Sunday, December 1, 2019

Mountain to Sea trail - Segment 2

Lora and I headed to North Carolina to hike a 38 mile section of the Mountain to Sea trail. We chose this section of the second segment of the trail because it is in the woods. We have already hiked the section in the Smoky Mountains and this is the next section that doesn't include walking the road of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We started at the Licklog Gap Overlook Mile Post 435.7 of the Parkway. We carried with us the Segment 2 section of trail description off the Mountain to Sea trail web page, The trail description from Scott Ward, and a National Geographic map. We used all three.

We parked our car on US 276 at a parking area just down from the trail. We used Champion Cab to shuttle us and after an hour of miscommunication he finally found us. Super friendly guy named Rick. He took us back down the Blue Ridge Parkway and dropped us off at Licklog Gap Overlook (MM 19). There was a high wind warning and we felt every bit of it. We had about an hour to get the two miles we needed to get off the Parkway property which you are not allowed to camp on. We made it into the Nantahala National Forest and camped just off the road bed before the trail turned and headed down hill (MM 21.4). It was windy, but we had a warm fire going.

The next morning, with the wind blowing, I lowered my tarp to eat inside out of the wind. We packed up and headed out. As soon as we headed down hill we were out of the wind. It wasn't long before we passed a warning sign about a dangerous section of trail and thought "Great!" This part of the trail was mainly old roadbed and easy hiking. There are lots of water crossings which is great to have for hiking. Always needing water!

The trail headed off the road bed and soon we found the dangerous section of trail. They had actually already reworked this section and did a great job. Obvious storm damage. We appreciate trail builders!

The trail turns back onto old roadbed but after the rework stops so does the trail markers. You get a false since of security with flagging, but it also will lead you astray. (MM 29.7) After you pass through the gate which is two white poles follow the road and stay left and a confusing intersection. Lora did some trail dancing and ended up picking herself up off the trail after trying to walk through some brush. We camped at a horse camp just past Piney Mtn. Creek (MM 31.7). Beautiful stars and warm fire.

Day Three:
We followed road bed back up the mountain where we saw our large black bear crossing the trail ahead of us. We ate lunch just before climbing up to the Parkway. We saw our first person here which was a trail runner. After crossing the Parkway we headed into the Pisgah National Forest and then Middle Prong Wilderness Area. This area is unmarked trail. If you look back on your left you will see the Devil's Courthouse. This is where we found our first day hikers. Actually two groups. The Y-intersection (MM 38.8) is more of a trail on the right going up heading off the old roadbed. It is currently marked with pink paint which turns out that is the only pink paint to follow as the other pink paint will lead you off the trail. When you get to the bald, keep right of all other trails to stay on the MST. After you leave the Wilderness, the markings begin again.

At (MM 44.3) the trail turns left and the unmarked trail to the right will bring you to rock overlook. It connects with a paved trail which you will climb stairs and end up looking all over the mountains. There was a couple of ladies up here. We were looking at the signs pointing to all the other mountains and then we were looking for the Devil's Courthouse. We asked the ladies if they knew where it was and pointed out the fact that we were standing on it. Duh??!!

We spent the night next to the West Fork of the Pigeon River. (MM 41.2)

Day Four:
More beautiful forests. more views, and then the Graveyard Fields which are like balds with bushes and small trees. A grouse jumped up and scared Lora. Then down to Skinny Dip Falls where we found some brave souls actually getting into the water. We filtered water and then headed up to the campsite (MM 52.5). We got our tarps set up just in time as the rain came in. It rained all evening and at bed time the storms came in. Three thunderstorms during the night which with prayer never did hit us directly, but went around us.

Day Five:
We got up to dry but extremely windy conditions. Dropping the tarp to the ground again for breakfast. There were times that we both put our hands against the tarp trying to keep the wind from pulling up the stakes. We got on the trail with a few different crossings of the Parkway and lots of climbing for views. Lora did another dance on the wet leaves finding herself laying in the middle of the trail. Always dancing around. We did the final climb up Green Knob with the wind trying to blow us off the trail before going back down to cross the Parkway and down to our car. As we approached US 276 we saw blue lights. Then we noticed that a police car was behind our car thinking "Great"! The officer was extremely nice and said that someone that drives through here everyday called it in for him to check out.


Sunday, November 17, 2019

Ritchie Hollow Trail TTA

Joan led 8 hikers to Snoopers Rock via the Ritchie Hollow Trail. The trailhead is on a winding road following the Tennessee River, River Canyon Road, barely wide enough for two lanes. The trail is hard packed now, much better than the muddy mess Craig and I hiked when it was first opened. Lots of folks must have been packing it down. The waterfall was not much more than a trickle, but still beautiful. We got to the junction where all those pretty signs are directing you to the trails-no mileage info, so unless you inquired or studied a topo, just guess, but carry a lot of water and food in case you guess wrong.

The Cumberland Trail starts here, so we followed it to Snoopers Rock, walked around all the vehicles parked here, out to the Rock with gorgeous views of the river.

Great lunch spot with the crowd of people all enjoying this beautiful day. Anybody can drive here, but WE chose to hike.

Great group of hikers!

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Head of the Sequatchie

Today Lora and I went for a drive up the Sequatchie valley up to the head of the Sequatchie River. This is part of the Cumberland Trail State Park. We visited with Larry and he gave us the history of the park. Then we did the hike around the park to see everything. It was beautiful day for hiking.


Sunday, November 10, 2019

Pogue creek / John Muir

Day One: 6.7
Overlook trail 0.95
Upper Canyon trail 2.05
Mesa Top trail 1.15
Moccasin Rock trail 0.65
Ridge trail 1.9
Day Two: 4.8
Ridge trail 0.6
Moccasin Rock trail 0.65
John Muir trail 3.0

Lora and I headed over to Pogue Creek Canyon for the weekend. We stopped by Pickett State Park to register our cars when we met the Ranger who we had met before at Frozen Head State Park. Telling him our plans, he questioned the section of the John Muir trail that we wanted to hike from Black House Mountain road to Hwy 154. He said that this section has not been maintained for years and he wasn't sure it was passable.

We left a car at the Moccasin Rock trailhead and drove to the parking area for Pogue Creek Canyon. We took the Overlook trail to the overlook and then took the Upper Canyon trail to the Mesa Top trail. We noticed that they had started another trail from the Upper Canyon trail heading out so it looks like future trails ahead. We had leap frogged another group a few times as we went. They lived here locally so we got some tips from them including that we missed our trail from Killdeer arch as we were turning around. You have to go through the arch and beyond an area that has no markings to continue on the trail. This is a beautiful Canyon both top and bottom!

From the Canyon we entered the Pickett State Forest and hiked to Pickett State Park doing the Ridge trail loop counterclockwise. On this side there is also an option to go over the ridge or under the ridge which we chose to go under. Very beautiful area. We saw lots of bear scat.

From Pickett State Park we headed back on the other side of the Ridge trail and made camp just past the Natural Bridge creek for the night. We got to listen to the owls as we sat around our campfire and also later in the night.

Day Two:
We got up and had breakfast and broke down camp. We continued our hike to Black Mountain road and then took the car searching for the John Muir trailhead. Since they took the signs down we had to look pretty good. There is a very large parking area just across from the trailhead. We saw where they had cut the trail signs down and found a round blue hiker dude sign on a fallen tree. Success! We went back to the car and got our pack out then headed down the trail. This trail has been used still quite a bit. We did have to break branches on the Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel and small trees to get through some areas. There are some bridges and we rock hopped the first few crossings. The seventh crossing we had to use crocs and then the eight crossing was a muddy, wide, and deep crossing with a bridge sunk in it. We found a log crossing up stream for this one which got us to the next muddy, wide, and deep crossing with a bridge sunk in it. We called it quits and headed back to the car. We found lots of bear scat on this trail too. From the looks of the scat, it's a BIG bear.

We stopped at Cumberland Mountain SP to see a raptor program called Wings to Soar. The bird handlers let the birds fly over the crowd. They make you flinch as they fly right over your head. The Golden Eagle was making a lot of racket until they let her come out and meet the crowd. The Bald Eagle was missing a wing and was blind in one eye, but was still majestic. The little screech owl doesn't look big enough to make all the noise he's capable of. Cool program.


Sunday, November 3, 2019

Cain Creek Segment Cumberland Trail

On a beautiful Sunday after church, we were off to explore a new segment of the Cumberland Trail being built, a continuation of North Chick. Not sure what it will be named, maybe Cain Creek segment? I had seen pics on the Chattanooga Hiking Club page, and sent an inquiry to Don for directions. Got to the gate on Barker Camp Rd and the gate was closed. We followed the trail to the right of the gate, the trail split, we took lower trail following flagging. It ended at the creek. Not sure if this is CT or trail for kayakers? We backtracked and followed the upper trail. Many road junctions to choose from. We found the entrance to North Chick trail, saw a white blaze going up the road. Lower parking area here maybe?

We decided to keep exploring, trying to follow Don's directions. We walked a graded roadbed downhill to the creek. Found Furnace Rock, or what we assumed was it. There was an opening for something; bear, fox, furnace, whatever. Nothing jumped out on Craig when he stuck his head in there. At the end of the road, there was Cain Creek, and a huge rock overhang. And beyond, high above the creek, Craig spotted the new bridge! Success! We found what we were looking for!

Underneath the overhang are lots of boulders and rocks. It's beautiful here with the creek rushing by. You can tell by the sticks under the overhang how high the creek gets. We climbed up to see the engineering work from the bridge builders wondering if they used manpower or a helicopter to get the bridge components in place. I don't recall seeing pics from the CT FB page about it. Since the trail isn't complete on either side, maybe they are not advertising it.

The ropes left by the kayakers came in handy to get up the ridge to hike out.


Saturday, November 2, 2019

Stone Door TTA

Murfreesboro TTA was going hiking at the Stone Door. I got ready, started the drive, along the way got some alarming news that my aunt had died. Started back home, got an update that my aunt was resurrected from the dead, so I turned around, and went hiking.

Most of the group was still at the trailhead when I got there so I didn't have to run the trail to catch them. Wayne did an outstanding job picking the loop to hike. It was a cool 34 degrees but the sun was warm. We had several wardrobe changes with shade/sun/going up/going down. The rim trail had pretty overlooks into the gulf. A little color was showing, not many reds, mostly yellows. Someone had stated they had never seen wildlife there. I said look! there goes some deer! Two of them leaping and bounding, white tails flying. And later on we watched a woodpecker and listened to him sing.

The new trail signs in the park are really nice, so much better info on them. We hiked to Alum Gap and then down the Big Creek Gulf rocky rocky trail. The creek was running, and when we got to the Sinks, the creek was high, the sink was bubbling, but most of the water was going on down the creek. Too much water for us to chance crossing to see Ranger Falls.

We hiked up to the Stone Door and saw some rock climbers on the wall beneath the overlook. Up on top we spent a few minutes enjoying the view, and watching the black buzzards soaring, catching the updraft going higher and higher.

It sure was a beautiful day to be in the woods.


Sunday, October 27, 2019

Short Springs SNA

Joan scheduled a hike with Dennis Horn at Short Springs SNA. It was a Sunday afternoon hike to see the fall color and for tree identification. I got there early so I drove to Rutledge Falls which is close by. It is on private property with access by the owners. Beautiful farm, really pretty waterfall just behind their house. A nice statue seems to add peace to the area.

The wildflower book I have is edited by Dennis Horn who is a charter member of the Tennessee native plant society and a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee for Rare Plants in Tennessee. We were chatting in the parking lot, and I showed him my book, he asked where I lived and showed me a rare plant that evidently grows on our mountain top not far from our house. Since it blooms in April and May I will have to wait to investigate.
Dennis pointed out different oaks, maples, magnolias, different leaves, explaining how to id trees without their leaves. Much study is needed. We saw beautiful waterfalls, thankful for the recent rains. Adams Falls had water falling coming from a spring in the side of the ridge. Machine Falls was flowing well and the water is so clear! There were some young guys flying a drone, and one had a remote controlled truck climbing the rocks.  Dennis left us behind at the waterfall and was gone by the time we got back to the parking lot. I should have had him autograph my book.