Today Clarence and I are going exploring along Injun Creek, a manway next to the Greenbrier Ranger Station that gets quite a bit of use. Ken McFarland takes his Pilgrimage moss walks there to see many species of bryophytes — mosses, liverworts, and a hornwort — growing within the first quarter mile. I’ve seen numerous people hiking it the two times I’ve been there studying all those tiny plants. It ties in to Grapeyard Ridge at some point, and we are going find out where.
The ranger station probably sits at about 1500 feet. Any elevation gain along the manway is slight at first. It follows the creek past several flat areas where there must have been buildings or farm land or orchards in the past. There is a rock-lined spring on the right. A little more than halfway in we climb a small ridge overlooking the creek below on our left. The ridge line leads to a wide, flat area that attracts our attention. We quickly realize this is a campsite, and putting two and two together, we get 32.
The campsite looks very inviting — level and relatively open. A gorgeous Red Maple is flaming its signature color. Along the ridge path, fallen wet leaves of Red Maple shine like bright rubies on the ground. The manway/trail is quite rich and lovely overall. I see Ebony Spleenwort, Umbrella Magnolia, Witch Hazel in flower, White Oak, Muscadine Grape, Hornbeam, Sweetshrub, Spicebush, and the winter foliage of Toothwort. On the flat areas near the bottom and at the ranger station, there are several Flowering Dogwoods (Cornus florida) with dusky red foliage. There are also numerous patches of Lung Lichen (Lobaria pulmonaria) on tree trunks and even adorning the large stem of a grapevine.
Back at the ranger station, Clarence and I debate our next move. It’s raining, it’s nearing lunchtime, and we’ve got an afternoon to kill. The choice is obvious. Eat and hike Ramsey Cascades Trail. He may not want to hike all the trails in the Smokies, but Clarence does enjoy the thrill of notching another one when given the opportunity. The impressive water feature at the end of Ramsey is calling him. I’ve got nothing else to do, so we eat lunch, don rain gear, and head out.
It rains off and on, mostly on, throughout the night. Next morning we are striking camp in cold, wet conditions similar to our arrival 10 days ago. It’s been a great trip, though. If Injun Creek is 1.75 miles, then our grand total is 77.1 miles. Not shabby at all, especially given that our final hurrah is none other than Ramsey Cascades! We are both ready for more. Other than being a bit sleep deprived (I’m still not getting a full night of zzz’s when camping, plus the Barred Owls would tear into one another in the middle of the night — now THAT will get you sitting straight up at 4:00 a.m.!), I could easily keep going. I can really feel the results in stronger, firmer leg muscles. What I wouldn’t give for this to be my backyard!