White Oak Sink
Date: April 26,2013
After my trip to Ramsey Cascades earlier in the week I was excited to see more wildflowers. And I couldn’t wait. I was afraid that if I waited they would all be gone by the time I got there. I mean it was late April and I just wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss anything. I hadn’t ever heard of the White Oak Sink area but the people on the Smoky Mountain Wildflower Facebook page were talking about the area. I did a little Google research and realized that this was a place that I for sure wanted to visit. Not only were there going to be wildflowers but there were also caves and a waterfall. Wildlife South has some great info on this area and even a map of the sink area that you can print out.
I recruited my friend Jim to go with me on this trip. It’s almost always more fun to go with someone else especially if you are going to be taking a lot of pictures. So we met up at the Bass Pro Shop so we only had to drive one car. Our first stop was the Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg. If you have never been you must go. They have the nicest fluffiest pancakes and you always get your order really fast.
With bellies full we went on our merry way into the park. I was enjoying the ride along Little River Road. Usually I am the one driving so it was nice to just get to look around and enjoy the beauty of the Smokies. We finally made it to the Schoolhouse Gap Trail parking area. OMG, the parking area was filled plus people were parked on the side of the road. I knew this must be a special place. We had to drive up the road a bit and turn around. Finally we got parked and situated and headed up the Schoolhouse Gap Trail.
To get to the White Oak Sink area you have to hike just a little bit over a mile on the Schoolhouse Gap Trail. This is a fairly easy trail. It’s on old road so it’s wide and well graded. After reaching the intersection of the Turkeypen Ridge Trail go about 50 yards and there will be trail to your left. There is no name for this trail but there is a “no horse” sign. This is the trail that will take you into a whole new world.
It’s only about .8 miles down into the sink area. It’s mostly pretty easy but there is a steepish downhill section which means that on the way out there is a steepish uphill section. Thankfully it’s short. There is so much to explore in this area. Unfortunately I had to be back in Knoxville to go to work so our time was cut a little short. There are 4 caves. No you can’t go into them. One even has a waterfall that falls into the cave. There is also the Blowhole cave. It is blocked off but you can walk up to it and feel the cool air coming out. There is a rocky cliffy area above the cave and this is where I spotted some Columbine.
And of course there are more wildflowers than you can imagine. Although I saw a bunch I am sure I didn’t see near as many that are actually there. And I am thankful again for all the nice people that were out on the trail this day. They were more than happy to share their knowledge. If it hadn’t been for them there would have been several flowers that I wouldn’t have seen such as Wild Ginger.
I can’t wait to go exploring more in this area.