Thursday, June 29, 2017

Waterfalls and wildflowers

6/6 - 6/7/17 (1 night)
Elkmont/ Jakes Creek Trailhead, GSMNP

Jakes Creek => Panther Creek => Middle Prong => Lynn Camp Prong => Miry Ridge => Jakes Creek
Campsite #28

2017 bag nights: 8

I headed to the Smokies to see the synchronous fireflies and to do a little hiking and see/photograph a couple of waterfalls.

I headed up the Jakes Creek and realized that I should have looked at the map a little closer. It was pretty obvious that this was going to be a steep climb and it was warm. I probably should have gone a little slower because I was soaked by the time I got to Jakes Gap (about 2000 feet higher). As I got close to the top of the climb, I heard a crash off to the side and looked up in time to see the back of a bear cruising downhill. I really wish they would pause long enough for a picture before they ran, but they always seem to run the minute they notice me. I guess that is a good thing.

The Jakes Gap trail has lots of little water crossings, but it is easy to keep your shoes dry. There is a nice little waterfall just off the trail.




The Panther Creek trail is wet and towards the bottom, it is impossible to find a dry crossing. There was no point in trying to stay dry since I knew I had to ford the Middle Prong. The map has a high water caution, but even with the recent rain, it was easy to cross, the water in the deepest part never got to the bottom of my shorts.

No picture of the ford at Middle Prong, but here is one of many creek crossings on the Panther Creek Trail.

Then up the Middle Prong trail to find the Indian Flats waterfall. It is an awesome waterfall with 3 distinct levels. It would be neat to be able to see the whole thing at once, but the layers stretch down the hill making that impossible.

The top layer of the falls is easy to get to and worth the little scramble



The middle layer takes a little more work to get to, but is worth it


The bottom layer involved some climbing over and under bushes (rhododendron and laurel), but was not too bad.  It looks like the creek bed flattens out here, so I did not try to get lower.


Then on the Lynn Camp Prong Trail and towards campsite #28. I got there about 6:30 and there were three guys there cooking their dinners. I found a place to hang my hammock and chatted with them a bit. They had know each other since kindergarten and were in their 60's. One of them had biked from Montana to Alaska and had also done a 25 day trip down the Grand Canyon in December. Nice to chat with, but I probably would have preferred to be by myself.

When I got up to hang my hammock and get ready for bed, I noticed my right ankle was stiff/sore, a little weird since it is my left ankle that has been bothering me and I did not remember doing anything to it. In retrospect, I should have soaked it in the cold creek water while I ate dinner.

I got my hammock setup and read for a bit. The little bit of sunset though the trees looked nice, I'll bet it was a good night to be up high on a ridge.



I got up in the middle of the night to water the bushes and saw a couple fireflies that appeared to be synchronized, but there weren't many so I did not stay up.

I woke up in the morning to a beautiful day and a really sore ankle. The Lynn Camp Prong Trail climbs steadily towards Miry Ridge, but it is an easy hike even with a sore/inflamed ankle.



At this point, I was wondering if I should head back to the car or continue on to night 2 and the fireflies. I knew I could make it up the Little River, but I was worried about injuring my ankle since we were heading to Banff the next week and I was planning on a lot of hiking there. I decided to see what happened over the next couple of hours since there was no need to decide until I got a lot closer to Elkmont.

I had an early lunch at the intersection of Miry Ridge Trail and Lynn Prong Trail and talked to a couple day hikers that had started in Elkmont and were heading to Clingman's Dome. And then, down the Mirt Ridge Trail.

There is a part of the Miry Ridge Trail that is sunny and had lots of Mountain Laurel blooming. I spent a bit of time with my camera here.













A couple of Azaleas were still blooming.


I think this is Black Snakeroot

I got to the intersection of Miry Ridge and Jakes Creek trails and headed down the hill towards Elkmont. My ankle was bothering me enough that I was pretty sure I was going to head to the car when decision time came. There were quite a few day hikers on the Jakes Creek Trail as I got closer to Elkmont. I stopped at one point to soak my ankle and see if that helped. It definitely helped, but starting downhill again it was obvious that I should call it a day if I did not want to ruin the hiking in Banff. So, decision made, I made my way to the car. 

I stopped for a late lunch at Burger Master in Townsend and then headed home. A good trip, got to see a different part of the park, and the fireflies will be there next year.

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