Tuesday, April 24, 2012
I drove to Savage Gulf, Greeter Falls trailhead to meet up with Upper Cumberland TTA. It was raining when I got to the parking lot, cold rain, zipped the pant legs on, too cold for shorts. Two cars pulled up, nine hikers emerged ready to hike. Richard, Kathleen, Margaret, Pete, Louise, Gary, Mike, Cindy and Pokey Pete. The rain stopped as we started out. This park is loaded with waterfalls. It’s a short hike to Upper Greeter Falls and Lower Greeter Falls. Lots further to the last one we would see today. I tried to get pictures of them all, along with the wildflowers blooming along the way.
The Mountain Laurel was starting to show its blooms. All the early spring blooms are gone and the late spring ones are blooming now. Stonecrop, Maple leaf viburnum, Sweet Betsy Trillium, just to name a few. If you look at the pictures you will notice I didn’t label them all. (cause I don’t know what they were).
Board Tree Falls was pretty. We hiked into the Gulf. The Sinks didn’t have any water but Ranger Falls was flowing great. There were pretty purple blooms all over the rocks leading to the falls, not sure what the tree is. The Ranger we met on the trail thought it was a Princess Tree. I looked at images online later and found that it is invasive. Pretty blooms though.
We hiked the Connector trail to the junction with Collins Gulf and took a spur trail to Schwoon Spring which is really cool to see coming out of the cave.
Then on to Horsepound Falls and then Suter Falls coming off the trail at Collins West trailhead. 14 miles today.
We stopped at Mary’s in Coalmont for supper. I think they were a little surprised by all of us coming in at once. They didn’t mind our muddy boots and the food was good. Stop in for the sweet tea. It’s good.
No cell service in the area so if you need to call someone to tell them you’re going to be late, you have to get back on Hwy 111 to get service for Verizon. Sorry to worry you Mom and Craig. Great hike, now home for shower and sleep….zzzzzzzz
Monday, April 16, 2012
Diane's Easter weekend backpack got scheduled for the weekend after Easter. So 6 of us set out for the Smokies on Friday: Diane, Sue, Nancy, Amy, Garnett and me. We met up at Garnett's, and after a tour of her lovely home we headed to Cade's Cove. Driving around the loop road we saw a mama bear with her baby feeding on the side of the road. A Ranger was warning folks about the bears, don’t get too close!
We drove up Parson Branch Road to drop two cars, had lunch there (with jelly beans for dessert) and went on to Abrams Creek Ranger Station to start the hike on Rabbit Creek Trail.
We traveled most of the day so our hike to campsite 14 was a short hike, only 3.5 miles. We saw lots of Dwarf Crested Iris along the way. #14 is a big camping area so we all had a flat spot to set up our tents. Ever had a tent pole break? Nancy had a small issue with a tent pole, quickly fixed with duct tape. We gathered a lot of firewood and stacked it up. Sue showed us how to really get a fire started, didn't need the dryer lint or starter log. After supper we passed around the cough medicine and watched the stars come out. We got to listen to the creek sing us to sleep. Sweet.
Saturday we packed up and crossed the creek, show off those legs Miss Garnett! Wee, that water is COLD! Diane had bandanas for each of us to dry our feet. Gifts from the Easter Bunny. We hiked back to the Hannah Mt junction to Abram's Creek. We saw all the huge trees that blew down during last April’s tornado. The trail was in great shape thanks to the trail crews that cleared all those trees. There were lots of wildflowers and the dogwoods were in full bloom among the trees that were left. Crossvine was blooming, adding color to the trees, and we saw Magnolia blossoms, and Silverbell blossoms. So much beauty among the broken trees. The forest renewing, and still very much alive.
We watched two dads with their sons cross Abram's Creek only getting water in one boot hanging from a pack. We climbed back up to the trail junction and had lunch at campsite 16. Then on toward campsite 14.
We stopped for a break to cool off and a backpacker came by and asked if we were headed for #14. Yes. He said there would be 4 of them plus us. Then told Sue "you work at REI" and hiked on. When we got there we left the area around the firering for them and set up on the slope. Slanted sleeping. Diane scouted the area for water and reported there was a seep down the hill with a small pool of water that would require scooping a cup full to pour into a bigger container, or the creek 375 paces up the trail. Seep or creek....hmmm. We hiked to the creek and filled up all the water bags and bladders and munched on brook lettuce.
When we got back to camp two of the other guys had set up and the 4th came in right behind them. They were talking about all they had seen along the trail and were comparing pictures of wildflowers. We shared what we had seen and looked at their pictures. They told us to watch for the flame azaleas tomorrow along the trail. We told them about the Gaywings and pink Lady Slippers going the other way. They asked if we had heard about the Park Superintendant wanting to start charging backpackers $4 per person per night for campsites and shelter use in the backcountry. We had heard a little about it. They gave us info about their website, GotSmokies.com and asked us to check it out. I hope you will check it out too. The fees will come in 2013. They told us about a protest at Sugarland Visitor Center on April 21. You can also get info from Southern Forest Watch.
We cooked supper and then one by one the ladies went to their tents to read and study maps. I stayed up to watch the stars. Glad I did cause the lightning bugs showed up too. First ones I've seen this year. Craig and the Outcasts had seen them at Natchez Trace a couple weeks ago. One of the guys recognized me from the blog. I was wearing my Outcast shirt and he knew the name from the blog. How cool. They were wearing Southern Highlanders shirts. I got to watch them cook supper over the campfire; bacon wrapped steak on a big stick. Only one went into the fire, quickly recovered from the ashes and put back on the stick. Very entertaining. A little more cough medicine and visiting and star watching then a night slanted sleeping. The wind howed across the Gap most of the night. Gaps seem to attract the wind that way....
Sunday morning we were serenaded by a turkey gobbling his way along the gap below us. Then the songbirds and woodpeckers. No sleeping in this morning. He must have strutted for a half hour but we never did see him. After a good oatmeal breakfast we packed up did some yoga and said goodby to the guys.
It wasn't very far from the creek that we started seeing the flame azaleas. So bright orange! Met a couple that said there were bears about a mile ahead. They had seen 9 this morning, coming in from Cades Cove. Sure enough, a mile later the mama and two cubs crossed the trail and ran down the slope. They stopped anwatched us. Mama Bear stood up and checked us out. I couldn't get a good pic, I hope someone did. We also got to see the huge tulip poplar 6 feet in diameter right by the trail. We passed a group of day hikers that recognized Diane from hiking in the parks around Nashville, then another recognized Garnett. We made it to the parking lot and retrieved our cars. The parking lot was full. We drove back to Abram's Creek Ranger Station to get the other cars. The kiosk at the campground had a bat trapped inside the glass.
We headed out with Nancy and Amy heading to Cades Cove for more hiking and the rest of us drove to Maryville for lunch at a sweet little place called the Tomato Head. Thanks Diane for another great weekend of hiking with the ladies!
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Monday, April 9, 2012
Friday April 6
Good Friday Hike at Wheeler Farm, Fall Creek Falls.
I asked if anyone was interested in hiking on Good Friday and a few folks decided to come spend some time in the woods at Fall Creek Falls. Cousin Anthony graciously agreed to lead us around Wheeler Farm and the Crusher Hole to see some wildflowers, waterfalls and Medley Arch. There was a beautiful blue sky and birds were singing. We met Sara, Tony and Denise from M’Boro in the Park. Lillian from Upper Cumberland and Ranger Monica met us at the trailhead on Hwy 30. From the entrance to the Park, drive down the mountain toward Spencer. About ½ way down on the left, you will see the parking area and the Wheeler Farm sign.
We followed the roadbed down the hill to the farm and then followed a path toward the Arch. Following Anthony with cameras in hand, we found so many different wildflowers to stop and investigate. A few times we consulted the wildflower guide to confirm some, like Pennywort and Large flowered Skullcap. The Skullcap is rare but grows abundantly in this area, the beautiful Cumberland Plateau. We wandered around the Arch area looking at flowers, and when we came to the Arch, it was very impressive. 90 feet high and 30 feet wide. There is a tulip poplar growing beside it and stretching its limbs up above the Arch and I wonder if it knows how tall it is.
Wheeler Falls was flowing and we climbed around seeing where all the water was flowing from. Lillian says you can go thru a crack to the left of the falls and get on top of the ridge to see the water coming from springs. Something else to explore. We hiked back to the cars and caravanned to the Crusher Hole. It is also part of FCF. At the foot of the mountain turn right on 285 drive a couple miles, turn right on a dirt road. Cross a creek bed.
Ate lunch and then walked around in the woods finding more to take pictures of….Little Brown Jug that looked green not brown, Columbine growing on the rock walls, trees with big lavender blooms (?), Larkspur, more Skullcap.
After the Crusher Hole, Anthony, Monica, and Lillian had other places they had to be so the rest of us went back to the Park to visit the big waterfall. 256 feet tall, highest east of the Mississippi, have to brag, it’s right here at Fall Creek Falls! We hiked to the bottom of the falls and then back up. Lots of folks out today enjoying their State Park.
Thanks Anthony for showing us all the flowers and thanks to everybody else for making it a great hike.
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Middle Prong Trail 4.1
Lynn Camp Prong 3.7
Miry Ridge Trail 2.5
Panther Creek Trail 2.3
Middle Prong Trail 2.3
Total Miles: 14.9
After the Outcast hike being cut short, Lora and I did an unplanned hike to the Smokies. We headed out to Tremont for an overnight backpack. The weather was great and the wildflowers were wonderful.
There were a lot of people out on the Middle Prong Trail looking at flowers. We took Lynn Camp Prong and spent the night at campsite #28. One other couple came in later that evening. We got about ten minutes of rain and then a wonderful cool night.
The next morning we climbed up to the Miry Ridge Trail and took in some views. On the way down the Panther Creek trail we got to listen to grouse, turkey, and an owl. Lots of woodpeckers out too.
I took a fall on Panther creek just to let Lora know I still had it going on. It felt good when we got the old fashion foot washing crossing Middle Prong Little River. This is where we saw the only other person on the trail other than Middle Prong Trail.