jump to navigation

Anakeesta Knob and Upper Anakeesta Ridge April 27, 2014

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
Tags: , , ,
5 comments
Heath-covered ridges and mighty LeConte.

Heath-covered ridges and mighty LeConte.

There was a method to my madness. I needed to get a good view of the landslide scars on No Name Ridge. And what is the best vantage point for that? Upper Anakeesta Ridge.

I looked across the upper valley of Alum Cave Creek.

I looked across the upper valley of Alum Cave Creek.

On July 20 I will lead an outing for the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club up Alum Cave Creek to the crest of No Name and then on to the Boulevard trail and over LeConte to return to our starting point at the Alum Cave trailhead. I’ve been up No Name before, but the route I took up the side of the ridge wasn’t ideal. It would be best to follow one of the scars, thereby postponing the inevitable crawling through the heath until close to the top.

It’s possible to reach my vantage point several different ways. I took the easy way: hiked out from Newfound Gap to the Boulevard trail, and then bushwhacked the short distance over the top of Anakeesta Knob and down the ridge until things opened up. Then I retraced my steps. I figure the trail mileage was about 9 or 10 roundtrip.

The place where Anakeesta Ridge hits the trail was familiar to me, as it is essentially a continuation of the Shutts-Boulevard divide ridge on the other side of the Boulevard. A piece of that ridge was part of my marathon outing up Shutts Prong last August. The trail makes a sharp little turn where it crosses over the “Anashuttsevard” ridge.

Intersection of Boulevard trail with the ridge.

Intersection of Boulevard trail with the ridge.

For those of you interested in bagging one of the highest sub-6K peaks, it’s a very short, easy bushwhack to the top of mighty 5988′ Anakeesta Knob. Only a few people are crazy enough to bag it because it’s a 5K. (You know who you are—ha, ha!)

I walked through fairly open woods, through glades filled with trout lily foliage.

None were blooming, but the foliage was pretty.

None were blooming, but the foliage was pretty.

Before I knew it (whatever that expression means), I had reached the summit.

The not-very-exciting summit of Anakeesta Knob.

The not-very-exciting summit of Anakeesta Knob.

As I descended off that fearsome cone, I had a view of the parking lot at Newfound Gap. It seemed just a stone’s throw away (since I seem to be using hackneyed expressions).

A telescopic view made the stone-throwing even easier.

A telescopic view made the stone-throwing even easier.

The ridge had clearly been traveled by bears and by bear-like humans—I know who the usual suspects are.

The narrower the ridge, the clearer the path.

The narrower the ridge, the clearer the path.

I had a great view down the Alum Cave Creek valley.

Valley of Alum Cave Creek.

Valley of Alum Cave Creek.

And, looking off the other side, across the valley of Walker Camp Prong.

I could practically see all the people hiking the A.T.

I could practically see all the people hiking the A.T.

The view back to the Knob showed me that not all approaches are easy.

The Knob shows its more dramatic side.

The Knob shows its more dramatic side.

I pushed along until I reached some dense heath, then went back to my best vantage point and stopped for lunch. I took a telescopic picture of the slides on No Name. It seems to me the side of the ridge is more bare than it used to be. Perhaps some of the slides were enlarged during last year’s heavy rains. If you look closely, you can see how the spine of the ridge has a rock backbone, which is what makes it such a great place.

The Y-shaped slide looks like the way to go.

The Y-shaped slide looks like the way to go (click for zoom).

A pleasant outing on a beautiful spring day.

The myrtle is full of buds.

The myrtle is full of buds.

Advertisements

Bartram Trail over Fishhawk and Whiterock April 24, 2014

Posted by Jenny in hiking, Nantahala National Forest, Southern Appalachians.
Tags: , , ,
1 comment so far
Boulders on Whiterock

Boulders on Whiterock.

Today I explored a short section of the 115-mile Bartram Trail. I started at Jones Gap and did an out-and-back of eight miles total plus a couple of side trails. This is a rewarding short trip into more of the plutons around Highlands, NC. Readers may recall that I visited Whiteside Mountain a couple of months ago. That is in the same area and part of the same geological family.

The Bartram Trail goes from north Georgia to western North Carolina, roughly following the route of the naturalist William Bartram on his expedition of 1773 to 1777.

William Bartram, 1739-1823. Explorer and naturalist.

William Bartram, 1739-1823. Explorer and naturalist.

The drive to Jones Gap is fairly dramatic if you approach it from the Cullasaja Gorge. The road through the gorge climbs steeply, with lots of sharp curves and steep dropoffs. Large trucks are banned from driving it.  But the Cullasaja road is tame compared to the unpaved Forest Service road that takes you the last couple of miles up to the gap (elev. 4360′). It is the kind of road where you keep your fingers crossed no one comes the other way, as it’s just one car-width wide, with a deep ditch on one side and a dropoff on the other, and only a few spots where you could pull over.

The trailhead parking area boasts an attractive informational kiosk.

I headed in the direction of Buckeye Creek.

I headed in the direction of Buckeye Creek.

It was a beautiful morning, with a temperature in the low 50s at this elevation, blue skies, and a gentle breeze. As I expected, the wildflowers hadn’t progressed very far here. I saw violets, bloodroot, toothwort, and chickweed.

I passed through an anonymous forest of still-bare hardwoods interspersed with clumps of rhodo and laurel. Before I got to Whiterock Gap, I turned off on a short side path that led to open rock with views of Whiterock.

Whiterock shows off its plutonic dome.

Whiterock shows off its plutonic dome.

Where I stood, smooth rock was covered here and there with pads of moss.

Mosses and lichens formed mats on the smooth rock.

Mosses and lichens formed mats on the smooth rock.

Odd-shaped boulders were strewn about. It made me think of a workshop for assembling Stonehenge.

Giants could assemble these into some sort of structure.

Giants could assemble these into some sort of structure.

I returned to the trail, went through Whiterock Gap, and turned off again on a trail that climbed 0.3 mile to open ledges near the summit of Whiterock, passing through a clearing where pine trees grew out of small mats of soil and vegetation.

This pine hardly seems to have enough soil to root itself.

This pine hardly seems to have enough soil to root itself.

I came out on a spectacular vista.

The pale green of spring was creeping up the valleys.

The pale green of spring was creeping up the valleys.

Small serviceberries grew on the ledges.

Small serviceberries grew on the ledges.

After I returned to the main trail, I spotted an especially nice serviceberry in bloom.

Pretty serviceberry blossoms.

Pretty serviceberry blossoms.

I passed over Little Fishhawk and eventually arrived at the side trail to (Big) Fishhawk. It climbs steeply to the summit, which has no views but features a plaque honoring William Bartram.

P1020986

Bartram plaque.

Fishhawk summit.

Fishhawk summit.

I continued to Wolf Rock, 3.9 miles from Jones Gap. It offered a restricted view that came as an anticlimax after Whiterock, but if you were hiking from the other direction it would be a welcome stopping point on your climb. Three peregrines were racing across the sky when I stopped there.

Here I turned back, having enjoyed a short but interesting hike.

View from Wolf Rock.

View from Wolf Rock.

This is a great day. April 17, 2014

Posted by Jenny in grief, hiking, Life experience, Smoky Mountains.
8 comments
A morning in the mountains.

A morning in the mountains.

Undoubtedly you, my blog readers, have figured out that I’ve been going through a tough time. Last year was difficult for me. It had to do with recreating myself as a solitary woman rather than a female likely to bond with a man. Then, this year, I lost a companion of 15 years—our relationship had changed from “boyfriend/girlfriend” to “friend,” but still with him I lost a whole enormous world of shared experiences, weird humor, funny musical tastes, and a kind of defiant skepticism.

I can’t be other than a skeptic. That is who I am. I cannot be religious, no matter how much comfort that would give me. I do not judge anyone about that. Religion is right for others, wrong for me.

I do not aspire to be a “nice” person. I do want to be kind to others. But my view of the world has too many sharp edges for the warm and fuzzy world of niceness. I can be cranky, weird, annoying, and critical. That is who I am.

But, I have come across an idea. It is very simple. It is, that today is a great day. Just by deliberate choice. I was thinking about this today in connection with a great article about day-to-day life on an aircraft carrier. It is in the current issue of The New Yorker, by Geoff Dyer. Every day, over the ship’s PA system, the captain tells the crew that it’s “a great day to be at sea.” This becomes kind of a joke with the crew, for in reality each day is pretty much indistinguishable from others. Yet he persists in saying this.

And he is absolutely right.

 

P1020511