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Rocky Face Mountain December 14, 2014

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
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Rocky Face Mountain is located near Cosby Campground.

Rocky Face Mountain is located near Cosby Campground.

I was looking at maps trying to get new ideas for destinations. Suddenly I noticed the interesting name of Rocky Face Mountain. The first thing that jumped out at me is that it’s not actually a mountain at all. It’s a ridge. The second thing is that I’ve never heard anyone even mention it, let alone climb it, even though it’s just across the Toms Creek valley from the Panther Stairs, a popular destination.

I did find in the old Smoky Mountains Hiking Club handbooks that the club went to the high point of the ridge from the Toms Creek drainage, back in the 50s and 60s, but did not traverse the ridge.

It’s a bit too far away from Mt. Cammerer to make a convenient route to that mountaintop. You come out on the A.T. not far from Low Gap. Of course it’s still possible to trundle over to see the lookout tower, depending on time and inclination.

I have pictures only from the first part of the trip because… the classic idiotic thing… my battery died. The night before, I looked at the little squares that show how much battery life is left. They were all black. Great! Somehow, I reversed the indication in my thinking. WHITE indicates a fully charged battery, not BLACK. When I took the first photo of the hike, I saw the black squares, and this time my brain worked properly. “Well,” I thought, “maybe the battery will last out the trip.” It didn’t.

The weather was strange that day. It was sunny and clear when I left home, and still sunny as I approached Cosby. But the sky over the mountain was overcast. From the ridge, I made out sunny valleys not far away.

From the junction of the Low Gap and Lower Cammerer trails, I could see the ridge easily. It wouldn’t be quite so obvious in times of leafed out canopy. I simply angled over to the start of the ridge where it is broad and gradual. I passed through an area of dense vines.

This stretch was thick but not as hard to get through as rhodo or greenbriers.

This stretch was thick but not as hard to get through as rhodo or greenbriers.

The ridge steepened and narrowed. There were patches of greenbriers woven together in mats, but usually I could bypass them.

Looking toward Toms Creek valley.

Looking toward Toms Creek valley.

The map seems to show contour lines fairly evenly spaced over much of the ridge except for a nearly level part before a steeper cone-shaped knob in the middle. But in reality the ridge had a series of stairsteps. On the steeper parts I encountered bluffs. Oddly enough, the rock is different from the large smooth boulders of the Panther Stairs. This rock had many narrow strata that made for  good handholds. The only problem was that a few of these strata were loose and pulled out in my hand. So I had to test them before trusting them to bear my weight.

A couple of places were difficult and I  had to drop down a bit on the Toms Creek side and come back up. The other side is more or less a cliff.

There were some nice views. When I reached the A.T., I felt as though I’d had a good enough adventure for the  day and didn’t go over to Cammerer.

The photo below, a little study of galax and laurel, is the last one I took, before I reached the bluffs.

Taken at about 3400'.

Taken at about 3400′.

 

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Comments»

1. Kent Hackendy - December 14, 2014

Ah, digital camera woes. The one thing I loved about my first pocket camera was that it worked on AAA batteries so I could always carry plenty of spares. Last month I lost out on a few nice pictures on the way up to LeConte via Trillium Gap because my blasted Nikon kept telling me the battery was exhausted. turns out it was just the cold temps. It finally sorted itself out.

Sounds like a wonderful hike, though, despite your technological difficulties. : )

Jenny - December 14, 2014

Ah yes, camera batteries…one of those little things that can make so much difference!

2. Barbara Johnstone - December 15, 2014

I get the feeling that your favorite vegetation patterns are the kinds that are dark green (for “don’t even think about it”) on an orienteering map! But I guess if time isn’t an issue then vines and briars aren’t, either. (And by the way, we call the latter “jaggers” around here. Have you ever heard that term?)

Jenny - December 15, 2014

You’re probably right about this being a “dark green” area! Actually, people have often talked about making vegetation maps for the Smokies, but I’ve never seen a good one. Although vegetation there is often correlated with elevation, it seems that the truly obstructive plants grow in random locations. I haven’t heard the term “jaggers.” (Could it be Pittsburghese? But no, probably not, since that is urban speech.) People here usually speak of either greenbriers, catbriers, or sawbriers.

3. Jarrett - December 15, 2014

Looks like a good trip with a sense of exploration. As far as batteries go, I am pretty good at keeping them charged; however, I am horrible about remembering SD cards. Its a constant fight not to leave them in my computer’s SD card reader.


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