountain where the manway bears off to the north.  It isn’t hard to see where the old trail was cut into the slope.  The manway in the upper section stays on the right side of the ridge or on the ridgecrest.  There are patches of greenbrier and some blowdowns, but the going is relatively easy.

We followed along the ridge

There was a period of slight confusion at a point around 4400 feet where the manway drops down on the left side of the ridge.  We dropped down too far and missed the path where it sidehills, but after the usual consulting of maps and people hallooing through the woods at each other, we climbed back up and found the distinct bench where the path was contouring across the slope.  From there we reached a gap and followed an old CCC trail with rockwall construction.

An old map shows the Bent Arm trail crossing over the gap and staying on the right side of the ridge, but the grade we followed continued on the left side for quite a while.  Perhaps there were two different routes in the past.  This section had some fairly thick rhodo and dog hobble.

Dog hobble is taking over in this stretch

But lower down we got back into open hardwoods.  We reached the Cucumber Gap trail about 1.5 miles from where it leaves the Jake’s Creek trail, and completed the loop back to the cars.

Near the bottom of the manway: sunshine, flowers


1. a loyal reader from Flatlands - April 19, 2010

Dear Jenny:

Thanks for another great article.

I recently read this quote by Poet Gary Synder and immediately thought of you.

“There is nothing like stepping away from the road and heading into a new part of the watershed. Not for the sake of newness, but for the sense of coming home to our whole terrain. `Off the trail’ is another name for the Way, and sauntering off the trail is the practice of the wild. That is also where – paradoxically—we do our best work. But we need paths and trails and will always be maintaining them. You first must be on the path, before you can turn and walk into the wild.”

Gary Synder, The Practice of the Wild, p. 154.

By the way, don’t forget we loyal readers get a kick out of seeing a photo of the writer in the article!


Jenny - April 19, 2010

Thanks, loyal reader! Good to know people in other parts of the country are following these doings. I have read some bits of Snyder and really like him, especially his stuff about the Sierra from when he was young and crazy. As far as a photo of the writer is concerned, the thing is, the writer often likes to be invisible…

2. craig - April 20, 2010


thanks for the wonderful pictures and insightful write up of our hike on Sunday. i think i will use this as a basis for the newsletter if that’s okay. what perfect weather and what an excellent hike we had.

Jenny - April 20, 2010

Craig, that’s fine. Glad you enjoyed it!

3. Thomas Stazyk - April 21, 2010

Great writeup and pictures! Makes me homesick for spring, too.

4. kaslkaos - April 22, 2010

Beautiful spring. I can see it’s northward march in your pics. Our trilliums are still slim buds right now. I love the squirrel corn, a beautiful flower with an unfortunately banal name.
And in case you didn’t see my invite, did you want an Itty Bitty Book (Perfect Circles) as a thank you for blog love? (just need your snailmail).

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