Monday, January 15, 2018

MLK 2018

Garnett scheduled another great long weekend at Roscoe's Retreat. 12 hiking ladies: Nora, Marietta, Cathy, Dianna, Nancy, Gloria Dale, Sue, Kathy, Linda, Betty, Carol, and me. Garnett's recent knee surgery kept her from being there and we missed her so much. We Face timed with her to keep her updated on activities. Nancy did a super job scheduling hikes but Mother Nature decided to throw a few snow showers and a little rain in the mix and the Park decided to close some roads. Thursday's hike was part of Old Sugarlands Trail. I didn't get there early enough for that one. I did get there in time for supper.

Friday we hiked Twin Creeks, and then the Gatlinburg Trail which somehow led to a rustic restaurant for some hot coffee and hot chocolate and the BIGGEST cinnamon roll I have ever seen. Almost like trail magic.

Saturday Plan B due to road closures, was Cove Mountain, passing pretty Cataract Falls, seeing views of Mount LeConte  and following the boundary of the Park. Not sure how far we hiked in, and then back out. The snacks were ready for us when we returned to the cabin and a few ladies got a little hot tub soak in with the refreshing 18 degree air out on the deck.

Sunday we drove to Tremont Institute to leave cars for a shuttle. There was a lot of snow on the road driving in, but the closed gate kept us from getting to the Middle Creek Trailhead. Plan B, no shuttle required. Lumber Ridge trail out and back. This is really pretty winter time trail, with the views into the Middle Prong of the Little River Valley, and Walker Valley. Not too far from the saddle of the ridge, I spotted 3 wild hogs, big and solid black. Marietta and Betty were with me, ahead of the others, so we were the only ones to see them. We turned around at Buckhorn Gap at the junction of Meigs Mountain, and Meigs Creek Trails. It was a quick lunch stop, as was all the other lunch stops, too cold to sit for long. Back at the Institute, 3 of us wanted some more hike time, so Marietta, Nancy and I hiked to Spruce Flat Falls. The Falls was just beautiful with all the ice. But the views along the ridge line were worth the climb up. All the timber in the upper elevations was frozen and snow covered and the sun was making it sparkle. Breathtaking! We had to stop and soak up this scenery.
Back at the cabin, more snacks awaited the hungry hikers. A little football watching and some Mexican Train domino action made a great evening. And a little Victoria on Masterpiece.

Monday's forecast was more snow coming to Nashville, so we packed up, cleaned out the leftovers for breakfast, some of our ladies headed for home. The rest of us headed to Trillium Gap Trail. Gloria Dale and I both need this one for map marking, to the junction with Brushy Mountain. It was another cold start but the sun was shining. We saw a large buck, 6 point I think, and a few does. After climbing for a while, 3 of our ladies said goodbye and turned back, and 4 of us kept trekking along. We got to Grotto Falls, which was absolutely gorgeous, and ice covered behind the falls, and  ice and snow covered part of the rocks intended for rock hopping across the creek, and 4 wise ladies decided it wasn't a good day for crossing the creek. We turned around with lips pooched out, disappointed at not being able to finish this trail. The pouting didn't last long, it was too beautiful of a day to pout. We started back carefully crossing the smaller creek only to see Marietta jump in the creek to save her hiking pole. Tough ladies, my hiking friends are. We met a lot of people hiking up while we hiked down. Saw the deer again at the bottom. We said our last goodbyes at the parking lot.

Another great weekend filled with good friends, good food, and fun times.
And I got two more trails marked off my map!


Sunday, December 31, 2017

Peters Mountain

My hiking partner was working a double for New Years Eve weekend, Nashville Meetup was backpacking in the Big South Fork. Guess what I did? Sarah scheduled a 2 night coldest weekend of the year outing on the Sheltowee Trace/Rock Creek area. We met up at the Rock Creek Loop and shuttled cars to Peter's Mountain trailhead. It was 33 when we started out after lunch.

It was kind of challenging to look at all the icicles hanging from the rocks and watch your feet, and cross the streams. Molly our four legged hiker got her coat wet but Sarah kept her warm, tucking her inside her jacket for a while. 

We passed by Great Meadows, our designated camp, it was too early to stop. We saw a picnic area across the river but didn't want to cross to it. Walked a little further then made camp below the ridge line.Got a lot of firewood collected, Sarah's and Steve's saws came in handy for cedar limbs. Had to stay warm in the artic air of the BSF. I double bagged with my 0 degree bag and Craig's 45 degree bag along with toe warmers and stayed toasty warm. RW got our morning fire going. A little pow wow around the fire resulting in Plan B. Hike out due to short mileage to the campsite on Rock Creek loop. So our two night outing became an overnight. 

Sarah, Molly, Smith and I stopped at Wildwood for a greasy cheeseburger and corn nuts then headed home for to ring in the New Year.


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Cumberland Cove

Cumberland Cove is a private residential area on the Plateau. They have beautiful hiking trails that can be seen by invitation only. The Plateau TTA has two members that own property and I got to go with them to hike there.

Butch was our guide for the day in the Eagle Flight Park area, leading us to the Sinks, Fork Mountain Cave and Arch Cave. Fort Mountain Cave had cave temperature steam coming out of it, and I took advantage of that warm air. The Sinks had some critter prints in the sand around the stream. We had to do some boulder hopping to get to stream level. Arch cave geology is much like the Walls of Jericho. And above the arch, it loos like another arch is forming.

According to their website there are three areas in the Cove with hiking trails, maps are there. Butch was a great guide, but they are serious about no trespassing. Make sure you get an invite to this beautiful place.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Fiery Gizzard TTA

Craig was backpacking on the AT and I had an extra vacation day to burn so I went hiking. Met the Plateau folks at the Fiery Gizzard Trailhead. Got on the trail around 10:30 EST.

The trailhead has been moved, there are signs that say area closed for restoration.  Kiosk is behind the picnic shelter and bathrooms. Another sign there says the CCC camp is now permanently closed. Too much trampling around the three campsites has made it into one big area and needs to rehab. You still get to walk past the 500 year old hemlock. The six of us had fun with all the rocks and I remembered to point out the arch at the top of the big climb to the trail junction. We didn’t go to Raven’s Point, we had enough miles to hike before dark without adding another mile. The  rerouted trail is beautiful and strenuous, but the waterfalls make it all worthwhile. On the woods walk the sun was setting and turning the horizon orange. We hiked into the last creek gorge and climbed up to the top of the ridge and got our headlamps out. Deb called the Ranger to ask them to not lock the gate on our cars at the other trailhead, that we were coming but still had a couple of miles to hike. We could hear Foster Falls but couldn’t see it in the dark. Louise gave the drivers a ride back to the other trailhead and then Deb drove back to pick up the other two hikers.

Beautiful hike for a day off during the week. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Black Mountain - TTA

Soddy Daisy TTA had a Christmas dinner at Olive Garden on Friday night. You would have thought we had all hiked to get there the way we scarfed down the breadsticks. John reminded me about a hike scheduled for the next morning so I thought I would go and try to burn off all that wonderful food.

I met the group that included Carolyn and Cheryl from the Plateau chapter, at the Black Mountain trailhead on Hwy 68. There’s a big parking area on the side of the highway now, you cross the road in a safer spot, and the State extended the trail entrance to there. We could see some more recent trail building along the road that still has a little way to go. 

We got to Windless Cave and our leader Boody wanted to hike a little further so the Plateau ladies had a party to attend and said their goodbyes. We hiked almost to the big rocks on the ridge and stopped for lunch.
We returned to our cars in the now thawed muddy entrance trail and stomped off most of the mud from our boots.


Friday, November 24, 2017

Noland Divide

Day One: 8.8
Noland Divide 7.8
Noland Creek to #61 1.0

Day Two: 8.9
Noland Creek 1.0
Pole Road Creek 3.3
Deep Creek 0.5
Martin's Gap 3.0
Indian Creek 0.7
Deeplow Gap to # 51 0.4

Day Three: 11.2
Deeplow Gap 1.1
Thomas Divide 4.6
Stone Pile Gap 0.9
Indian Creek 0.5
Deep Creek 0.1
Deep Creek Horse 2.0
Tunnel to Noland Creek 1.0
Noland Creek to #65 1.0

Day Four: 10.1
Noland Creek 3.1
Springhouse Branch 7.0

Day Five: 5.1
Forney Creek 1.3
Whiteoak Branch 1.8
Lakeshore 2.0

Total Miles: 44.1

Thanksgiving break, time to get some more trails in the Smokies marked off my map. I planned a 5 day backpack, waiting for Craig to come home from a five day trip with the Outcasts. The NP sent an email two days before our trip warning COLD TEMPS for the higher elevations. Never got that before!

We got to the Noland Divide trailhead in Deep Creek about 1:30. This part of the trail was new for me. Only 8.8 miles to our first campsite, all uphill and it gets dark fast. There was light snow on the shady sides of the mountain and we could see the heavier snow on the peaks. We know that Mt. LeConte had gotten two inches last night. We had to hunt firewood with our headlamps. It was supposed to get downright cold tonight, 19 degrees they said. We got a good fire going for the night and watched the bright stars.

Day Two:
We had ice in our water bottle and bladder hoses. I guess it got cold last night. We got a fire going first thing before trying to pack up. After breakfast we headed out on our steep climb back to the ridge.

New trail today was Martins Gap. No hikers seen today at all. Beautiful clear skies as the temps kept climbing. Lot's of rock hopping today. When we got to camp we had time to collect firewood, filter water, and still had daylight. The temps started dropping so we got the fire going. We heard some big animal coming up from the creek raking the leaves as they walked toward us. We couldn't see it through the rhododendron, and then we heard no more. Not sure what it was. We enjoyed another night around the campfire looking at the stars. We got to see a sliver of moon for a short period tonight.

Day Three:
Not too cold this morning. We still got a fire going for breakfast and breaking camp. Headed up to Thomas Divide so that we could climb some more. We saw our first hiker, Sweaty, when we started downhill. As we got closer to Deep Creek campground we saw more and more people. We took a side hike to Juney Whank Falls which was popular today. Just above the falls we saw a doe and fawn who were checking us out. A segment of Thomas Divide and the Deep Creek Horse Trail were the new trails today.

When we got back to the car, instead of camping at Deep Creek campground, we decided to head over to the tunnel and camp at the closest campsite. We had to drive past an ice cream store so of course we had to stop. From there we drove to the tunnel, hiked down the road to Noland Creek and then to campsite #65. This campsite is a horse camp so it had a few picnic tables. Had to do some climbing of the hill side to get firewood. We had enough to keep us warm all night. Another beautiful night.

Day Four:
Springhouse Branch is a pretty trail and a good climb. When we got to the trail junction with Forney Ridge, we actually saw another backpacker. We asked him what he was doing out here and he didn't know either. Foreign guy it was. First half of Springhouse Branch was new trail.

When we got to campsite #71 it had been completely plowed by hogs. Dirt was turned everywhere covering all the area that was flat. We were wondering if they would be back and before dinner we found out. There was a funny noise coming down the side of the mountain. When we saw black we thought bear, but when he slowed down we saw hog. This one kept on going by and stopped for a drink at the creek. A few minutes later and some more noise coming down the mountain. The next thing we know we have "Pumba" staring at us. We stared back. Until Craig reached for the camera and then it was hog heading straight back up the mountain side. He must have told his friends because we saw no more hogs.

We had a working fire tonight. The wood was damp and we had to keep working it to keep it burning. Another good evening.

Day Five:
Frost on the tarps this morning. I guess it dropped a bit last night. We got the fire going for warming and eating around. Today we were heading out. We saw our first hikers about a mile from the tunnel.

Five days, five new trails marked off on my map!


Monday, November 6, 2017

Nathan Bedford Forrest SP

Day One: 7.75
Day Two: 6.25

After a slight change of plans this weekend, Lora and I decided to overnight at Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park. I had hiked here in 2007 with the Outcasts.

We started with a visit to there museum. I wanted to show Lora the boats they had in there.

We started at the trailhead behind the Interpretive Center and followed the markings for the ten mile trail. We then followed the blazing for the twenty mile trail. They are working on their markers right now so they are a little confusing. They have not marked the 20 mile trail and it is in need of repair as well. Once you pass the old CCC buildings on the upper Northeast corner and drop down to the river, the trail becomes impassible. Flooding and overgrowth have over taken the trail. We reverted to the trail map and by using the topo, we crossed the creek and turned West to find the trail. This is where we spent the night. It is a good water source and this is where the Outcasts camped as well.

We got to see deer, an owl, a turkey, and a whole mess of little lizards on the trail. That night the coyotes sung to us, one being very close. We enjoyed the campfire into the night.

The next morning after packing up, I checked the topo again to make sure before we headed out. The map shows you heading back down to the river after climbing the ridge. The trail actually climbs the ridge and then follows an old roadbed West before dropping down into a creek valley. Must be a reroute they never changed on the map.

We got to see more deer and turkey today. We were also trying to keep up to the markers when they were available. The signage on the way back is a little misleading as well. You need to follow the signs for the "cabin" to get back to the trailhead. We miss read their map and ended up at a gate leaving the park. Now they have a better map on the webpage which I suggest printing off and taking with you.

The shorter trails are flater. I would rate the longer trails moderate because there are no switchbacks on any of the hills.

We talked to the ranger after we got off the trail and hopefully they will continue to work on their trails.