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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.