Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sawtooth / Dead Deer Arch / Rock Creek / Buffalo Arch

Sawtooth Overlook and back 7 miles
Dead Deer Arch
Rock Creek Loop 9 miles
Parker Mountain Trail 0.6
Buffalo Arch 0.5
Total Miles: 17.1

Off to Big South Fork we went with an adventure in mind.  We started off on the Map listed as Hicks Ridge Trail and Sawtooth Ridge Trail.  In the book it is listed as Laurel Fork of North White Oak Creek.  Anyways the trailhead is on Darrow Ridge Road and the sign says 3.5 miles to Sawtooth Overlook.  Just up the trail is a new trail "Darrow Ridge Horse Trail"  that goes 2.1 miles East to Hippy Cave.

Our trail is old road bed which passes a cool looking rock wall on the left.  The Wild Cat Den is at 0.6 miles, which is a large rock shelter which has opening in the roof making it a natural arch in formation.  From there you ford the Laurel Fork on pavers.  Even at 24 degrees outside, the calf deep creek felt cold.  The roadbed goes up the other side with a steady climb.  When you get to the top you will find the longest straight trail in the BSF.  We hung a right at the intersection with the Sawtooth Ridge Trail and headed out to the overlook. The trail to the left is supposed to go out to what Google shows as Montgomery Lane off 154.

The Sawtooth Canyon is totally different than any other in the BSF.  From the air it would look like a saw blade with the teeth facing each other from both sides of the canyon.  The Laurel fork works it way back and forth between the high rock walls of the canyon.  We walked one of the teeth out to the end.  It started snowing on us there and we had a couple of white outs as we were eating our lunch.  Then we followed our trail back to the car.  We did not find the trail listed on the map as Pond Ridge Trail.

Next we were going to drive down to Hippy Cave.  Just past the Sawtooth trailhead there is alot of roads built for land that was for sale.  Maybe a quarter mile down the road turned into a mud pit with a field on the side.  We stopped and walked around the mud pit and saw that the road continued along the side of the field  but you would need a tractor or a good four wheel drive to make it.  We saw a trail heading into the woods and followed it for a bit and it connects to the new trail Darrow Ridge Horse Trail.  So we called this adventure off.  All the other trails off Darrow Ridge Road must be for hiking in dry weather only.   Maybe mid summer.

Next on our agenda was Dead Deer Arch.  This is an unmarked arch with no path going to it.  A hunter found it while looking for a deer.  The deer fell in the crack that makes the arch.  We found it in the book.  We drove the 1.8 miles up Divide Road and pulled off to the left.  We found the two signs on the post for the Pickett State Forest and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and started our bush whacking for the 0.1 miles down into the gorge.  Lora found a rock wall on the right with an opening so we headed that way.  After we explored the area around the creek and did find a small waterfall, we decided that we were in the wrong area.

On the way in I thought I saw a large rock wall over the next hill so we went and followed the next draw back up towards the road.  Here we found the arch.  It has a 40 foot span and is higher than the advertised 18 feet high as you can tell from our pictures.  After exploring the area, we headed up the North end of the arch and in about fifty feet we were back on the road and came across a tree with the same signs.  So if your looking for this arch, it is between 1.7 and 1.8 from TN 154 and look in the woods for the drop off you can see about 50 feet into the woods.  Go in by the tree with the two signs.  This is before you get to Watson Branch Road.

Next on the agenda was 9 mile Rock Creek Loop.  We hiked it clockwise to get to a campsite with water within a mile.  There was a group of Boy Scouts camping across the street from the Southern trailhead.  We parked up the road at the main trailhead and walked the road back to the Southern trailhead.  There was about a half inch of snow on the ground when we started.

We dropped down into the gorge and to Rock Creek.  There was a campsite at the junction with the JMT so we made it ours.  We collected alot of wood for the 19 degrees it was going to get down to.  We had a peaceful evening with a clear sky, lots of stars, and a moon so bright we didn't need flashlights.

The next morning we continued our hike of Rock Creek.  We were looking for the intersection of Coffee trail from across the creek, but never saw it.  It was another plan that we were considering as a trail into the Rock Creek loop.  We also found out that the Sheltowee has been rerouted for anyone that has hiked it.  It used to end at Pickett State Park, but now it is following the JMT and crosses over to the Charit Creek Lodge and goes back to the JMT and on to Leatherwood Ford.

The Rock Creek Loop is a beautiful trail covered with rock walls, the creek, a waterfall, and lots of green.  We had lots of icicles too this time of year.  The prettiest section is the rail bed out of the gorge with the waterfall and rock walls.  We passed four backpackers from Ohio along Rock Creek and one bicycle rider on the last section before the graveyard.

Now for the Buffalo Arch.  We drove back out to TN 154 and drove North past Pickett State Park.  We passed the trailhead for Coffee Trail which is a gated road, and headed into Kentucky to FR 562.  The first road to the right off FR 562 is the Parker Mountain trailhead.  You follow this trail 0.3 miles and the Buffalo Arch trail is a 0.25 mile spur trail  off to the right.  This is an amazing looking arch as it comes off the end of a rock wall.  It spans 82 feet and is higher than the advertised 19 foot clearance as you can see in our pictures.

So back to car as time runs out for this weekends adventures.  Life is Great!


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