Friday, December 1, 2006

Fall Creek Falls

December 2006
Fall Creek Falls..................................Trail Rating...Outcasts Total: 23.4 Miles
Upper Loop Overnight Trail 13.0 Miles.....Easy

This was Troy's trail. He has hiked this trail many times both alone and with his brother. He knew it was an easy trail so we had to adjust the weather to make it more interesting. It is not very often that Tennessee has snow. We pulled into the park on snow and ice. Greg was not impressed as I slid into the parking spot at the office. We found a very sweet lady at the office that checked us in after she regained her composer from laughing after we said that we were going overnight hiking. She asked if we were serious as she grabbed her book. After getting signed in we headed to the trailhead.

At the trailhead we parked next to a maintenance shop where a couple of deliverance type characters seemed happy that we were there. It kinda sent a warning flag up. Troy had made fried chicken the night before at the fire hall and it wasn’t long before it took my full attention. The coyotes and bears went running when they saw and heard me attack that first piece.

This trail was a bit easier than the last and it had plenty of beauty. We set up camp in low spot in the campground to keep the wind off us. We got our warming fire started and took our meds. Nothing like sitting around a campfire telling lies and smelling burning boots. Whoa, I was supposed to keep an eye on Greg’s boots while he was working in his tent. He couldn’t say a whole lot because later on he burnt his sock. Either way they were dryer than before.

Before we settled in for the night, Troy took out his new lightweight multipurpose tool. It has a whistle, thermometer, compass, and a small storage compartment. We were already in the low twenties and the sky was clear. It was time to test the cold weather gear. Troy was the first off to bed. He went into his tent and zipped it closed. Then we heard………zip…………zip……………… What the hell had that many zippers? Troy never did tell us what all he had, but he never came out or complained about the cold.

I found out that at 17 degrees my sleeping bag in the hammock was no longer doing the job. I started stoking the fire. Greg woke up a little nervous because it was light and he was getting warm in his tent. Do you know how big a fire has to get before you are willing to take off your clothes in 17-degree weather? After putting on all the clothes in my pack, I got back to sleep and made it through the night. Our low reading was 14.3 degrees that night.

We had a Turkey visit our camp that night and also woke up to a deer crossing the river and much to his surprise fell through the ice. We spent a bit of time warming up after that night before we broke camp.

On the way out Troy decided to show how he wasn’t hurting this trip by smoking Greg and I up the largest hill on the trail back to the car. On the last quarter mile of the trail, two mountain bikers were heading in and were quite shocked to find out that one; we were out hiking and two; that we spent the night. For some reason it seemed like they thought we were crazy.


Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Stone Door

November 2006
Stone Door....................................Trail Rating........Outcasts Total: 10.4 Miles
Stone Door Trail.........0.9 Miles......Easy
Big Creek Gulf Trail....4.0 Miles......Difficult
Greeter Trail...............1.4Miles.......Moderate
Big Creek Rim Trail....3.2 Miles.......Easy
Stone Door Trail........0.9 Miles.......Easy
Total………………....... 10.4 Miles

The Stone Door trail is a trail that Greg had taken several times. Troy voicing his concern about the bad knees was reassured that Greg had taken an Obese couple on this trail and they had no problem making it as a day hike. Looking over the topographical map I made note of a steep descent and a slower but pretty good climb back out of Gorge, but after Greg's reassurance we decided to go with it. We did have some concern about water on this hike. That concern soon faded as the week of our trip, it rained and it rained consistently for a week. We then had a concern about dry firewood.

The rain stopped on the morning of our trip and we headed out. We met at the trailhead and Greg got us off to a good start with an MRE for everyone. This was Troy’s first experience with this kind of delicacy and just a flashback for me. The trail was beautiful as were the views out over the gorge. The Stone Door is a large crack in the rock, which has steps in it that take you to the bottom of the gorge. Once you go through the stone door down into the gorge the trail turns into a rock garden, which you would have no idea that there was a trail here had it not been for the trail markers on the trees. Once the trail hits the river it follows it the length of the gorge. There is a trail to another waterfall that we could not take because the river was up so high and flowing very rapid.

There was a wagon trail that followed the river. You are on and off this wagon trail many times until the climb out which is rather steep and requires a few breaks. Greg had a hard time recalling the ups and downs and stone hopping. He remembered the wagon trail, but didn't recall it being so steep on the way out. The thought occurred to me and I asked the simple question "Did you have a pack on your back the times you hiked before?" After a slight hesitation the "No" answer came back. He had always taken it as a day hike.

Troy nicknamed the climb out as Mt. Mother. After being assured that there was no water at the camp, I filled my gallon container with water before the steep incline to the rim and camp. I later found out that during our breaks on Mt. Mother, Troy was not interested in the rock formations that I was pointing out. I believe he was just tired of hurting and a little air was more important than my damn rocks.

When we got to the top you couldn't help but to hear the raging river that was flowing next to the camp. "I never saw that before" was the answer. The campsite was on the edge of the gorge. It is a beautiful location, but due to the temperature we decided not to camp too close to the edge with the wind blowing. We set up camp and the meds were taken. One other couple made camp at another site. They obviously didn't have the experience we had in making campfires. We saw a small flicker every now and then. Ours was more like a sunrise. While sitting around the campfire, we heard a truck pull up. A ranger walked over to our camp and asked if we had a permit. We shockingly said yes and then he wanted to see it. None of us had ever had this happen before. Anyway, we gave him a hard time about not having any wood at the campsite. We managed a good nights sleep.

The next morning we decided to check out the water falls. Right at the start Greg decided to test the water proofing on his boot as he crossed the none existent river next to the camp. I guess waterproof is a loose term and doesn't apply when the water is over your boots. A short period later Troy decided to head back to camp as the knees were complaining. This was the last time we saw Troy as he headed all the way back to his car and exited stage right.

With all of the rain, the waterfalls were amazing. One of the falls had a metal spiral staircase that took you to the bottom of the falls. The dog was a little leery of this means of going down, but did make it safely.

When we got back to camp we saw that Troy had gone and we hiked the rim trail back. More beautiful sites were had.

Back at the office we decided that this was not a beginners trail and we would start working our way back up to this level by taking easier trails first. We got online and found all of the State Parks in Middle Tennessee that offer overnight trails. Then we put them in order from what we felt would be the easiest to the most difficult. The lightweight backpacking was now getting serious.


Monday, May 1, 2006

How it all started

In the fall of the year, I was talking to my fellow firefighters about an upcoming hiking trip that I was going to take in the Smokey Mountains. As we were talking I came to find that both of them enjoyed hiking. The more we talked we found out that none of us were hiking enough for our likings. Troy has a history of knee problems and is concerned about taking on too much at one time. Greg hikes a lot like my Dad, head down full speed and trip over everything on the trail. We came together and picked a date that we could all make in October. It worked out great because I would be just coming off my Smokey Mountain trip in late September. This would be a trial trip to see one; if we could get along on the trail two; if we were combatable with our different experiences and three; if we could get something started.

As I was prepping for my Smokey Mountain trip, I was in need of a new backpack. While discussing this with Troy we entered the field of Lightweight backpacking. When you mention something to Troy and he sees the light, you had better hold on. The man can do some investigating. Not only did I end up with a new lightweight backpack, I also ended up with a new hammock and a couple of new sleeping bags. Needless to say not only does he come up with the best equipment, he also comes up with the best prices. On top of that he reduced his equipment to a weight much less than mine. Greg, unknowingly after our second trip joined us when his girlfriend got a hold of his dream list and made it come true over Christmas.

So this is how it goes:

Friday, January 13, 2006

Hiking Creed

Troy’s Hiking Creed:

This is my pack
There are many like it, but this one is mine
My pack is my best friend. It is my life
I must master it as I master my life
My pack, without me is useless
Without my pack, I am useless
I must shoulder my pack true
I must hike longer than my enemy
I must finish the trail before he finishes me.

My pack and myself know what counts on this hike:
It’s not the pounds of gear we carry
It’s not the sweat and blood we shed
Nor the body and soul we test and punish
We know it is the completion of the hike that counts

My pack is human, even as I, because it is my life
Thus I will learn it as a brother
I will learn its weakness, strengths, its parts, its accessories,
Its shoulder straps, its zippers and pockets, and its limits
I will even guard it against the ravages of weather and damage
I will keep my pack clean and ready, as I am clean and ready
We will become one with each other.

Before GOD I swear this creed. My pack and myself are
The defenders of my country.
We are the masters of the trail, we are the saviors of my life
So be it, until there is no trail un-hiked, only peace.