Monday, March 31, 2014

Local Falls Exploration

Lora and I headed out in search of four waterfalls in our local area.  We headed towards Graysville and found a pull over just at the west end of the chicken houses on Brayton Road.  We headed into the woods in search of Moonshine Falls that some of the family told us about.  0.15 miles in we found it and were able to climb down to the bottom of it as well.

From there we headed to the Cumberland trail Rough Creek segment and hiked in.  We stayed on the roadbed past the cut off for the Cumberland trail.  We hiked a total of 1.42 miles to where the roadbed crossed Brush Creek.  Just up from there is Polecat Falls.  Then we did some bushwhacking along the bluffs 0.14 miles to Skunk Tail Falls.  We had lunch just upstream from there.

We headed back to the car and drove to the top of the mountain again and parked just past the sharp curves to hike to the Brayton Road overlook.  From there we followed the roadbed down to Flora branch and walked the creek down to Flora Branch Falls.

It was a great adventure with lots of wildflowers and falls.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cumberland Gap

Day One: 7.4
Thomas Walker Trail 0.7
Object Lesson Trail 0.6
Harlan Road Trail 0.8
Ridge Trail 5.3

Day Two: 12
Ridge Trail 10.8
Sand Cave 0.4
White Rocks campsite 0.6
Ewing Trail 0.2

Day Three: 4.3
Ewing Trail 2.9
Road to Ewing 1.2
Wilderness Road 0.2

Total Miles: 23.7

Lora and I headed up to Kentucky at the Cumberland Gap for a backpack.  We headed to the visitor center and left our car there.  The staff is actually quite knowledgeable, which we are not used to.

We used the paved Thomas Walker trail to get started to the Object Lesson Road trail.  We went up to the "Saddle of the Gap" and took the Harlan Road trail to Fort McCook where there is a cannon and overlook.  From there we continued to the Pinnacle Overlook for a great view from the mountain top.  Yes, all of this has been uphill.  By the Pinnacle you can stand in Kentucky and Virginia at the same time.  They do have a Tri-State Peak where you can stand in all three states going the other way from the Saddle of the Gap.

We took the loop around Fort Lyon where there is another cannon and started the Ridge trail from there. The Ridge trail is a old roadbed that follows the ridge up and down across the mountain top.  There are many views from the trail of the valley below especially in the winter.  We hiked 5.3 miles of this trail to Gibson Gap campsite for the night.  We saw deer twice on this hike so far.

At the Gibson Gap campsite there are bear bag cables.  The spring is 270 yards down hill in a Rhododendron patch. After you climb your way in there is a black pipe with water running out of it.  There is a large rock formation next to the camp that you can climb for an aerial view of the campsite.  We talked to the owls that night and enjoyed an evening around the campfire.

Day two:

We got up this morning and ate breakfast.  It had rained during the night and was sprinkling as we headed out on the trail.  The rain continued on and off all day so we did not get many pictures.  We stopped for lunch right before Indian Rock which is a rockhouse.  We went by the Hensley Settlement and continued on towards White Rocks.

We passed another couple who were headed out to Martin's cabin for the night.  The wind started picking up and we took a short break as we headed down to Sand Cave.  Sand Cave is a 75-foot high sandstone overhang that is decorated by at least seven different colors of sand. In rainy seasons, a small waterfall cascades over the edge.  The room is over an acre in size and the water fall was going strong for us.  You do have to climb a fifty foot pile of sand to get into it.

From here we headed to the White Rocks campsite for the night.  The wind was blowing so strong we couldn't hold the tent still to stake it down so we headed back up over the ridge top and started down the Ewing trail until we found a flat spot to make camp.  After we set up the freezing rain started and then the wet snow.  We ate in the tent and wiped the snow off the outside before going to sleep.

We woke up with a thud and the tent was in my face!  I told Lora that our tent had collapsed and we started pushing up and banging the snow off.  After we got the tent back in standing order, I got out and swept the three inches of wet snow away from the sides.

Day three:

The next morning we ate breakfast inside again.  After we got all packed up Lora didn't feel well so we hiked the Ewing trail down to Ewing VA and started hitching for a ride.  Nobody picks up hitchhikers anymore.  We went door to door for a while and finally got someone to tell us it is Sunday and that is why everyone is gone.  She did not have a car so we kept looking.  We saw the guy come home in the first house we checked so we went back and met him.  He is a very nice older gentleman who gave us a ride back to our car.

In the parking lot we met the other couple that was out for the night.  They froze in the cabin and were wet.  

This is a beautiful area and we will have to go back to see all the trails and sites we didn't get to cover.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Prater Place - Fall Creek Falls

Lora and I went to Fall Creek Falls for their Spring Hike.  There was 13 people plus the Ranger.  We had a great time and met some very nice people from Middle and East Tennessee.

Fall Creek Falls hosts Spring Hike
Mar 22 @ Fall Creek Falls
Meet Ranger Matt at the Nature Center at 9 a.m. CT to carpool to the Prater Place Trail Head. This trail is 2.9 miles one way into Camps Gulf and features beautiful wildflowers in the spring and a small but gorgeous waterfall called Hemlock Falls at the end of the trail. Be prepared for a 6 mile roundtrip hike with a few steep slopes. A parent or guardian must accompany youngsters 12 years old and younger. Contact the Nature Center at 423-881-5708 by Friday the 21st if there have been heavy rains since there is a seasonal creek crossing involved. For more information call 423-881-5708.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Break Away 2014

Lora and I got the opportunity to spend some time with the college students building the Cumberland trail on Graysville Mt.  We met them at the trail head and hiked in to where they were working in the Gilbreath Creek area.  The students have built close to a mile so far this month.  We got to celebrate Larry Hill's birthday at lunch time with the traditional Happy Birthday song.  It's good exercise, you get to meet good people, and it makes you appreciate the trails you hike.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Baxter Creek - Smoky Mountains

Two days off and Craig had to work. Hooked up with Amy and we headed for the mountains and Big Creek Ranger Station in the GSMNP. There were lots of cars in both parking areas, the campground was still closed. Our trail crossed the creek and went uphill. And up, and up and up. The elevation profile looked almost vertical, from 1700 ft to 5820 ft. 6.2 miles. We saw a few violets blooming and the leaves and buds of trilliums. This trail is filled with ferns and moss. And some of the rocks were covered with really large lichens. We did see a few huge trees. Then we really started climbing. We saw a huge rock that looked inviting for a lunch spot but two guys with chain saws had the best seats so we kept going until we found another sunny spot. Then we really started climbing. We had a view of the valley below, looked for the power plant, only saw a tower. We did see a HUGE chestnut stump and some giants that had fallen. Higher up we started seeing red spruces. There were blackberry briars further up but I don’t think I would want to do this climb when it’s hot enough for the berries to be ripe! We kept thinking we were at the top and the trail would turn and we kept climbing. We met some folks coming down the mountain. One man and 3 young ladies from Indiana on their first backpack ever. And they picked this trail, and it rained on them last night. They were still so happy to be there and I find that very cool. They said they would definitely be back.

 Then we really started climbing. We passed the trail to the water source and knew we were near the camp. The Firetower greeted us at the top. We looked around for a flat spot to set up our tents, most areas are somewhat slanted except at the tower and that spot was taken. We set up and then climbed the tower. The views were incredible. Thankful for clear skies. We hiked back .2 miles to the water trail. We found a small stream, where it was running over and down a rock Amy started collecting water. I hiked on down to find the pipe. It was a trickle. The better source was where Amy stopped. Back at camp the wind had picked up. And then it howled, and howled, and ……we cooked our supper, potato soup for Amy and pinto beans with roast beef for me. We decided against building a fire in the howling wind and walked up to warm up at our neighbor’s fire. The sparks and smoke chased us around for the few minutes that we could stand it. We gave up and went back to camp. We were going to hang our food at the bear cable but there was a tree laying on it and only one cable was usable. And it was being used. We found a limb for our food bag, tied the rope to a stick and the fun started. I made a half dozen efforts. Makes me remember playing ball with my nephew when he was 5 and telling me “Aunt Lora you throw like a girl” so Amy tried tossing the stick over and got it on her first try! Unfortunately the rope wouldn’t pull over the spur in the limb. Back to the start, a few more tosses and picking the line out of the bushes and it finally went over in just the right spot. We just hoped the wind wouldn’t take it down. Bed time. Couldn’t tell if we had any wildlife visitors or owls talking thru the night. I had to use earplugs to block out the howling noise. The little brown book says this is one of the highest campsites in the park, and I believe the coldest because of the wind.  

Up early next morning, wind was still blowing. But the sun was shining! We broke camp and started across the ridge on the Mt Sterling Trail to the connection with Mt Sterling Ridge Trail. It’s a beautiful ridge walk. We went down the Swallow Fork Trail and Amy found it much more pleasant this time. Last time she walked up it in cold rain. We had some beautiful views from this trail and lots of streams. We also ran into several hikers, one that we thought was a news guy from the network political scene. When we started down the Big Creek trail we saw the devastation from storms. So many trees had come down from the tornado last year it must have taken weeks for the chainsaw crews to get thru here. As we got closer to the campground we started seeing lots more folks on the trail. This is a beautiful creek trail. It will be full of blooms in the next week or two. We saw some of the yellow trilliums opening in the sunshine. The parking lot was full again. This is spring break week for a lot of schools and the young people were out in force. Good to see so many young people out on the trails. Back on the road, I took Amy to her car in Crossville, she headed to Nashville and I headed home.

Beautiful trails and a great time in the mountains.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Abrams Creek - Smoky Mountains

Day One: 7.3
Cooper Road 0.9
Little Bottoms 2.3
Abrams Falls to falls 1.7
Abrams Falls 1.7
Little Bottoms to #17 0.7

Day Two: 9.7
Little Bottoms 0.7
Hatcher Mountain 2.6
Cooper Road 2.2
Gold Mine 1.6
Cooper Road 2.6
Total Miles: 17

Lora and I headed out to Abrams Creek campground in the Smoky National Park.  We found out that they have taken the signs down since they closed the campground as we drove by at a high rate of speed.  We stopped and asked some Rangers(?) where the road was and they said the sign was down, but they could not describe where it was.  So, we found it on the way back. There is a sign coming from the South.

There was one other car at the trailhead as we headed out.  We took the Cooper Road trail to Little Bottoms.  We passed by our campsite #17 as we headed on to Abrams Falls.  We did get to see the tornado damage in this area from a couple of years ago.  We passed a couple that was out backpacking near the Hannah Mountain trail.  We went on to the falls and as always there were lots of people at the falls.

After visiting a while we headed back to our campsite.  When we got back to the Hannah Mt. trail we stopped for a snack and the couple was still there.  They were attempting to cross the Abrams Creek.  The water was not up very far, but the lady had already had a panic attack trying to cross.  The guy now had a rope going across the creek and they were attempting one more time.  He had already took both packs across.  Lora gave the girl a pep talk and we watched as she made it across.  We thought we were going to have to help her across.  We cheered her on and then untied this end of the rope after she made it.

We got to camp and got everything set up.  We enjoyed a quite evening sitting by the fire.

The next morning we got up and headed back to Hatcher Mountain.  We saw some horse riders at the Cooper Road crossing.  They had come from Gold Mine and asked why when we told them we were going to hike Gold Mine.  Because it was there?  We are stupid like that, I told them.  They got a laugh.

We met a Ranger on the Cooper Road trial who was heading out to check the archaeological site.  We then headed up Gold Mine.  About halfway up the trail we noticed a side trail being built.  We took it a couple hundred yards and then came back.  When we got up to the top we found the other end of the new trail.  There is a old barn up top as well.

We hiked back down and then took Cooper Road on out.  There were a lot of cars in the parking area when we got back and a guy that was going to do a day hike too.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

TTA Rock Creek Segment CT

Cumberland Trail Volunteers Ava Navin, Bob DeHart, Carol Deakins, and Don Deakins accompanied Murfreesboro Chapter of Tennessee Trails Association Sara Pollard, Tony Jones, Ann Jacobs, Faith Bennett, Roy Duncan, Wayne YanceyRebekah Norman, Lora and I on a 7.5 mile Cumberland Trail hike.

Sara was the hike leader for this hike.  Plan A was for her to meet the Volunteers and I at the Lower Leggett Trail head.  Plan B was for us to meet them all at the Retro Hughes Trail head.  Plan C was Sara was gone when we got there and had taken Ann to drop off a car at the Lower trail head.  So finally we got on the trail with twelve hikers.  Lora was going to hike in from the Lower trail head when she got off work.

We began at Retro Hughes Trailhead.  We had a good hike and got credit for some trail maintenance on the way.  Don lead the way and headed up all the maintenance.  Everyone but Sara stopped at the Rock Creek Campsite for lunch.  Sara, who was just refusing to stop, went ahead and scouted out some more of the trail.  OK, the front pack of hikers went down to check out the creek and Sara just kept on hiking.  When the rest of us got there we noticed that Sara was not with us and sent a scout to go find her.

We took a side trip down to the top of Flat Branch Falls, paused at Rock Creek Overlook for the view, turned right at Boiling Spring onto the lower half of the loop trail, and ended the hike at Leggett Road Lower Trailhead. Just after the loop start, Lora met us and joined us for the rest of the trail.  Weather was perfect and, as usual when with hikers, the company was superb. 


Tony's Pictures:

Don's Pictures:

Bob's Pictures:

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Bandy Creek Hike

Day One: 10.4
Oscar Blevins Farm Loop 3.6
Collier Ridge Loop 1.5
West Entrance Trail 2.4
Katie Trail 1.0
John Litton Farm Loop 1.9

Day Two: 4.7
John Litton Farm Loop 3.7
Katie trail 1.0

Total Miles: 15.1

Lora and I headed up to Big South Fork.  We started at the Bandy Creek Trail head and went to the Oscar Blevins Farm.  We did the tour and then took the farm loop to the Collier Ridge Loop going towards the West Entrance.  We then took the West Entrance trail back to the Oscar Blevins Loop and back to the car to pick up the backpacks.  Very nice section of the park.  We even got to see some historic horses at the farm and one historic cat.

When we got our backpacks we hiked to the campground and took the John Litton Farm Loop to the Fall Branch Falls.  It was getting time to make camp and there was a campsite at the falls with a bench, fire ring, and a good stack of firewood.  Lora asked " should we camp here or hike a little farther?".  After a quick rap to the forehead she came to her senses and said this would be a good place to stay tonight.

Soon we had a fire going and camp set up.  We had the view of the water fall to eat our dinner by.  Three other backpackers came by, looking at us with envy, and continued down the trail.

After a wonderful evening we got up and had breakfast.  It was warm already this morning as we headed out to finish the loop and toured the farm.  We had planned to continue to the Jack's Ridge Loop when the rain changed our minds and we headed back to the car.

On the way back to the car I lost dear Lora in the mud.  Well, it looked that way when we hiked back looking for her hat that had fallen off and was laying in a big mud bog.

On the way home after hiking in the heat, we passed a brine truck spraying the roads.  What???