Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hike to Whiteoak Sink

I met up with a hiking group yesterday to hike in the Smokies (which is generally referred to as simply "the Park" around here). We were headed to Whiteoak Sink, a fenster, or geologic window from one layer of rock to another. First up through farmland bordering the Park.
And down a long wooded trail to the sink. I was told these partridge berries, the fruit of an evergreen groundcover, were edible so I tried a couple. They were faintly sweet. The man leading the hike described them as "trail nibbles."
Rainbow Waterfall disappears into a cave then becomes an underground creek that emerges at another waterfall. Behind the water is a horizontal divide arch which we were told is part of the Great Smoky Mountain thrust fault line.
We passed a couple of bat caves on the hike. One of them (not this one) had a barred entrance to keep people from entering. The vast majority of Indiana Vats hibernate in just nine caves, so their home is protected. It lived up to its name - Blowhole Cave - because when you stood in front of it a steady stream of 56-degree air hit you. Which was pretty pleasant as the temperature was in the mid-70's even up in the mountains.
We hiked on for a while, past a couple of wild hog traps. They've become a bit of a nuisance, as they are not native to the area but escaped from a private game preserve in the Nantahala's back in the 1940's. Their rooting damages the wildflowers and other plants and there has been an ongoing effort to remove them from the Park.
This time of year the wildflowers are everywhere. Sometimes, they appear as a blanket of color from a distance, like these wild phlox.
The deciduous trees have yet to fill in, so the rock formations are more visible than they will be later in the year.
At times, the trail was so covered with blowdown from recent storms that it took a serious effort to continue. This for instance? Yep, that's a trail. It involved climbing over tree trunks and through branches.
Finally we made our way back to the farmhouse and then down the long trail to the parking area. In all we hiked about 9 miles, some of it fairly steep. My fitbit tells me I climbed the equivalent of 125 floors. Friendly people, gorgeous scenery, perfect weather and exercise that doesn't feel like exercise. Gets my vote.

34 comments:

  1. WOW...what a gorgeous area to take a hike in! You know, as much as I am a city boy, I can feel so comfortable and at home out in the country, the mountains, and submerged within nature as well. And I need that every so often, to balance.

    "The man leading the hike described them as "trail nibbles."

    Oh, how cool is that! Is there any better than just being able to pick something fresh from nature and nibbling it?

    "In all we hiked about 9 miles, some of it fairly steep. My fitbit tells me I climbed the equivalent of 125 floors."

    You GO!

    Thanks for sharing your hike. Enjoyed!
    X

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    1. Nature is my form of church. And I love knowing about edible wild plants!

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  2. I envy you your physical fitness and curiosity.

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    1. My sincere hope is to stay active until I die.

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  3. I agree that exercise is better when there is interesting things and beautiful scenery to see. Those wild hogs are another example of man messing with nature and it not turning out well. I suspect you were told by the guide or know, but they can be very dangerous animals.

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    1. I raised pigs as a kid and even domestic pigs can be quite dangerous if crossed. They are big creatures with powerful jaws and also fairly intelligent.

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  4. sounds like a fun trip...look forward to getting out more myself and doing a bit of hiking....looks like you had a beautiful day...interesting on the wild hogs...one was just in the news a month ago...some huge hog a guy bagged...

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    1. Apparently the ones that are in the Smokies are smaller than the standard wild boar. But still problematic.

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  5. That sounds like a good group. I prefer exercising outdoors so much more than at a gym. I liked your nature - church comment.

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    1. Oh, me, too! It just makes me feel grounded.

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  6. On my trips to the Smokies, I have never been around that area. Thanks for letting us tag along--the pics bring back great memories of sight and smell.

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    1. The Smokies are so big that I'm always finding a part I've not seen yet.

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  7. What a fantastic hike. I would have loved seeing Blowhole Cave. The wild hogs would freak me out, though.

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    1. We didn't see any hogs, just the cages. But unless you approach them or et between a sow and her babies, you're not really in much danger.

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  8. Nice hike, beautiful pics! The red fruits look like what we called teaberries back in the Alleghenies. Hope your bats are doing OK--lots of concern about the smuttynose fungus moving West.

    [PS: Hahaha, a trip to a warmer clime helps keep my partner of 40+ years sane in a Montana winter, not that you have to drag me kicking and screaming to NOLA...]

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    1. I think teaberries are what is called wintergreen here. Similar, but the berries are clumps instead of individuals?

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  9. Such a pretty place to hike and such good exercise! I'd like to see Rainbow Waterfall. I think its neat you get out and hike like this; I'm not much of an outside person but it always looks so nice when people share their hiking adventures on their blogs.

    betty

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    1. I grew up in a family that went for hikes and camped, so it's hard fo r me to imagine not having that in my life.

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  10. this was a nice walk! beatiful nature do discover... especially the spring flowers

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  11. What lovely scenery on your hike! Loving the Spring flowers. :)

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  12. Nine miles, that was a great hike and so pretty along the way!

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  13. Wow. That was some hike. Quite long but the distractions were beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. The length wouldn't have been bad if it hadn't been so steep.

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  14. Knowing me, I'd eat the wrong "trail nibble" and go down for the count long before you got to the first hog trap.

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    1. I wouldn't try any wild plant if I didn't someone knowledgeable telling me what was safe.

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  15. Love that waterfall. Mountains are good for the soul.

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  16. Looks like a great walk. I haven't done any serious walking yet this year as the weather has been so cold and wet. Hopefully it's getting better now.

    Glad they're protecting the bat caves.

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    1. This is the first actual hike I've gone on this year, although I've been walking a lot.

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  17. ok, the thing most fascinating to me is the ground cover with berries because it's all over my yard and i have often wondered about it but never found a picture i could match it with for identification.

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