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Bearpen Hollow August 18, 2013

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
Tags: , ,
View from West Point.

View from West Point.

Six members of the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club ventured on a climb of Mt. LeConte via Bearpen Hollow despite a discouraging weather forecast. As it turned out, conditions were cool and pleasant, and we experienced only a light shower toward the very end of our hike.

Chris Sass was our fearless leader, I was the “rear leader” or “sweep” as some clubs call it, and we were joined by Rob Davis, Cindy McJunkin, Hiram Rogers, and Ed Fleming.

The lowest section of the creek is bordered by aggressive rhodo, so we stayed in the stream until things opened up a bit.

Rob and Hiram proceed next to the stream.

Rob and Hiram proceed next to the stream.

At times it was hard to see each other in the brush.

At times it was hard to see each other in the brush.

Large buckeye.

Large buckeye.

Chris and I have been up Bearpen three times in the past few years, and we have gone up the valley left, right, and center. This outing constituted the “right” variant, as we bore slightly toward the east in the upper valley and hit the ridge on that side. Some of the time, we were following bear prints in the partridgeberry. The climb up to the side ridge was steep but open, with just the right amount of rhodo to provide convenient handholds. We paused on the ridgecrest for a break and a random discussion of varieties of heirloom tomatoes. I mistakenly referred to “Mr. Stripey” tomatoes as “Mr. Smiley” tomatoes, which caused much mirth.

The left, right, and center routes all lead to the same flat area at 5600′, and from there it is a simple but inexorable climb along the ridge that leads to West Point. Partway along the ridge, we crossed that wonderful frontier from forest to open heath of myrtle and Rhodo minus. Now we could see the lay of the land and the hulking presence of LeConte. (I had to come up with a new and different way to describe that mountain.)

Cindy and Rob enjoy the open part of the ridge.

Cindy and Rob enjoy the open part of the ridge.

At times the brush grew a bit dense. Ed crawled through the jungle and I followed suit.

How often do you get to read the labels on the soles of your fellow hiker's boots?

How often do you get to read the labels on the soles of your fellow hikers’ boots?

We finally reached the mighty summit of West Point, which commands a height of 6344′ but doesn’t count for 6K peakbaggers because of its “inadequate col.”

This is why they're called the Smoky Mountains.

This is why they’re called the Smoky Mountains.

As we rested on this 6000′ imposter, I made another conversational error. I mentioned the fact that I have a collection of old SMHC songbooks and that I’d brought them along on a long-ago club hike up Mt. Cammerer via Rowdy Ridge. Now people are demanding that we sing songs on the hike that I will lead with Cindy next month, Lower Richland Mountain on September 21.  I will have to think about that, but it probably won’t happen. It would threaten the great amount of dignity  that I’ve achieved over the years. 🙂

We visited the Lodge office and marveled at the old historic photos displayed there. We also marveled at the fact that Cindy’s white shirt had remained spotless throughout the bushwhack.

On the way down the Alum Cave trail, we saw some lovely wildflowers.

Grass of Parnassus.

Grass of Parnassus.

Focus is bad, but this is just so you can see the color of these gentians.

Focus is bad, but this is just so you can see the color of these gentians.

Colony of turtleheads.

Colony of turtleheads.

As we went along, we stopped at various points of interest such as the top of the Trout Branch off-trail routes, the top of the 1000′ landslide scar, and the entrance to the Big Duck Hawk manway. It was fine outing.

Turtlehead closeup

Turtlehead closeup



1. Chris Sass - August 18, 2013

Great write-up and nice pictures! I really like the one of Ed crawling the rhodo tunnel; it conveys some sense of what bushwhacking is really like . . .

Jenny - August 19, 2013

Glad you enjoyed it, Chris!

2. Al - August 28, 2013

Back in the 80s Jack Coriell from the NHC and myself did the BPH up to the lodge. We were met by a young man whacking weeds who asked “how was Bearpen Hollow ?”. Amazed that he could have known our route he smiled and explained that he had passed our parked car enroute to the Alum Cave trailhead. It was Dick Ketelle.

Jenny - August 28, 2013

Nice story!

3. Al - August 29, 2013

Jack and Dick may have become acquainted at some point. On line I have seen a reference to AT Hiking books that were authored by one of them and edited by the other.

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