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Anakeestaland January 29, 2014

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, nature, Smoky Mountains.
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On the western side of Anakeestaland: Trout Branch Scar

Toward the western side of Anakeestaland: Trout Branch Scar.

Deep in the heart of the Smokies lies a realm called Anakeestaland that for some reason doesn’t show up on the map. Roughly speaking, it extends from the Chimneys to Eagle Rocks—but only at the higher elevations. You have to work upward through the sandstone regions to get there.

In Anakeestaland you find a certain combination of things: tidy cushions of sand myrtle, aromatic Rhodo minus, the green-striped Grass of Parnassus. The peregrine falcon chooses to live here.

The Chimneys are located in Anakeestaland.

The Chimneys are located in Anakeestaland.

Anakeestaland collects violent storms. Catastrophic downpours rearrange things periodically, scouring out the side valleys, shoving piles of fractured rock downstream and snapping off big trees. In the logjams at the bottom, treetrunks have been twisted and the bark stripped off, ragged strips of fibrous wood have been peeled back.

Climbing upward, you pass through the regions of smooth sandstone and cross the boundary line into brittle, angular rock that makes good handholds—if the grain runs horizontally. Where it runs vertically, the going is more difficult.

Anakeesta with vertical grain near Shutts Prong.

Anakeesta with vertical grain near Shutts Prong.

For anyone who spends time scrambling over these rocks, the sandstone and the Anakeesta develop distinctive personalities. In keeping with the typical profile of Smokies slopes, the climbing gets steeper in Anakeestaland. Things mysteriously intensify.

In the upper crags of Anakeestaland.

In the upper crags of Anakeestaland.

So many times I have made that journey and crossed that frontier into the high, challenging, beautiful realms.

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No Name Ridge.

The ridge with the paradoxical name of No Name.

Trout Branch scar revisited September 24, 2013

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, photography, Smoky Mountains.
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Looking up the landslide scar.

Looking up the landslide scar.

Last November I visited the Trout Branch scar with James Locke on a chilly day with a mix of snow and drizzle in the air. I had problems with cold fingers and gloves, and the photos I took weren’t good. I’d been thinking about returning ever since, and on a lovely September day I decided to revisit the scar on my own.

The landslide occurred last August. It runs from the Alum Cave trail a little above Alum Cave down to Trout Branch. Greg Harrell, who pioneered the route, calls it the “thousand foot scar” because it runs from 5000′ down to 4000′.

I was curious whether this year’s January flooding had made any difference in the washout. It had, in a way most evident in the position of the logjam at the bottom. Formerly standing to the side of Trout Branch, it has now been shoved right into the midst of the stream. Further up, things don’t look much different. The August washout had already completed the job of scouring the stream valley down to the bedrock. It looks as though, along the sides, a few more trees have been swept away.

The exposure of the Anakeesta bedrock to the air has resulted in severe acidification of the streamwater. In Trout Branch, rocks are noticeably red from sulfuric deposits. I would guess that trout no longer find Trout Branch a good place to live.

What follows is a photo gallery.

Cascade on Trout Branch.

Cascade on Trout Branch.

Stones in pool.

Stones in pool.

Double cascades. Note red-tinted rock in center.

Double cascades. Note red-tinted rock in center.

Red-tinted rocks.

Red-tinted rocks.

Huge logjam up ahead.

Huge logjam up ahead.

I climbed around the logjam.

I climbed around the logjam.

Looking up at sandstone portion of slide.

Looking up at sandstone portion of slide.

Huge slabs of exposed bedrock.

Huge slabs of exposed bedrock.

The water stains the rock.

The water stains the rock.

Starting to make upward progress.

Starting to make upward progress.

Logjam in chute.

Logjam in chute.

Foam in the water.

Foam in the water.

Getting into Anakeesta.

Getting into Anakeesta.

Steep pitch of Anakeesta.

Steep pitch of Anakeesta.

Looking down the chute.

Looking down the chute.

Anakeesta slabs.

Anakeesta slabs.

The ridges glowed in the afternoon sunlight.

The ridges glowed in the afternoon sunlight.

Anakeesta layers.

Anakeesta layers.

Above this blowdown the footing is so loose it's better to go into the woods.

Above this blowdown the footing is so loose it’s better to go into the woods.

When I was just below this blowdown, someone looked down from the trail and saw me climbing up the scar. “Are you in trouble?” she called down. “Do you need help?” “No,” I said.  “Just doing a little bushwhacking.” Soon after that I was standing on the trail.

A beautiful short hike.

Big Duck Hawk Ridge.

Big Duck Hawk Ridge.