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Anakeesta Canyon September 16, 2012

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
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Descending the scar on 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.

God beams over 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.

It couldn’t have been easy to get up on this high blowdown, but he did it.

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.

Chris approaches a bluff with a blowdown leaning across it.

Typical Smokies off-trail stuff. If you don’t think you would like dealing with this, then you’d best stay away!

You don’t go super-fast in places like this.

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.

Greg on the scar of the upper bowl.

Chris climbs into the bowl.

View from the side ridge.

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 crossed a number of scars like this as we made our way toward Anakeesta High-Pass.

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.

Final push up to the pass.

We took another break at the pass and shared entertaining anecdotes about our other hiking companions—a time-honored tradition.

Taking a break at Anakeesta High-Pass.

View down to the Newfound Gap road.

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.

View from the north side of Anakeesta Ridge.


1. Ronnie McCall - September 16, 2012

Love it,The photo you have of Chris at the big log at the small cliff is nice.This is the one Tommy McGlothlin and I did last January.Isn’t this a magical place?Tommy and I went up Lester yesterday to the left fork at the base of the Jumpoff and that is one uneasy place.We only went up to about 5300 and didn’t make it to the split at 5700 on the left fork nor did we intend to.Lester is in a league of its own for uneasy terrain and remoteness.I enjoyed your photos and what did you think about the view of No Name from the saddle atop Anakeesta?Did you exit via the Blvd or down Anakeesta?Awesome report!

2. Ronnie McCall - September 16, 2012

Down the scar I see…Nice report!

3. Jenny - September 16, 2012

Thanks, Ronnie—you are one of the few people who’s done serious exploring in this area. Glad you’re still having good Smokies adventures!

4. Clyde Austin - September 16, 2012

Jenny, you never cease to amaze me. I have been up Alum Cave Creek and No-Name ridge to the Boulevard and it nearly killed me. Have not been up the north side of Anakeesta. Went up the south side and it scared me to death. Cannot imagine going down it. Show me on a map sometime exactly how you guys did this.

Jenny - September 16, 2012

I am not so very amazing, it is my companions who are amazing. One thing about the south side of Anakeesta Ridge is that it’s a place where perspective plays a huge role. If you look at it from the road or from the top of the ridge, it looks impossible. But if you look at it more closely, it offers lots of footholds. Being a philosophical type, I choose to see this as a metaphor for life’s difficulties.

5. Greg Hoover - September 17, 2012

Continuing life’s metaphor…. those footholds are often of slippery, crumbling rock.

Jenny - September 17, 2012


6. calmyourbeans - September 17, 2012

Reblogged this on calmyourbeans.

7. BrianR - September 17, 2012

Yeah there’s a strong foreshortening effect looking at those slopes from the Walker Camp Prong side. Fooled me before I went up there. I’m sure there is a good metaphor hiding in there about not doing things by the seat of your pants. I’m not clever enough to work it out…

Jenny - September 17, 2012

I’m not clever enough either, partly because I’ve never really understood that expression of “flying by the seat of the pants.” What on earth does that mean, anyway?!

Clyde Austin - September 17, 2012

I don’t know about the seat of the pants stuff. Guess it is like flying blind. All I can say is coming up from Walker Prong was scary enough. When I looked down, I thought, “I didn’t really do this did I?”. Can’t imagine going down it!

8. Dusty - September 29, 2012

Hi Jenny! Great to read this report! Summer has been busy with lots of work but I am looking to more off-trail adventures this Fall. I have been doing more bushwhacking in Linville Gorge to some stellar places and I quickly hit Courthouse Rock and Quilliams Cave the other day as I was driving back from a TN tourism conference in Sevierville. Looking forward to seeing you again sometime soon and would love to take to the mountains with you in the near future.


Jenny - September 29, 2012

Dusty, great to hear from you! I’ll let you know of any plans for a good adventure coming up, and hopefully you can join the group.

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