Harper Creep Falls

Harper Creep Falls
Harper Creek Falls

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Mt. Kephart

Newfound Gap, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Near the bathrooms is a very large Buckeye tree.

Can you see the turkeys?

This part of the Appalachian Trail is very well used by tourists and hikers alike. It has been well maintained so that there are places with many steps.

A medium-large Red Spruce tree

Christmas Ferns at the base of a rock

The moisture in this neck of the woods must be continuous to produce the growth we saw.

It was in the low twenties on top that morning. The north slope had many slick spots along the trail.

The forest along this ridge is temperate rainforest with a blanket of moss and ferns. The tree species are few, Balsam Fir, Red Spruce, and several varieties of birch.

Lichen takes up residence where moss does not predominate.

It is healthy rather than the more frequent dry and flaky versions on exposed rocks.

Right where the Boulevard Trail cuts off of the AT, there begins to be much rougher going.

You can see that The Jumpoff is not far, and Mt. Kephart is halfway to there.

This is The Jumpoff, which is a view at the end of a spur trail off of the Boulevard Trail to Mt. LeConte. Just behind my daughter is a 1400' drop down to Lester Prong. The drop is not vertical but starts off nearly so and averages steeper than 75 degrees. From this vantage point you can see about 3 more sixers we need to bag in the future.

Perhaps you discern the nervousness of my sitting. Just glancing behind me shows no bottom. The perspective of this picture is towards the Great Valley. There are no major population centers in view, but the edge of Sevierville is at the left extreme and Newport at the right. The highest part of the low, dark ridge in the background at right is English Mountain about 20 miles away.

The next picture is about a 150 degree panorama view from The Jumpoff.

Parallel to the cliff you can see this is indeed steep real estate.

I attempted to reach the camera out over the edge and take a picture. Each time I took a picture of the bush. I did lay down at one point of the cliff and look over. It reminded me, as I commented to a family coming up the trail later, that we were made for something bigger. That is the reason we want to see beauty and bigness. We were made for it because we were made for God. We will keep seeking out bigness and beauty until we find it in Him. The whole of Creation screams out His glory, and we are privileged to observe it, but we are only ever fully satisfied as we experience His glory by faith through His Son, Jesus.

The branch can't have been comfortable, but she wanted to sit there. I can relate; I want to be and do and go many places and experience many things.

The Firs are coming back after the years of dying off from the Balsam Wooly Aphid blight.

But the little sap suckers are not gone, as you can see in the following picture. I wonder if the higher rainfall of the past few years has reduced the stress on the trees and perhaps made it harder for the insects.

As we sat on the little round top of Mt. Kephart eating our lunch, a mouse came out from under the log my son-in-law was sitting on. It kept coming back, so he began to drop small pieces of peanut for it to find. It seemed to become more and more bold. At one point my son-in-law started back when it appeared that the mouse was getting ready to crawl up his pant leg.

The mouse would scurry away at fast movement, but otherwise seemed to be unafraid. Here he is being videoed while he eats his peanut. This went on for at least 10 minutes.

White underneath, gray on the flanks, and bronze-brown above, he was dressed up for company. I guess he is fattening up for the hibernation ahead.

Ice Water Springs Shelter

At Charles' Bunion the iron deposits were bright and brittle.

The seep had moss and mold coloring the shale like material.

The gold colored algae must be hydro- and ferrophilic.

The trail narrows considerably at the Bunion.

The Bunion is at the head of a large draw opening into a larger valley.

The Hiking Compadres

A noble stance at the vista

The camera lens is probably about 38-45 mm focal length, which makes things appear abit far away for the purpose of a slightly wide-angle view, but I am still amazed at how distant we seem compared to the zoom version above.

More gold algae

Do they think that I am silly to climb up and take a picture of algae?

After the hike, my daughter wanted to go see the benchmark on the top of Clingmans Dome. Everyone else was looking for something.

This benchmark is at the edge of the parking lot.

The Dome is plenty broad for the circular ramp to the observation tower and more.

If I had more time I would refamiliarize myself with the names of major peaks in the four compass directions.

The third ridge away is Mt. LeConte. Mt. Kephart is probably the peak at right under the most distant ridge.

The tower is 45' high, plenty high to be above the fir trees. We searched for 1/2 hour for the benchmark. A ranger later told us that it was done away with when the tower was built, and that the base of the tower counts as the benchmark. I had not been here for many years and had almost sworn off of coming back because the top was so naked of trees after the aphids decimated them. I was so pleasantly surprised that they were back in force. I figured that the Red Spruce would eventually replace them, but obviously not.

With my green pants and graying top, I feel like an aging fir or spruce. They seem so old even though they really are not. And I am the same, beginning to show age but feeling young at heart. I am thankful to be out and active. God has been good to me. I give Him all the glory for the beauty and bigness of His Creation and His power to create and sustain it and me.

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