Big Duck Hawk Ridge July 24, 2011Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
Tags: Anakeesta, Big Duck Hawk, Little Duck Hawk, Trout Branch
I’ve been on Big Duck Hawk before, but I had never approached it via the route that Greg Hoover and Craig Hutto led it yesterday for the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club. We rockhopped up Trout Branch about a half mile to a small tributary and followed it up to a goodsized landslide scar and scrambled up that to the top of the ridge, coming out on its most interesting section. Then we went back down the same way. Total mileage was not even quite two miles. It took us six hours.
The Park Service does not have a ban on BDH, but they do on Little Duck Hawk, its narrower ridge companion. LDH is also known as Hole-in-Rock Mountain, and it is easily viewed from Alum Cave Bluff. I have traveled on it in the days before the ban.
Trout Branch was flowing fast and high, which made wading necessary much of the time. None of my stream pictures came out very well. For some excellent shots, go to this page on Dave Landreth’s Griztrax site. He is a great photographer. But just to give you a feel, here are a few shots.
When we turned onto the tributary, we encountered a series of cascades. I think Greg Harrell was the only one who attempted to climb up them—an awful lot of water was flowing over them. I was too busy negotiating my way around the edges to take pictures on this stretch. Eventually we reached the slide, which featured the classic loose, brittle Anakeesta that you find in areas that haven’t had long enough exposure to weathering processes to turn them into the fine rock staircases you encounter on the Chimney Tops, Charlies Bunion, and the crests of the two Duck Hawk ridges.
It was steep, but it had enough footholds to make it climbable except at the very top, where we had to head over to some brush on the side in order to have something to hold onto.
We had lunch and explored up and down the ridge a little ways. Clouds hovered overhead—a welcome shelter from the sweltering sun we’ve all been suffering through the past week.
On the way down, the wetness of the slide made it harder to keep solid footing, which meant that the faster members of the group paid the price of having the others shower down loose rock upon them. Fortunately, no one was injured.
By the time we got back to Trout Branch, I was so wet and dirty that I welcomed its cool, refreshing waters. In fact, when we reached the bridge, I removed my pack and immersed myself in the water! Then I dripped my way back to the car, where I had a dry change of clothes. A fine outing of eleven adventurous souls.