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Sharing the fun of the Chimneys February 19, 2012

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
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Dusty crosses from the North Chimney to the Tourist Chimney

Friends had been saying they wanted to go up the Chimneys off-trail from the picnic ground. So Chris Sass and I gladly volunteered to take them up by the same route we led a Smoky Mountains Hiking Club outing last June. Many variations exist, and we could have gone a different way, but this is the best way to go if you want to visit what I’ve come to think of as the Magic Cairn.

The friends joining us were Dave Landreth, Seth O’Shields, and Dusty Allison.

We’d thought of descending via the ridge that leads northwest from the North Chimney, but we decided, looking at the cliffs on it as we climbed up the other side of the valley, that it had best be done going up rather than down. Another possible descent route, down a ridge from Sugarland Mountain, was rejected as being too time-consuming by the time we reached the Sugarland-Chimney connector manway.

The first point of interest encountered on this trip is a manmade dam on the stream.

Dam on tributary of West Prong

Not far above the dam, where the route follows pleasant open woods beside a small stream, we saw our first spring wildflowers of 2012—on February 18!

Wood anemones

The way steepened steadily as we approached the ridgecrest.

Dave nears the ridgetop

Past a small curtain of briers, we crawled through a bearway, hearing the sounds of traffic on the Newfound Gap road nearly directly below us. A short descent through an opening, and voila! The Magic Cairn!

One of the great destinations of the Smokies

I like the way the road disappears into the tunnel immediately below.

View from the cairn

Everyone was taking pictures

Our destination

We climbed along the narrowing ridge, negotiating a few bluffs and traversing around a couple of them.

One of many small scrambles

Eventually we emerged onto the really fun part—the open Anakeesta scramble.

Looking down the ridge. You can see the loop-the-loop on the Newfound Gap road to the right.

We arrived at the top. As we chatted and ate our lunch, we saw a fellow in an orange shirt over on the Tourist Chimney who tried a couple times to go across to where we were, but he gave up the effort after a short distance and retreated.

View over to Tourist Chimney

We crossed and passed through the crowds without stopping, then descended the trail. We stopped at the bridge over the West Prong. (I guess technically it is still Walker Camp Prong at that point, just barely above the junction with Road Prong.)

Greenish pool below the bridge

I noticed a small waterfall emerging from right under the bridge. And so a very pleasant outing concluded.

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