A Few Winter Hikes to share….

4:37 p.m. on January 12, 2013 (EST)
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I normally don’t post my day hikes but the last few weeks have left me with no time for overnight trips.

Things have been hectic lately but I found time to squeeze in a few short trips and even two with my wonderful wife Susan! These are all in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park (closest place to home) at various locations.

We started with a quick foray into the Big Creek area on a crisp weekend.

Editoral note: (I used the forum tools to embed the photos this time instead of linking them so they are clickable and not fixed)

Here was Susan bundled to protect from the 10 degree temps and occasional wind.





This is a snowy shot of Big Creek.





I stole the backcountry ninja motif from Gonzan.





Here is Susan carefully stepping down an embankment for a river side rest stop.





The next outing was a “we don’t care if it rains all day” trip. I had wanted to see the Walker Sisters cabin and a couple of nearby trails for some time. This was an area I usually avoid due to excessive tourism but we decided to gear-up and go in the rain.

We started from the Wear Cove Road junction with the Greenbrier School driveway (gated and closed to cars for the winter).





That’s the old School House. It’s one room of course.





A couple miles further was the Walker Sisters cabin. The spring house is on the left.

They were the last residents of the area purchased for the park. The family eventually was reduced to five sisters that never married and opted to remain in the mountains living out their days in the subsistence lifestyle. They negotiated a “life-time lease” with the government and the last sister died in 1963.

We had lunch on the porch and tried to imagine life in what was once a remote homestead.





Here was Susan out back near the old barn.





We explored the surrounding woods a bit and found this big old oak. (big by eastern US  standards anyway).






I filled up our water bottles from the Walker Spring before leaving.






Next we hiked up to a boundary trail that I had never seen.

Boundary trails are a mixed bag here because they will kill your illusion of remoteness (when you can see houses and roads); but as such they are not well traveled and can often result in not seeing other humans for the whole day. We found a nice spot overlooking Wear Cove valley and enjoyed intermittent views through the fog.

Next up was a trip to Mt LeConte that I did solo.

I started from the Rainbow Falls trailed head in the early AM.





There were some very icy spots in the shady places despite the recent warming trend.





Ice covered greenery makes neat pictures.





You can’t tell from here with no context but that is actually an 80 foot waterfall.







 It was tricky getting close as the mist from the falls was frozen over all surfaces.






I had made it most of the way without spikes by skipping around the ice but finally had to put on the micro-spikes when I reached this.

It would have been extremely dangerous without aid. The LeConte blog described these parts as “nearly impassable” without crampons; however I did meet one pair of backpackers on the mountain without spikes and they were really sorry they didn’t bring any, vowing to never make the same mistake.






The trail was essentially just slick ice for the rest of the ascent and most of the mountain top (about my next 4 miles of trekking on my 17 total mile day)

Ice or not, it was a really nice day on the mountain and I was glad to be up there!






This was approaching the Ciff Tops Overlook.





The burnt sienna colored shrubs are Sand Myrtle and turn deep green with white blooms in summer but offer a pleasing contrast against the light rock in this season.





This was a great but windy spot.

I’m wearing full zip rain pants over a poly/wool base layer for the trip and I had them unzipped for ventilation. My wife tells me it looks like pantaloons when I do that. :) She just saw me writing this and started singing  “can’t touch this” inferring I’m MC Hammer as it were..





The trail was still icy on top of the mountain and downright treacherous in spots.

Here was nice spot on the way to Myrtle Point.




Almost to the Point here; I’m not going to show any of the Point pictures, ‘cause really you gotta put in the work to see that  Lol The spot has really nice views, almost 360 degrees.



Eventually I had to head back down the ice chute, er, I mean trail.


As I descended the Bullhead route, the sun had cleared up the lower elevation sections.



I’ll end the report with a picture of some frosty moss. Yes I like to say “frosty moss”.



Hope you enjoyed the report blurb...

Happy Trails my fellow outdoor enthusiasts!

9:25 p.m. on January 12, 2013 (EST)
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Some great shots, patman! Frozen waterfalls are always a highlight on winter hikes. The icy parts of those trails up high look pretty treacherous though.

10:03 p.m. on January 12, 2013 (EST)
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When you can't make it out for the longer trips, sometimes you just have to settle for whatever you can get. And if you can get your wife to come with you, all the better. 

Interesting history about the Walker sisters, and the solo looks like a lot of fun. Once winter hits, my Microspikes live in my backpack. For the weight, I've never been sorry I brought them, 'cause when you need, them, often you REALLY need therm!

Beautiful photos as usual, Patman. 

5:06 p.m. on January 13, 2013 (EST)
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nice trip reports and pics. I wish we lived closer to the Smokies

8:43 p.m. on January 13, 2013 (EST)
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Nice shots of the ice. I love that trail. Good thing you had the spikes with you. 

11:55 p.m. on January 13, 2013 (EST)
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Looks like some great trips!

7:45 a.m. on January 14, 2013 (EST)
Rob R
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Nice hikes!

2:29 p.m. on January 15, 2013 (EST)
Linda Navroth
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Nice one!

7:56 a.m. on January 16, 2013 (EST)
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Hey thanks everyone!



Peter and Bigup79,

yeah I always bring my spikes now when I go in cold weather to the places over 6000 feet (1829 meters) like these.

A few years ago I actually fell on the ice, cut my arm open on sharp shale that was protruding like a knife blade up through the ice and snow; it required a trip to the ER and bunch of stitches. And worst of all the injury ruined the trip. All I could think about was how much my arm hurt. So for the minimal weight of micro-spikes I can potentially save a trip the hospital!  

8:48 p.m. on January 16, 2013 (EST)
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A great read Patman, the photos were all very cool!

I have slipped a few times myself, I never seem to learn - but I agree the weight of the microspikes would certainly be offset by their advantages.

Thanks for the wonderful views - nice to see you and Susan having fun.

Mike G.

1:24 p.m. on January 17, 2013 (EST)
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I liked this one too, Patman, especially with the historical buildings.

I fall on my backside nearly once a week in the snow and ice, think it is something to do with overconfidence. Those microspikes are great but a few days ago, the heel slipped off on some slate rock and I nearly went tobogganing. You see, if I get the next size down, they will stay on the boots a bit better but I already pull a muscle putting the bloody things on in the cold, so I stick with the ones I have now.

Its amazing how strong things like the elbow are. In fact, I am staggered by the strength of healthy bones but who know how long that will last? (Mental note: eat my greens.)

PS, all your trip reports must include your wife, from now on.

5:13 p.m. on January 17, 2013 (EST)
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just a wonderful area. great report!

3:24 p.m. on February 1, 2013 (EST)
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Fantastic pictures, Patrick! I love all of the ice pictures as well as the LeConte pictures. I am going to do Mt. LeConte again in the near future. I will have to try the Rainbow Falls approach that you took. It looks amazing!

10:16 a.m. on February 11, 2013 (EST)
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Great report on some wonderful hikes, Pat.

I've wanted to hike LeConte in the winter for some time, and this just bolsters that desire :) 

July 7, 2020
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