In the land of crags and gullies April 3, 2011Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
Tags: " Rocky Crag, "real Bunion, USGS Bunion
This was an expedition to the “real Bunion.” No, wait a minute, it was an expedition to the “USGS Bunion.” No! It was an expedition to Rocky Crag! Never mind. If you follow these kinds of things, you’ll know what I am talking about. I am going to be a little bit obscure about this, but if you take a close look at the USGS quads, you’ll figure it out—I’m just not going to hand over the details. You’ll see where we went pretty easily if you want to.
Our group of eight started at the parking lot for a trail well-known for spring wildflowers. I will say, first of all, that I was quite surprised that seven other people actually wanted to join me for this outing. We had Jenny, Chris, Seth, Bill, Ben, Dan, and the two infamous Gregs (Hoover and Harrell). After we crossed the log bridge over a major stream, we got into the area where spring flowers erupt everywhere out of the forest floor. We saw fringed phacelia,with some anemones thrown in for a little embellishment…
… and even more phacelia.
It was an explosion of wildflowers—though that sounds too violent, no doubt due to my writings about the Boer War—let us use a more gentle word. It was a profusion of wildflowers. (I still like “explosion” better.)
We passed a pretty cascade on the left. Nice waterfall. Here I will be mean and say that countless much more impressive cascades exist on the headwaters of streams that no one ever goes to. (Mean? Violent? What has gotten into me this morning?)
Now we left the maintained trail and followed a manway that crosses the stream many times.
Then we turned onto a stream and started rockhopping. After a short distance, the stream starts flowing over the flat ledges that are one of its defining characteristics. Notice the new-fallen snow on some of the rocks.
The higher we climbed, the more wintry it looked.
Somewhere along here, Hoover and Harrell split off to ascend to the angry-looking ridge to our left. They’ve explored just about every crevice in this area. The rest of us continued up a little higher to search out a route I’d done with the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club in the 80s. I had come down off the ridge somewhere in this area last summer, but nevertheless I was surprised at how heavily vegetated the whole area seemed since that time with the SMHC. We picked up a route that would take us up near the Crag. It wouldn’t have been horribly difficult except that patches of snow and running water from snowmelt made the rock slippery. It was a matter of finding the right rock with the right texture to step up onto, and maybe grabbing onto some handy myrtle for security.
Eventually we made it up to the ridgecrest, which has some beautiful big red spruces growing along it. I had that wonderful sense of topping out as I neared it, that greater proportion of sky and openness that signals the climb is nearly over. We came out right at an outcropping of Anakeesta, and since we could hear the maniacal voices of Hoover and Harrell already sitting on the Crag, we clambered up to join them. I don’t know if their route was easier or they were just faster—or both.
We gazed into the vast bowls of space around us, bounded by vertical ridges, some of them snow-covered.
I was happy to be there. I will say happy! happy! happy! just to be silly.
We all still had a long ways to go to get back to our starting point—first of all, we had to climb the ridge that you see behind me in the above photo. About half of the group opted to walk out to a gap where a friend could pick them up and shuttle them back to the trailhead, and the rest of us descended back into the stream drainage where we’d started.The two groups arrived at the trailhead at exactly the same time.