Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cane Creek Spring Wildflower Hike

Mountain Bellwort along Goldmine Road Trail

Cane Creek Spring Wildflower Hike

Dana Koogler solo

8 miles round trip approx.

Pictures are here:

Cane Creek Hike Photos

   I had been longing to get out to hike and see Spring wildflowers and soak up some fresh air and sunshine.  I worked the weekend and had planned to get out Sunday with the family to hike and picnic.  We did go, but the weather turned foul and was cold, windy and raining.   Monday rolled around and promised a day to myself with perfect weather.  I had been mulling over several different ideas of places to go.  I considered Cane Creek Trail, but there was the inner battle to go there or somewhere else? A couple things settled it for me.  One was its proximity
 to home giving me more time on the trail and less on the road.   I had hiked this trail several times before.  I had even hiked it before in Spring. What I had not done was hiked it as a destination to itself in Spring. It had been part of a long backpack trip with Dan Heimsoth.  By the time we trudged out that trail we were weary and all we cared for was getting to the Little River Barbeque for dinner!    I knew that with a lighter pack and a more focused eye today I'd see things differently and I'd be glad I picked this area.

      I woke at 4:15 am and lay awake. I was so looking forward to getting out in the
woods I could hardly contain myself.   I planned to hunt morrels on my way.   We had found some on our backpack trip, but by the time we made it out they were beat to pieces!  I took along a poke to carry them out in safely.  I was on the trail and in the woods by 8:30 am.   Foothills Parkway was beautiful this morning with the sun coming up.   


View from Foothills Parkway in the early morning light.

      I arrived at the Top of the World and parked the jeep and hit the trail.
I was pleased to find Goldmine Road trail in better shape than the last time I hiked it.
It was not as muddy today and the downed trees were cleared.  I saw a few pretty wildflowers along the trail here.  The streams were running good today from last nights
rain.  Today was sunny and warming up.  The forest smelled so good!  Today would be a hike through the piney woods. One of my favorite kinds of hikes!

       I hiked along and made the turn onto Cooper Road trail. I compare it to the Road to Hell. Wide, easy and paved with good intentions!  I had just come to the junction with Cane Creek Trail when I heard something that stood my hair up.  I have run into lots of bears over the years. I've even been bluff charged. I have never heard what I did today before.  I heard a bear bellering out in pain.  I never did see it, but I could hear it crashing down through the trees and hear it bawl and yelp.  I'd rather see one than hear it.  That was scarier than seeing one.  
I am standing here with camera in hand waiting and watching to know if I will be able to see the bear I can hear in the distance directly ahead.

One of many fords along Cane Creek Trail. They vary from easy rock hops to ankle deep wades!

Catesbys trillium is one of the main wildflowers along this trail.

Trillium leuteum is also prominent along the paths today.

    I brought along my water shoes but I only used them once.  It was warm and I just plowed through the creeks when necessary with boots on.  I get tired of taking the water shoes on and off.  I hiked past camp site #2 and it is in rough shape thanks to numerous downed trees.  Bear cables are in good working order and I did not see a scrap of trash, but the trees downed in the middle of the site are a hassle. I'd hate to have been staying there when they fell.   Not far past the camp is the Buchanan Cemetery.  I did not go up there today.  I am not big on old cemeteries, but I have gone there before in June or July.
I go to see the mountain camellias blooming!  They are so pretty and smell good too.

     The Cane Creek trail is interesting. It is an easy trail.  It doesn't have a lot of steep ups and downs.  It has some bad places in it thanks to horse traffic.  It is getting little use from either humans or horses though.  It is having so little use that the grass is growing in the trail in places and to me that's great.   The creek and the trail become one in some spots.  It has pools of water along it with tadpoles sometimes.
I only saw one like that today.    Some patches are through rhododendron tunnels and forest deep and dark. Gorge walls enclosing you on both sides.  Sometimes the forest opens up and lets in the sun and is like a cathedral of tall slender trees with sun filtering through the canopy like stained glass windows.  The scent of pine trees and fresh green growth is all around.  I thank God for his created works and for His Holy Spirit to lead me
in quiet places and keep me safe and peaceful.

Forest gloom at 10 am.

Sunny and open forest with Spring green & sunshine.

Catesby's trillium ages pink similar to T. grandiflora

     I continued my hike steadily along until I reached the park boundary.  The official trail ends here, but the path continues. It becomes the Cane Creek man-way now.  It is maintained by the Blackberry Farm.   It is posted private property, but they seem to have an unspoken agreement with the GSMNP of reciprocity.  Long as you aren't hassling their paying customers you can come over on this side.  I stopped to take pictures of the rusty truck.  I kept pushing on passing some beautiful slides and cascades in the stream. 
Rusty ole' truck

One of many slides in the stream.

     Once you get past the old truck and this slide area the creek crossings are bridged!
Chicken Crossing is just below this. Next is Lambert Millenium Bridge.. the suspension bridge. See the picture below. Today it was especially scenic, bouncy and fun. Eleanor Hail.. I thought of you today here. I was jumping on the bridge making it bounce and laughing and thinking of Fluffy the Elephant!.. ME!   If only I had a trunk to make trumpeting sounds!

Lambert Millenium Bridge

     The next bridge doesn't have a name, but it has lots of character. It is sloped and while crossing it is quite sturdy and not scarey at all.. Just look at it! 
Propped up on a log and a boulder! The stream here is gorgeous. Deeper and wider and looks like it would be a good place to cool off in Summer.

Cane Creek looking downstream from the slanted bridge.

    I continued down the trail and came to my right turn into West Millers Cove and Hurricane Holler.   I saw lots of turkeys and a wide open meadow of green grass, blue skies and sunshine.  It stood rimmed by redbud trees and dogwood blossoms.  Heaven must look a lot like this. 
Beautiful Spring Day in West Millers Cove

Turkey gobbler strutting in the field. He knows he's safe. There's no hunting here.

    I stood looking at the cove and I knew something was still not right initially.
I was trying to find the way me and Dan came out a few years ago.  I had found morrels there and was wanting to find some today.  I remembered a fence of some sort.  I stood looking at the river before me and a rocky outcrop that projected over the river.  The meadow ended here at a bend in the river.  I turned away and closed my eyes and then
turned back toward the end opening my eyes for a fresh look.  I see it.  The way is up and over.  A barely visible trace about six inches wide up and over the rocks.  Once up on the bluff I had a great view of the river and could continue into the second meadow!

I'm goin' t' the bluff! I've got a grandstand view of the river below me!

Once on the bluff I was right by a nice patch of trout lilies!

   I kept pressing forward til I came to a stile and a fence. I knew I was in the right place. I saw a side trail leading up over the ridge to my right.  I sallied forth into Hurricane Holler and hunted mushrooms for awhile. I was unsuccessful, but at least I knew why.  The wild hogs have been busy!  Someone has set numerous hog traps to try to stop them.   They are destructive to wildflowers and mushrooms and everything they come in contact with.
The stile had little effect keeping them out.  It was real pretty back there so I sat down and ate my lunch and rested in complete solitude and quiet.

Small cascade on Hurricane Branch

The view as I ate lunch. Before me is a large hog trap. I hope they get 'em!

   I hated to leave, but I had to begin working my way back. I knew I had a long walk back to the jeep and some uphill to do.  I eased on out of there taking my time.


Redbud trees in bloom on the edge of the meadow.

One spot along the walk was filled with blue phlox and looked a lot like White Oak Sinks!

    I continued ever onward making my way back to the vehicle.  I did better than expected and was out of there by 4:15 pm sitting in my jeep fixing to drive home!
Today's hike is one that will be a treasured memory.

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