Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Upper & Lower Piney Falls SNA

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 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.

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