Saturday, November 07, 2009

16 September 2009 Little Devil's Stairs and Mary's Rock

The week's luck of clear skies ran out this morning. A group of low clouds left us starting our hike truly walking in the clouds.

A little over an hour later the clouds were gone and the day was bright. We were on the trail and near Bolen Cemetery within the park.

A new flower (for us)

On a previous visit we hiked Big Devil's Stairs. It was a good hike and had some special sightings including a rattle snake and bats in the daylight. Little Devil's Stairs is a much less challenging hike (or maybe we were in better shape for this trip), but offers nice rock wall views during the climb. The hike brought us to one of the few waterfalls we visited on the trip. The lack of rain was really evident with very little flow over the falls.

Little Devil's Stairs gave us the only walking stick sighting during the trip.

It was really late in the year for this spring wildflower. This was one of a handful of violets we spotted on the trail today.

Our last short hike of the day was a walk to Mary's Rock. We had never stopped here before and didn't know what to expect. We knew the trail included a site of one of the first AT cabins in the park. The cabin site has some history as it mysteriously burned very early in the park's existence. Our trip to Mary's rock yielded a very nice overlook about 3/4 of the way up. Past that we were truly surprised by the sight of very large chestnuts on the side of the trail. Our surprise continued when Ali spotted the first of many trees in fruit. We have never seen an American Chestnut in bloom so seeing so many blooming was a treat.

Overlook on the way to Mary's Rock

Ali with a tall American Chestnut

One of many chestnuts we saw on the trees.

The overlook at Mary's Rock was nice. The afternoon was overcast and we were here near sunset, but still got a long distance view of the ranges. For anyone familiar with Skyline Drive, the road and parking visible in the lower section of the right side of the image is the location of the old Panorama Restaurant that has been closed for a number of years. We came to Mary's Rock searching for the benchmark at the site. Once we arrived we searched the flat rock plates looking for a horizontal mounting. After a long look I guessed correctly that the benchmark and reference disk were actually located on the flat surfaces on the tops of the point rocks. Eek... I'm not really afraid of heights (yes I am). This was really scary. I kept having visions of my gps going over the side, my camera going over the side, or me going over the side. Ali was smart. She watched me climb up; hang on; and take the photo.

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