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Trout Branch scar revisited September 24, 2013

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, photography, Smoky Mountains.
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Looking up the landslide scar.

Looking up the landslide scar.

Last November I visited the Trout Branch scar with James Locke on a chilly day with a mix of snow and drizzle in the air. I had problems with cold fingers and gloves, and the photos I took weren’t good. I’d been thinking about returning ever since, and on a lovely September day I decided to revisit the scar on my own.

The landslide occurred last August. It runs from the Alum Cave trail a little above Alum Cave down to Trout Branch. Greg Harrell, who pioneered the route, calls it the “thousand foot scar” because it runs from 5000′ down to 4000′.

I was curious whether this year’s January flooding had made any difference in the washout. It had, in a way most evident in the position of the logjam at the bottom. Formerly standing to the side of Trout Branch, it has now been shoved right into the midst of the stream. Further up, things don’t look much different. The August washout had already completed the job of scouring the stream valley down to the bedrock. It looks as though, along the sides, a few more trees have been swept away.

The exposure of the Anakeesta bedrock to the air has resulted in severe acidification of the streamwater. In Trout Branch, rocks are noticeably red from sulfuric deposits. I would guess that trout no longer find Trout Branch a good place to live.

What follows is a photo gallery.

Cascade on Trout Branch.

Cascade on Trout Branch.

Stones in pool.

Stones in pool.

Double cascades. Note red-tinted rock in center.

Double cascades. Note red-tinted rock in center.

Red-tinted rocks.

Red-tinted rocks.

Huge logjam up ahead.

Huge logjam up ahead.

I climbed around the logjam.

I climbed around the logjam.

Looking up at sandstone portion of slide.

Looking up at sandstone portion of slide.

Huge slabs of exposed bedrock.

Huge slabs of exposed bedrock.

The water stains the rock.

The water stains the rock.

Starting to make upward progress.

Starting to make upward progress.

Logjam in chute.

Logjam in chute.

Foam in the water.

Foam in the water.

Getting into Anakeesta.

Getting into Anakeesta.

Steep pitch of Anakeesta.

Steep pitch of Anakeesta.

Looking down the chute.

Looking down the chute.

Anakeesta slabs.

Anakeesta slabs.

The ridges glowed in the afternoon sunlight.

The ridges glowed in the afternoon sunlight.

Anakeesta layers.

Anakeesta layers.

Above this blowdown the footing is so loose it's better to go into the woods.

Above this blowdown the footing is so loose it’s better to go into the woods.

When I was just below this blowdown, someone looked down from the trail and saw me climbing up the scar. “Are you in trouble?” she called down. “Do you need help?” “No,” I said.  “Just doing a little bushwhacking.” Soon after that I was standing on the trail.

A beautiful short hike.

Big Duck Hawk Ridge.

Big Duck Hawk Ridge.

Big Duck Hawk Ridge July 24, 2011

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
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Along Big Duck Hawk

I’ve been on Big Duck Hawk before, but I had never approached it via the route that Greg Hoover and Craig Hutto led it yesterday for the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club. We rockhopped up Trout Branch about a half mile to a small tributary and followed it up to a goodsized landslide scar and scrambled up that to the top of the ridge, coming out on its most interesting section. Then we went back down the same way. Total mileage was not even quite two miles. It took us six hours.

The Park Service does not have a ban on BDH, but they do on Little Duck Hawk, its narrower ridge companion. LDH is also known as Hole-in-Rock Mountain, and it is easily viewed from Alum Cave Bluff. I have traveled on it in the days before the ban.

LDH as viewed from BDH

Trout Branch was flowing fast and high, which made wading necessary much of the time. None of my stream pictures came out very well. For some excellent shots, go to this page on Dave Landreth’s Griztrax site. He is a great photographer. But just to give you a feel, here are a few shots.

Hikers along the stream

Ed Fleming prepares to cross the stream

Greg Hoover watches over his flock

Our group takes a break at the junction with the tributary

When we turned onto the tributary, we encountered a series of cascades. I think Greg Harrell was the only one who attempted to climb up them—an awful lot of water was flowing over them. I was too busy negotiating my way around the edges to take pictures on this stretch. Eventually we reached the slide, which featured the classic loose, brittle Anakeesta that you find in areas that haven’t had long enough exposure to weathering processes to turn them into the fine rock staircases you encounter on the Chimney Tops, Charlies Bunion, and the crests of the two Duck Hawk ridges.

Looking up the slide

It was steep, but it had enough footholds to make it climbable except at the very top, where we had to head over to some brush on the side in order to have something to hold onto.

Popping out on the top of the ridge

We had lunch and explored up and down the ridge a little ways. Clouds hovered overhead—a welcome shelter from the sweltering sun we’ve all been suffering through the past week.

You feel as though you are up in the sky

On the way down, the wetness of the slide made it harder to keep solid footing, which meant that the faster members of the group paid the price of having the others shower down loose rock upon them. Fortunately, no one was injured.

By the time we got back to Trout Branch, I was so wet and dirty that I welcomed its cool, refreshing waters. In fact, when we reached the bridge, I removed my pack and immersed myself in the water! Then I dripped my way back to the car, where I had a dry change of clothes. A fine outing of eleven adventurous souls.