Sharing the fun of the Chimneys February 19, 2012Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
Tags: Chimney Tops, Newfound Gap road, West Prong
Friends had been saying they wanted to go up the Chimneys off-trail from the picnic ground. So Chris Sass and I gladly volunteered to take them up by the same route we led a Smoky Mountains Hiking Club outing last June. Many variations exist, and we could have gone a different way, but this is the best way to go if you want to visit what I’ve come to think of as the Magic Cairn.
The friends joining us were Dave Landreth, Seth O’Shields, and Dusty Allison.
We’d thought of descending via the ridge that leads northwest from the North Chimney, but we decided, looking at the cliffs on it as we climbed up the other side of the valley, that it had best be done going up rather than down. Another possible descent route, down a ridge from Sugarland Mountain, was rejected as being too time-consuming by the time we reached the Sugarland-Chimney connector manway.
The first point of interest encountered on this trip is a manmade dam on the stream.
Not far above the dam, where the route follows pleasant open woods beside a small stream, we saw our first spring wildflowers of 2012—on February 18!
The way steepened steadily as we approached the ridgecrest.
Past a small curtain of briers, we crawled through a bearway, hearing the sounds of traffic on the Newfound Gap road nearly directly below us. A short descent through an opening, and voila! The Magic Cairn!
I like the way the road disappears into the tunnel immediately below.
We climbed along the narrowing ridge, negotiating a few bluffs and traversing around a couple of them.
Eventually we emerged onto the really fun part—the open Anakeesta scramble.
We arrived at the top. As we chatted and ate our lunch, we saw a fellow in an orange shirt over on the Tourist Chimney who tried a couple times to go across to where we were, but he gave up the effort after a short distance and retreated.
We crossed and passed through the crowds without stopping, then descended the trail. We stopped at the bridge over the West Prong. (I guess technically it is still Walker Camp Prong at that point, just barely above the junction with Road Prong.)
I noticed a small waterfall emerging from right under the bridge. And so a very pleasant outing concluded.