Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Spruce Flats & Honey Cove Hikes


Foam Flowers



Spruce Flats & Honey Cove

Dana Koogler solo

Monday April 29, 2013

Pictures are here: 
Spruce Flats & Honey Cove Pix

Honey Cove Falls Video

Lower and Upper Spruce Flats Falls Video

    I wanted to get out to hike, but not drive a long way. I had learned of an upper falls back in Honey Cove.   I was intrigued so I decided today with all the rain we'd had over the weekend would be a great day to hike Spruce Flats and Honey Cove.
I'd done both hikes many times, but I had never gone very far down either manway.
I loaded the GPS coordinates and gathered my gear and set out.

      I arrived at Tremont about 12:30 and of course there were lots of cars in the parking lot of the Institute.   I grabbed my backpack and hit the trail.   It had turned out to be a real pretty day.  Some cloud cover in blue skies. Breezy and 75 degrees!  The leaves are all on the trees finally. Spring! Glorious Spring!

        I only saw eight people on the trail today. All of them were hiking out as I was hiking in.   I was surprised not to see more folks out, but I suppose all those vehicles were employees and campers at Tremont.   I had not gone far til I had to stop to take pictures. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Wisters coralroot orchid blooming by the trail. It is a very inconspicuous and rather rare orchid to find. I'd seen it before, but not in the Smokies.   I also found one flowered cancerroot in bloom along the trail here in great quantities! I've only seen it one other place. It is parasitic and lacks chlorophyll.   


Wister's coralroot just beginning to open. 




One flowered cancerroot. Takes its nutrition from the plants around it.

   I also saw in this spot some type of lip fern growing out on the cliff.  I did get a photo of it and it was quite pretty, but the picture was blurry.  It was hard to stay still while on that steep bank. I really did not want to fall today.  I also saw yellow trilliums, dwarf crested iris, and star chickweed.  The Spring wildflowers at this elevation are already past peak, but still pretty.


        I hiked a little further til I came to some of the nice views from the Buckeye Trail.

The trail winding on. It has been repaired from past damage and looked great today!


Pretty view off into the Yonder!


     I came to a small side stream that crossed the trail and for the first time ever the stream and the trail were one here for a short distance! We've REALLY had a lot of rain!  I looked around here for copperheads, but never did see any.  I did see little brown jugs and the first vaseys trillium of the season!   I continued along and came to the foot log that has been cut into steps. I always like that. Who ever invented those is really clever.  I could hear and see the river below me raging past!  Before long I was at Spruce Flats Falls. It was roaring along today.


Spruce Flats Falls-- the main attraction. There are more falls above this and below it is one more. The manway hike begins by fording the stream here.  You can see that for all the water flow today fording was still no problem.

    I stopped to take photos of Spruce Flats Falls and realized I had lost my polarizer. I also realized I failed to bring the GPS with me.  I was disgusted with myself, but was having a good time and not going to let it ruin my mood.  I knew I'd left the GPS on the desk, but I also knew I had never gotten here with my polarizer.  It did not make the trip with me today. It may turn up in the truck or the RZR, but I think it is gone.  No matter. I have a backup I'll try and if that is not satisfactory I'll order another one.

      The falls was beautiful today.  I always like coming here. It is such an easy hike and so rewarding.   I had brought my water shoes, but I had already made up my mind with the way the river was flowing that I was not going to use them. I wanted to leave my boots on for traction and protection and just plow on through.  I would put the water shoes on back at the jeep when I was ready to drive home. 

Honey Cove Falls-- this falls is about 30 ft high and very pretty.  I did find a small upper cascade, but I knew from looking at it that it was not the real Upper Honey Cove Falls.
That is further up and is supposed to be a wet weather falls.

   I had always stopped here at this point along the Honey Cove Manway.  The path appears to end, but it doesn't.  It keeps going and is fairly easy to follow.  I went back there quite a ways. I'd guess 1/2 mile and then decided I was taking a foolish risk. I had no GPS coordinates to guide me and I had no idea where this manway ended up??  I guessed it would come out at Buckhorn Gap. I later learned from the map that it does make a left and go out to Buckhorn Gap, but you can keep going on it!  There are many possible destinations by following this manway!

    I headed back and found a yellow lady slipper, but the bloom was frozen and stunted. It will live to bloom another year, but this year's bloom is done for.   I stopped to climb down over the bank to see Upper Spruce Flats Falls. 
Upper Spruce Flats Falls.. a partial view

     I headed back toward the start of the Honey Cove Manway. I took a turn in the direction of Spruce Flats.  I followed the old railroad grade onward. It had lots of downed trees and brush on it in places.  Some spots along it were wide open! 
Spruce Flats Manway is part of the old railroad bed.


Spruce Flats


Lots and lots of foam flowers along the old manway. They smelled so great!

   I saw lots of foam flowers, purple phacelia along the way.  I also began seeing lots of pioneer junk.  Metal parts of old trains, culverts, bottles, cans, shoe soles, and broken glass.  I also saw a couple metal pans hung up. 


Pioneer Junk

   I followed the path out to the river and sat down on the bank and ate a snack and rested.  The river was really chugging past with a high flow today.


Middle Prong

   I reversed my trek. I then took a small side trip out toward Marks Creek.  I followed another unofficial path. I did not know if this was a continuation of the Spruce Flats Manway or if it had another name?  I learned upon getting home and by looking at the 1931 Smokies map that I had completed an unfinished leg of a previous off trail adventure.   It ties in with my Blanket Mtn Manway, Marks Creek Manway trips.

   I made it back to the vehicle very tired but happy.  It was a beautiful hike.

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