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Bent Arm Manway on a showery day April 27, 2015

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, nature, Smoky Mountains.
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Snowy fields of fringed phacelia along the manway.

Snowy fields of fringed phacelia along the manway.

The forecast kept changing. Showers all day—rain in the morning followed by clearing—low probability of precipitation, or high—at any rate, I suspect the uncertainty kept some folks from joining our outing.

We had nine in our group, and it was a wonderful hike. We shared an enthusiasm for the remarkable plant life that thrived all along our route, and for the bird songs, the trees, and the history of this part of the Smokies.

As it turned out, we had intermittent showers throughout the day, but the temperature remained comfortable. And what is better on an April day than to observe swarms of wildflowers gleaming with shimmering raindrops?

As I drove over to Elkmont from the North Carolina side of the mountains, I enjoyed dramatic changes in the skies. Sometimes I drove through dense fog, and other times I observed a spotlight effect of sunlight coming through the clouds.

On my drive over---dramatic sky near Newfound Gap.

On my drive over—dramatic sky near Newfound Gap.

Beams of sunlight near Anakeesta Ridge.

Beams of sunlight near Anakeesta Ridge.

As soon as we started on our way up the Jakes Creek trail, we were luxuriating in the lush cushions of wildflowers all around us.

Dwarf iris.

Dwarf iris.

Showy orchis.

Showy orchis.

Painted trillium.

Painted trillium.

When we reached the Miry Ridge trail and climbed up to the distinctive open heath area, we debated whether to make that our lunch spot. It is an interesting place, full of laurel and galax and reindeer moss, but the fog had closed in and we had no views. We opted to continue to the backcountry campsite. Just as we stopped for lunch, it started to rain fairly heavily. I took a few photos that were blurred by the dampness.

Jim and Ken talk things over in the rain.

Jim and Ken talk things over in the rain.

Hiram and Jean in their rain gear.

Hiram and Jean in their rain gear.

Michael Ray had a more sensible way of dealing with the rain.

Michael Ray had a more sensible way of dealing with the rain.

We continued along, and I started looking for the manway where the trail reaches the crest of the ridge. But Michael, who has been on the manway six times, spotted the junction before I did. I had a momentary thought: “They’re going to think I don’t know how to follow the manway.” In reality, it all worked out perfectly. There are places where you can either stay on the ridgecrest or contour along the side. At times some of us went one way and some another, but our routes were always within sight or at most calling distance of each other. The general direction remained clear.

I found that the pathway was easier to follow at this time of year than when Ken and I scouted it. At that time, the forest floor was uniformly brown, covered with fallen leaves. But yesterday, the path was often clearly marked by the relative absence of vegetation on the path. Well, at least that was true in the grassy areas, where the grass does not grow in the path. When we came to the fringed phacelia, it grew exuberantly all across the footway.

Once you reach the sharp turn to the left where you see some CCC rockwork, the old trail becomes very clear and nearly impossible to lose. It’s just that you encounter considerable rhodo and doghobble in this section.

Eventually we reached a notable spot where a quartz rock is embedded in a tree. Members of the group had different theories about this. Some thought it was a boundary marker, while others thought it was the doing of the CCC folks.

Quartz embedded in tree.

Quartz embedded in tree.

It was a truly enjoyable outing with a great group of hikers who are all seriously interested in the marvelous natural offerings of the Smokies. I will soon have to leave this area, but I will be back for visits as often as I can.

We saw this somewhere along our journey---I won't say when or where.

We saw this somewhere along our journey—I won’t say when or where.

 

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Comments»

1. Al - April 27, 2015

I remember that open heath area and the rocks and views on Miry Ridge. Great pictures !

Jenny - April 27, 2015

Thanks, Al! Yes, that one spot reminds me more of LeConte than the typical forest of the western Smokies.

2. Kent Hackendy - April 27, 2015

Ah, umbrellas are the only truly breathable rain gear. The hell with Gore-Tex! 😉

Jenny - April 27, 2015

I have never believed in Gore-Tex. “The perspiration goes out but the rain doesn’t come in.” Bullshit! I think umbrellas are a much better idea!

Kent Hackendy - April 27, 2015

The concept behind Gore-Tex is their patented membrane with all these millions of tiny pores that rain can’t get through, but sweat vapor can escape. I’ll accept that maybe it keeps the rain out, but there’s no way that it can vent your perspiration fast enough to keep you dry if you’re really sweating a lot. It’s total bollocks!

3. Brian Reed - May 4, 2015

Dwight McCarter improbably mentions that beech embedded rock in his book Meigs Line as a 200 year old marker of the Cherokee boundary line he traced. Much of that semi-fictional book seems far fetched, but it was an entertaining read.

http://www.southernhighlanders.com/meigs_line.htm

Jenny - May 5, 2015

Yes, I don’t see how that quartz rock could have been placed in the tree more than 200 years ago. As the person on the southernhighlanders site mentions, the tree would have been too small back then. Here’s my theory: back in the CCC era, the tree had a natural hole in it near the bottom. Someone noticed that the rock was about the same size to fit in the hole and jammed the rock in. Since that time, the tree has grown around the edges of the rock to completely embed it within the trunk, the same way you sometimes see old metal signs nailed to trees that have become partially “engulfed” by the tree.

4. Peter Bennett - June 7, 2015

JENNY IS MISSING !!! If you are in the NC / TN area please see my comment on her last post.


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