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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