Sunday, February 19, 2017

Swift Camp Creek

The gravel roads are still closed in the gorge. I decided that I would park at the gate on Rock Bridge Rd and just walk the 3 miles to the normal trailhead and then loop back on the Turtle Back Arch trail to the road then my car. It would be about 11 miles, but ~5 miles would be the road, so an easy hike. I figured I would be guaranteed to have the place to myself.

Got out of the car at 9:30 after dropping kids at school/daycare. The thermometer said 30 degrees, it was overcast and damp. I'm glad I went back in the house to get a hat and gloves.

It was a pleasant road walk. After less than an hour, I was at the Rock Bridge Trailhead.

View from the overlook about half way down the Rock Bridge Trail, cold and grey, it started snowing about a half hour later.

I spent a little time photographing Creation Falls.

And then headed down the Swift Camp Creek Trail. Swift Camp Creek was really running, lots of silt from the last couple days of rain. It looked like the creek was 6-8 inches higher in the very recent past. When the weather warms up, I'm coming back to do a little creek walking.

Then off to check out Pooch Falls. I knew there was a waterfall here, but I had never bothered to climb down the cliff to actually see it from below. A while back, someone posted a picture on of the falls and I knew that I wanted to check it out the next time I was in the area. It is a very cool waterfall.

Then up the hill to find Turtle Back Arch. I had last been here a couple years ago and remembered the basic location. After a little bit of poking around, I found the arch. It ended up being higher up the cliff face than I remembered.

View from the top of the arch

It took a little bit of doing, but I made it to the top of the ridge and found a very obvious trail. It was very easy to follow once I was on top of the ridge. The sun had sort of appeared, so it was a very nice hike back to the road and then to my car.

Interesting tree, maybe a "Cherokee Tree"

A great 6 hours in the gorge. Once again, I did not see anyone.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Mt. Leconte

Alum Cave Trailhead Great Smoky Mountains
1/26 - 1/27/17
2017 bag nights: 1
Animals: 1 bear on top of Leconte, 4 deer on Rainbow Falls trail

I did not sleep well the night before, so I was up around 5:30 and on the road by 6:15 and at the trailhead around 10:00, basically I had a whole day of hiking ahead of me and what was looking to be a beautiful day.

The Alum Cave Trail parallels a typical Smokies creek for the first mile or so. It was a beautiful day, a little bit of clouds and temperatures right about 40. Great hiking weather.

Alum Cave was pretty neat, but very hard to capture in a photo.

The clouds started getting a little thicker as I climbed. By about 5000 feet, I was into the clouds and the long views were gone. It was still a good hiking day, but not what I was hoping for.

As I got higher, the trees were covered in frost.

The upper part of the trail has a lot of seeps, it was obvious why there is a recommendation for traction devices in the winter. The next day, parts of the trail were like an ice skating rink.

I got to the shelter around 2 and decided to hang my pack and head down to see Twin Falls on the Trillium Gap Trail. It was a good hike, but the falls were hard to photograph. They are more like a really long cascade that is impossible to capture in one photo.

I got back to the summit around 4:30 and a couple guys had shown up. I knew I wasn't going to be alone since the were 3 other shelter reservations, ended up one of their friends bailed, so it was the two of them and me. Nice guys, one had traveled all over the world, so interesting to talk to.

It was too early for dinner (about 5:00) so I went for a walk towards the lodge. I saw a bear moving behind one of the cabins, but he did not see me and he moved into the trees too quickly for me to get a photo.

Back to the shelter for dinner and conversation. The guys both snored and for some reason were up and moving around a little before 6, not a very good nights sleep. But, I was mostly warm even though the NWS said the low was 12 degrees.

The summit was still buried in clouds, so there was nothing much to see. I got excited for a minute near sunrise when I could see some stars, so I grabbed my camera and headed over to the Cliff Tops trail for a sunrise. Alas, the clouds came back. It was a nice little morning hike, but no views. The whole reason for the trip was views, and I was looking forward to the Boulevard Trail which supposedly is great, but with the clouds, I wasn't going to see anything. So, I decided to head back down the Alum Cave Trail to my car and then maybe do a little day hiking.

I had lots of fun photographing the creek on the way back down.

I passed tons of dayhikers which surprised me given the weather. Most of them looked completely unprepared for winter hiking. I had two women ask about going to the summit and when I described the elevation and the ice, they decided they would just hike to Alum Cave.

I got to my car about 1 and had lunch and then decided to check out Rainbow Falls. I hoped the weather would scare away most of the dayhikers. I then headed up the Rainbow Falls Trail. Once again, I was happy to have the tripod.

Burned tree from the recent Chimney Tops fire. The lower part of the trail definitely got hit by the fire.

I saw a couple of groups of people coming down the trail, but I basically had Rainbow Falls all to myself.

Smaller waterfall below Rainbow Falls.

And then back to the car and the drive home. Good trip, I just wish the clouds had cooperated.