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Old Dec 29, 2013, 5:43 PM   #1
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Default Good Old Rocky Top...

Will be leading a guided hike up to Rocky Top on Thunderhead Mt in the Smokies next month, so went there last week to check trail conditions. It's about a 14 mile hike with plenty of climbing - from Cades Cove picnic area to near the top of Thunderhead.

Hike begins on the Anthony Creek Trail. It's a fine rocky trail that climbs rather quickly, with many fine views of Anthony Creek.
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Old Dec 29, 2013, 5:44 PM   #2
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Anthony Creek is a typical Smokies stream - plenty of mossy riffles and splashes, plenty of big boulders carried and rounded by the powerful flow.
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Old Dec 29, 2013, 5:45 PM   #3
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There are even a few small waterfalls along Anthony Creek.
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Old Dec 29, 2013, 5:46 PM   #4
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Next trail is Bote Mountain Trail. It's an old road, once used to drive cattle to the high country pasturage of Spence Field. Some fascinating geology along the way, and also some dropping temperatures!
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Old Dec 29, 2013, 5:47 PM   #5
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Bote Mt Trail ends at the Appalachian Trail. From here, we hike through fields and young woodlands, along the crest of the mts.
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Old Dec 29, 2013, 5:48 PM   #6
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Trail gets steeper as we approach Thunderhead. Steep trail is good encouragement to slow down and notice the details, like these diverse lichens and fungi.
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Old Dec 29, 2013, 5:48 PM   #7
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And this Polypody fern. Also called "resurrection fern," because of its unique method of surviving drought. Fronds will curl up and appear dead when dry, but quickly open and flourish when rains return.
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Old Dec 29, 2013, 5:49 PM   #8
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There are actually two rocky outcroppings on Thunderhead that might be called Rocky Top. Each offers excellent views of the the surrounding mountains. Here is the first Rocky Top.
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Old Dec 29, 2013, 5:50 PM   #9
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And some of the views from this spot. Sure wish it had been a sunnier day...
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Old Dec 29, 2013, 5:51 PM   #10
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There's a carved rock at the second Rocky Top - at least two of the cow herders left their names behind.
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