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Trout Branch scar revisited September 24, 2013

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, photography, Smoky Mountains.
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Looking up the landslide scar.

Looking up the landslide scar.

Last November I visited the Trout Branch scar with James Locke on a chilly day with a mix of snow and drizzle in the air. I had problems with cold fingers and gloves, and the photos I took weren’t good. I’d been thinking about returning ever since, and on a lovely September day I decided to revisit the scar on my own.

The landslide occurred last August. It runs from the Alum Cave trail a little above Alum Cave down to Trout Branch. Greg Harrell, who pioneered the route, calls it the “thousand foot scar” because it runs from 5000′ down to 4000′.

I was curious whether this year’s January flooding had made any difference in the washout. It had, in a way most evident in the position of the logjam at the bottom. Formerly standing to the side of Trout Branch, it has now been shoved right into the midst of the stream. Further up, things don’t look much different. The August washout had already completed the job of scouring the stream valley down to the bedrock. It looks as though, along the sides, a few more trees have been swept away.

The exposure of the Anakeesta bedrock to the air has resulted in severe acidification of the streamwater. In Trout Branch, rocks are noticeably red from sulfuric deposits. I would guess that trout no longer find Trout Branch a good place to live.

What follows is a photo gallery.

Cascade on Trout Branch.

Cascade on Trout Branch.

Stones in pool.

Stones in pool.

Double cascades. Note red-tinted rock in center.

Double cascades. Note red-tinted rock in center.

Red-tinted rocks.

Red-tinted rocks.

Huge logjam up ahead.

Huge logjam up ahead.

I climbed around the logjam.

I climbed around the logjam.

Looking up at sandstone portion of slide.

Looking up at sandstone portion of slide.

Huge slabs of exposed bedrock.

Huge slabs of exposed bedrock.

The water stains the rock.

The water stains the rock.

Starting to make upward progress.

Starting to make upward progress.

Logjam in chute.

Logjam in chute.

Foam in the water.

Foam in the water.

Getting into Anakeesta.

Getting into Anakeesta.

Steep pitch of Anakeesta.

Steep pitch of Anakeesta.

Looking down the chute.

Looking down the chute.

Anakeesta slabs.

Anakeesta slabs.

The ridges glowed in the afternoon sunlight.

The ridges glowed in the afternoon sunlight.

Anakeesta layers.

Anakeesta layers.

Above this blowdown the footing is so loose it's better to go into the woods.

Above this blowdown the footing is so loose it’s better to go into the woods.

When I was just below this blowdown, someone looked down from the trail and saw me climbing up the scar. “Are you in trouble?” she called down. “Do you need help?” “No,” I said.  “Just doing a little bushwhacking.” Soon after that I was standing on the trail.

A beautiful short hike.

Big Duck Hawk Ridge.

Big Duck Hawk Ridge.

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Comments»

1. Clyde Austin - September 24, 2013

Jenny, can you tell me where approximately on Trout Branch you hit the scar. Also is it visible from Alum Cave Trail? I hiked Alum last October and don’t remember seeing it, but could have and forgotten it. Scars along there are fairly frequent.
Clyde

Jenny - September 25, 2013

The scar comes into Trout Branch at 4000′. Can’t miss that logjam! Yes, you can easily see it from Alum Cave trail—as mentioned, a woman looked down and saw me climbing up. If you know where the Big Duck Hawk manway starts, it’s just above that.

2. Al - September 25, 2013

Trying to remember….is the Big Duck Hawk manway the route the club took in the late eighties ? Back in my red hat days. You led as I recall.

Jenny - September 25, 2013

Brian Worley and Bill Neal led a hike up Bearpen Hollow and down Big Duck Hawk. I don’t recall if you were on that hike. Ray Payne and I led a hike up Cole Creek and down LITTLE Duck Hawk (before it was declared off limits), and I remember your being on that. I saw that famous red hat floating amidst the rhodo of lower Cole. The club frequently used either of those ridges for descents. The start of the Big Duck Hawk manway is pretty obvious. It gets a fair amount of use these days.

Al - September 25, 2013

It was Little Duck Hawk and Cole Creek on the same day. I remembered both but not that they were the same hike. Seems Paul Therlkeld was on that hike too. Just before that trip I had done Styx (right fork) and was coming back on the ACT and decided I would try a duck hawk walk. I never found either manway up near Alum Cave and wound up walking, crawling down between the duck hawks.( I guess). Took near 4 hours to reach the Alum Cave trail near the trailhead.

Jenny - September 25, 2013

Wow, you had quite a day! You must’ve come down the valley of a little tributary of Alum Cave Creek. I’ve never been there, but I’m willing to bet it’s the ultimate rhodo hell (judging by immediate surroundings). And after Styx Right Fork, too—that can get you into heath around the Boulevard. It’s fun remembering these old hikes.

3. Al - September 26, 2013

The pictures are amazing, blow them up and its like being there. Wonder if the lower end of the Big Duck Hawk manway is visible along the Alum Cave trail ?

Jenny - September 26, 2013

Strange to say, the Big Duck Hawk manway doesn’t have an end, and if it did, it would be at the tail of the ridge where it curves around to lower Trout Branch. The manway peters out after you get below the narrow, exposed part and enter a broad rhodo-choked section. People who use the manway generally exit it by any of several routes dropping down off the side to Trout Branch. The lower end of LITTLE Duck Hawk manway used to be faintly visible on Alum Cave trail not far from the trailhead, but it’s solid rhodo now. One time I climbed Little Duck Hawk starting at the bottom end. It’s scarier going down the exposed rock pitch than going up it. All before the route was banned, of course.

4. The Balsamean - September 28, 2013

The only thing wrong with this place is that I’ll never be there. So thank you for bringing me as close as I’ll get.

Jenny - September 28, 2013

I’m so glad you visited virtually even if not physically. And thank you for the link on your blog. I poked around there a bit just now and found it very interesting. I have spent some time in the Adirondacks and am fond of them—you live in a beautiful place, and I see that you are a passionate advocate of that beauty. All power to you.

The Balsamean - September 29, 2013

And to you!

5. Rivers | The Balsamean - September 28, 2013

[…] Trout Branch Scar Revisited – and deeply, by bushwhack – (streamsandforests.wordpress.com) – Jenny knows how to bushwhack.  I have the hunch that there’s only one rule for her: to let the land and water lead you on, not fight it.  Here she offers spectacular pictures of a stream through the scar cut by a landslide in the Smoky Mountains.  I’ve never seen anything like it, in person, on TV, in a movie, or in my imagination.  But I have seen red rocks.  Also visit her author’s website, JennyBennett.net where the range of her work and play shows the allure of rivers flowing in her. […]


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