Trout Branch—West October 6, 2011Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
Tags: Alum Cave Trail, Mt. LeConte, Trout Branch
Trout Branch is one of the streams that drain the south side of LeConte. It forks at 4360′, and that left fork again splits at 4750′. Our adventure yesterday took us up the westernmost of the forks, the one that leads toward the ridge over to West Point. The eastern fork of the left fork leads toward Cliff Top, and the right fork leads toward the Trout/Styx divide.
My fellow adventurer was Dave Landreth. When we met up at the junction of Trout Branch and Walker Camp Prong, we saw that water levels in the stream were very low.
I apologize for the poor quality of images in shady places. I need to learn how to adjust the settings of my new camera for these kinds of scenes. The photo below is subpar, but I include it because I want you to get an idea—even if just a hint—of how beautiful some of the pools are. This one had a little cascade running down to it.
As we got out of the main valley and started climbing more steeply, we encountered a series of sandstone shelves, each one in the range of five to ten feet high, a sort of repeated geological theme. Both sides of the stream channel were generally bounded by dense rhodo, so that you needed to find a way to get up these smooth ledges. I nearly always decline the offer of a hand up, but in one spot Dave hoisted me up a difficult spot and saved me a lot of trouble bypassing the ledge. Some of the ledges sported a fur coat of moss.
These kinds of places are somehow deeply restorative, their value intensified by the difficulty involved in reaching them.
We reached the sunnier spaces of the upper slope.
This route does not feature the slide climbing of the next fork over, but we encountered sections of rock—now changing over to Anakeesta—alternating with forest floor. The streambed still carried some water.
As we approached the ridgecrest, we encountered grassy spots mixed in with rhodo and rock slabs.
We climbed through some blowdown, but it wasn’t severe.
We intersected the ridge a bit east of the saddle between West Point and the Alum Cave trail, and followed the fairly clear manway over to the trail. Then it was up to the Lodge for some basking in the sun. It was an utterly gorgeous fall day, when the sunshine beams down benevolently and the world seems to shine.