Sunday, April 21, 2013
Cumberland Trail to rock overlook back to shelter 9.5
Shelter to trailhead via Volunteer trail 10
Total Miles 19.5
Lora and I headed to the Cumberland Mountain Segment of the Cumberland Trail. We started at the trailhead next to Cove Lake State Park in Caryville, TN. The trail will climb the Devils Racetrack (as pictured above) and go the length of Cumberland Mountain.
The trail starts on Bruce Gap Road and follows I-75 for a couple of miles until you climb the Devils Racetrack. During that couple of miles you see a lot of wildflowers as you go by several wet areas and streams followed by hillside walking where the trail is pinched between the interstate and Shelton Hollow Lane. We got to watch a doe and her youngster feeding as they did not hear or see us. When we moved on they took off. From here you drop down to Bruce Creek and climb it upstream past the man made water falls. A bridge will take you across Bruce Creek and then you start the steep assent of Cumberland Mountain and the Devils Racetrack.
There is a beautiful 360 degree view from the top of the Racetrack. The rock formation that you see of the Racetrack continues the full length of Cumberland Mountain. The trail follows the rock lines and often the rock ridges are the trail. It is an amazing formation and really cool to hike such a mountain. The area between the rock formations is like a bowl or valley. I have never seen a Mountain like this one. You are ridge walking the entire way which is also a lot of ups and downs.
5.6 miles into the trail you come to a gravel road and then a house. They have built a fancy fence there and a gate for hikers to walk out to Eagle Bluff which gives you another aerial view of Jacksboro and Lafollette. You can see the fingers of Norris Lake as well. From there you get back on the trail and hike the ridges until you get to another one of the long skinny rock formations that have a hole in it called Window Rock. I just had to climb through the window to see the other side.
From Window Rock you continue to walk the ridge and then you drop down between the ridges and the trail drops down to a wet spring area and then follows the bottom of the other ridge as the springs come together to form a good creek. Just past this creek is the shelter which is in really good shape. We set up camp by the shelter and gathered our water and firewood. After dinner, while we still had daylight, we continued on down the trail 0.3 miles to the last really good overlook which they label the Rock Climb which is back on top of the rock ridge. A ladder assists you with the climb up to the magnificent scenic view.
We hiked back to camp and enjoyed the sunset followed by a bright moon and stars. We enjoyed the heat of the campfire as the temperature dropped.
The next morning we hiked back the way we came. We saw the dam of the La Follette Reservoir off to the north and saw some more deer early in the day. When we got to the Volunteer trail we took it which looped around and pass a beaver pond and then comes back into the main trail. It blocked the sound of traffic on that section of the trail a lot better.
Monday, April 15, 2013
Diane scheduled our “not Easter, but a backpack in the Smokies” in perfect timing for the wildflower show. Eight ladies from Nashville, Murfreesboro, Maryville, and Pikeville out for an adventure. Diane, Sue, Nancy, Amy, Sara, Ann, Garnett, and me. Mom drove me to Crossville to meet them. We drove to Twentymile Ranger Station via the Dragon Tail. We saw the Blount County FD putting out a car fire in one of the curves. Hope the driver got out ok. We shuttled one van to Fontana Dam. At the trailhead we celebrated Sue’s retirement from REI with mimosas. Congratulations Sue! We had to get started cause possible severe weather was in the forecast for the night. We got to the creek crossings and all 5 had log bridges. 3 of us looked off trail for a cascade that we did not find. We got to campsite 95 and set up camp. This is a big camp, lots of space for tents. We gathered firewood and got a fire started and cooked supper before the rain came. We saw a big bird in camp, never figured out what it was. Bigger than a hawk, dark colored. Wildflowers we saw- Trilliums, white, yellow, Sweet Betsy, Wood Betony, Hellabore, Star Chickweed, Foamflower, and several violets.
We started uphill on the Wolf Ridge Trail, up, and up. We had lunch at Parson’s Bald which is not maintained by the park. Lots of briars and blueberry bushes. We set up at campsite 13 at Sheep Pen Gap. Four of us continued hiking down the Gregory Bald Trail to Parson’s Branch Road. Diane spotted a wild hog and yelled “WHOA”. She said it flew across the trail from the bank. I saw it running across the next ridge in the distance. Pigs really can fly!
I spotted a snake and screamed “EEK” after Diane and Nancy stepped across it. They said it was just a garter snake…..Whatever, it’s still a snake. We didn’t stay long at Parson’s Branch Road, the gnats were biting. Back up we went. We stopped to get water at the “seep” which is the water source for Camp 13. It had enough running water to catch it in water bags or to filter from the stream. It was actually flowing. Last time I got water here I used a sandwich baggie to try to collect the water. As we arrived at camp the other ladies had finished supper and were heading to Gregory Bald to watch the sunset. Nancy started a campfire from all the wood the other ladies had collected. Ann had rebuilt the fire ring. It looked pitiful when we arrived. The temp had dropped considerable as the sun went down. The deer were roaming the camp, looking for handouts and any sweaty socks or clothing they could steal. The stars put on a show.
Saturday morning we had to cook breakfast behind a log and from the doors of our tents to get out of the howling wind. There was frost on the leaves at Gregory Bald when we got there. We finished the Gregory Bald Trail to the junction with the AT at Doe Knob. On the way up we saw a big bear, they’re awake! We met a few NOBOs at the junction. Hiked back down to the junction for the Long Hungry Ridge Trail and ate lunch, the started down. We met several FSU students, and a dad with two young kids. The dad and kids were doing a 16 mile day. Did I mention the YOUNG kids? They were only about 8 to 10 years old and didn’t look the least bit tired. They had started at Twentymile, hiked to Gregory Bald, going down Long Hungry Ridge heading to Fontana! Wow. cool kids! We had 2 foot washings that felt so good on our hot feet. Set up camp at 92, and took a bath with cold creek water. Wheeeeee! Nice campfire, good times, sharing food and stories, watching stars pop out.
Sunday morning I woke up and got the fire started. We finished Long Hungry and got on Twentymile Trail to get to the AT. We climbed the hill to Shuckstack Fire tower; .2 or.5 from the junction depending on which Little Brown Book you read. Climbed the tower, the higher you climb the more wind there was. Took pics from inside the tower and from the stairs. 360 degree view from the tower. Went back to the junction to have lunch out of the wind. The gnats were chewing, so you had to sit in the wind or get eaten alive. Sue and Garnett left us here to hike the AT down to Fontana. The rest started down the Lost Cove Trail, and I do mean DOWN; STEEP! Met 4 Duke U students hiking up on the advice of a guy that told them what a great trail to get to Shuckstack. Glad it was them and not me! As the trail leveled out we saw green everywhere, spring had arrived and wildflowers were everywhere. We saw Bellwort, Wild Oats, Wild Ginseng, Vassey’s Trillium, and several other wildflowers. Pictures won’t do it justice; you just have to see it for yourself. We had 13 creek crossings, most small streams and rock hopping, 5 foot washings, some of those knee and thigh washings too. We finished Lost Cove and took the Lakeshore Trail .3 miles to campsite 90 where we found a rock sectional sofa built around a huge fire ring right by the water. We gathered wood and then went back to the trees to a huge campsite to set up our tents. We had one other camper who joined us around the campfire. he was hunting plane crash sites in the Smokies. It was sprinkling on our fire and the wind was sending sparks and ashes flying so eating supper without ashes was a challenge, and you couldn’t sit down for long for getting covered with ashes and sparks. The fire ring is too high. We need to take shovels and tear down the ring, shovel out the 3 foot high mound of ashes and start over. No shovels to be found. The rain came and we abandoned the fire and got in the tents. After running off a frog trying to set up camp under my tent flap, I settled in for a long night, too early for sleep, made notes for a future backpack, read map and trail descriptions for the next day and finally got some zzzz’s.
Monday morning and didn’t have to go to work! Woo hoo! Found lots of violets around the campsite and Little Brown Jugs. We hiked the Lakeshore trail to Fontana Dam on our last day. Crossing the streams we found some Dwarf Crested Iris in bloom. So very pretty to see. We all celebrated as we finished the trail. We still had a mile to the car, crossing the Dam we looked back to see Shuckstack high on the ridge. Looks so small from here. Sue and Garnett met us at the visitor’s center. We said some goodbyes; Sue took Garnett, Amy and Nancy to the Fontana Hilton shelter, came back and picked up the rest of us to take us back to Twentymile Ranger Station. She dropped us off and went back to the shelter. They were staying to hike Tuesday to finish the Twentymile Loop Trail. The rest of us headed back down the Dragon Tail. We drove the Foothills Parkway to get toMaryville. We stopped at the Little River Trading Company to look for bargains. We ate lunch on the way; they dropped me off at Cracker Barrel in Crossville. Craig picked me up; our reunion in the parking lot was great, we didn’t embarrass anybody or anything. We did stop at Sonic for an M&M Blast, two spoons.
Total miles 35.2
Sunday, April 7, 2013
Nora Beck from Nashville TTA led a hike today at Flat Rock State Natural Area. I came to the Boro to see Craig at the Fire Department and to hike with Nora.
There were nine hikers ready to explore.
We were hoping to find the Pyne's Ground Plum which only grows in Rutherford County in Tennessee. It's rare. We didn't find any blooming but we think we may have found the plant. We saw white Trout Lilys which I had never seen before, Tennessee Glade Cress, Rue Anemone, Nashville Breadroot and a few other plants. There are some sinkholes, and a small pond filled by a small spring. Nora had a little jar and filled it from the pond so Natalie could observe all the small creatures with a hand lens. And of course Cedars everywhere. This is a really pretty place to visit and I want to come back to see the Ground Plum blooming or maybe when it bears fruit.
Saturday, April 6, 2013
We decided to go hike the Wheeler Farm loop at Fall Creek Falls State Park. It is a two mile loop trail on a farm that Lora's ancestors actually owned at one time. It now belongs to the State Park and is accessed off of Hwy 30. There is a parking area next to a gate which is closed. The loop starts on the left and the farm is down the road on the right. The trail descends into the valley with sites to be seen.
When you get to the first sign which says Wheeler Farm Loop telling you to go left, take the trail to the right about 50 yards and you will see Medley's Arch. It stands at 90' and spans 30'. There is a small trail off to the right that takes you up to the top of the arch which is not very wide.
Head back to the trail and follow a creek bed down to the fields below which is the farm. The trail goes through the field and past an old out building to the Wheeler Falls. We ate lunch here enjoying the falls and flowers.
We went down from the falls and headed back East toward to old home site where a chimney still stands. You can see the walkway and front porch. Then we walked back to the falls and followed the road up to the parking area.
From here we drove on to the "Crusher Hole". Go down Hwy 30 to Hwy 285 at the bottom of the valley and turn right. Just before the bridge over Cane Creek turn right onto Owl Hole road. You have to cross a creek on the way in as drive through the creek. This is where the old crusher was and there are wild flowers all through this area. We met up with Anthony, Lora's cousin, who was giving a wildflower photographer class. This led us onto our next adventure.
Anthony took us to Lost Creek Falls and Lost Creek Cave. You continue up Hwy 285 and turn right onto Hickory Valley road. Take it to the dead end and turn right onto Big Bottom road or White's Cave road. Follow it out 4.4 miles and you will see the cave entrance and falls off to your left. I guess it was called White's Cave at one time too?
Lost Creek Falls is a 60' water fall. If you go into the cave there is another waterfall inside the cave, but it is back a piece. My biggest surprise was Lora walking off into a cave. The last time I tried to take her in a cave she stopped where the sun did and she was done. The falls inside was running strong. Very beautiful!