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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.


Bent Arm manway April 19, 2010

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
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We were all taking pictures of flowers on the manway

Bent Arm manway is an unmaintained path that connects the Miry Ridge trail at Dripping Springs Mountain with the Cucumber Gap trail near Elkmont.  On this outing of the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club, a dozen hikers waded through ankle-deep wildflowers along the manway.  Under a beaming sun, the forest floor was waking up and coming alive, sending up flowers here—there—everywhere!

We had all the necessary ingredients for a perfect spring day.  Sky of robin’s egg blue—check.  Plenty of warm, benevolent sunshine—check.   Temperatures that rose from an invigorating chill to something you could bask in—check.  Trees unfurling their delicate green leaves—check.  Flowers?  Yes, flowers: spring beauties, anemone, phlox, squirrel corn, trout lilies, foamflower, white, purple, yellow violets of every size, shade, and height, and trillium: two or three white kinds, a painted one, family groupings of yellow ones, one or two kinds of red.  Check.

Our leaders had decided to do the manway from the top down, so first we climbed up from 2300 feet at the Jake’s Creek trailhead to 4800 feet on the Miry Ridge trail.

Bridge on Jake's Creek trail

We passed banks of trillium.

These were "Trillum erectum albiflorum," I think

I noticed some squirrel corn, with its beautiful fringed dark green leaves.

Squirrel corn

Our group stopped for a snack at campsite 27.

At campsite 27

Just about all of the Smokies backcountry campsites have hardware for hanging packs and bear bags.

Too bad for hungry bears!

We turned onto the Miry Ridge trail and continued climbing until we reached a patch of heath where you get good views to the main stateline ridge.  Through the luminous sky, we could see Thunderhead off to the right.

There was a bit of serviceberry blooming in the foreground

Before long we reached the point at the east end of Dripping Springs Mountain where the manway bears off to the north.  It isn’t hard to see where the old trail was cut into the slope.  The manway in the upper section stays on the right side of the ridge or on the ridgecrest.  There are patches of greenbrier and some blowdowns, but the going is relatively easy.

We followed along the ridge

There was a period of slight confusion at a point around 4400 feet where the manway drops down on the left side of the ridge.  We dropped down too far and missed the path where it sidehills, but after the usual consulting of maps and people hallooing through the woods at each other, we climbed back up and found the distinct bench where the path was contouring across the slope.  From there we reached a gap and followed an old CCC trail with rockwall construction.

An old map shows the Bent Arm trail crossing over the gap and staying on the right side of the ridge, but the grade we followed continued on the left side for quite a while.  Perhaps there were two different routes in the past.  This section had some fairly thick rhodo and dog hobble.

Dog hobble is taking over in this stretch

But lower down we got back into open hardwoods.  We reached the Cucumber Gap trail about 1.5 miles from where it leaves the Jake’s Creek trail, and completed the loop back to the cars.

Near the bottom of the manway: sunshine, flowers