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Cold-weather climb to Fox Hunters Camp January 8, 2015

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Southern Appalachians.
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View to the southwest from Fox Hunters Camp in the Plott Balsams.

View to the southwest from Fox Hunters Camp in the Plott Balsams.

The plan for today was to join Clyde Austin, Mike Harrington, and Frank March for a bushwhack along All Night Ridge, which parallels Anthony Creek in the Cades Cove area of the Smokies.

But the Park Service had other plans. At sundown yesterday, they closed the Newfound Gap Road. There was only a dusting of snow yesterday despite cold, blustery conditions, but the thinking seems to be that black ice might be a hazard overnight. Having seen this pattern before, I figured they’d probably reopen it around 9:00 the next morning. And they did—just about 9:00 on the nose.

That didn’t do me any good. I had to meet my friends at 8:00 at the Anthony Creek trailhead. To get there on time from my house in Sylva, NC, I would have needed to drive past the Smokemont gate around 6:00.

I’d been looking forward not only to hiking on a ridge where I hadn’t been before, but using my cold-weather gear. The forecast was for temps near zero in the early morning. I’d dug out my heavy parka, my heavy mittens, and my Sorel boots, which haven’t been used much since I left New England. Never mind.

I woke up to a temp of 4 degrees at my house and decided I’d wait till things warmed up a bit and do a hike I’ve done many times before in the nearby Plott Balsams. You climb from 3000′ at the trailhead to about 5000′, where you find an open spot known as the Fox Hunters Camp. And you pass a beautiful waterfall that’s just a little bit off the trail. I’ve featured it often in this blog. But I never get tired of it, especially in icy conditions.

I figured I’d do the side trip to the waterfall on the way down. I headed up the steep East Fork trail, plodding along with a heavier pack and more layers than usual. It turned out I was overprepared. The temp at the trailhead was in the upper teens when I started, and I didn’t really need the snowpants or the down parka. Another weather system was coming in, and things warmed up rapidly.

It was so pleasant at the Fox Hunters Camp that I just relaxed in the sunshine for a while. There was no wind.

View toward the ridge of Pinnacle Bald. Note the big, smooth cliff on the side of the ridge.

View toward the ridge of Pinnacle Bald. Note the big, smooth cliff on the side of the ridge.

I descended, passing lots of rhodo that had gone droopy in the cold. It always bounces back with a vengeance, growing more ferocious than ever. If you bushwhack in this part of the country, you know what I mean.

It looks wilted and unhealthy. This is an illusion.

It looks wilted and unhealthy. This is an illusion.

I reached the really steep part of the trail and turned off on sort of a bench in the hillside to reach the waterfall. There’s no trail, but it’s quite a short distance.

Big icicles close to waterfall.

Big icicles close to waterfall.

The waterfall shows off for the camera.

The waterfall shows off for the camera.

I’ve visited the waterfall in all levels of waterflow and all degrees of iciness. Today, it was not iced over as completely as I saw it last winter—it takes about four or five days of continuous severe cold for that to happen. A sort of tube of ice forms over the whole thing, with just a narrow slit where you can still see the water flowing, almost as if designed so that the viewer can appreciate the living water in contrast to the frozen mass.

But today offered something good, a high level of flow from some very heavy rains we had not long ago. At any rate, it was beautiful.

Below the upper section of the waterfall I noticed an interesting ice pattern.

Odd ice shape.

Odd ice shape.

I gazed down to the sunny lower falls before continuing on my way. Always a worthwhile trip.

The ice had a different texture in this section. Maybe it comes from greater turbulence in the water.

What looks at first like foam is ice with a cauliflower texture.

P.S. I am adding some info at the request of a viewer.

Photo:

Flat area of the camp.

Flat area of the camp.

Map:

Fox Hunters Camp

X marks the location. Click for zoom.

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Comments»

1. Clyde - January 8, 2015

Great photos Jenny. We missed you.

2. Al - January 10, 2015

Frank March is one of the intrepid hikers to visit the Tsali Rock on the left fork of Deep Creek. Maybe 4-5 years ago. Thats recent for such a hard to find location.

Jenny - January 10, 2015

I haven’t met Frank in person, but I’m sure our paths will cross sooner or later.

3. Will Skelton - January 10, 2015

Jenny you should post a photo of the Fox Hunters Camp, sounds intriguing, never been there.

Jenny - January 10, 2015

Hi Will, see above.


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