Greenbrier thicket, wrong ridge, but otherwise tons of fun September 10, 2011Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
Tags: Alum Cave Creek, Anakeesta Ridge, Styx Branch
Plus I lost my camera.
Had it in a pocket that I normally keep zipped, but I must have forgotten to zip it shortly before we crawled through the greenbrier. Only saving grace is that I wasn’t that crazy about the camera, apart from its convenient light, small size and its being waterproof.
Our goal was to do a “transverse traverse of Anakeesta Ridge”: up a slide on the northwest side of the ridge that no one ever seems to climb, then down the obvious scar you can see from the Newfound Gap Road.
We left a car at Walker Camp Prong and then shuttled down to the Alum Cave trailhead. Going up the trail, we encountered the last bridge below Arch Rock, which the USGS LeConte quad shows as going over Alum Cave Creek.
It does not go over ACC, it goes over Styx Branch, but I didn’t realize that, never having gone up ACC before. And we started angling to the right immediately, so that I didn’t recognize features of Styx that I’d encountered before.
We ran into the most hellacious greenbrier thicket I have ever encountered—I am not exaggerating. Imagine the thickest rhodo or laurel you have ever dealt with, but replace each branch with a thorny greenbrier. It stayed that way for quite a while. My arms are so scratched up that I’ve decided to wait until tomorrow to take a shower in the hope that the scratches will be healed over slightly and not be quite so painful.
I have to express my total admiration for one of our group of three, Ronnie, who’d never been off trail before! I couldn’t believe what a good sport he was about it! Any normal person would have been whining and cringing and looking for the fastest way out. He dealt with the obstacles like a pro.
So we finally topped our ridge only to find that—hey, what about that—Anakeesta Ridge is across the next valley. We had a great view of the slide we thought we were going to climb. And 360 degree views of everything else on this lovely clear early September day. Well, the saving grace was that this knob was such a beautiful place that we were just happy to be there.
We found a much easier way back down to the stream, which at this higher elevation we immediately recognized as Styx Branch rather than the Alum Cave Creek we’d intended to climb. (We’d already known that as soon as we topped out, but now we actually saw its familiar features.) We stayed in the creek most of the way so that we would be able to correctly identify its junction with ACC.
We’ll give it another try before long, I hope.