Saturday, February 22, 2014
Flipper Bend Loop: 9.0 miles
Clear Branch Long Loop: 4.9 miles
Powerline x 2: 1.46 miles
Total Miles 15.36
Lora and I headed back to the N. Chickamauga Creek WMA State Natural Area to finish the trails in that area. We needed to finish the Flipper Bend Loop and hike Clear Branch Long Loop.
There are no longer any signs at the trailhead and the kiosk no longer has anything on it. It is sad that people feel the need to destroy things and really they get nothing out of it either.
The first leg of all the trails from the parking area to the loops is a mix of old road bed and trail. You really have to watch the trail marking to stay on the right trail as there is many old road beds and trails. When you get to the loops you will find the first sign on the trail.
Our first loop was the Flipper Bend Loop and we did it clockwise or at least tried to. We followed the trail to the powerlines and that was the end of the markings. It just ends at the powerline road with no marking to which way you are supposed to go. We searched and searched for another marking, but found none. Lora made a call and they said to just follow the powerlines East to the overlook, so we did. Just before we got to the overlook we crossed the other side of the loop trail. It actually had a trail marker on the powerline post and across the clearing on the trees.
We enjoyed the Powerline overlook and did some off trail across the top of Powerline Falls and to another overlook on the far side. This is where we ate our lunch.
After lunch we hiked back to where the trail crossed the clearing and took the top part of the trail now counter clockwise to see where we missed the markings on the far side. This section of the trail follows the Chickamauga Creek Gorge. There is a side trail that looks like a campsite which is actually the Pocket Wilderness Overlook described in the trail description. All of this section is clearly marked mainly over rolling hills. There is also a very large rock out in the middle of the forest that the trail goes by too.
When we finally came out on the powerlines again we were 0.12 mile East of where we came out of the woods on the original loop. So if you were hiking the Flipper Bend Loop going clockwise, when you get to the powerline turn East or right and go down the hill and up the other side which is about halfway between the two powerline structures. The trail then goes North or left into the woods. If you are hiking the loop counterclockwise, then when you come out on the powerline turn West or right and go 0.12 mile and turn South or left and enter the woods.
We then followed the power lines back to the overlook and continued the loop. When we came to the Clear Branch loop we took it to the Clear Branch Long loop which starts right after you cross Clear Branch. The 4.9 mile Clear Branch Loop follows the bluff line for some really beautiful views and then circles back on old roadbed through the woods. There is a sign at the beginning of the loop. We followed the trail back to the Flipper Bend access trail back to the car. It was a long but beautiful hiking day.
Thursday, February 20, 2014
We started today at Hwy 111, Jones Gap Road Cumberland trailhead. We ate our lunch at Ritchy Ridge Falls and then hiked down the trail until we could hear the falls. On the way we had to cover up a short cut people had started on one of the corners of the trail.
We climbed down the side of the bluff until we could get our eyes on the falls. It is actually more of a Cascade. We took pictures from different angles then climbed back up to the trail. We met another couple who was hiking the Cumberland trail for the first time so gave them some information.
We continued in a light rain that was off and on to the Big Possum bridge. After we crossed the bridge we stayed on the road bed and walked along the creek to see where the Blanchard creek joined the Big Possum. If you were to hike to the bottom of the falls, this would be the way to go. Cross the Big Possum and follow the Blanchard back up to the base of the falls.
We headed back, picking up trash, and trying our new saw out on some branches hanging over the trail. Another great day on the CT.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
I hiked today with the Plateau Chapter TTA. Lisa Huff, Director of TN State Natural Areas was leading an Ice Castle Hike for TTA. Only the warmer temps didn't quite agree on the Ice part.
I drove to Grandview Mt to meet them. The SNA is on Firetower Road off Hwy 68. This one lane road leads to the firetower, and the parking area for the Falls trail is on the right just before you reach the firetower. I was looking for a big brown sign stating this was the State Natural Area; all I saw was a small white sign nailed to a tree. Piney Falls on an arrow. Just a few minutes later all the hikers arrived.
We walked up to the firetower to get a closer look. The fence around it had a locked gate so we weren't tempted to climb it. Lisa pulled in and we gathered around to listen to her tell us about the area. We also heard some sandhill cranes cooing. They were circling in the sky above us. We started down the trail to the falls, everybody happy for the warm temps and sunshine. We have all been missing the Vitamin D. We took the trail to the top of the Upper falls just to see how much water was coming down the creek. The trail crosses the creek above the top of the falls but we didn't go that way. Craig and I will have to check that out on another day. We then took the trail down to the lower part of the Upper falls. Then hiked to the Lower Falls. There was a little ice at the bottom of the Lower falls that was still pretty thick. You can hike behind the falls here and the pool at the bottom would be a great swimming hole, but not today. Lisa found some interesting fossils for us. There are some limbs of trees that were trapped in the rocks and over the years petrified. She pointed out a couple of those and then pointed out a fossil in the rock that had a really cool pattern.
We hiked back to the parking lot and Lisa left us to go to work on a grant. We told her we appreciated all her hard work so we can enjoy all these Natural Areas in Tennessee. The group decided they needed some more time in the woods so we drove down the mountain to the Piney River Trail. We had lunch in the picnic area by the river soaking up the sunshine. We hiked up the trail to the Twin Rocks spur trail. At the rocks, the ladder is missing the first 3 rungs. The guys started up and I climbed up the rocks to see if that would be easier for us. It wasn't but I made it with a little rock climbing. When I got on top I noticed red spots all over my pants leg and was looking where I climbed up to see what I had gone thru, too early for berries......I pulled my pants leg up and it was BLOOD........Sports Injury! I had a tiny little cut on my knee that managed to look like I was really injured from all the blood. I wiped it off and we climbed down the ladder, helping each other get safely down despite the missing rungs.
One of our hikers had started down the trail ahead of us. When we reached the parking lot, she wasn't there. We started speculating on where she could be. After 10 minutes we decided she must have went the wrong way at the junction. I went up the main trail to look for her hoping she had come that way, while two others hiked back toward the Twin Rocks. I got to where the upper spur connected to the main trail, blew my whistled and yelled her name, no sign or sound of her. I hiked back down hoping she was with the others.....no luck. The other two searchers got to the connection and hiked further on the main trail blowing whistles and yelling her name. They stopped and called us in the parking lot to see if we needed to call for help to search, as they were on the phone, the stray hiker was walking toward them from up the trail. Whew! She had indeed taken the wrong split coming down from the Twin Rocks. When she got to the main trail she turned left instead of right.
So happy to see them coming down the trail into the parking lot, we cheered and were so thankful it turned out all right. So many things can happen when people get separated on a hiking trail. Trying to figure how to find them can be a challenge, after hiking folks are tired, may not have enough water, may not be carrying the essentials, or cell phone (if you could get a signal) or know the area. Staying together, RULE #1, Stopping at junctions to wait on everyone RULE # 1.....there are a lot of RULE # 1's just ask Craig.
We would have stopped at the Blistered Chicken on the way out, to celebrate with a little refreshment but they weren't open.
Thanks to Lisa Huff, Bill Harris and the Plateau hikers, it was a beautiful day of hiking with great folks.
Sunday, February 9, 2014
Montlake Rd to Stevenson's Branch campsite
Day two: 10.79
Stevenson's Branch campsite to parking 3.33
Parking to Montlake Rd. 7.46
Total Miles: 16.69
Murfreesboro TTA members Sara, Marco, Wayne, and I with Lora and Chuck from Soddy Daisy TTA, did an overnighter on the North Chickamauga Segment of the Cumberland Trail. The young lady that picked this section from Memphis could not make it because she got "bit by a owl"? Had "knee problems" or whatever reason, anyway we missed her company.
We met at the Montlake road trailhead and headed in taking the Hog skin lower loop after we got Chucks keys out of his car. By the time we made it to the overlook past the stairs, we were ready for lunch. The next section was old road bed that was covered with blow downs. The real challenge starts at the cable crossing.
At the cable crossing, a tree was down in the middle of the creek on the cable. Chuck went across first and whipped out a saw that would make a young girl blush. He quickly cut limbs to make a safer crossing. The cable is actually broke on the far side, being held in place by where the tree had grown around the cable. It was a wet crossing for some and and an old fashion foot washing for the rest.
After the crossing there is another cable to help you get down to the ladder. The cable came up and hit Marco's pack just right to completely empty one of his packs' pockets. The stove and other contents went rolling down the hill. The stand for his stove fell off the edge and was rescued by Chuck.
From the ladder down to Chickamauga creek was steep and slippery. Everyone was excited to see the campsite and then quickly disappointed when I notified them that this was not the campsite we were staying at. I think there was a competition between Sara and Wayne to see who could see the most worms as they both spent lots of time on the ground looking?
After we got to Stevenson's Branch campsite, we set up camp and collected firewood. We spent a little time inspecting each others camping gear and then we sat around the campfire eating dinner. The night was spent telling lies and taking cough medicine.
The next morning Wayne volunteered to watch camp while the rest of us did a day hike to the far end of the trail. After a good old fashion foot washing in Stevenson's branch we did the switch backs up the side of the gorge. We were very impressed with the trail work and design on this part of the trail. Probably the best switch backs on the Cumberland trail. We took a break at the overlook and then went to the parking area.
We got to see Panther Branch falls which had good water at it. On the way back we stopped at the overlook again and ate our lunch. We got back to camp where Wayne was glad we made it back. We packed up and headed out. Chuck went ahead and cleaned up a lot of the wind falls we had to climb over on the way in. Sara and Wayne continued their competition as we went. Marco got the award for the best fall as he was doing the cable crossing. He got extra points for water coverage. We saw a few hikers and trail runners on the way out.
Our wildlife consisted of a Bald Eagle and a mouse that ate Wayne's walking stick strap.
Great hike with some great people!