Smokies 900 Round 2: Ramsay Cascades – 5/13/16 – 10 miles
2016 is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and parks units across the country are celebrating in ways large and small. Among other highlights, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is featuring a Smokies Centennial Challenge to hike 100 miles in the park. You know I am going to hike that 100 miles.
My friend Cathy has covered some miles in the Smokies, including the length of the AT, but some highlights she hadn’t yet experienced were Ramsay Cascades and Mount Cammerer. We made Cosby Campground our home base for a couple of days in the GSMNP. The stormy weather forecast helped us decide to save the Mount Cammerer hike for tomorrow in hopes of catching the views from the lookout tower. After some fits and starts and my less-than-perfect memory of the back roads of Tennessee, we found the Ramsay Cascades trailhead, crowded with cars.
No better way to celebrate Friday the 13th than on a trail! Crossing a bridge over the robust Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon River
A tree that split, fell and landed standing up
White Clintonia aka Clinton’s lily
I wrote about Ramsay Cascades during my Smokies 900 project. It would have been a good idea to read that blog post or at least review the write-up in the brown book, Hiking Trails of the Smokies, but no, I still relied on my imperfect recall – thus we added two miles to this seemingly simple out-and-back hike.
The trail climbed gently uphill through hardwood forest on a wide road bed for the first 1.5 miles to an old traffic circle, but Cathy and I weren’t looking for the traffic circle because we didn’t read up. We saw an inviting trail turning left, so we did too, still climbing. Eventually we noticed the trail narrowing and conditions deteriorating, and we certainly weren’t following along any water flow. We backtracked nearly a mile to what was now the obvious traffic circle, complete with a sign. I researched later that we’d been following the old Greenbrier Pinnacle Trail. There are many blog posts about it with good instructions for exploration – we’ll save that for another day.
Back on track, Ramsay Cascades Trail narrowed and the challenge increased. Steep and rugged with roots and rocks, the trail is well established with rock steps and long footbridges.
Great lunch spot, watching hikers both timid and relaxed crossing Ramsay Prong on the bridge overhead
Two ancient tulip trees stand like columns as the trail passes between. Loggers did not work this far up the mountains. Tulip, basswood and silverbell trees of near record size tower along the trail.
Anticipation of the waterfall builds and several places along the creek look like they qualify as whitewater rushes over boulders. The last few hundred yards of the trail twist up and around to a warning sign and a glimpse of the real thing.
Ramsay Cascades, 90 feet high, loud and spraying boisterously after a good rain.
Sweaty from hiking but chilled by the spray on an otherwise cool day, we spent just a short time at the cascades before our return hike. The trail was just as much fun hiking out, a little quicker on the downgrade, appreciating the spring flowers and green mosses of the deep woods. First 10 miles of the Smokies 100: done!
“The forest is for me a temple, a cathedral of tree canopies and dancing light.” ~Dr. Jane Goodall