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Official hike to Chimneys June 12, 2011

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
Tags: , ,

This was pretty typical of the trip

I was almost astonished that a handful of adventurous souls decided go on the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club outing to the Chimneys by way of the Chimneys picnic ground. Off trail hike. About 2000′ vertical in about a mile. But I think everyone involved was proud to have accomplished this.

One thing I noticed right away was that the vegetation was much thicker and higher than when my co-leader Chris Sass and I (and brave companion Ben Bacot) scouted it a month ago. The tall green growth does make it harder to see the basic contours. At least, that’s my excuse for hitting the ridge further north than I intended.

Steep getting up to the ridge---approaching the crest

Once we got up to the ridge, I expected we would immediately traverse a short distance to an impressive overlook with a giant cairn. We did not find the giant cairn, though we’d found it easily on our two scouting trips! We believe we hit the ridge a bit too low and then wandered around crisscrossing animal tracks without finding it. Very disappointing. We searched around for a bit, but finally decided to cut our losses and continue up the ridge to the northern Chimney.

We got a beautiful view of that Chimney.

Glimpse up our ridge to northern Chimney

So much beautiful laurel. It really inspired us as we did the hand-over-foot section up the Anakeesta that now predominated over the lower sandstone.

Once we arrived on the northern Chimney, we had a great view of the exposed ridge over to the southern¬† (tourist) Chimney. Darkening skies hung over us, and we heard thunder, but it seemed that the bad weather was drifting away from us, toward the east. I wasn’t totally convinced of that, but sitting up there was so wonderful that I felt I was willing to take the risk of thunder and lightning.

And this is the way we had to go to get over to the "tourist" Chimney

We made it over there, only to discover the usual conglomeration of frightened tourists who can’t seem to make it up past what I consider to be the “crux”—a polished handhold of Anakeesta that you grasp and step up a trivially frightening section of rock to get up to the top.

Our trip down the Chimneys trail was uneventful. At the bottom—the West Prong crossing—we noticed an absolutely beautiful laurel hanging over the stream. It was being visited by countless butterflies of different colors.

Laurel hanging over West Prong

On our way back down to the Chimneys picnic area, we visited Fort Harry Falls.

Fort Harry Falls

And we did talk about the Civil War history, as I’d wanted to do, the vicious phase of the war when Colonel Kirk’s Union raiders attacked several places in western NC and were met in battle by the Thomas legion of Confederate Cherokees. But Confederate bushwhackers did similar damage in Cades Cove, and in the end, the important thing for me is, Confederate bushwhackers murdered my great-great grandfather in Flat Rock, NC, in 1864.