Trampin' Crooked Arm Ridge and Scott Mountain Trail

The view from Crooked Arm Ridge Trail
Hiking this Sunday started well enough. Crooked Arm Ridge Trail is a nice enough trail, if you don't mind the climb. The trail starts innocuously enough with a mild .5 mile jaunt from the trail head to Crooked Arm Ridge Trail.

Smooth and mild, no complaints so far!
Of course, when you hit Crooked Arm the trails rather mild character changes rather rapidly, and climbs 1500' over 2.2 miles, it's not really a bad incline, but the elevation change is constant. The trail switchbacks up  the incline, hiding bits and pieces of it self just around the corner from you. Which leads to interesting shots like this:
So it isn't the most interesting shot, but I liked it.
Crooked Arm levels out as it approaches the split for the Scott Mountain Trail and the rest of the Rich Mountain Loop Trail. The final part of this trail is a nice, mostly level, jaunt that makes up for the unbroken climb earlier. It also presented me with an interesting choice, which way would you go?

OK, so the real choice is obvious, so can you guess which way I went?
I had been on The Rich Mountain Loop Trail previously, and had seen this trail from the other side. I knew which way I was supposed to go even without the obvious trail marking, but where's the fun in that? So I went down the other trail, and found a frequently used "stealth" campsite.

This place is as well kitted out as some of the official campsites!
I'm not sure who blocked off the trail, whether it's the campsite creators or the trail maintainers / NPS, but it isn't obviously blocked from the other side.  I'm not sure how I feel about stealth camping as a whole, but this one seems unnecessary considering how close it is to campsite 6 (on Scott Mountain Trail) and Cades Cove.

Shortly after passing the campsite you reach the turn off for Scott Mountain Trail, right off I can tell that the trail is not a frequently used one. The trail is sketchy and slightly overgrown and heads off into a tunnel created from Rhododendrons.

Hmmm... that trail seems a might sketchy.
Sometime when you walk a trail you find interesting plants and animals, other times you find evidence of human civilization, and sometimes you find stuff that is just plain weird.

OK, where the heck did that come from?

Shortly after the abandoned locker, probably a third to a half of a mile (this figure is pure guesstimation), you arrive at campsite 6, this campsite has two fire pits and a bear cable with a pulley system. The only thing this campsite lacks is a source of water. If you plan on staying here, remember to pack it in with you.

Campsite 6

Fire pit at campsite 6
After the campsite, the trail continues on, trending slightly downward.  The path really begins to feel untraveled at this point, so many spider webs cross the path that it seems like it would give J. R. R. Tolkien's Mirkwood a run for its money. In addition to the spider webs there are some very obvious signs of trail erosion that make an otherwise easy trail difficult to navigate.

Wait, where did that trail go?

Somewhere around the mile and a half mark I run into the first serious impediment to my hike. a large deadfall obstructing the path. I managed to skirt it by hanging on to the trees as I walked around it.

What is this? An obstacle course?

So after skirting that bit of trail I continued on, I figured at there couldn't be another deadfall across the trail. What are the odds, right? Apparently, they're pretty damn good, because within a third of a mile I hit this beauty.

Yeah, I'm not getting past this one...

So that pretty much shut my hike down and I turned around an went back. I was feeling pretty dejected about not being able to complete my hike. I didn't make the distance I wanted to, and I have a real issue with not being able to complete a trail that I have started, I don't like feeling like the trail beat me. Once back on Crooked Arm Ridge that feeling changed.  It was like walking into a Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom episode because hike back down was filled with animals of all sorts. I have included them below in no particular order. Enjoy.

No seriously, there is a frog in this shot!

Nothing special about this guy, but I just think millipedes are cool.

Bad omen or good entertainment. You decide.
Coragyps atratus

Spiders are always cool.

Squirrels don't usually hold still long enough to photograph. I got lucky

And an obligatory butterfly to finish it off!

Thanks for reading, and see ya'll on the trail.

EDIT: forgot to post the picture link... Here it is.

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