Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Pickett State Park

Trail.............................Rating.........Miles...........Outcasts Total 164.3
Natural Bridge Trail.........Easy..........1.1
Hazard Cave Trail............Easy..........0.4
Lakeview Trail.................Easy..........0.8
Back to Ranger Station.....Easy..........0.8
Hidden Passage Trail.......Moderate....4.4
Double Falls Trail............Difficult.....0.7
First Day..........................................8.2
Double Falls Trail...........Difficult.....0.7
Hidden Passage Trail......Moderate....0.6
Rock Creek Trail.............Difficult.....2.6
Road Walk......................Difficult.....1.8
Second Day......................................5.7

This trip we had in attendance Craig, Marco, Greg, Nathan, Chase, and Jason (My neighbor). Troy bailed out at the last minute due to knee problems. Greg brought his two dogs Duke and Anna. Jason brought his dog Daisy. This is the first time that Jason has hiked with the Outcasts, but he is an experienced hiker. I never checked into the exact distance that we would be traveling to get to the park. I estimated about and hour and a half due to seeing the sign for the park just past Cookville the last time I took I-40. Right before we left, Jason notified me that it was closer to three hours and we have to go though Crossville. Close enough.

Well we didn't run into anything exciting until we got about five miles into our trip. A deer came out a driveway and run out in front of us. Luckily we all got stopped before we hit the deer and the only damage was to our pace makers. After we got those reset off we go. The guys put me in charge of the maps for this trip and as usual I was misunderstood. We stopped at our exit for cigarettes and drinks. When we headed north I told them we had to go 33 miles to the next road change. Well somehow it came out 3.3 miles and everyone was wondering, except me, when we were going to come across this road. I might have gotten a little harassed about that one. I told them to listen to what I think and not what I say.

When we did get to the park Greg pointed out the Bear proof trashcans. I didn’t even think about being in bear country and the guys were not impressed. There was a sign for them to read all about how to handle bear. This is one reason that nobody wants to hike in the Smoky Mountains with me. The Ranger Station was closed and they left a note on the door stating, “out to lunch”. On the signboard was two numbers to get a hold of the Ranger, a home number and a cell number. I called both to find out when they would be back and of course nobody answered either number. We decided to start our day hike and then check back on our way to the campsite.

We took the Natural Bridge trail to the Hazard Cave trail and looped around on the Lake View trail back to the campground and back to the Ranger Station. We had just started on the trail when Chase did a fancy tuck and roll over a root and laid out on his back. Well we knew right then who was going for the graceful trophy. The trail took us over the Natural Bridge and then down under it. We got some pictures taken, as this was an impressive structure. Then we head out to Hazard Cave, which was a large cave carved from sand stone. This area had a lot of these caves and we checked them all out. As I sat eating a sandwich, I noticed that someone had carved a girls name and his on the top of the cave toward the entrance. This was rather impressive as there was no way of getting up there. Then as we were climbing around outside the cave Nathan and I found the path up to the top, which had a hole in which you could climb through and end up where the carving was. The other guys were quite surprised to see Nathan stick his head out and yell to them. After that the trail headed through a lot of Rodadimdrim bushes and dry creek beds back to the picnic area. When we got back to the Ranger Station there were three ladies in there all eager to help us out. We got registered and then drove down to the Hidden Passage Trail Head parking area.

We stopped on the road there to wait on a car that was pulling out. It took about fifteen minutes for the old man to get his car turned and out to the road. It was an old man with the mouth wide open. We were hoping that he would live long enough to make it to the road. We pulled in and packed up for the hike. This trailhead is also the start of the Sheltowee Trail, which runs up 260 miles through Kentucky. We hiked to the Double Falls trail and then on to the Double Falls campsite. The trails were very narrow with overgrowth and a few places we knew when they made these trails that they used Donkey’s due to how close they were to the edge of the drop off. The guys were worried about making to camp before dark. I didn’t want to tell them that I didn’t have a trail description and was guessing on the miles. I didn’t even figure on how long the day hike was going to take. Not much information about this park was available on the Internet. We did come across a sign that was broken off and laying on its side saying that the Double Falls Trail was a mile and a quarter ahead. That was a long mile and a quarter. The other sign that was helpful was the one pointing out the power lines. Not much use for us. On the way Jason pulled out the old GPS and was going to lay out some high tech information. Well we didn’t get too impressed as the Double Falls location that he put in was definitely the wrong one and then it didn’t make any difference where we were on the trail we were always a mile and half from the cars. With my old fashion map reading skills I got us to the campsite and pretty close to the time we thought.

As the rest of the guys started making camp, Jason and I went on to collect the water. When we had entered this valley, you could hear the roar of a fast moving river. Now we were standing on an extremely dry riverbed wondering where the water was. We walked down toward where we thought the falls were and found nothing. Finally we got back on the trail and followed it about a quarter mile down to the fall. There was a little trickle coming over the rocks and a large area where there had been water at one time. Unfortunately you could not get to either because of the rocks. Finally Jason did some professional rock climbing to get to a pool of water and handed the water back down to me. We got back to camp and set up our sleeping quarters as Greg started the campfire. It was kind of odd that the only dry wood was in the riverbed.

As we set by the fire drinking Marco’s Margaritas and smoking Moonlight ecstasy cigars I pumped the water that we had collected through my filter. Or at least I tried to. My filter pump quit working and was squirting through the bypass, which kind of anode Greg and Chase as the water would squirt on them. They kept giving me dirty looks for some reason. Jason of course pulled out the old I pod and showed us that he had a movie we could watch. Anyway it was time to put out the old bear bag. I had a single strand parachute cord and a couple of Kroger bags. Wasn’t really thinking about bear on this trip. Jason volunteered to climb up a tree to feed the rope over the branch. So he puts the rope in his teeth and begins to climb. After a couple of seconds Greg starts doing the pee pee dance. Well, the rope was wrapped around Greg’s feet so Greg was dancing trying to get out and Jason’s head was bobbing like a bobble dog in a window as the rope was in his teeth and his arms wrapped around the tree. I was of course crying and rolling on the ground, which didn’t really help at all. Finally Greg got out and the rope was in place so we hoisted the food up and all was well.

The temperature was dropping and Jason went to get his thermometer. We were all surprised when he came back with just a plain old thermometer. We were expecting something that lit up and talked or at least digital. Looks like somewhere below freezing tonight. I don’t know if Marco’s head hit the pillow good before he started snoring. Other than Marco snoring and Duke walking back and forth that was all that was heard most of the night. Not even a siren in the distance. I did get up around two thirty for a bathroom break and made a little or maybe a lot of noise getting the fire started again. Nathan got up thinking that it was morning and visited with me for a little bit before I told him that I was going back to bed.

The next morning Jason told us that he had forgotten his trail mix and was using it as a pillow when he remembered it. The morning was mainly kicking back and watching the dogs play. Daisy and Anna looked like the cartoon Butch and Spike. Anna was walking around and Daisy was a running circle around her saying “What are we going to do now Spike?” We tried to get a picture of Daisy and Duke who looked like Samson and Goliath, an albino bear and a poodle. After exploring a little bit, we found that the river ran to about fifty foot of the camp and then went underground. Right across the riverbed from the camp the water from the waterfall came right to the riverbed and then went underground. It might have saved us a lot of work if we would have found this the night before. As we packed up it sounded like it was raining with the frost melting off the trees.

We took the steep climb out of camp and then continued the Hidden Passage trail to the Thompson Overlook. We had a beautiful view from here and took some pictures. From here we went to the Rock Creek trailhead and took Rock Creek to the Railroad Tunnel. While on the goat trail overlooking the canyon the boys met what they thought might be a bear, but ended up being some other hikers with a hound. The hound sounded off when he met Duke, one of those “You might win, but you will know that I was there” type of things. The poor dog was trapped between Duke and a drop off. Rock Creek trail is more of a rock face trail. It is a very challenging trial with a few straight down parts of the trail. Once you got down it followed an old rail bed along a river. Not a very well marked trail, as Greg picked up a sign that said, “trail” off the ground and held it up for us. The trail finally ended up going through an old train tunnel. Here Nathan showed us the slow motion logroll as he didn’t quite make it up the slope. After passing through the tunnel there is a swinging bridge with one cable broke so it was sloping steeply to the left. We started with the lightest first and took it one person or dog at a time until everyone made it safely across. On the other side of the bridge was a sign saying the Hidden Passage trail was through the tunnel. Of course this could not be right, as we had just come that way. This is where the mistake was made. The trail actually went over the tunnel not through it. We ended up following the John Mir trail back to Hwy 154 which was a little out of the way.

Once we found out that we were on the other trail and came across the sign showing hwy 154, we came across a side path that was unmarked. Out came the GPS, a little measuring on the map and a lot of figuring, and yes we had a short cut. Jason and I were the only ones willing to try it so off we went and found ourselves in a campsite. I called everyone else back because I thought it was the group campsite on the Hidden Passage trail. I was wrong and there was no more trail to follow so back to the John Mir and out to the Highway. We had a little over a mile of highway walking which of course was a gentle slope straight up to get back to the cars. We passed a sign, which said to watch out for falling branches and trees on the road. About two steps past the sign, a big branch fell right in front of Nathan and I. I told him that was why they put those signs up.

When we got back to the trailhead, the people with the hound were there and had sent a couple of guys to pick up the other vehicle they had to drop at the other trailhead. We went for the traditional Waffle House meal after the hike. Greg thought that he had seen a Waffle House between I- 40 and the park, which we verified, with a big NO. There was one that we all had seen on I-40 and there we celebrated another wonderful trip.


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