Sunday, March 31, 2013

Lake Shore Trail to Newfound Gap

Dam walk to trailhead 0.5
Lake Shore trail to #86 10.5
DAY ONE: 11.0 Miles

Side trip to Lake and back at #86 1.0
Lake Shore trail from #86 to #76 12.3
DAY TWO: 13.3 Miles

Lake Shore trail from #76 to #74 8.9
DAY THREE: 8.9 Miles

Lake Shore trail from #74 to Lake view drive 3.0
Lake view drive 1.1
Noland Creek trail to #61 8.3
DAY FOUR: 12.4

Noland Creek trail #61to Noland Divide 0.9
Noland Divide to Clingmans Dome Road 3.7
Clingmans Dome Road to Newfound Gap Road 5.8
DAY FIVE: 10.4


Our original plan was to hike the AT from Fontana Dam to Newfound Gap.  We found out that the thru hikers were going through now and also the permits were taken for the shelters.  Our plan "B" went to the Lakeshore trail starting at Fontana Dam and ending at Newfound Gap by way of Noland and the AT.  We almost went to a plan "C" when we found out that all of the roads in the park were closed for snow.  Our plan was to have our shuttle meet us at Newfound Gap and drop us off at the Dam.  When I called him about the roads being closed, he volunteered to pick us up at Newfound Gap on Sunday.

Lakeshore trail brought back memories from our Father Son Hike in 2005.  One memory being the boat trip which we had a shuttle to take it's place.  The second being the miscalculation of my brother's mileage which had us do a 13.9 mile last day.  So I figured the miles twice to be sure all was well.  The third memory is that the name of the trail is misleading.  Yes, in general it goes along the side of the lake and that is about it.  You are anywhere from 300 to 800 feet above the lake and you do get views of the lake every now and then.  There are lots of ups and downs as with any trail in the Smoky's.

There is a lot of history on this trail.  When they flooded the valley a lot of people were displaced including whole towns.  You get to see a lot of old home sites, cars, chimneys, metal junk, cemeteries, one restored house in the old town of Proctor, and a tunnel.  We really thought we would see alot of wild flowers, but we were early for them.  The whole trail is 35 miles long and is one of the longest single trails in the National Park.  You can section hike it with boat shuttles out of the marina.


We started off this hike with a milage extender.  They were working on the dam, so we parked at the far side and hiked across the dam to the trailhead.  The trailhead is at a split with the AT.  We saw two hikers come up behind us that took the AT.  There was snow on the ground, but it was melting pretty fast as the sun was shining on it.  We met a group of ten students from Minnesota who were on their Spring Break and were doing an out and back backpack on the trail.  That was the last of the people on the trail.  We did see two people fishing at campsite 90 which looks like a fisherman's paradise.

We got to see a hawk, a lizard, and two Mallard ducks.  The park had some kind of feeder or trap hung in the trees.  It was located right next to a small creek in the woods.  At the end of one of the hanging ropes I saw something black and white on the ground.  Well, when I walked up to it, it stood up.  I was looking at the tail end of a Mallard duck.  Next to it was a female.  That was the last thing I expected out here in the woods.

We got to see a lot of cars, old metal pieces, and old homesites.  Our campsite was at the old location of the town of Proctor where they have a restored house.  It was a big campground with lots of sites.  We had a quite and star filled night.  The moon came up and lite the campsite up all night.


We started out the day right or wrong I guess.  We headed away from town,  but on the wrong trail.  We got to see some deer in a clearing and the creek got bigger as we headed toward the lake.  We stopped when we saw a bridge way up on the bank of the lake bed.  The pylons were in line with our trail which didn't look good for the home team.  While Lora was saying "I am not ...." over and over again, I pulled out the map out and found that we had gone the wrong way and we would not be swimming across the river.  We turned around and headed back to town.  At the bridge next to the sign we took a picture of the night before with information about the town, was a sign pointing the direction that we were supposed to go.  Yes, when we passed the deer again, they were rolling on the ground laughing and pointing at us.

We got to see a chipmunk, wood pecker, a hawk, two C130's and a Grouse which scared the bejesus out of us.  Yes, two C130 aircraft flying in formation over the lake at low low level.  My Dad would be proud!

There were more homesites and our campsite was close to one too.  Campsite 76 is a small clearing just on the side of the trail.  Another great night.


This part of the trail actually follows the closest to the lake.  It was our short day of hiking so we took our time getting going.  Lots of homesites in this area.  We saw some people in campsite 98 as we went by it.  We also saw the first and only boats we were going to see on the lake.  Two fishing boats went by that morning.

When we got to our campsite at Forney Creek there was one tent there and a woman by the campfire.  We put up our tent and the rain started.  We unpacked in the tent and took a nap.  The rain stopped so we got up and went over to visit.  There were two guys that had been doing some fishing and the woman.  They were locals and were out for two nights.  After visiting with them we went back and cooked dinner.  Later, another tent popped up with another couple.  We went back over to the fire and visited with them as well.  They were from North Carolina.  The original campers had dragged the firewood from a mile and a half up trail where they were fishing.  It is a well used campsite!

After we went to bed the rain started back up and it rained all night.


The rain had stopped by the time we got up.  We packed up and headed out before anyone else got up.  We passed a single backpacker who was just starting out on the Lakeshore trail going the oposite direction. When we got to the tunnel, a family was coming through making as many echo's as they could.  The parking area was full.  We road hiked down to the Noland Creek trailhead and got a signal to call the park.  The recording said that all the roads were now open.

The Nolands Creek trail is road bed up to campsite 64.  We stopped there and ate lunch at one of the picnic tables.  From there up is regular trail.  We got to see more homesites and the bracing for an old water wheel for a powerplant.  We had three old fashion foot washings further up the trail and we found a dead owl on the trail.  We hit one section that the grass hoppers had hatched out.  There were millions of them all about a quarter inch long.

We camped at 61 which is a small campsite right on the trail.  We had another wonderful night by the campfire and the rain started just as we went to bed.


We got up to a muddy campsite.  It had poured all last night.  We got up early wanting to get home a decent time.  Surprisingly, it was all uphill to Clingman's Dome.  More surprisingly was the more and more snow that we got into.  It was a good wet snow with water running under it down the trail.  It didn't even make good snow angels as Lora tried to do.  She acted like she didn't do it on purpose, but I know she was trying.  She got really wet though.  The last couple of miles on the Noland Divide trail were a workout and we were tired by the time we got to the Clingman's Dome road.

The thought of hiking the AT from here was dampened by the AT hikers using the road.  There was a packed down trail going down the road that had anywhere from three to eight inches depending on where you were.  The AT thru hikers were heading to Gatlinburg until the snow melted.  We called our ride and told him we were hiking the road.  I got some comments about wearing shorts from the thru hikers and people at the end of the road.  Our ride was waiting for us when we got there so life was good.  We found out the next day that the park service rescued 10 hikers from the AT at Clingman's Dome that same afternoon.

We had wondered if there were any Bald Eagles at Fontana Lake.  We even asked our ride when he dropped us off.  After we left the dam and crossed the bridge back over the lake we saw a Bald Eagle on the side of the road in a tree.  I backed up so we could look at it and it flew to the other side of the lake and landed in a tree with another Bald Eagle.  So if anyone was wondering, Yes, there are Bald Eagles on Fontana Lake.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Roaring Creek II

Roaring Creek Trail 1.8
New section of trail 1.87
Total Miles: 7.34

I wanted to show Lora the work that the college kids have been doing on the Cumberland trail.  So after church we headed over for a short hike.  We went to the trailhead off Brayton Road in Graysville.  The Roaring Creek segment had already been built up to the overlook.  Now there is roughly 1.87 miles more of it running along the bluff line going North towards HWY 30.

We got to see the water fall and numerous new overlooks.  The trail is looking good, they just don't have it marked yet.  It stops at a creek crossing and then we hiked back.  It was really foggy on our way in, but cleared for some good views on the way back out.  I was thinking it was a shorter section until I googled it afterwards and found out we did about 7.3 miles.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Collins Gulf Loop TTA

I drove to Savage Gulf to hike with the Columbia/Upper Cumberland TTA  group. We met at the Collins West trailhead. Our hike leader was Gary and he planned a loop for us to hike. Other hikers were Louise, Kathleen, Richard, Jeff, Jennifer, Vicky, and Cynthia and her 2 dogs. We hiked to Suter Falls and I was thinking the last time I was here it was covered in ice.... then on to Horsepound Falls which was beautiful. Everything was a little damp so the trail was a little tricky. We had some trail dancing going on. We saw a lot of wildflowers starting to bloom, Trillium, Dutchman's Britches, Bloodroot, Toothwort, Rue Anemone, Hepatica.

We hiked down into the gulf and took the spur trail to Schwoon  Spring. We got on the Connector Trail to get to Stagecoach Road. Richard took the alternate stage road, exploring the high road. We met up again and then we took the Collins Rim Trail. We checked out all the overlook spur trails. The views were really pretty, you can see the trees budding. The boulder field was challenging today as the rocks were damp and slippery. At one of the creek crossings, one hiker had to see how much water he could get in his shoes.

The rain held off and we had a beautiful day of hiking. We did somewhere between 11 and 13 miles.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

TTA Piney River Backpack

Stinging Fork  3 Miles
Twin Rock's Nature Trail 1.8
Flat Rock Loop Trail  0.7
Piney River Segment 8.46
Total Miles: 13.96

The Murfreesboro chapter hosted a backpack on the Cumberland Trail.  We met up at the Piney River trailhead on Shut In Gap road.  Lora and I got there early and hiked the Twin Rock's Nature trail and Flat Rock Loop trail before everyone got there.  When we had finished, the last car of hikers had pulled up.  There were three from Murfreesboro; Sara, Faith, and Jenny and four from Memphis; Deena, Lea, Jeff, and Ricky. That's not counting  Lora and I.  We loaded up into two cars and left the rest of the cars at the trailhead parking area.

Our first stop was Stinging Fork Falls Trail.  The trail starts at the gravel parking area on Shut-in Gap Road. This three mile round trip trail is rated moderate and leads the hiker through a managed pine plantation into the 140 acre Bowater Stinging Fork Pocket Wilderness.  There is a spur trail that leads to Indian Head Point, which is a scenic overlook of the rugged Stinging Fork Gorge.  The main trail descends into the gorge and ends at the 35 foot Stinging Fork Falls.

We didn't lose any hikers until just as we started the decent into the Stinging Fork Gorge.  Being the proud sweep I kept everyone in eyesight, when Deena asked where is Faith?  With a quick and calculated head count of eight I quickly figured we had lost one.  How in the h---?  We just started on the trail??  Well then it came out; one of the men said she had gone to use the bathroom before we left the parking area.  She had a fifty-fifty chance of picking the right trail and she went to the overlook instead.  So two of the girls went back for her and the rest of us continued on down to the falls.

We had lunch at the falls and our barefooted hiker went wading in the Fall pool.  After lunch we headed up and took the side trail to Indian Head Point.

Our next stop was the Piney River Segment.  It has been four years since I hiked this section so once again the search was on for the trailhead.  There is a 4x4 sign pole at Walden Mountain Road, which is an upgrade since the last visit.  The first road off of Walden Mountain Road is a gated road.  The next split is the Newby Branch Road and it also now has a 4x4 sign post.  You take the second entrance into the campground which is a "better" road and the trail kiosk is on the right.  All of the roads in this area are washed out as before.

A quick check of the packs and off we went.  When we got down to the Duskin Creek trailhead there were three trucks there from Rutherford County.  After we crossed the metal Duskin Creek bridge, we proved that the snakes are out.  I, being the fine sweep, showed everyone after they darn near stomped on him, a small water snake just to the side of the trail.  We also found a large lumber chain on the side of the trail.

When we got to the White Pine Cascades, I said my goodbye and headed back to the truck.  I only had the day to hike and the rest were there for an overnighter.
The rest of the story:

After Craig turned back the rest of us stopped at White Pine cascades to fill up water bottles. A little further down the trail, another snake was found, a baby, light brown with teeny spots, not that I got close enough to see the spots....

We passed by the Spider Den Bluff spur, no one wanted spiders, and headed on toward our camp. We found the junction for Rock House Branch but the trail sign was on the ground. We tried to prop it back up but the signage didn't make sense. No matter which way you turned the sign, it was wrong. If you pointed the arrow toward the Piney Picnic Area Trailhead, the arrow for Rock House pointed the wrong way. If you pointed the arrow toward Rock House Branch the sign for Picnic area pointed the wrong way????????Who made this sign????? Deena ran down the trail to make sure it was the campsite and ran back up to get all of us.

This is a great area for group camping. We had 8 tents and there was room for more. We had a huge fire ring with rock chairs for everyone right on the riverside. There were rock walls along the river bank on the other side and a rock wall along Rock House Branch. Old logging roads. We set up camp, gathered wood for the campfire, all stacked nice and neat.

We cooked supper, and had Belgian chocolates for dessert thanks to Ricky. The fire was big enough that the Outcasts would have been proud. Deena kept us entertained with ghost stories of Tennessee State Parks, and doing a little dance when her Jetboil boiled over. You are on fire girl! The stars put on a show for us too.

The next morning we were up and eating and packing up, and realized three of us were still sleeping to the sounds of the river rushing by. We woke them up and then Deena demonstrated again how a Jetboil  boils over.

We hiked on crossing more creeks flowing down the mountain sides and then at the suspension bridge crossing Piney River we heard Dueling Banjos and hiked a little faster. We got to see some of the first wildflowers blooming. We found trout lily, yellow and white violets, Hepatica, Blood root, Anemone,Spring Beauties and a few more white flowers I haven't identified yet.

Thanks to Sara for arranging the backpack and to the Memphis folks for driving so far to backpack with us. It was fun.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Charit Creek

Charit Creek Trail 1.0 Miles
Hatfield Ridge Trail 6.8
Charit Creek Overlook 1.4
DAY ONE: 9.2
Station Camp Creek Trial 4.3
Charit Creek Trail 1.0
Black House Branch Trail 4.4
DAY TWO: 9.7

Back to Big South Fork for another weekend backpack.  To add a little excitement to our hike, we did some off trail adventures in search of natural arches found on our Tennessee Land Forms Link.

We started at the Charit Creek trailhead which has been moved since the book and map have been printed.  It is now 0.2 miles back up the road where they built a horse trailer parking lot and a hiker parking lot and gated the road.

You pass the Fork Ridge trailhead and the trail starts at the back of the old parking spot.  This trail is also now part of the Sheltowee Trace.  The trail drops down a ladder and follows the creek down to Charit Creek Lodge.  We left the trail and climbed back up to the rock bluff wall.  Near the end of the wall we found Bob's Arch which is 12' x 10'.  At the bottom is another opening that goes all the way through.  It was 1' x 6'.  We then hiked the trail down to the lodge.  Behind the lodge we picked up the Hatfield Ridge Loop trail and headed uphill.  On the map it is labeled as the Charit Creek Lodge Connector trail.  We left this trail in search of the 25' x 30' Hatfield Ridge arch which we did not find.  After further study, I feel we started too low on the hill side and even though we climbed up another level we should not have left the trail until you see the large rock formations at the top of the climb.

By now we had a pretty good work out in and decided to abandon our further searches for arches and just hike the trail.  We took the side trail to the Station Camp Creek (Charit Creek) overlook.  It had a wonderful view of the valley and an aerial view of Charit Creek Lodge.  We then headed back to the Hatfield Ridge trail and hiked down to the end of the ridge.

The trail circles around the end of the ridge with some views of the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River.    The trail now joins the John Muir trail and we made camp at an existing campsite on Station Camp Creek.  We had a warm campfire and saw the stars in between the clouds.  We got to hear an owl and I scared some large critter off when I went for more water after dark.

The next morning we got up and headed up stream on the Station Camp Creek trail.  They have made some changes and rerouted the trail / roadbed to avoid creek fording.  We were let down as we are always looking  forward to some old fashion foot washing.  We stopped at the Hatfield Cemetery and also at the pond that was dammed up by a beaver.  You could see some fresh cuttings as we removed one from the trail. When we got back to the lodge we took the Charit Creek trail back to the car.  We scared five deer on our climb out.

We swapped to day packs and hiked back to the Fork Ridge Trailhead and took it to the Black House Branch trail.  This follows the new Sheltowee Trace trail across to Jack's Ridge Loop trail.  We made a steep decent down to the creek crossings.  We crossed the Black House Branch three times and the Laurel Fork once before we started up the other side of the gorge.  This is also where the Laurel Fork Creek trail crosses.  On the way up there is a very large rock laying next to the trail and also a really impressive rock house to check out.   After we got to the Jack's Ridge Loop trail we turned around and hiked back to the car.  The creeks had not warmed up since the first trip across.

Another good hike and workout.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Window Rock

Lora and I went exploring after church on our mountain in search of Window Rock.  It is right off Window Rock Road.  It is located in the woods all by itself with no other rocks anywhere around.  We also took some pictures of the Sequatchie Valley from the Window Rock overlook.


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Roaring Creek with Chattanooga Hiking Club

I met the CHC at the trailhead for Roaring Creek in Graysville. We had 1 to 2 inches of snow at home but there was none in the valley. I was hoping for a snowy hike. This trail is only 7.5 miles from home. Boodie Fox was leading the hike today. There were 7 of us. We hiked up the creek road and then up the trail to the bluff. Past the bluff the trail is flagged for future CT miles. We saw a hawk flying over the bluff area.

On the way back down, one of our hikers was missing a glove and 3 went back to the bluff to look for it. The rest of us started on down the trail.  They caught up with us at the cascading waterfall on the trail. When we got back to the creek road we went up the creek another mile to a waterfall. It sure was pretty. I have lived on this mountain all my life and had never walked to this waterfall; had heard about it but never had walked to it. Boodie said there is another waterfall up the creek, but you have to cross the creek. to get to it. We didn't have water shoes and the creek was up. Maybe a future hike for Craig and me. Just down the creek from the falls was a really pretty open area that was flagged with orange flags. ??? Maybe part of the future trail?

It started snowing as we started back toward the trailhead and stopped for a snack. We didn't stay seated very long, it was cold.  Then we headed back to our cars. As I drove up the mountain, I stopped to get a pic of the chimney rocks at the base of the bluff.