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Official hike to Chimneys June 12, 2011

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
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This was pretty typical of the trip

I was almost astonished that a handful of adventurous souls decided go on the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club outing to the Chimneys by way of the Chimneys picnic ground. Off trail hike. About 2000′ vertical in about a mile. But I think everyone involved was proud to have accomplished this.

One thing I noticed right away was that the vegetation was much thicker and higher than when my co-leader Chris Sass and I (and brave companion Ben Bacot) scouted it a month ago. The tall green growth does make it harder to see the basic contours. At least, that’s my excuse for hitting the ridge further north than I intended.

Steep getting up to the ridge---approaching the crest

Once we got up to the ridge, I expected we would immediately traverse a short distance to an impressive overlook with a giant cairn. We did not find the giant cairn, though we’d found it easily on our two scouting trips! We believe we hit the ridge a bit too low and then wandered around crisscrossing animal tracks without finding it. Very disappointing. We searched around for a bit, but finally decided to cut our losses and continue up the ridge to the northern Chimney.

We got a beautiful view of that Chimney.

Glimpse up our ridge to northern Chimney

So much beautiful laurel. It really inspired us as we did the hand-over-foot section up the Anakeesta that now predominated over the lower sandstone.

Once we arrived on the northern Chimney, we had a great view of the exposed ridge over to the southern  (tourist) Chimney. Darkening skies hung over us, and we heard thunder, but it seemed that the bad weather was drifting away from us, toward the east. I wasn’t totally convinced of that, but sitting up there was so wonderful that I felt I was willing to take the risk of thunder and lightning.

And this is the way we had to go to get over to the "tourist" Chimney

We made it over there, only to discover the usual conglomeration of frightened tourists who can’t seem to make it up past what I consider to be the “crux”—a polished handhold of Anakeesta that you grasp and step up a trivially frightening section of rock to get up to the top.

Our trip down the Chimneys trail was uneventful. At the bottom—the West Prong crossing—we noticed an absolutely beautiful laurel hanging over the stream. It was being visited by countless butterflies of different colors.

Laurel hanging over West Prong

On our way back down to the Chimneys picnic area, we visited Fort Harry Falls.

Fort Harry Falls

And we did talk about the Civil War history, as I’d wanted to do, the vicious phase of the war when Colonel Kirk’s Union raiders attacked several places in western NC and were met in battle by the Thomas legion of Confederate Cherokees. But Confederate bushwhackers did similar damage in Cades Cove, and in the end, the important thing for me is, Confederate bushwhackers murdered my great-great grandfather in Flat Rock, NC, in 1864.

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Comments»

1. Thomas Stazyk - June 13, 2011

I don’t know–some of those pictures of the chimney look like Mt. Everest with green instead of snow!

Jenny - June 13, 2011

Interesting perspective, Thomas! Well, at least we didn’t have to wear oxygen masks…

2. Adam - June 13, 2011

Loved it Jenny and saw woizme’s pics on the site. Amanda and I did our loop on Saturday dropping down from sugarland mtn and so I finally have been up there. I went over to the outer chimney and poked around on some of those myriad of little paths around it there. Thought about you guys coming up there. To me the scariest part was that first 50 feet going up the tourist chimney where you have to climb and use the very small hand and feet holds worn down as you say.

Jenny - June 13, 2011

Adam, as we went along I kept thinking of you and Amanda, thinking that just possibly we’d hit the Chimney Tops at the same time. We were so slow getting up there that I’m sure you had come and gone by that point.

Adam - June 13, 2011

No we were up there at the Chimneys on Saturday. On Sunday we had something else going on or we would have gone with you guys. Interesting I could see Fort Harry from the outer chimney but couldn’t see Alum Bluff Cave. I wonder why not.

3. Jenny - June 14, 2011

Alum Cave Bluff faces south, and the Chimneys are far enough west that the cave is out of the line of sight. By the way, you’d already mentioned about going Saturday instead of Sunday. I don’t know why I seemed fixated on the incorrect idea you and Amanda were there Sunday.

4. Ben Bacot - June 15, 2011

Great pictures Jenny! I bet that bad pocket of stining nettle had to be waist high by now.


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