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Mt. Cammerer via Miner’s Stairs October 19, 2013

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
Tags: , , ,
Blake tackles one of the Stairs.

Blake tackles one of the Stairs.

Today the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club made its annual assault on Cammerer via an off-trail route. Each year the club offers one trail hike and one bushwhack on the same day in October to this mountain that is always a favorite.

Three years ago the SMHC climbed up Leadmine Ridge to Cammerer. That is one of several parallel ridges on the north side of the mountain. This year’s offering overlapped with that route to a certain extent, but we climbed up Rowdy Creek (the stream just east of the ridge) past the waterfall before getting up onto the ridgecrest.

Despite having been up both Rowdy Ridge and Leadmine Ridge, I’d never been up Rowdy Creek. The waterfall is pretty, though in the current dry conditions it wasn’t spectacular.

We approach the waterfall.

We approach the waterfall.

We found a route to the left of the falls that used a narrow seam between chunks of bedrock. The route would have been easy except for the peculiar quality of the soil in these parts, a very slippery dark brown substance that I always think of as “chocolate pudding.” It is exactly the same soil that has made the Groundhog Ridge manway such a mess. I think the first person climbing has the advantage, because that person’s footprints turn into chocolate slime, and for each person after that it gets progressively slipperier. So it becomes a matter of finding a rock here and there for a foothold and a branch here and there that can serve as a handhold, if it doesn’t come off in your hand.

We passed through a beautiful boulderfield where each boulder sported a wig of rock polypody fern.

It was really neat how each rock had this crown of ferns.

It was really neat how each rock had this crown of ferns.

We encountered a tree that had the slimiest, most repulsive fungus that I’d ever seen.

Yum! Just the thing to put in your omelet!

Yum! Just the thing to put in your omelet!

Ed Fleming, our leader, had determined what he felt was the best elevation to leave the creek and get through the rhodo that guarded the ridgecrest. We had 15 or 20 minutes of pushing through fairly dense laurel and rhodo before we reached the Stairs. Speaking of Stairs, we had a nice view over to the Panther Stairs, the next ridge over.

Even though the sky was overcast, aren't the colors wonderful?

Even though the sky is overcast, aren’t the colors wonderful?

We climbed the Stairs up the ridge.

Going up the ridge.

Going up the ridge.

Every now and then I’d look over my shoulder and enjoy the colors.

I feel so fortunate to have views like this.

I feel so fortunate to have views like this.

As soon as we reached the Cammerer side trail, the clouds moved in—we were lucky that didn’t happen earlier. We had lunch at the tower and serenaded David with Happy Birthday, as he had just turned eighteen.

We descended the Groundhog Ridge manway, which becomes more and more annoying every year. The “chocolate slime” gets worse and worse, and quite a few new blowdowns have added to the mess. Still, it remains the best way to descend Cammerer from any of these other great off-trail routes on the north side of the mountain. A fine day with good hiking companions.

The clouds move in.

The clouds move in.



1. Steve K. - October 19, 2013

Great report Jenny! I opted to chase the trout on the Tuckasegee River today…without much success. We floated by your place mid-day.

Glad you all could get out and enjoy the Park.

Jenny - October 19, 2013

I don’t blame you for opting for fishing. I’m seeing tons of fishermen in my neighborhood, flailing away. With important things going on right now on the river, I can understand why you opted for fishing instead of hiking. Thanks for your comment.

2. Jeff G. - October 20, 2013

Spectacular, Jenny. I wish to find my way up to Cammerer via one of these off-routes next time I’m down there. Great Report, and great colors!

Jenny - October 20, 2013

Thank you, Jeff! All of the approaches to Cammerer from the north are great.

3. Jon Henderson - October 20, 2013

Awesome, Jenny! Love your blog! Makes me wish I lived there instead of Nashville!

Jenny - October 20, 2013

Thanks, Jon! I hope you have the chance to get over to the Smokies before long!

Jon Henderson - October 20, 2013

We went in September, and I did LeConte via Alum Cave to High Top. I left the trail head at 4:30 so I could get some sunrise pics at the top. Doing the majority of going up with just a headlamp was a surreal experience! Got back down to the car in just a little over 5 hours. Best day ever! Would love to try some of your bushwacking routes sometimes. Have you ever done Mt. Guyot?

4. Jenny - October 20, 2013

Yes, I have. It’s not a long or difficult route from the A.T. For a really dramatic bushwhack that’s not too hard, maybe try the Trout Branch Scar (you may have seen my report from a trip there not long ago). Study the USGS topo map to see where Trout Branch crosses under the Newfound Gap Road, less than a mile below the Alum Cave trail. There’s a parking area there with 6 or 8 spaces. You just rockhop up the stream, not difficult unless there’s been a lot of rain. You’ll see the giant logjam there.Hang a right, and you’ll end up on the Alum Cave trail a short distance above Alum Cave Bluff. It gets steep, and you have to do some rock scrambling, but if you are athletic at all and enjoy a challenge, you will find this an incredible experience.

Jon Henderson - October 21, 2013

Thanks Jenny! Sounds awesome! I’ll check out your report!

5. Al - October 22, 2013

Did the hikers return to the hwy via McFalls or some other OT variation ?

Jenny - October 22, 2013

Al, we came down Groundhog Ridge, but below the Lower Cammerer trail there is a split between a path that goes to McFalls Branch and a path that goes down to Groundhog Creek. The SMHC always used to take the McFalls route but now the club always goes the other way. I think the reason why is that even though McFalls is nice (there is a small watefall on it), there is no good place to park beside Hwy. 32. You are right opposite a house there and you feel as though you are trespassing. The Groundhog Creek variation has the advantage that there is room for four or even five cars in a couple of pullout spots, and you aren’t in someone’s front yard.

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