Monday, April 22, 2013

Chimney Tops Nature Trail Wildflower Hike & Crooked Arm Cascade

Dwarf Crested Iris 

Chimney Tops Nature Trail Wildflower Hike & Crooked Arm Cascade

Dana Koogler solo 
Hike distance 2.5 miles total
Thursday April 18, 2013

Pictures are here:  
Chimney Tops Nature Trail Pix

  I had see beautiful photos of different people's photos of Chimney Tops Nature Trail taken during Spring wildflower season.  I had never hiked it and knew I needed to go check it out.  I had been saving it for a family hike and picnic, but plans kept getting messed up by weather and other things.   I wanted to get out on Thursday and spend a day in the sun and woods. Friday called for foul weather with lots of rain and turning cold.
We had plans to go away for part of the weekend and I needed to get home at a reasonable time to pack.  I figured today was the perfect time to do a combination hike.
I'd hike Chimney Tops Nature Trail today. I'd drive the river road out to Cades Cove and view wildflowers along the way.  I'd hike Crooked Arm Cascade and wrap up my day by
driving out Rich Mountain Road to head home.  I turned out to be real pleased with my choices.

Silver Bell tree in peak bloom!

     I knew Chimney Tops Nature Trail was part of the Wildflower pilgrimage tour and there would be lots of people.  It was busy, but I got an early start and found a good parking spot.   Everyone was in a good mood and friendly. I met and talked with lots of very pleasant fellow wildflower enthusiasts and hikers.   I had a good time.  The trail was
a loop and the main attraction here is the carpets of fringed phacelia and the trilliums!
The fringed phacelia is what makes those snowy white carpets of flowers!  It is a tiny, delicate beauty.  The large flowered trilliums were incredible! They lined the banks and were too numerous to count!  Some had begun to age to pink and that always adds some variety to the display!  

Carpet of Fringed Phacelia

Closeup view of the little flower that puts on such a big show!

White wakerobin, yellow violets, and fringed phacelia in a grouping.

Masses of trilliums to be seen along the way.

Crisp, pure white of a freshly bloomed Trillium grandiflora

A particularly scenic spot along the path. A bench surrounded by wildflowers!

  The path is uphill for part of it and has some parts that are rocky and make you work a little bit, but overall it is not hard.  There are benches provided along the way as rest stops.
I really liked this trail and could not believe I had not hiked it sooner! I will try to revisit here and hike it at different times during the bloom season to see what else I might find in the way of wildflowers?  It is a rich, cove hardwood forest so it should have some other pretty things in bloom during different times of the year.

Sun shining down through the forest canopy. I was very glad I got out to hike today and
soak up some warm weather, breezes, sunshine and blue skies! The next morning we entered Dogwood Winter in earnest!

Blue skies over Chimneytops Nature Trail

      I saw lots of beautiful wildflowers here.  Some that I saw were blue cohosh, dwarf ginseng, white violets, yellow violets, purple violets, trilliums, phacelia of purple and fringed, showy orchis, dwarf crested iris, white wakerobin,  canada violets, bishops cap,trillium leuteum, nodding mandarin, wild geranium and phlox.   It was also nice to be
at a facility where there are other people happy and having a good time.  It was good to have bathroom facilities with running water and paper towels.  I don't mind roughing it and do so frequently, but I was glad for modern conveniences today.  I take a fluid pill and sometimes I feel like I have a bladder the size of a thimble!

      On to Crooked Arm Cascade!

Pictures are here on pg 20 starting with frame 309
Crooked Arm Cascade Pix

   I drove out the river road all the way to Cades Cove.  I usually take the local route and cut across at Metcalf Bottoms to go home, but today I was heading to the cove. I did not want to miss anything in bloom along the way there. I was pleased to have chosen this route today! Lots of other people had the same idea, but traffic was not bad at all. Nothing near what I expected.  I don't have a lot of road rage like the Silverback in the family.  That big gorilla is the one to cuss out fellow motorists 99% of the time.
Kenny Koogler .. has 0 tolerance for slowpokes on the road.


Little River and redbuds in bloom along my way.

I saw great masses of these wild columbines in bloom along the rocky roadside on my way out to Cades Cove!

Me pulling off every little bit to take pictures! I was really thankful for those many well placed pull offs today! Blue blue skies and puffy white clouds!

    I stopped at the main parking area for Cades Cove just before starting around the loop.
I sat there and ate a quick cup of yogurt for lunch. I asked the man at the info booth to be certain that Rich Mountain road was open today. He confirmed that it was.  I set out to hike to Crooked Arm Cascade and planned to drive that road on my way home.

    I had not gone far when I spotted something neat on the trail.  The dry dirt beside the trail suddenly sprung up with lime green sprouts.  I took a closer look and there by my feet were about a dozen adders tounge ferns! 
Southern Adder's Tounge Fern. Ophioglossum vulgatum. It doesn't look much like what you'd expect for a fern, does it?   Watch close to the ground for these delicate, interesting little plants.

     I had forgotten just how easy and beautiful a hike it was to Crooked Arm.
The piney woods smelled heavenly.  Lots of green fresh new growth and the scent of pines and a good breeze today.   I saw a side path and turned to follow it.  I was very glad I did because after all these years I finally saw a lower portion of these cascades I had never visited before!

Lower Crooked Arm Cascade

    I turned back to the main trail and continued up the hill and around the bend just a bit further and I could hear the main falls of Crooked Arm Cascade.  I found a steep, rutted side path leading down to it.   I carefully picked my way down the bank until I stood before the falls.

Crooked Arm Cascade is about 25 feet high. There was not as much water coming over it today as I have seen, but it was still worth the trip.

    I stood and enjoyed the falls for a spell.   The water sounded so nice.
I loved the view of the new green leaves fanned out over the falls. Around the falls yellow and black butterflies soared and swooped.   Showy orchis, large flowered trilliums, and perfoliate bellwort bloomed around the falls on the banks.  Moss and ferns and other delicate plants lined the far bank where it was wetter.    I checked out the debris mat below the falls for snakes, but did not find any today.  I finally trudged back up the bank and hit the trail to make my way to the jeep.    I found myself confronted by a pair of gentle does who wanted to visit.  They checked me out and posed for pictures.
The grazed and batted their eyelashes at me.   I talked to them and they nodded back to me.

One of a pair of does on my way out from Crooked Arm

Beautiful clear day out in Cades Cove

   I cruised out through Cades Cove enjoying the sights. I did not see any bears today, but I did see turkeys!  I also saw some very pretty vistas and some more wildflowers.  I saw bluebells along the roadside.  I turned onto Rich Mountain Road to enjoy a country drive with much less traffic and hopefully some pretty wildflowers.  I was not disappointed. I saw some nice views and wildflowers. I only saw one other vehicle the whole time.
I saw three men on horseback who came up the road about the time I was crossing the park boundary line.    I took my time and enjoyed the quiet and easy, leisurely drive.
I grew up driving on stuff like this and worse.  It is a great road to me. It is like an interstate highway far as I'm concerned.  
View back into Cades Cove from Rich Mountain Road

Rich Mountain Road in good shape.

View toward Dry Valley from Rich Mountain Road

Spotted mandarin in bloom! First time seeing it in the Smokies!

Dwarf Larkspur in bloom near Rich Mountain Road

    I enjoyed stopping along the way home and seeing various pretty things.
I ended up in Townsend where I needed to be to get a few items from the store before heading home.   I had a full day that was enjoyable and still got me home in time to pack for the next episode tomorrow!  

Here is a short video highlighting what I saw today. Turkeys dancing, lower and upper Crooked Arm falls, and the deer out on the trail.

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