Anakeesta Canyon September 16, 2012Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
Tags: Alum Cave Creek, Alum Cave Trail, Anakeesta Ridge
One of the many things that I like about Greg Harrell is the way he gives names to every significant feature he encounters in his off-trail explorations of the Smokies. These names are always capitalized, and they are always used as if they carry as much weight as the official names you see on the USGS maps. And because of the way he uses those names, they do carry as much weight, as far as I am concerned.
And so it was decided between Greg, Chris Sass, and myself that we would visit the Anakeesta Canyon, traversing its upper bowl and going to Anakeesta High-Pass before descending the Anakeesta Scar. You will not find any of these place names on the official maps, although Greg did email us a copy of the Park Service map of the Smokies with the phrase “Anakeesta Scar Parking” and an arrow pointing to its location mysteriously added, in exactly the same typeface that is used in the rest of the map.
We left a car at this officially designated parking area and started our hike at the Alum Cave trailhead, leaving it before long to rockhop up Alum Cave Creek.
It’s the second time I’ve rockhopped up Alum Cave Creek, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s impossible for a normal human being to keep their feet dry on it, even in the current conditions of very low water levels. It is completely hemmed in by rhodo on both sides, and it features frequent pools that fill the whole stream basin in such a way that it would take laborious rhodo-thrashing to go around them. That’s just too time-consuming, and Chris and I soon decided to just wade. I don’t know what Greg did. He was way up ahead of us.
(I will add that most of the time on this hike, Chris and Greg were up front and I was behind. They are both fast bushwhackers. I am a medium bushwhacker.)
After a while we caught up to him, sitting on a giant hemlock blowdown.
Soon afterward, at 4450′, we left the main stream to make our way southeast up a tributary. It featured small bluffs and enough vegetation to keep things challenging. We noticed in many places along this side stream that the water had a reddish tint, apparently from iron oxide present in the Anakeesta rock.
Eventually we emerged into a high bowl of solid Anakeesta that got steeper and steeper. Just below the point where it got distinctly “cliffy,” we climbed onto a small side ridge for a break and some views.
After our break, we contoured southwestward across an alternating series of scars and vegetation-clogged side ridges. The idea was to hit Anakeesta Ridge at the distinct col between the 5582′ point and the 5988′ Anakeesta Knob.
We could tell that we were close to the pass when we saw a skyline not far above us, and there we went straight up.
We took another break at the pass and shared entertaining anecdotes about our other hiking companions—a time-honored tradition.
From there we did more traversing, except in the opposite direction and this time angling downward. We crossed more scars and more side ridges and eventually got down into the basin of a small tributary of Walker Camp Prong. Toward the bottom I discovered that I had a big rip in the seat of my pants. That must have been amusing for the people who drove by as we made the short walk alongside the highway up to the shuttled car. We also saw a couple of kids riding go-carts down the highway that were powered solely by gravity.
It was a great day.