Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Day One: 8.3 Miles
I had never been to Frozen Head and wanted to do an exploratory hike to see what all was there for future hikes with my groups. After work I headed to Crossville. I had a wonderful drive to the park through the curves to the mountains.
I was originally going to park at the visitor’s center, but the lady at the desk insisted on me parking at the lot by the ranger’s house. So we started at that trailhead and hiked the Interpretive trail back to Chimney Top trail.
Our first wildlife was toads. We also saw lots of squirrels, a chipmunk, a doe, crawdads, and a bird that we think was laughing at us for most of the trip.
The climb to Chimney Top was a pretty good workout. When we got to the top, we really couldn't decide where the campsite was. There is a sign at the Chimney Top with the elevation. You could see where people have had a campfire by the overhang as well as beside the rock, but no sign or fancy table, which we found at every other site later on. There is no water source at this area.
We continued through low gap and over Little Fork Mountain to Mart Fields. This was another pretty good climb. There is a chimney there in a small grass field before you reach the actual Mart Fields campsite. Marts Fields campsite actually has a table made from a large flat rock put on wooden legs. We didn’t find any water at this site.
From Mart Fields we hiked to Spicewood Trail and then descended to Spicewood Branch campsite where we spent the first night. Spicewood campsite is right on the river, so water is no problem there. As soon as we set up camp and gathered firewood, we started getting a light drizzle. With the leaves on the trees, we could still get washed up and eat dinner. It was getting dark by this time and we called it a night as the rain got harder. Later that night the owls started talking. And they talked all night long. We figured that there were three of them and they all had a lot to say.
Day Two: 9.2 miles
We got a wonderful start to the day including breakfast. We packed up and continued down Spicewood trail. We turned on Judge Branch trail and hiked it to South Old Mac trail. The Judge Branch campsite is actually two large campsites right on the river. This would be a great spot for a group camping area. Judge Branch trail follows the river and then crosses over it and heads uphill to the crossing with South Old Mac trail.
We took South Old Mac trail up Frozen Head to the lookout tower. We did some hiking through the clouds for a good portion of the morning and worked up a sweat climbing. The sun started to break through as we got to the top. We explored Tub Springs Campsite and Tub Spring on the way up. The spring is 200 feet from the camp in a brick structure next to the jeep road. It had plenty of water even as the rivers where short on water.
We had a great time at the lookout tower and also enjoyed some great views. Our views didn’t last long as the clouds came in fast and blocked everything out. I tried to take a picture of the windmills that were on top of another mountain.
We hiked back across Panther Gap heading North on the Lookout Tower trail. Somewhere around Little Fork Mountain we stopped for lunch on the side of the jeep trail. Lookout tower trail is a jeep road.
Our original plan was to hike Coffin Spring trail to North Bird Mountain trail. When we got our permit they notified us that North Bird Mountain trail has been closed for 25 years and they just now got the section from Bird Mountain trail to Bald Knob open. So we hiked to Bird Mountain trail and then got on North Bird Mountain by Bald Knob.
They have a lot of good switchbacks down Bird Mountain and there is water at the creek at the bottom. We then hiked over Jury Ridge and back down to Phillips Creek, which is another good water source. We set up camp here as it was getting late and we had passed another hiker, which told us that there was no water at our intended stop at Bird Mountain campsite.
We set up camp and gathered firewood. It was a good night to dry clothes next to the fire. It was plenty warm so the fire was kept small. We had an owl talk to us, but were much quieter through the night.
Day Three: 8.4 Miles
We woke up to the sound of a turkey perking as it walked around the campsite. Another beautiful morning and we started the climb up Bird Mountain. We got to see a red headed woodpecker fly by. The Cumberland trail crosses the Bird Mountain trail at the top of Bird Mountain. As we stood there, we watched a small woodpecker pecking at a tree. We hiked down the other side to the North Prong campground where we ate lunch at a picnic table. You would be surprised as to what a backpacker can do with a sink at a campground bathroom.
From the campground we hiked the road to Panther Branch trail. There are two waterfalls, the DeBord Falls off the side of the trail and Emory Falls down a half-mile side trail. I would imagine that both of these would be pretty at a time of more water as they were worth the hike now.
The trail goes straight through Panther Branch campsite. They have bench there with a pavilion over it next to the table. The campsite is right on the water. From here you start the climb up Old Mac Mountain. It is a pretty area, but a strenuous hike.
At the top is the North Old Mac Mountain campsite. It is off the trail and there is a boulder that sticks out with a wonderful view. There is no water at this site. We took a good break there. From the campsite we hiked down North Old Mac trail back to the truck. On the way we got to stop and watch a doe wander through the woods.
This is a very beautiful park with a lot of nice trails. It is not a place for beginner hikers as some of the climbs are strenuous.