Monday, June 9, 2014

Andrews Bald Hike --Another Go Smokies Hike!

Catawba Rhododendron blooms

Andrews Bald Hike--Another Go Smokies Hike!
Friday June 6, 2014
3.6 miles round trip 

Dana & Kenny Koogler
Marlene & George Denton
Betsy & David Lee
Duane & Darlene Allen
*cameo appearance by Ranger Pam Rogers & her spouse! 

Pictures are here starting with frame 67:
( Photos are a combination of two trips) 
   I think everyone who really likes hiking and wildflowers would agree that June
in East Tennessee is maddening!  The amount of stuff there is to see and places you want to go to
be sure you don't miss anything would have you running around like a chicken with its head cut off!
I had been consoling myself joking that I'd just have to wait until I'd quit my job to see it all.
My friend Betsy is enjoying her retirement and just shot that argument down. She reminded me that
even with her retiring she was still going mad trying to fit it all in!   I think truth be told it is just
an overwhelming passion for the outdoors for folks like me and there is no cure. But then I don't want
to be cured of this.    Below is a list of some of the things me and some others think we must
Barney Fife out in the month of June. 
  • Native orchid bloom time all over the Smokies and East TN
  • Flame azaleas & Catawba rhododendron bloom on Andrews Bald in the Smokies.
  • Native hybridizing azaleas blooming on Gregory Bald in the Smokies.
  • Native hybridizing azaleas on Hooper and Huckleberry Bald in the
  • Cherokee National Forest
  • Catawba rhododendron and flame azaleas blooming on Roan Mountain
  • And if that wasn't bad enough...... Darlene Allen showed me pictures of
  • purple fringed orchids blooming on the far side of the Smokies.  :-)
  It still drives me mad and makes me jealous and I want to see it all. I am just going to have to accept that there are only so many hours in the day. I will have to pick SOME of it and not ALL of it.
               Andrews Bald is an easy hike coming in at only 3.6 miles round trip.
Kenny was finally home from working out of town in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  He was craving
the mountains in the worst way after being down there in the flat lands and swamps.  He took off
work a day in order to join us all on a Go Smokies hike to the bald to see the blooms.  I had bragged
about all the nice friends I was making and fun I was having. Kenny had met some of these good people.
I wanted him to get to know more of them.   I was pleased it was going to work out .

           We met up at Sugarlands Visitor Center and figured out car pool details.  We were not in a huge
hurry seeing as how it is a relatively short hike.    We headed up to Clingman's Dome to begin our trek.
It is always busy up there. Today was no different.  I did not realize all the changes they have made to
the Clingmans Dome area.  The bathrooms are now converted to vault toilets.  The former bathroom building  is now a book store according to Duane Allen.  I will have to check that out next time.  I bet
our grandson Michael would enjoy making it to the top of Clingman's Dome Lookout Tower!

      We gathered our gear and got it together and soon we were on the trail.  I noticed Marlene visiting with a lady and a man as we waited for each other to be ready to hit the trail.  Turns out
that is ranger Pam Rogers and her spouse.   I did not talk to them at that time, but was fortunate enough to meet them later in the day. 

     Andrews Bald is reached by hiking along Forney Ridge Trail. The hike out  
to the bald has never been a particularly difficult one, but the trail improvements they 
have made are just the best!  The rocky places just down below the dome at the start of it were uneven and slippery. It made for slow going.   No more worries about that!  It is more even tread and I loved it.   The forest here is deep and dark hiking through the balsam zone of spruce and firs.   It is a "Red Riding Hood Forest".  Marlene kept looking for trolls and elves and goblins.  The birch trees grew on stilted roots.  The rocky crags along the trail were coated with moss and lichen.   It is cool and dark in spots. At other points along the trail there are good views toward Fontana Lake.   The fog lifted and swooped around the dome, the trail and the bald today. We saw lots of yellow clintonia blooming along the trail today. Some of them were very tall!

Shaconage at Clingmans Dome.  The Smoky Mountains are the Land of Blue Smoke.

Forney Ridge Trail heading toward Andrews Bald 


Betsy hiking along just ahead of me. 

       We came to the intersection with Forney Creek Trail where it turns right. 
It is a notorious trail for finding jettisoned gear.  Folks drag all sorts of crap down the trail then find they are far less interested in hauling it back out!  I had heard this about it, but until today I had not seen it for myself.   We saw three bags of stuff that was a tent, trash etc. folks had chosen to leave out in the woods.  It had been bagged to be hauled out. I was criticized by my husband 
for saying I'd help haul it out on the way back.  He seemed to think when I tested the weight of 
the bags that I was going to haul it out to the bald with me.  Uh.. no.  Just thinking ahead here.
We had another short uphill pull and we were there! 




Andrews Bald..  one of my favorite scenes from today.

Both flame azaleas and catawba rhodos mingled

     I prowled around the bald alone for a few minutes.  I joined the group out in the main area and sat down to eat some lunch and rest.   It was comfortable out here today.  I had brought a jacket but found I did not need it.    Once I had rested a tiny bit and eaten a quick PBJ sammidge I was ready to go again.   We were a little early for the bloom but it was still beautiful up here.
I prowled around in the edges and found plenty of azaleas in shades of orange and lots of deep purple catawba rhododendrons blooming.   It was too early for purple fringed orchids up at this elevation, but I was still having a good time. I also found upon returning home and looking at photos that we were truly late for the bloom season last visit here.  It was a good time, but
earlier is better.  My memory colors things up differently sometimes. Photos help refresh my memory and correct false assumptions.  We were late enough that what blooms we did see were
rather brown and crispy at the edges on the orchids so it was good to get on up here now!

         A stroll down to the lower sides of the bald down Forney Ridge proved to have lots more azaleas.  We had seen a bear run across Clingmans Dome Road on the way in.  I also saw a hummingbird zipping around the azaleas while up here!  I saw several pretty butterflies and lots of bees were nectaring in the blossoms.   

Flame azaleas on the lower slopes of the bald.

Watch the clouds swirl around us ..........

...And then clear skies once more! Sunny day on the bald.

            Everyone had plenty of time to explore and check things out and take pictures.
I probably added another 1/2 mile or so onto the hike because I went all the off the bald and re-entered the woods on Forney Ridge.    I would like to explore Jerry Bald sometime which is further out the ridge.  I can't find any info on it.   I am curious.  Once everyone was done exploring
we met back on top the bald and sat and snacked and talked and soaked up the sun.
Finally we got up to begin our hike back to the Clingmans Dome Parking area.

Another view of beautiful flame orange blooms

           The hike back did not seem bad at all.  I think the conversation had the most to do with that. Plenty of rest stops along the way.  The trail improvements help maintain a steady pace.   Made it a lot easier for me.    We stopped to chat with some fellow hikers Jim Hamilton and Gene Miller.
Very nice gentlemen and interesting conversationalists.    We stopped at the intersection with Forney Creek again to haul out trash. Pam Rogers and hubby were there with us!  He was wearing an external frame backpack that was empty to haul this stuff out.  Some other hikers had decided they'd take the bagged tent and use it so they took the heaviest item out with them!  How wonderful.   We ended up not having to help tote out any of it which suited me fine. We did laugh at the prospect that before we got back to the parking area we might still find that tent along the trail.
Turns out the people really did keep it!

              We took our time. Trudging on and on. We stopped to enjoy some of the views.
The clouds had parted allowing us to see Fontana Lake in the distance.   Kenny and David said they saw four hawks flying around over us.   I missed that.   It seemed like no time and we were popping out at the crush run portion of the trail just below the parking lot.   Back up we climbed
and the view from up here was quite pretty!  

View from Clingmans Dome parking area after the clouds lifted

         We stowed our gear. Visited and talked with one another. Changed shoes.
Cooled off.   At last we grudgingly went our way back down the mountain.     Back home until the next time.  I'm already looking forward to the next time.  A great day with friends on the trail.
I was tickled that Kenny really hit it off with everyone. I knew he would. I'm proud of him and 
wanted him to get to know these folks and them to know him.   He's a good guy and a fun person.
I can already see the effect the company of these crazy, funny, interesting people are having upon him.  The benefits are enormous.  David has talked him into getting that canoe I wanted.
I have listened to him brag to several different people at church about what a good time, how impressed he was with Davids accomplishments, etc. I see in my Crystal Ball of the Future........
Many many good times with our buddies on the trail...... off the trail...... and on the lakes and rivers!      I can hear it now. Whose idea was this anyway? We're lost.  Whew... a 1600 foot climb. I'm in!   

         I leave you with a short sketchy video of Andrews Bald. I am still learning about this camera's ability to videotape.   The images are crisp and the depth is amazing HD quality. The camera lacks the steadiness and ease of handling and zooming that my Nikon has. I will have to figure a way to compensate for it.  

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