Saturday, January 9, 2016

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Lower Miry Ridge and Blanket Mountain Manway via Jakes Creek Trail

My first Smokies hike of 2016. I managed to make the drive without getting a speeding ticket like the last time I hiked in the Smokies. I arrived at the Jakes Creek Trailhead a little bit after 8am for my hike up to Miry Ridge Trail. I hit the trail and passed through the old, abandoned vacation homes. I noticed a foundation that I don't recall seeing before
and a few interpretive signs that I don't think had been installed the last time I visited.
special house
Soon I left Elkmont behind and followed the Jakes Creek Trail (a road really)
road hike
higher in elevation.

I had a very short section of new trail that I needed to hike between the junction with the Cucumber Gap Trail and the junction with the Meigs Mountain Trail. The trail signs in the area state that the section is .1 mile,
Meigs Jakes junction
but it doesn't even seem to be that long. The lower portions of the trail never wander too far from Jakes Creek and there were lots of views of cascading waters.
jakes Creek
Soon the road ended, I crossed a log bridge and followed a more traditional dirt path. I made my way onto the Miry Ridge Trail and noticed a few patches of ice in a few sections.
Most of the Miry Ridge Trail was a hike through rhododendron, but soon enough the vegetation opened up a bit and there were views out to the surrounding mountains.
mountains from highpoint of Miry Ridge

At the crest of the Miry Ridge Trail I found a faint manway and followed it and bushwhacked to the summit of Dripping Springs Mountain.
at summit of Dripping Spring
With no views from the summit, I quickly returned to resume my walk on the Miry Ridge Trail.
hike on ridge
Soon I found myself at the day's turnaround point, the junction with Lynn Camp Prong Trail.
I sat on a log near the trail junction and ate a snack, then I turned around for the return trip. The wind was really starting to whip up on the Ridge and I had to stop to put my hat and mittens back on. Things would warm up a bit as I got off of the ridge.

As I approached the intersection with the Panther Creek Trail I could see my next destination through the trees: Blanket Mountain.
Blanket Mtn thru trees
There is not an official trail to the summit of Blanket Mountain. Instead, there is an old trail, now considered to be a manway, that leads to the top. I made my way through an illegal campsite at the trail junction
start of manway
and headed into the woods.
ready for manyway
At first I could find no sign of the supposedly obvious manway, but soon enough I found it. It was pretty clear, with just a few blowdowns and overgrown rhododendron to dodge on the ascent.

At the summit of Blanket Mountain is the site of an old firetower and lookout's cabin. There's not much left, just the concrete foundations of the tower
foundation (2)
and a toppled chimney from the cabin.
fallen chimney
Still, it was an interesting site and I'm glad I made the 1.4 mile roundtrip effort. Once I left the summit of Blanket Mountain, the rest of my hike was all downhill. I made fast time, and did not stop to take photos. I was back to the car pretty quickly.

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