Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cumberland Valley Loop - Big South Fork

Gernt Trail 3.3
Gernt Overlook .3
O&W Trail 2.7
Coyle Branch Trail 2.1
North White Oak Loop 11.4
Groom Branch Trail 2.4
Total Miles: 22.2

Lora and I headed out for an overnight backpack at the Big South Fork.  We hiked the Cumberland Valley Loop and part of the North White Oak Loop which are all old road beds.  We started at the Cumberland Valley trailhead and hiked the Gernt Trail.  We did the side trip to the Gernt Overlook which is worth the time.  Great views and just a short side trail.  The sign says .3 one way but I think that is round trip.

After the Overlook, the trail drops down into the gorge to the North White Oak Creek.  With the cold weather, we got to see lots of icicles hanging off the rocks and frozen puddles on the trail.  It is a very pretty trail down to the creek.  Once at the bottom we took the O&W  trail along the creek heading East.  The first fording was of the Groom Branch.  Yes, the water was a little cool for the old fashion foot washing. It was a lot shallower than the North White Oak Creek ford that you would have to make to get to Long Ridge Trail that we saw there.

North White Oak Creek was up pretty high and made for some beautiful sights and some good swimming holes if you were up to it.  There were some good mud holes that we had to climb around too.

The next fording was of Coyle Branch, which was cool as well and a little bit wider.  There is a large area for a horse camp there where we turned and hiked the Coyle Branch trail up and out of the gorge.  The Coyle Branch trail was another beautiful hike with all the rock overhangs and icicles.  We bypassed the Leatherwood Overlook because the amount of miles we were already hiking.

We turned onto the North White Oak Loop trail and hiked it along the area that the wildfire had occurred some years ago.  We had many small creek crossings and wandered in and out of the Scott State Forest.  We ended up camping across one of the small creeks uphill into the woods.  According to the description it was around the 5.3 mile mark.  It was a cool night and we had to thaw the ice off the wood before it would burn.  We stayed warm by the fire and enjoyed the light of the full moon along with the stars in the clear sky.  We heard some coyotes during the evening.

The next morning we got up and continued our hike on the North White Oak Loop.  Once again we bypassed the White Oak overlook because of the miles.  The trail wondered along both sides of the gorge without any good views.  We did see two brave horse riders out just before we got to the Groom Branch Trail.  On  the Groom Branch trail we did see a wild looking growth in the top of hemlock tree.  It looked like a bush growing up there with lots of branches and the same needles.  First we have seen anything like that.  Over all it was a good hike.

On the way out we noticed a sign that said "Permits" at the Hitching Post General Store by the trailhead.  So we stopped in a found out that you don't have to drive all the way to Bandy Creek Visitor Center to get a permit to backpack in the Big South Fork.  That would have saved us lots of miles over the years.  They do serve food here and they are open on Sundays which is a rarity.  The owners Jim and Claudia also own the Big South Fork Lodge.  So stop by and see them next time your in the area.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Laurel Falls - CT

Lora and I did a day hike to Laurel Falls.  We headed to Dayton after church and went to the Laurel Snow Pocket Wilderness trailhead.  There were probably 35 cars at the trailhead so it was a popular day to hike.  There were rock climbers and hikers out.  We hiked up Richland Creek and over the Laurel Creek bridge.  The creeks were up and the water falls were looking good.  We did Laurel falls and then climbed up to the top of the bluff.  We got to do an old fashion foot washing in Laurel creek on the way to Bryan Overlook.  There were actually other hikers crazy enough to do the same.  On the way back to the trailhead we did some trail maintenance trying to cover up and block all the shortcuts that people have to make.  What is wrong with following the trail?


Saturday, January 19, 2013

TTA Possum Creek

What a beautiful day for hiking. 26 degrees this morning. I met the Soddy Daisy and Plateau TTA  groups at the Heiss Mt Trailhead for Possum Creek on the CT. The plan was for the SD hikers to hike 2 hours in and then head back; the Plateua group was hiking to Imodium Falls and then back out.

 15 hikers started down the trail wearing layers, gloves, hats. The water was flowing deep in all the creeks after 9 days of rain. The rock houses and bluffs all had water falling down them, could have taken an icy shower. Big Possum Creek was beautiful. The climb up the other side was steep but the views from the top of the ridge were clear. Layers started coming off. The sun was warm. 3 of our hikers stopped by the creek and turned back. We kept going. We got a phone call that one of those hikers was misplaced so two more turned back to help find the missing one. After word of this got up the trail 2 more turned back to help with finding the hiker. We were down to 8 hikers. We kept going. We hiked to Imodium falls to have lunch. The falls had more water coming over than any of us had ever seen.  According to the hike description from the CT we were 5.6 miles in. 4 of our hikers decided to hike out to the logging road for a shortcut to Retro Hughes Rd. Now down to 4 hikers, we started back to the trailhead. Were were moving on down the trail, stopping on the climbs to let the old heartrate slow down a bit. We met a hiker coming in; Firefighter from Chattanooga, new to the area, moved here from Miami. He said he had been looking on the CTC site and was hoping to do some volunteer work on the trail. We gave him some info and hiked on. Met up with a lady hiker going the same way we were. Found that she was also in the TTA  from Memphis and a seasonal interpretive Ranger Deena.

The other group had located their hiker, who had started back up the trail thinking the others had already started ahead of him. All was good.

We made it back to the trailhead in good time and the three guys headed toward Retro Hughes Road to pick up the ladies and I headed home.  11.2 miles. Woo hoo!


Friday, January 18, 2013

Sandhill Crane's - Dayton

Lora and I went down to the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge to see the Sandhill Cranes.  They are having a festival this weekend and we thought that we should beat the crowd.  Lora had been told that there were thousands of them on the river and we had never gone to see them.  When we got there obviously there were not thousands.  We found out that the seven days of rain had made the river rise and the cranes had gone.  It was good to see the ones we saw.  We got to see three different hawks, one Blue Heron, and lots of smaller birds.  We did look the part with our camera and binoculars.  


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Soddy Creek Section - Cumberland Trail

Cumberland Trail 12.1 Miles

Lora and I headed out to Soddy Daisy to hike the Cumberland trail.  We left a car on either end and hiked from Hotwater Road to Heiss Mountain Road.  We had not through hiked this section for the last three years even though we have both done trail maintenance in this area.

It was hot and humid today with some views blocked with the fog.  The trail was in good condition and we got to try out the two temporary bridges put in place over Deep Creek and Big Soddy Creek.  Thankfully they were there as the water was high and it would have been dangerous to cross without them.

Some of our pictures are a little foggy due to the weather.  This section contains multiple ecosystems and some of the most beautiful rock bluff areas on the trail.  There is alot of ups and downs with some being steep through the Gorges.  We saw lots of different birds and also some deer.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Big Island Loop

Pilot Wine Loop 1.6 miles
Big Island Loop 16
Pilot Wine Loop 1.6
Total Miles: 19.2

Lora and I headed to Big South Fork for an overnight hike.  We parked at the Station Camp East trailhead and hiked to the Big Island Loop from there.  We did this so that we would be on the river for a water source for that night.

Right off the bat, Lora found a wallet on the trail.  We figured it would be from a horse rider as there were about eight horse trailers in the parking lot.  When we got to the split for the Big Island Loop we met our first batch of horse riders and asked them if they knew the person we were looking for.  No, they did not know them.  We headed on.  The trail was muddy in places as any horse trail is.  The cold temperatures from the night before kept the mud hard and the puddles were frozen over.  We passed a couple of hunters that were hanging out at their van on Big Island road.  They didn't have any luck with deer hunting.

The trail swings around and meets the road again at the dead end.  We met the same group of horse riders at the dead end.  They headed out and we started the decent down to the river.  We took a break at the Big Island Crossing.  That trail was pretty much a creek and we took it down to the river.  It looked a little too deep to ford this time of year.  It started sleeting on us here and we hiked on.

Not far down the trail we had two other horses pass us and neither one of them looked like the ID in the wallet.  Soon afterwards two horses came toward us and both of them were looking on the trail.  One happened to be the guy we were looking for and he sure was happy to see us.  We found out that he was part of the first group that we met, but the guy went by his middle name not his first name.  He was part of a group of eighteen which we met at the Burke cabin, which is an old cabin that they keep in good repair and is used on a regular basis.  It has two bedrooms and a large loft along with a main room with a fire place.  The horse riders really wanted us to stay there for the night.  They said it was the best place on the river to stay.  They just don't understand backpackers.  We hiked on.

We played tag with the riders again before we stopped for the night.  We were just shy of Station Camp crossing.  We set up on the side of the river and enjoyed a peaceful evening by the fire.  Late into the night we got to hear the owls talking. 

The next morning we went about a quarter of a mile to Station Camp and checked out the crossing there.  It too is way under water.  Then we did the climb back to the top of the plateau.  At the Slaven Cemetery we walked to the road and went to the Chimney Rocks which are right by the cemetery and beside the road.  Two really cool rock formations.  After that we got back on the trail.  The trails crosses Station Camp Road and then Big Island Road.  Lots of rock formations to look at.  We passed by the Indian Rock House, which is a really cool place to visit, because we had just visited it last hike here.  From here we hiked on to the car.  The mud had thawed which made it more interesting.

Another great overnight hike at the Big South Fork.