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.


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