Friday, December 18, 2009

Shaltowee Part II

Trail........................................................Outcast Total: 740.7
Day One: 5 miles
Day Two: 10.6 miles
Day Three: 8.3 miles
Day Four: 7.5 miles
Day Five: 4.5 miles
Total: 35.9 miles

In attendance were Troy, Shadow, Marco, and I. After shift we headed to Troy’s house where we loaded up in Troy’s car and headed to the trailhead on Hwy 27. It had rained all night and we had gotten soaked on the fire runs during the night which had us worried about the weather. We drove up in a light rain, which turned to a fog mist by the time we got to the trailhead. Needless to say, water source was not a problem on this hike.

The first section of the trail was mainly ups and downs with a lot of rock cropping along the Railroad Fork of Indian Creek. We had one deep river crossing at road 679. We ran out of daylight by the time we reached road 678 going to the 4H camp. So we camped there for the night. Not a good camping site, just one of those times you have to make due. The trail was detoured at this area due to a wash out. We had to do a little wood drying after we got the fire going, but the stars were out and it turned into a wonderful evening.

The next morning we got on the trail by 8am and headed out. There is a major climb going up to 700 and there is no marking saying that is where you are. The side road is labeled as Catsron, which is road 6050 on the map. We crossed road 700 and ate lunch down by the creek. The trail here is old roadbed.

The trail climbs back up to road 700 and then its time for some road hiking. The next couple of miles is blacktop where you go down to Indian Creek and up to Road 6239, which starts out as paved and ends up a washed out dirt road at the Cumberland River.

Where 700 and 6239 cross, we stopped for a break. There was a gate there with a 4x8 sheet of plywood next to it. On the plywood was painted “If the gate is closed your not welcome.” Well, as we were standing there an old Willie Jeep pulled up and a man got out to unlock the gate. Troy and I walked up to him to ask about road 6239. He was a middle aged scruffy looking guy that kept an eye on Troy and an eye on me even though we were four feet apart. He was a nice enough fellow and after talking awhile, he invited us to stay at his camp that he had set up on the Cumberland River. He even told us a short cut to follow to get there. Troy and I thought “NO!”

We hiked down to the Cumberland River where the river was running extremely fast and was that good old brown color. Trash was piled on either side as the river had carried it down with all its power. When we got to Pitch branch, where we had previously picked on the map to stay, we came across “scruffy's camp.” There was a tent pitched and a blue tarp next to it. There were coolers, empty fuel cans, stoves, chairs, and clothes spread everywhere. There was a tree with pots and pans hanging from it and a sign referring to our man as “You son of _______, why don’t you stop by some time. You know who this is!” We hiked on! The trail turned into a dirt road, so we hiked to the end of the road and then some, to make sure that we didn’t get any visitors. We hiked past the last branch on the map and set up camp in the dark.

We got a fire going and ate some dinner. It started to sprinkle so we put on our jackets. It stopped so we took them off. It started to sprinkle so we put on our jackets. It stopped so we took them off. It started to sprinkle so we put on our jackets. It stopped so we kept our jackets on.

We heard dogs barking from down the river. The echo off the river made it sound louder. After a while, Troy says someone is coming and we see the headlamps on the trail. The lights disappear so we spread out. It’s a while before we see the lights again and then once again they disappear. So we knock down the fire and spread out again. Finally the lights come on and head toward our camp. Troy yells to them as they approach and the two hunters came into camp.

The hunters told us that they were looking for their dogs. They were out coon hunting and the dogs got away. Both guys were carrying 30-30’s and that wasn’t coon-dogs that we heard. We talked to them for a while and then they headed down the trail. I told them that their dog’s had not passed us and there was a bluff wall on one side with the river on the other. They walked down the trail a short distance and then came back. They hollered before they came back through camp and then headed back to where they came from. A short while later we heard the dogs bark again and heard the hunters yelling. We never heard anything after that. We then drank some cough medicine and called it a night.

The next morning we were entertained by a couple of white ducks on the river. It was flowing so fast and those ducks would dive under, come up down stream and then fly back to where they started to do it all over again. They did this until we left camp. I know they were tired and could picture them lying on their backs on the riverbank panting after we left.

We hiked up to Hwy 90 and crossed the bridge to Cumberland Falls State Resort Park. Two things stuck right out in our minds. One, the bathhouse had hot water. It is amazing what a hiker can do in a sink. The second thing was after seeing an ice cream sign it was lunchtime. The visitor center was open and after the let down that they didn’t have any ice cream this time of year. They told us about the lodge on the mountain that served lunch. Would the guys hike up the mountain for a lunch? The guys whistled as we all hiked up the mountain to indulge.

After an all you can eat buffet, I needed a come-a-long and winch to get them out of that lodge. The wateress brought two to go boxes and put them on the table. Marco asked what those were for and of course Troy and I told him that we bought us dinner to take with us. Marco couldn't believe that we would do that. Actually it was a loaded bacon cheese burger and fries for Shadow. Yes, she gets the same treatment that we get. She is an Outcast you know. Needless to say we lost two hours of trail time and we felt like swollen ticks as we rolled, or hiked back down to the river.

The Cumberland falls were beautiful and powerful which turned out to be some good pictures. This is where we got our first warning sign that the Bark Camp creek bridge was out and the crossing was hazardous. It didn’t say closed so we headed on. Our new goal was the Star Creek shelter. This section of the trail is all up and down along the riverbank. There is a lot of rock hopping and climbing. There is some kind of water crossing about every hundred yards through here. There is no phone service from Cumberland park until you get out of the river gorge at Mouth of Laurel boat ramp.

Right before we got to Star Creek, it looked like someone just dropped a huge pile of trees around the trail. It must have been some serious wind damage and it must have taken a long time and a lot of man power to cut the trail through this maze after the damage occurred. Right next to the trail with trees lay all around it, was the Star Creek Shelter. There was a tent set up in it with all sorts of supplies lying around. We didn’t find the people staying there so we hiked across the creek and stayed in the grass field on the other side. There is a beautiful water fall here that we got pictures of. We set up camp and started a fire, as it was getting cold and then ate dinner. Some cough medicine was taken and lies told around the fire as the temperature dropped into the twenties. Later on that night we saw headlamps across the creek where our neighbors must have come home.

We hit the trail that morning wondering what we were getting ourselves into with the bridge being out. We had enough days to hike back out if we needed to.

There were more ups and downs along the river that day. The Bark Camp shelter sets up off the river a bit and then as you round the corner you hear the fast moving water of the Bark Camp creek. It is a large creek with lots of large boulders in it. When we arrived at the cascades, you could actually wade it with no problem. It was a good day for this, as the temperature never got up to freezing. It kind of makes you tougher. We hiked another hour and then stopped for lunch. We had kicked up two flocks of turkeys that day so far.

It was kind of neat after you listen to the loud noise of the Cumberland River and then hike around a bend and it lies so peacefully that you could hear a mouse fart. We passed a swampy area where the ducks were lounging around and batches of small trees were growing like someone had a tree farm there.

We hiked up to road 1277, which is paved. We then followed that to Mouth of the Laurel boat ramp. There is an outhouse here. Marco can’t pass an outhouse.

From here you hike straight up out of the river gorge. You could see the clear water of the Laurel River mix with the dirty water of the Cumberland. It is strenuous. After you get out of the gorge, you hike an old roadbed through the woods over to the Laurel River Lake Dam. We stopped at a campsite on a creek in an evergreen grove just before you get to the dam. This turned out to be our coldest night so Troy put the magic in the campfire. We ate, took cough medicine and told lies. The last night on the trail and life was good.

The next morning after getting everything unthawed, including ourselves, we headed out. We made plans on meeting my parents at the Marina on Laurel River Lake. We hiked across the dam and took the trail around the lake. The trail is gravel all the way around and it is a beautiful park. When we got to where we could see the Marina we followed the lake trail around to it instead of hiking up across the road.

The Holly Bay Marina,, is a really nice and clean place. The manager Randy is a super guy and not only let us stay in the warmth but he also made a fresh pot of coffee for us. Randy also offered a parking spot to use when we are hiking the trail. In the summer time they cook all sorts of food and in the winter they have pizza. Check them out and make sure you stop by when your hiking, if nothing else, to say hi.

Just to let you know, there are two marinas on the lake. Only the Holly Bay shows up on the Sheltowee Trace map. Mom and Dad found the only other one. As we waited on them at Holly Bay, they were waiting at the other one. Finally after asking enough questions, I figured out what happened and called the other marina to locate my parents.

On the way back, we stopped by the Cumberland Falls Resort Park again to show my parents the falls. After we ate lunch and my folks went home, we stopped by the ranger station on 27 to see what they had for information. After we found out that we knew more than they did, we got the opportunity to meet a real live archaeologist to ask him a couple of questions. We wanted to know the difference between an Indian rock house and an overhang. We also wanted to know the difference between an arch and a natural bridge. We found out what four years of college will teach you. They are the same thing with different terminology. ????????????? I was not impressed.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Prentice Cooper WMA

Trail................................................Outcast Total: 704.8 Miles
Day One:
Main trailhead parking to McNabb Gulf Campsite 8.2 Miles
West side heading South

Day Two:
McNabb Gulf Campsite to Main trailhead Parking 10.6 Miles
East side heading North

Total Miles: 18.8 Miles

Well Marco, Troy and I headed out to Prentice Cooper WMA for an overnighter. As usual the weather didn't kick in until we reached Mount Eagle. It started with a light rain and gradually got stronger and stronger. Pretty soon I see Troy catching up with me and then pulled up beside me signaling me to pull over. I pulled over at the next exit and stopped at a store. Troy had made up his mind that he was done with this trip. He didn't feel like being wet and saw that the rain was not going to stop for two days. We visited a few minutes and then Marco and I continued on with the "call it at the trailhead system" that we are used to.

We pulled in at the Main Trailhead Parking in a light drizzle. Marco immediately jumped out and said "Let's go!" I said "OK." We signed in at 9:15.

With ponchos on we headed out going counterclockwise around the double loop heading to McNabb Gulf campsite. The rain stayed light with occasional stops until around one o'clock. The trail goes up and down most of the way with rocky trails leading to the multiple creek crossings. There were no views from either Mullen's Cove or Ransom Hollow overlooks because of a fog. We stopped and made a poncho cave to sit in for lunch.

We used the maps off the Cumberland Trail website which we were guessing at around 8 miles. According to the trail signs it came to 8.2 miles to camp. We got to camp at 3pm. The rain had stopped so we started collecting firewood for the night. It didn't take long and we had camp made and a nice fire going. Marco made quick use of his hiking chair, getting comfortable as I used the back rests that someone had taken the time to make at the campsite.

As we fired up the stoves, Marco enlightened me with a new technique. He heated up his water then poured it all over him and the ground. After some words I can't repeat, he started heating up more water. I still don't know what I learned from this, but it has to be good. We ate dinner, took some cough medicine, and told some lies. Marco did entertain me with a fire side dance. I was amazed that at the end of the day that he still had so much energy. I mean he danced. When he finally stopped, he took off his crock and told me that he had an ember go in the hole at the top of his crock.

At around 9pm our relaxing took a break as I had seen a couple of headlamps coming down the trail. It turned out to be a couple of hikers that were looking for camp. They had gotten off work the night before around 10pm and got dropped off at 27. They hiked to Popular Springs Campsite that night and picked up a TTA hiker off the trial on the way in. They had gotten into that camp around 3am and slept in the next morning. They were getting picked up at the Main Trailhead Parking the next morning. We visited a little as they set up camp just down the trail. We never heard from them again. We got a good nights sleep in.

I woke up with the sound of Marco getting the fire started. I got up and eased on over to the fire and got my stove going. I sat down in my makeshift chair watching the fire when I saw a little head peek out from the rocks in the fire ring. Just as I recognized it as a mouse he took off heading between my legs. I jumped up, to Marco's excitement and entertainment, as the mouse went over my seat and out the back. Now, that will get you going first thing in the morning! We ate breakfast and hit the trail at 7:45am.

We got alot of good views today at the many overlooks. We ate lunch at the Natural Bridge, which you really have to climb all over to appreciate it and then headed to Snooper's Rock Overlook. This by far has the best view of all. We then head on to the Indian Rockhouse and Stone Door, before going back to the truck. The trail was pretty much the same ups and downs throughout and in and out of the coves to cross the many creeks. It was a beautiful trail and we would suggest it as a good overnighter. It gives you a pretty good workout too.

When we got to the truck we found a note from the TTA wishing us a great hike with some happy trail dancing. Yes, we did some traditional trail dances on the way. We also met a couple of other hikers that were out for a day hike.

Here are some mileage points:
Parking to Haley road 2.2
Haley road to Hemlock Branch 3.2
Hemlock Branch to Ransom Hollow 1.3
Ransom Hollow to Tower Drive .8
Tower Drive to McNabb Gulf .7
McNabb Gulf to Raccoon Mtn. .8
Raccoon Mtn. to Pot Point Rd. 1.5
Pot Point Rd. to Natural Bridge 2.1
Natural Bridge to Snooper's Rock 2.8
Snooper's Rock to Indian Rockhouse 2.7
Indian Rockhouse to Parking .7


Monday, November 16, 2009

Sheltowee Trace Part I

Trail……………Rating…………Miles…………………….Outcasts Total: 686.0
Day One:
Rock Creek Loop…..Easy…..…..2.25
Sheltowee Trace…….Easy…..….4.35

Day Two:
Sheltowee Trace…….Moderate….6.44
Gobblers Arch……..Difficult….…3.86

Day Three:
Sheltowee Trace…….Moderate…11

Day Four:
Sheltowee Trace……Moderate….10.9

Day Five:
Sheltowee Trace……Moderate…..5.8

Total……………………………..44.6 Miles

We knew that something was wrong when we actually slept through the night at work. What were the chances that on a planned five-day hike that a hurricane would come to Tennessee? We got up and headed to Big South Fork in the rain.

Greg, Chase, Troy, Shadow, Marco, and I were going to start the Sheltowee Trace. It is a 260-mile trail that runs from the Big South Fork to Northern Kentucky through the Daniel Boone National Forest. We had hiked the first 9.4 miles when we hiked the John Muir trail last season, so we started where we left off and took the Rock Creek Loop trail to get where we needed to start.

Troy, Marco, and I came in one car and signed us all in. Greg got caught up in traffic on I-24 so we didn’t get started until 1pm. We also did a little extra off road driving getting to the trailhead just for practice. You know the Outcast way.

The rain stayed steady as we made our way to Kentucky. This made the trail slick and added the challenge that we always like. Chase and his dad took turns trying to outdo the other with trips and falls. Chase ended up on his back one time. There was one section of trail that was completely washed out and we lost Chase and Troy to slipping and sliding. Then as Greg was attempting to cross a downed tree, he did a fancy dance which one step took out Marco’s hiking pole. He managed to stay up, but the pole was totaled.

The rain did stop by the time we got to our first stop at Great Meadow campground. We forded the river to get to it. We set up camp and Chase actually got a fire going. Some stories were told and cough medicine taken.

The fun started at bear bag hanging time. Greg, Marco, and I gathered all the food and headed to a large tree. The target was a four-inch in diameter branch about fifteen feet off the ground. After a couple of attempts we got the makeshift rope over the branch and attached the bag. The one section of rope was stretching and not sliding over the branch.. It didn’t help that we were trying to lift about two hundred pounds of food. We swapped out some rope and tried again. We finally got our food bags up where we wanted when snap…………….the whole branch broke off the tree. Well, this kinda hit my funny bone a little. The other two started laughing at me laughing and this dragged out for quite a while before we could regroup. Plan B. We found a limb on the other side and took a vote on if this branch was alive or dead. We had to use the branch that broke off to help lift the massive amount of food into the tree. We smiled with joy about the same time that the rope broke. Plan C. We used two ropes and two bear bags and life was good.

The stars came out and we had a beautiful night. Some time in the night the hurricane passed through. I woke up to the flapping of my tarp wondering what was going on. The next morning we collected the articles that had blown away in the night.

Day two started out with a ford across the river. It’s a good way to start the day and get everyone going. We hiked down to where the Gobblers Arch trail intersects. A vote was taken. The Sheltowee crosses Mark Branch numerous times. Troy said about 17 times or we could take Gobblers Arch, which is the high water route. It is described as the driest, but most difficult alternative. I got out voted so up we go. When you got to the base you could look straight up the mountainside and that was your trail. No switchbacks for the half-mile climb. Then you got a short brake before you started going up hill. It added a mile and a half to our hike and kicked some butt. We took a lunch break at Gobblers Arch.

Once we got on Divide road, we hiked the rest of the day on the road. We got our water from the Punchencamp Branch where we saw our first hunter in the woods next to a couple of caves off the North side of the road. We stopped for the night at a large rock shelter with a pool beneath it. It had been used as a campsite before.

We listened to an owl talk as we set up camp and made dinner. After the stories were told and meds taken, the bear bags were hung and everyone hit the sack. I stayed up by the fire and listened to the wildlife. It started with the frogs. They all talked at once then they all stopped about fifteen minutes later. Then the bats took off. I thought that they would come through camp and crap on me, but I just heard them all flapping at once with the high pitch squeaking. After that the birds came through camp. Not sure what they were, but they were perking like Turkeys do. After all that excitement, I went to bed.

Day three; we got off the road. A little while after the initial climb, Greg just hit his knees in the middle of the trail. We assumed that it was time to pray, but we found out that he just fell over a hole in the trail. Then while on break Marco took a picture of Troy and the truth was caught on film. You could actually see Troy’s pack refilling with the lightweight fairy dust that we had all heard about. Lots of climbing today until we finally reached the top with a rock climb and wonderful view.

After we reached the top and ripped our shins on the thorn bushes, we started down. We did some more road hiking and then headed on down to Grassy Creek where we did a little bathing and airing out of the tents and hammocks.

After the break we headed back up the mountain to go back down the mountain and after many creek crossings we went on to the crossing of Big Creek. We got some pictures of Troy carrying Shadow across the creek. The trail then climbs up to and we cross the Yamacraw Bridge. We camped just on the other side of the bridge at a campsite by the Big South Fork Cumberland River.

Greg made connections to get picked up here in the morning. His back was acting up and he had a serous foot injury that let him know that it was time to call it quits. Luckily it happened by a good road and easy to find location.

Stories where told and cough medicine taken by the fire. At bear bag time Chase headed out to a tree to hang their bag. Shortly after he left, we heard some screaming and hollering going on. We all ran to see what had happened to Chase, when in his light beam you could see two sets of eyes bouncing down the trail toward him. What the ___? When they finally came into the light of the other headlamps, you could see that they were two dogs and with the screaming had finally pulled of course and headed through the woods. That was exciting. A short time later we saw some lights up on the hillside and knew that they must have brought the dogs. The people never came down or hollered at us. The lights disappeared and later we could hear the dogs barking up by the parking area. Chase and I made a night hike to check things out and everyone was gone.

More cough medicine was needed. You could have used Chase to mix up drinks with all the shaking he was doing. Finally one by one everyone headed to bed.

Day four; we said our good byes to Greg and Chase and headed down the trail. We hit all the mile markers Lick Creek, Negro Creek, Cotton Creek, and Alum Ford. There is a large flat campsite just past Negro Creek. A shelter, which is not on any map, past Cotton Creek. Alum Ford is a regular campground with roads. We stopped here for lunch and hung everything out to dry. We saw two different deer during this section of the hike.

From Alum Ford we hiked on to Yahoo Falls. The actual fall was not impressive, but the rock formations were. After you hike out of the cove back to the Cumberland there is an outhouse and a flat area by the river to make camp. After this the trail doesn't have any water on it and you cannot get to the river until Big Creek. The trail is rugged in this area and the first camping spot with water is on Big Creek in a rhododendron patch. Here, there was just enough room for the two hammocks and a tent if you have a campfire.

We celebrated our last night out with an overdose of cough medicine. Marco was buzzing. I told the guys that there was good news and bad news. The bad news being that we were at an isolated part of the park, we might see a bear. The good news being that we probably won't hear it because of the river. They felt alot better after I told them that.

We got up the next morning and headed out. There were alot of water crossings and the trail was mostly uphill. We climbed uphill to the swamp and then climbed uphill after that. The area at the start of Big Creek is a waterfall that you hike behind. It is a very beautiful area with the rock formations, but we had some major tree falls in the trail. From here we hiked to 27 where we got to wait for a train before we could cross the tracks. You hike between the church and daycare up the road to get back into the woods. My folks picked us up at the 27 trailhead with some homemade apple pies. Life is good.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fall Creek Falls- Upper Loop II

Fall Creek Falls................................Trail Rating...Outcasts Total: 641.4 Miles
Upper Loop Overnight Trail 13.0 Miles.....Easy

Craig joined us for another hike. He brought his other dog named Hailey this time. Marco, Troy, Shadow and I were ready to hike. Troy picked this trail as we are heading out next week to start the five day section hike of the Sheltowee Trace. It had been a couple of years since we hiked this trail, but it is a repeat.

This year for a change we didn't hike it in the snow and 14 degree weather. The water was up too, so we got to get a couple of water crossings in that we didn't have the last time we hiked this trail.

Once again we hiked it in a clockwise direction, doing the up hill last. Troy decided to twist his ankle right at the beginning just to show how tuff he is. I think he said "anyone can hike this trail on two good legs."

Later on the trail, Craig stuck a foot and a pole in a hole and did the old trail praying on his knees routine. He prays pretty regular, which is a good thing. Just kinda different that he always does it in the middle of the trail while we are hiking.

We had a rather uneventful hike. Just taking in the beauty of nature and that calming thing that the trail does to a person. It was beautiful weather for hiking and that night we had a full moon where we didn't eat even need a flashlight.

We got to camp and collected some fire wood. We did a little maintenance like taking the tree off the top of the outhouse. Troy got a good warm fire going as the temperature dropped down. It got below 30 with the clear sky. The stars were wonderful as we told lies and took cough medicine around the fire.

There was an owl that messed up one of my bathroom breaks in the night. Your body does funny things when you get spooked.

We got up and hung around the fire the next morning. We got on the trail around 8:30 and hiked to the car.

Another beautiful hike.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Piney River Segment- Cumberland Trail-TTA Hike

Trail.....................Rating........Miles.......................Outcast Total: 628.4Day one:
Piney River Trail.…Moderate…..10 miles
Spider Den Spur…..Difficult…….1 mile
Rockhouse Branch..Moderate…...2 miles
Total: 13 miles

Day two:
Piney River Trail….…Moderate…..10 miles
Twin Rock Overlook...Moderate……1 mile
Spider Den Spur……..Difficult……..1 mile
Stinging Fork Trail…..Difficult……..2 miles
Total: 14 miles
Total Trip: 27 miles

This turned out to be a last minute trip by the Outcasts. I was planning on leading a hike for the TTA at Natchez Trace State Park, but could not get any takers. When no one signed up, I decided to hike a trail that I haven’t done yet and got some hikers to join me.

Marco(TTA), Craig, and I(TTA) were going to do the full trail and Lora, from the Soddy chapter of TTA, was going to join us the second day and do a day hike with us.

After a night of running we headed out. It rained all the way to Dayton. My boys had no confidence in my hiking plan. It cleared up, as we got closer. Our first mishap was looking for Shut In Gap road off Hwy 111. It runs of Hwy 68.

Well after we found Shut In Gap road we found out that Walden Mountain Road doesn’t have a street sign. We also found that Forest Camp Road doesn’t have a street sign.

Not sure that we were on the right road we drove it down to Duskin Creek Bridge and then turned around and drove back up to Forest Camp Road. Well the campground doesn’t have a sign either and after some investigation we found the only sign anywhere is at the actual trailhead.

So if you are looking to hike this section of trail, the first left after Stinging Fork Wilderness Area is Walden Mountain Road. Take the first right off that and you will find the unmarked campground on the left. Take the second entrance to the campground and the trailhead will be on your right.

We got on the trail at noon. There is a bridge on this first section that is slippery when wet. I told Marco just in time for him to do some dancing. We were impressed.

We stopped at the first campsite just before White Pine cascades for lunch. We found that there are a lot of campsites that are not on the map. There are two before White Pine cascades. This first campsite has a spring that runs water right through the fire pit in front of the rock chairs that someone has made. You probably would only camp here in dry season.

The trail is beautiful and has a lot of ups and downs. There is a marked spur trail to the North of White Pine cascades that is not on the map and we are not sure where this one goes.

We took the spur trail to Spider Den. This goes steeply down to the river where there are two more campsites that someone has taken the time to make chairs and tables from rocks. You also see the diving platform, which is a flat rock that sticks out over the bluff wall. Spider Den, which luckily doesn’t have spiders in it, is like a large rock house. The trail is about a half mile long. It will take your wind on the way back up to the main trail.

There is another campsite just before Deep Pool Bridge. We took the short spur trail to see Hemlock Falls, which is a very small fall. We were more impressed with the cascades that we had seen.

When you get to Rockhouse branch, the trail cuts off to the right and down. Before you get there you are hiking the old rail bed and if you are an Outcast, you are libel to hike it all the way to where the branch starts. First off we noticed that the trail wasn’t as worn and then finally it ran out all together. We decided to backtrack to find where we missed the turn off.

Pine Branch Bridge is in a little need of repair, but with all the recent rains all the water was pretty.

There are two campsites just across the suspension bridge at the Piney River Crossing. On the way to McDonald Branch Craig took a knee. This was nothing like what the next day would bring. McDonald Branch is a tricky crossing where you might have to do a little tree hugging to get across.

From McDonald Branch to the Twin Rocks Nature trail you look down at the river. Right after the junction you go down to the camp and picnic area next to the river where we stayed the night. We gathered firewood and set up camp. It was time to eat and cold enough to get the fire going. This was the first time that the sky cleared and you could see a million stars. Some lies were told and some cough medicine taken. We had an owl tell us a couple of times to keep it down.

It had gotten below 30 during the night. I got up and started the fire so the other two would get out of bed. Shortly there after, Lora came walking down the trail to camp. We visited while we ate breakfast and broke down camp. The sun was shining and we new it was to be a beautiful day.

We got on the trail and hiked to the parking area and got on the Twin Rocks Nature Trail. We hiked up to the Twin Rocks Overlook for a wonderful sight. The color changes were wonderful with the sun shining on the mountains.

We hiked back to the Piney River trail to enjoy the sights one more time. Lora had hiked the Piney River trail, but none of the spurs or the overlook.

Craig tried to impress Ms. Lora while crossing McDonald Branch. He reached for the tree to hug and then did a backwards somersault over a boulder and landed on his butt against a second one. He did get his arms up in the air for points afterward.

Shortly after crossing McDonald’s Branch Ms. Lora decided to put on her show and landed on her butt after tripping over a rock. She then called out Marco stating that his turn was next. Not to be outdone Marco stepped on a flat rock that slid off the trail and took him with it. He ended up doing a 360 and planting his butt on the ground. I told him to hold still for a picture. He actually ended up with a leg injury that needed some nursing. I did not want to impress Ms. Lora after seeing the competition and gracefully bowed out.

At this time a group of boy scouts hiked pass us that had stayed the night at the Logging campground. They said that they had had a great trip.

We stopped at the suspension bridge for a snack while the sun shined down through the trees above.

We took the Logging camp spur and looped up to the Rockhouse Branch spur which the sign said picnic area. We must have missed the part that went to the campsite. Shortly after that we stopped and ate lunch along the trail.

We hiked the Spider Den spur to show Lora the sights and then continued on. She had also not hiked the trail from Duskin Creek Bridge to Newby Branch campground.

On the way to drop Lora off at her car, we drove by the Stinging Fork Wilderness Area and decided to go ahead and hike that down to the falls and back. This is a strenuous trail, but a beautiful waterfall.

Another beautiful trail to recommend to everyone and a wonderful hike to write about.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Longhunter IV

Long Hunter.........................Trail Rating.............Outcasts Total: 601.4 Miles
Volunteer Trail...6.0 Miles.........Easy
Day Loop............2.0Miles..........Easy
Volunteer Trail...6.0Miles..........Easy
Day Loop............2.0Miles..........Easy
Total………………16.0 Miles

We have numerous folks that say that they want to join us each year. We always tell them, if they have little to no experience, to join us on our first hike of the year to get started. So, after notifying everyone that had mentioned hiking to us, we started off this year with just us. Marco, Troy, Shadow, and me. Craig, who had hiked once with us last year, hike with us this time and is planning on hiking with us on a regular basis. He brought his dog Kuippo.

As per our regular routine, we did a long day and then ran all night at the firehall before setting out to hike. We met at the trailhead and hit the trail at ten o'clock in the morning.

The weather was beautiful and as usual we were ready to get the season started. After the seed tick attack on Marco and I the last hike a week ago, we bathed in DEET before we hit the trail. Then, just as we got our packs on, Troy said "hold on a minute, I forgot something." He went back to his car and pulled out a large cooler which he opened to reveal to us a pile of Troy's famous fried chicken that a show dog couldn't jump over. Well, as usual, being the emotional guy that I am, I started crying at the beauty of it as Troy passed each of us a bag containing a chicken each and some biscuits. He had fried up enough to feed eleven plus us and only about seven ate the night before. Yea, it added three to five pounds per pack, but who really cared?

When we signed in at the ranger station, they told us that a boyscout troop had been out last night. We met them at the split of the day loop and overnight trail. We figured that when we got to camp there wouldn't be any firewood for atleast five miles. From there we really got into the wild flowers. We got into camp at one forty.

We set up camp and collected firewood. We enjoyed the lake and some stories as we waited for dinner time to come. After dinner we got the fire going, and then just before sunset Marco and I hike down to the end of the cove to catch the sunset on film. It was quite the show that mother nature put on for us. You pretty much had to be impressed.

Craig had brought his Sawyer Point One water filter, which we were impressed with. It is a gravity fed filter which really pours out the water. The only draw back that I can come up with is that you have to have a good enough water source to collect in a bag for filtering.

That night, we sat around the fire with our cough medicine and told some lies. We though about keeping up with Marco's words of wisdom. For example: "It gets colder as you walk away from the fire." He might be famous some day.

Some time in the early hours of morning we got some light rain. By morning it had stopped and we had a fire going for breakfast, which also included chicken. We got on the trail at eight thirty this morning and had a beautiful hike out. We got to see squirrels, and those green headed ducks as Marco called them. I had just told Craig that I never see any deer on this side of the park, when we scared off three.

Another fine start of a hiking season. Looking forward to many a snow fall this year.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Honey Creek Loop, TTA Hike

Day One:
John Muir 2.3....Easy
John Muir 1.8....Easy
Leatherwood Ford Loop 3.1....Easy
River Overlook 0.2....Easy
Total: 7.4 Miles

Day Two:
Honey Creek Loop 5.6....Difficult
Honey Creek Overlook 0.2..Difficult
John Muir 5.0....Easy
Burnt Mill Bridge Loop 1.4...Easy
Total: 12.2 Miles

Total Miles: 19.6 Miles

This was a Tennessee Trails Association hike that Marco and I went on. We are both members of TTA and we joined Millette and Lora of the TTA.

Plan A: Sara planned this hike as hiking the Honey Creek loop and car camping Saturday night.

Plan B: I suggested we hike Sunday as well and do the John Muir trail. Sara agreed.

Plan C: Sara broke her ankle so Millette was the hike leader and due to rain planned to go the campground Saturday night and hike the Honey Creek loop Sunday.

Plan D: We headed out Saturday morning in the rain and this is how it went:

Because the rain was more of a down pour, we all met up at the Bandy Creek Visitor Center. After a doing a little visiting we decided to hike in the rain as it had changed from a down pour to a light rain. We decided to go for a safe rain hiking trail and picked the John Muir out of Leatherwood Ford to the O&W Bridge. As it turned out with all of the water falls, it was a beautiful hike. There were water crossings and they were quite high as the rain built them up. We found a nice overhang to eat lunch under. It cleared up a bit by the time we got to the O&W Bridge and we got some beautiful views.

On the way back, we decided to take the Leatherwood Ford Loop up to the River Overlook and back to Leatherwood Ford. We were already wet and there was still day light. Millette showed us a few fancy steps today, but nothing like Sunday.

We camped at the Bandy Creek campground, where the girls set up in one site and the boys in the other. We enjoyed some chicken, with Lora's family secret sauce, and tator's. Life was good. We followed up with some marsh mellows over the campfire. Cough medicine was taken and some stories were told.

The rain decided to show up again after I went through all the work of getting the moon and stars to shine. We decided to have a tarp party. We all sat in a row with a tarp over us as we watched the last of our campfire being put out by the rain. The last thing was the car camping as we sat and listened to CD's as the rain came down. Finally we decided to call it a night.

The next morning we got up, had a warm breakfast and headed to the trailhead. Millette was going to do the Honey Creek loop no matter if the water was over our heads. We dropped a car at Burnt Mill Bridge and headed to the Honey Creek trailhead.

Now Millette showed us some moves yesterday, but she was dancing with the stars today. Marco, who was not to be outdone, did a 360 on the trail that was quite stunning. So, I had to show them how to hit the trail and I did a good job.

The trail was challenging with the high water and wet rocks. The water crossings were deep and took a little talent. The trail led us astray a couple of times with inadequate marking. The lizzards were out and even a couple of snakes. The waterfalls were beautiful and we got some wonderful views from the Honey Creek Overlook where we ate lunch.

After the loop we took the John Muir trail to the Burnt Mill loop to Burnt Mill Bridge. The John Muir trial was mostly old road bed until we got to the river. At one point when I was leading, I came upon a large rat snake that not only surprised me, but decided to challenge me as well. He had a little attitude. I turned to Lora who was behind me, but had levitated about three feet off the ground and passed everyone to the back of the line.

We finished up the hike with a good long and deep water crossing where the river had flooded the trail.

We got another surprise when we got back to the truck, as we found that we had gotten into a nest of seed ticks which ate us all up.

It was a great hike. Sorry that Sara couldn't make it, but she was with us in all of our minds.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Little Possum Creek Bridge Building

Marco and I spent the last two days working with the Cumberland Trail Association along with the Tennessee Trails Association and other volunteers, building a bridge over Little Possum Creek. Talk about a real good group to work with, we got a lot of work done and had a good time doing it.

We left from work Sunday morning and drove down to Soddy Daisy. We got to the work site around 9:30am. It was impressive to see how they built all the scaffolding, trails, and cable systems just to start this project. They hauled in a lot of supplies including cement, wood, scaffolding, tools, and rocks.

When we got there the main bridge supports and spanners were already in place. We helped put up the sides, stringers, tighten the bolts, and start putting the wooden walking planks down.

The first day there were about eighteen volunteers. It was nice and shady in the morning, but that afternoon sun hit hard and you felt the heat! By 3:30 we were ready to call it a day. Marco and I had planned on just camping by the work site, but Tony started describing the benefits of the church camp and we had to change our minds. It started with showers and air conditioning, then went to swimming in the lake, canoeing, and free food. I had to call Mercy and give in.

We got to camp and started with a few refreshments. Then we went swimming until the dinner bell rang and we ate stir fry and hot dogs with the sides. Pretty good start. We followed up with a few games of pool and good old visiting with some occasional cough medication.

The next morning we got up to a breakfast of pancakes and oatmeal. We headed to the work site and got at it again. We had some new faces this morning and over the day had around fifteen come and go. Today we had the entertainment of Marco swimming for tools. Nancy wasn't going to be out done so she swam for some tools as well. By the time we left, it was looking like a bridge. There is plenty of work to be done as they still have to haul out all the scaffolding and fix the trail back.

As I said before, we had a great time and everyone was so friendly and helpful that it made it a wonderful project to be a part of.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Possum and Rock Creek, CT

Trail.................Rating......Miles.................Outcast Total:585.4
Possum Creek Trail…….Moderate…….10 Miles
Rock Creek Trail………..Moderate……..9.9 Miles

At work, getting to sleep until 2:30am was like getting a treat before hiking the next day. Marco and I headed out to meet my cousin, Austin, and my Dad at the Lower Leggett Road Trailhead. We left the van at this trailhead and drove my truck to the Heiss Mountain Road Trailhead.

We got on the trail by 11:00am and were immediately impressed by the Blanchard Creek waterfall right off the get go. Just past the falls we met the only other hikers on the trail. They said that they had hiked in three miles the day before and had gotten soaked by the rain. The trail had some slippery spots and the rocks were even more slippery. Even though it was his first hike, Austin jumped right in to doing the trail dance and even included the trips. It must run in the family.

We were glad to see the bridge over the Big Possum Creek, as the water was deep and fast. We were quite impressed to see the new fiberglass type bridge. That is real nice and I'm sure will last a long time. We ate lunch just past the bridge where the old narrow-gage railroad grade connected with the trail.

The short side trail to the overlook of the Tennessee River valley is worth the time. You can see all the way to the Appalachian Mountains. Then you descend to Little Possum Creek.

Dad and Austin impressed me with walking right over a two-foot long Copperhead snake. After investigating, we found out that someone had already cut the head off the snake, which I guess was a good thing for those that don’t look down.

Little Possum Creek was anything but little. We ended up crossing on a fallen tree that stretched between two boulders. With the slippy rocks, it turned out to be a good workout on the nerves. After crossing the creek, we hiked back to the trail.

On the way to Stack Rock, Austin with his snake fetish stepped on a small gray snake with an orange bottom. Of course Austin didn’t realize what he had done until I let him know.

Stack Rock was impressive and after you reach the top, there is a good campsite with a stream running next to it and a stack of firewood. Way too good for us. We head on.

Between the Stack Rock and the Imodium Falls we had some impressive falls. Marco put up a fight, but Dad took the all time prize with imitating the swimming sidestroke across a flat rock as he grabbed for anything he could grab while he was traveling across it. That is where experience pays off and we had to bow to the Master.

Crossing Little Possum creek below the Hughes Branch, we had to take to wading. Put on the Crocks and go for it. It got up to the thighs and you know what that means for poor all Marco!

We camped just after descending from Coalbank Hill in a flat area of pines next to the Coalbank Branch of Possum Creek. It was about a mile short of Retro-Hughes Road. It was time to eat and we got a pretty good workout with all the ups and downs of the trail.

When it finally got dark enough for a campfire, we had some entertainment lighting wet wood. Marco found an old Cedar that really helped us out. We sat around sipping medicine and telling lies. They were calling for 47-degrees for tonight, so we went for the 35-degree Outcast temperature instead. Oh yea, Austin did it again and found a snake under his tarp before it got dark.

We got on trial at 8:30am and crossed Retro-Hughes Road to start the Rock Creek Section. The blackberries will be good this year and I know the place to pick. After about a mile you start down into Rock Creek gorge. The trail was not nearly as slippery today, which was good because I know where Rock Creek got its name.

We got to climb the wooden ladder on the way to the fiberglass bridge over Rock Creek. The Leggett Branch cascades were beautiful and we stopped at the Rock Creek Overlook and ate lunch. It was a beautiful day and we watched the hawks flying over the gorge.

We decided to take the Upper rim trail to see Leggett Point Overlook. It was a good climb, but the trees block most of the view. We got to the Lower Leggett Road trailhead at 2:00pm.

This is a wonderful hiking trail and I commend the many people that helped to build this trail. The flowers were all bloomed out putting on a show. You definitely want to visit the Cumberland trail website to print off the maps and trail descriptions as well as register to hike.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Big Hill Pond State Park

Big Hill Pond Trail …….Moderate…..3.6 miles………………Outcasts Total:565.5 miles
Azalea Spring Trail …….Moderate…..1.3 miles
Turkey Call Trail ………Moderate…..1.9 miles
Day One………………………………6.8 miles

Turkey Call Trail ………Moderate…..1.9 miles
Azalea Spring Trail …….Moderate…..0.8 miles
Board Walk …………….Easy………..0.5 miles
Tuscumbia Trail………...Moderate…..1.3 miles
Dry Ridge Trail…………Moderate…..5.5 miles
Day Two……………………………..10.0 miles
Total………………………………….16.8 miles

Marco and I took this trip, which we started after the usual all night of running at the fire hall. We started with our first wildlife being Geese walking down Walnut Street in the Boro. It takes about three and a half hours to get to Big Hill Pond State Park, which is south of Jackson in Pocahontas TN. They have a map on the Tennessee park website which gives a small amount of information. The visitor center is closed on the weekend so you need to get a hold of them during the week and have them put one of their good maps out for you to pick up. You need the good map, which we have a picture of, to follow their different color hiker dudes that they mark the different trails with. We got lucky and the Ranger stopped by the visitor center so we got in to get the map.

The back country, or not as popular, trails are in rougher shape than the popular ones do to manpower according to the Ranger. The trail parking is across from the picnic shelter down by the boat ramp. We got a kick out of the sign there listing backpackers separate from hikers.

We got on the trail at 11am. We took the Big Hill Pond trail around the East side of the park down to Big Hill Pond. You cross a long wooden bridge over Travis McNatt Lake and then head up through the woods. We were a little disappointed that you cannot see Big Hill Pond from the trail, as the woods are too thick. There is a little waterway at the end of a dirt road that you can load your boat in and go out to the pond. All of the area Southwest of the hills in the park is swampland. The area around Big Hill Pond needs some trail work. The Trail skirts the swamp along Big Hill Pond and then goes back through the woods. This is where Marco got to see his first snake and excited he did get. After you cross the train tracks, where I picked up my track splinter, you drop back down and follow along the swamp on the Dogwood Point Trail, which is also labeled Turkey Call Trail.

The first shelter we came to is Pipe Rock shelter. All of the shelters are wood structures with three bunk beds in each. Pipe Rock and Dogwood Point both have outhouses. They do have a wood bee and wasp problem. Pipe Rock shelter is a good climb from the trail and you need to be looking for the trail to spot it. The water source is the muddy Cypress Creek, which is at the bottom of the hill. We did find a spring just past this shelter trail at an old road site. We continued down the trail to the lowest point of the park. Since we figured that the Dogwood Point shelter would not have any water, we found the Tuscumbia River by following an old road bed due West of the point about one hundred yards through the woods. We bagged our water and carried it up to the shelter where we stayed the night.

Marco was proud to see the outhouse, with a manual flush I must add. Of course he couldn't get it to work. It might have been neglected for a while. We suffered through a steak and baked potato dinner with pudding for desert, but we were still roughing it. We enjoyed the wildlife, picked ticks, and listening to the bees work the shelter over. Marco got some pictures of the local frogs and toads. We didn’t hang around the fire too long. It was more of just a small light maker as the temp was in the sixties. We told a few lies over cough medicine and called it a night. At one point the bees stopped buzzing. It was like they got a signal and they just all stopped at once. We saw a bat later on flying around.

The next morning we got up, ate breakfast, and were on the trail by 8am. We hiked North across the train tracks and followed the Azalea Spring trail to the half mile boardwalk. It is listed at lengths from one mile to a half a mile on different park items. The boardwalk crossed Dismal Swamp where we got to see deer, squirrels, and a mud turtle swimming the creek. We were fast enough to get a picture of us hiking the boardwalk and that was about it.

From the Boardwalk we hiked to the observation tower. This is a 73’ metal observation tower that offers a panoramic view of Travis McNatt Lake and Dismal Swamp. We got some good pictures from the top and Marco got a good picture of a large bird.

From the observation tower, we took the Tuscumbia Trail over to the Tuscumbia Bend shelter. This shelter is located on a small stream. There is a sign there, but it points in the wrong direction. Walk along the stream and you can find it. I don't know if this stream runs all summer or not. From there we hiked to the horse trail and ate lunch at the Dry Ridge Trail head. We did get to see a grey snake cross the trail and I actually kicked a box turtle that was on the trail. He didn't come out of his shell, but I would imagine he had a headache and wasn't interested in visiting.

The Dry Ridge Trail goes over to Travis McNatt Lake and goes around the North end of the lake back to the boat ramp.

We got pictures of the Dipping Vat. We had no idea what a dipping vat was used for until we looked it up on the Internet. They used the vats because of the tick infestation back in the late 1800,s. They were required to dip all of the farm animals and have them inspected.

The Grassy Point shelter has a lake front view and a half a picnic table. They need to clean out an access for swimming here. We continued around the lake. The North end of the lake you do some board, log, and bridge jumping across the swamp. After that you hike along the shore back to the boat dock.

We visited with the ranger after our hike and he said that they have a steady flow of hikers, but never many at a time.

On the way back we stopped at the Pinson Mounds which was pretty cool to check out:


Thursday, April 2, 2009

North South Trail

The guys are scared of a few tornado's and have cancelled our hike for today. It's kinda sad because I have brought them so far through rain, sleet, and snow. I guess I will have to toughen them up a little bit more.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Angel Falls Trail, River Trail East, Big Island, and Pilot-wines loops

Trail.....................Miles..........Rating.........Outcast Total: 548.7
Day One: 8.1
Angel Falls Trail.....2 Miles.......Easy
River Trail East......6.1 Miles.....Easy
Day Two: 15.3
Station Camp..........0.2 Miles.....Easy
Big Island Loop Trail...5 Miles.....Moderate
Indian Dome Rockhouse...0.4 Miles...Easy
Pilot-Wines Loop Trail..9.7 Miles...Moderate
Day Three: 14.2
Pilot-Wines Loop Trail..3.1 Miles....Moderate
Big Island Loop Trail....9 Miles.....Moderate
Station Camp...........0.1 Miles.....Easy
River Trail East.........2 Miles.....Easy
Day Four: 6.1
River Trail East.........4.1.........Easy
Angel Falls Trail.........2 Miles.....Easy
Total Miles......43.7

We didn't mean to out run the horses!
Troy and I were the only ones that could make this hike. We headed out after work and made our way, after signing in, to Leatherwood Ford Trail head parking. We got on the trail at noon. We used 100 Trails of the Big South Fork by Russ Manning for our trail description. There is a lack of signs on these trails, but they do use metal trail markers which are few and far between. Red for the Loop trails and red and green for the river trail.

Angels falls trail is an easy hiking trail running along the Big South Fork Cumberland River to Angel Falls. River Trail East connects Angel Falls with Station Camp crossing. We did have two creek crossings that required the donning of the old Crocks. The weather was beautiful and it only called for rain on our second day. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the ticks were after us. Yes, there were plenty of ticks on this hike.

That evening as we started looking for a camp site, we walked into Station Camp Crossing. There are a few camping sites here and Station Camp Road ends here. It was 5pm and we were ready to eat.

We set up camp, collected fire wood, got our water, and settled in for the night. It was only suppose to get down to the mid forties tonight. The owls were out tonight and a friendly coyote called in the night. About the time we got ready to call it a night, here comes the truck. It was a few young kids out having some fun. Luckily they didn't stay long and we got to bed around 11pm.

We got up the next morning and no rain. Yes, things were looking good. We only had a coyote visit during the night and he just headed right through camp. I got some pictures of the Station Camp Crossing which you can only cross the river during dry weather. At 8:15am we headed across the parking area and started the 600 foot climb into the hills on the Big Island Loop.

We made it to the Indian Dome Rock house around 11am. It is basically a cave like opening with a big room that has a dome shaped ceiling. Pretty cool to check out. We hiked an hour longer, got on the Pilot-Wines Loop trail and did lunch at a creek crossing. This is when we hung out our stuff to air out and also where I left my clothes line.

I went to the creek, found a deep spot to fill my bucket, leaned against a tree and reached out only to notice that I got no resistance from the tree and it followed me into the creek. I looked like a cat heading into a bath tub. I was reaching and scratching for anything that I could get a hold of. I managed to get only minor wetness of the foot during this episode.

As we finished lunch, a light mist began to fall. We packed up, put on the old poncho and headed out. The mist didn't last long and we had a beautiful day to hike.

We stopped at the Station Camp Horse Camp Trail head parking area. It is a very large gravel parking area which would make a good spot to park if you were hiking the Big Island Loop or the Pilot-Wines Loop for a day hike or overnighter.

After we left there, we came upon the Wilderness Resort, which we found out later was privately owned and operated, but has access to the Pilot-Wines Loop trail. It looks like some fancy log cabins and a large horse stable. For hikers there is a water source at the barn.

The last source for water before Pilot Rock is a creek that runs along a rock bluff just past the private land. We got lucky and found some water right at Pilot Rock and spent the night at the camp there. We ended up hiking 15.3 miles by the time we found the water source to camp by. We must have looked pretty bad because the vultures were circling us when we made camp at 4:30pm. Did I mention that the ticks were out?

There was ice on the water buckets the next morning. We had slept in an extra hour so we got on the trail at 9am. After Pilot Rock the trail drops 600 foot to the Grassy Branch which we got to try out the old Crocks again to cross. After crossing the river we did the 600 foot climb back out to join the Big Island Loop again.

We dropped the 600 foot to the the Big Island crossing and stopped for lunch. We aired out the packs and rinsed out some clothes. Big Island crossing is one of those river crossings that you can only do during low water. While we were eating three horse riders rode by. We saw them again at the cabin which is at the first river past the Big Island crossing.

The cabin is a good place to stop if you can work it into your hike. It has two bedrooms and a loft for sleeping. There is a big fire place and a picnic table inside the front room.

We left our horse riders and headed down the trail. They caught back up to us after going back and finding a lost jacket. They were surprised on how far we had made it. They said that we were more like trail runners than hikers. Well, we really impressed them when we came hiking into Station Camp crossing and they were there taking a break. I wished that I would have known that we were going to catch up to them. We would have picked up a couple of old beer cans and walked in drinking beer. Their reaction was "Holy Sh_t, I'm going to have to get a set of those hiking poles" when we walked up on them. They asked how much further we had to go and I told them that we had 8.1 miles to the truck, but only had an hour to get there before dark. You should have seen their faces then.

To avoid any more visitors we hiked down the River Trail East for a couple of miles before setting up camp. We got in a total of 14.2 miles by 5:30pm. We found some ticks and listened to owls as we sat around the fire.

We got up in the morning and hit the trail by 8:15am. We did have a small layer of ice on our water bucket this morning. Just before Angel falls we saw some people camping along the river and after Angles falls there were people all the way to the truck. A good day for hiking. We got to the truck by 11:30am.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Franklin-Marion State Forest

West Rim Trail 19.5 Miles Trail rating Easy...Outcast Total: 505 Miles
Sweden Cove trail warm up 1.0 Miles
Two Day Total 20.5

First off, it takes an act of God to get a map of this place. You will not get any helpful information on the Internet. You can get a map at the ranger station that is north of Hwy 41A on Fire Tower Road next to the fire tower. This is not in the park. They are not opened on weekends or most hours of the week. They will mail you a black and white copy of this map which will help you none at all. There is a trail description that is posted next to a map at the unused Ranger station at the park. You cannot get a copy of this description. I took a picture of it and typed it out when I got home. So now that we have that clear:

Troy, Marco, and I head out after work. As usual everyone makes fun of us because of the weather and sure enough as we head down I-24 we start with the snow flurries. They get heavier as we get closer to Sewanee.

We got on the trail at 9:30. Since anyone can hike the trail according to the description, we hike it backwards going counter clockwise around the park. It took us right at a half mile before we made a wrong turn. Since we didn’t know the name of the trail, which isn’t written on the map or description, we took a turn at the first sign that said Swedon Cove hiking trail. After we ended up crossing 156 again, I consulted the map, backtracked a half mile, crossed the campground and found a sign for the West rim trail. Yep, that’s the name we were hunting. We call that an Outcast warm up.

Once we got on the trail it was very well marked and at most road crossings you got a letter A-W in order that corresponded with the map. It is a very well maintained trail and easy to follow.

The first four and half miles were through the woods and then we hiked the rim of Crooked Tree Hollow. One of the concerns that we had was water supply. After we were assured that there was no water on the trail when we picked up the map, I copied the trail description and every other line was “Cross Creek.” We didn’t have any problem finding water.

Marco was again a source of entertainment for us on the trail. First off when we came to a split in the trail, he had warmed up and took off his jacket. We went on by him and a little while later he asked me if his jacket was still on the back of his pack. NO! He ended up hiking back to the split and found his jacket hanging on the sign where he took it off. He had tied it to his pack and then rubbed it off on the sign when he put his pack on. Next, he had bought a new camera and was proud of it all week before this hike. He put fresh rechargeable batteries in it for the trip. When we got to Crooked Tree Hollow where the scenery really got good, his batteries died. When he got home and read the instructions he found out that he had gotten the wrong batteries.

The campground that is marked on the map on the West side has a beautiful view but is literally trashed. It is sad that people will ruin a good thing. I did take a picture of the Red Neck toilet with the appropriate empty beer cans. We made camp around 4:00 at the ten-mile mark including our warm up. It is marked on the map as N.

We set up our camp and then collected firewood. I pushed over an old rotten tree that I thought we could use as a bench. I couldn’t move it by myself so I went on collecting wood. Marco walked by it and saw something move. It ran up a tree next to him and it looked like a chipmunk. As all three of us watched him reach the top, it jumped and flew to the ground by me about 30 feet away. It was a flying squirrel, which I have never seen other than on TV. We all got excited about that! Later when I was telling my daughter about that she let me know that “it doesn’t take much to get you excited”.

We got on the trail by 9:00 the next morning. The low was only 18 degrees. It was another beautiful day for hiking. We continued east, crossed 156, and ate lunch at Stromeyer overlook that looks over Sweeten cove at marker H. After a short siesta we headed on to the cars. Both of the campgrounds on the east side of the park were clean.

When I got to where we could see 156, I beat Troy to the punch and did the run while doing push ups with my hiking poles over my head as he had shown me in the past. You know that Troy joined in an ran to the end as well.

We would recommend this hike. Very well kept and beautiful.


Trail description

Monday, February 9, 2009

Cumberland Trail- Soddy Segment

Cumberland Trail- Soddy section……………..Outcasts Total…..484.5
Trail Rating: Moderate with future bridge sites being difficult
Day one…..…8.6 Miles
Day two……7.4 Miles
Total………....16 Miles

Marco, Raleigh, and I made this hike. We headed out after work and dropped a truck off at the Heiss Mountain Road trailhead. We then drove back to Mowbray Pike and parked at the marked location on Millsap Road. It took us a little longer to find Mowbray Pike because the street sign is not there off Dayton Pike. You need to turn by the Dollar General store. We ended up going further south on Dayton Pike to Mountlake road and coming down Mowbray pike from the other side. You definitely want to print off the directions, maps, and trail description off the Cumberland Trail website. They are very helpful.

We got on the trail at 10:30. Shortly after you get on the trail, you go through the Little Stone Door and pass the Indian Rock House. The trail travels the side of the mountain until you go into the Little Soddy Creek Valley. We stopped and had lunch before Clemmons point where we could enjoy the great view of the valley below and see the peaceful looking Sequoyah Nuclear power plant.

Just before you drop down into Little Soddy Creek valley you pass above a house and then the trail drops down. There was a generator and some other stuff off to the side. There was an extension cord hooked to the generator running off somewhere. We didn't hang around to investigate!

Once you cross the Little Soddy creek you will find remains of the old Soddy Coal Company and the area where they have been trying to clean up years of illegal dumping. This is a very challenging area to try and remove a lot of tires, wash machines, and the likes. From here you climb up and cross Hotwater road.

Hotwater road is where we met the members of the Soddy Daisy chapter of the Tennessee Trail Association. They had been working a section of the trail from Hotwater road to Posey point. And a mighty fine job they had done. We talked to a few of the members at the road and then about eight members on the trail. Super folks and we just can’t thank them enough for the work they do. After talking a bit, we found out that Don Deankins and Caroline Woerner were the one and same people that had made the maps we were following. They also found out that we were the Outcasts and we were amazed by how many people follow our Blog. After we left their company, I wished that we had taken a picture of the group to put on our Blog.

After Posey Point you hike the side of the mountain over Big Soddy Creek. We did spend a little while checking which way to go after the pine farm where the trail splits and there is no sign. The next marker is down the switchback from the split. This is about the time Marco’s knee started bothering him real bad. Part way back into the Deep Creek Valley we started wondering if we were going to have to stop our hike and carry him out. He wanted to be tough and keep going. I think he only fell about five times on the way down to Deep Creek. Not too bad for Marco.

On the way down to Deep Creek you pass in front of an old coalmine portal with the timbers still visible and at this time water filling the bottom.

The only part of this trail that is difficult is the crossing of Deep Creek and Big Soddy. The switchbacks are short and the drops or climbs are steep. Hopefully when they get the bridges done they will rework the switchbacks and bring them out further.

Deep Creek is a large boulder crossing of the creek where Big Soddy is more wading. The only pain you felt while crossing is anything that touched the water. I was hoping for numbness, but none would come.

There is a spot where the dozers tore up the land before Deep creek crossing doing rock mining. They could make a future campsite down the river a little ways where the dozers flattened it out by the river.

In between Deep Creek and Big Soddy creek Marco tried to break his leg, the good one, by dropping his foot down between rocks and falling backwards. This gave everyone a good scare.

It was getting dark so just after we crossed Big Soddy and got our feelings back, we made camp for the night. There is no flat area around here so we camped on the slope. It’s nice when you have hammocks. It is a little rough collecting firewood at a seventy five degree angle. Marco did some meds and rehab while we told lies around the fire. We had a full moon and the temp stayed around 35 degrees.

We started out the next morning hitting the trail at 9:00. It was a good climb after breakfast, the way we like it. The trail continues along the side of the valley.

There was one large shelf that the trail actually goes under. We had been talking about how boulders have fallen in the past and how people have been killed. Well, as Marco was hiking under the shelf, a large clump of ice broke off the top of the cliff probably around fifty pounds of it. It was safely out to the edge away from the trail as I saw it fall, but poor Marco didn't know what happened and just assumed he was dead when it crashed to the ground. It was entertaining to watch.

We stopped for lunch at a spot just past the last bridge which would make a good campsite. It was along the river bank and you could tell where a couple of people have camped before.

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. The trail covers alot of different type of forests and you end up hiking out along the highway and down Heiss Mountain road to the next trailhead. There were cars there when we dropped our truck off and then more cars there when we got to our truck Sunday. Must be a popular day hike out Possum Creek segment.

When we got back to the Mowbray Pike trailhead we had a note on our truck window stating "This is private property, do not park here" written on duct tape. It looked offical redneck. I will have to find out more about this.

The only wildlife we saw was the cows out in the pasture by highway 111.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

John Muir Trail

Day 1………7.6 miles…………………………………..Outcasts Total: 468.5
Day 2……..10.9
Day 3………6.8
Day 4……..10.6
Day 5……..10.3
Total…..…..46.2 Miles
Trail rating: Moderate with the climb on rock creek trail in Pickett State Park as difficult

This is a trip that required a lot of preplanning and searching for information. The John Muir trail is not an easy trail to look up. There are actually three different John Muir trails that you will find on the computer. The other two have information all over the Internet. One problem was I have never been to the Big South Fork so I didn’t have any idea of the terrain or water situation. It came down to buying a topographical map from National Geographic and buying books. We ended up using the 3rd Edition, Hiking the Big South Fork, by Deaver, Smith, and Duncan as the best trail description.

Problem two was the crew. There were a few items that they got a hold of and would not let go. BEAR…. BEAR…. bear, FORDING rivers, and BIG hills. The length of the trail, 42 miles, was a new record for all of them to make. While I studied water sources, they studied ways to get out.

After packing, repacking, repacking, and repacking, we were ready to attempt the trail. We got off work, repacked, and hit the road. We went to Picket State Park, signed in, and dropped off one truck at the Hidden Passage trail parking. One car had headed to the Brandy Creek Visitor Center and signed us in there. Then we met at the Leatherwood Ford trailhead. We got on the trail at 12:00.

You start out crossing an old bridge over the Big South Fork Cumberland River. The panic didn’t really start until then. Yes, it was deep, but it was also almost completely frozen over. FORDING rivers? After numerous tackles and blocks, I managed to get them over the other side of the river. The first two miles were a steady climb along the riverside. After we crossed Fall Branch, we started the 400-foot climb to Angel Falls Overlook.

Greg put on a show for us; again, Marco was behind him one time and said that it was absolutely amazing to watch. He knew he saw the bottom of both of Greg’s feet at the same time at least once as he continued a tap dance along the trail.

It was an exciting climb to Angel Falls Overlook. One time we were hanging on by a cable that was mounted to the rock facing as we walked along a cliff. Another time we were climbing the rock facing where a ladder had once been, making our way through a crack in the rock facing up to the Grand Gap Loop trail. Once there, we hiked over to the Angels Falls Overlook for an amazing view.

Life was good, as everyone knew that they had conquered the first major climb. From here the trail was more rolling hills for the rest of the day. We stopped at a “Rock House” which is a rock overhang for the night. We had made 7.6 miles by 2:30. We had a good challenge collecting firewood off the side of a very steep hill. It got down to 20 degrees that night. You should have seen my bear bag. It was working with all of its might, as were Marco and I trying to hang it in the tree. It felt like 50 pounds. We weren’t going to starve on this trip!

Greg had decided to camp under the overhang that night, instead of hanging off the edge of the hill like the rest of us. Well our fire was under the overhang too. I wish I could have recorded his description of the night with his noises. Basically it started out warm and cozy. Then it got chilly, then it got cold, then he heard cracking of wood, then it got warm, then it got hot, then it got really hot, then it got warm, then it got chilly, then it got cold and started all over again.

We got on the trail by 7:30. After the first mile we found a bridge piled on the side of the trail with a broken sign next to it. We forded that stream. Around 10:00 we came across the first of many Hog hunters. We made our way 500 feet down to Laurel Fork passing two more hunters. We crossed Laurel Fork and stopped for lunch. We had gotten in seven miles today and I was feeling confident that we could complete the trail with no problem….. like we had a choice. We hung our stuff out to dry as we enjoyed the peaceful sound of gunshots and watching hunters walk back and forth by us. I don’t know what they would have done if they got one. It was a drag that I would not have wanted to attempt.

We crossed Parch Corn Creek at 1:15 and we wanted to get to Big Creek and ford the river before camp. We took a break at a campsite next to the Cumberland River where Marco showed off his makeshift chair. He put a board on two stumps and did his Humpty Dumpty routine. I had to take a picture before I helped him up.

We got to Big Creek at 2:30 and found that it now had a bridge over it. There wasn’t enough water in it to worry about a bridge. People were happy. We hiked up to where the trail leaves the Cumberland and came back to Big Creek to make camp. We had gotten in 10.9 miles and sat around a campfire and watched the snow as the temps dropped to 10 degrees. We just got some flurries and that was it.

We warmed ourselves in front of the fire on got on the trail at 9:15. Today’s goal was to get across the two biggest peaks and camp on the other side of the John Muir overlook. We started with our usual family tradition of uphill going the 400 feet up to Burkes Knob. I got pictures of the Large Chimney Rocks on the way along with the most berries I have ever seen on Holly bushes. We made it to Maude’s Crack, got some pictures, and then headed the 350 feet down to No Business Creek. We stopped at Tackett Creek for lunch with 3.2 miles under our belts.

After lunch, we started uphill the 500 feet to the John Muir overlook. We took many long switch backs, climbed a ladder, scrambled up the bluff and when the trail looked like it ended, we simply climbed straight up the sloping shelves of rock in front of us to the trail heading up. Marco and I stopped to rest as Troy came up with a big smile on his face just laughing at the easy trail I picked for him. The John Muir overlook was not as impressive as the Angels Falls Overlook, but it was impressive. We had made our goal and now just find water.

TICKS? What the ? There is ice on the ground and Marco, Greg and Shadow all got ticks. What is going on?

We stopped at a grove of hemlocks with a river and made camp. We had 6.8 miles in today with most of it up hill. It got down to 25 degrees tonight. We got a couple of sleet showers, but nothing impressive.

Once again we warmed by the fire. Our goal today would just be make it as far as we could. Marco started out the day by placing his oatmeal bag next to his stove. The bag caught fire. Marco grabbed the bag, which started the leaves on fire. While he was throwing his oatmeal bag into the fire, the leaf fire was working on his shoes and jacket. It was exciting to watch from across the fire.

We got on the trail at 9:00. Greg was a little or a lot concerned about the trail description I read to him this morning, mainly the water fording for some reason. Today was mainly rolling hills and we stopped for lunch just a couple of miles short of Divide Road. When we got to the road, I heard the plans that Greg and Troy had made, as this was one of their escape routes. They were still contemplating on it. After you cross the road you head into a beautiful valley following an old railroad bed along Rock Creek. This is where we found some wonderful ice sculptures and the longest icicle that I have ever seen. We hiked this valley all the way to Pickett State Park.

At one point on this section Marco lead us down the trail and down hill around a boulder. Soon after he disappeared, he came running back full speed yelling OH SH…T! You should have seen the shocked look on Greg’s face, who was right behind him. We all got a great laugh out of that one.

A little while later as things were just moving along, Troy came jogging past me doing pushups with his poles over his head. Again, he was making fun of my easy trail. Right after that the trail did a very steep climb, and I asked Troy to show me that move again. I have to give him credit, he showed out one more time. We decided to make the fording before camp again.

It was starting to get late as we finally made it to the fording point of Rock Creek on Rock Creek Trail. The boys were not impressed with the ice build up on either side of the river. We forded across the shin deep river and hiked to the next ford across Rock Creek which was closer to knee deep. We camped just across Rock Creek at the Thompson Creek split at 5:00. We had made 10.6 miles today.

We stayed up late celebrating the good hike that we have had. The bear bag was light tonight. It got down to 30 degrees.

I woke up at 2:00 with the sound of sleet hail mixture hitting the tarp. Bathroom break before it got bad. I woke at 5:00 with heavy freezing rain hitting the tarp. At 6:00 with the heavy rain I hear a voice. Greg woke me up saying that he felt we should skip breakfast and just hit the trail. I contained my laughter; as everyone knows I don’t skip breakfast.

The boys headed out as I finished my breakfast. The trail was grueling the first .8 of a mile climbing a mudslide. Just as I cleared the worst part, I heard that dreadful sound of cracking wood followed by a huge tree falling just behind me. A quick thank you to the lord above as I quickly caught up with my fellow hikers. We hit the Hidden Passage trail and headed to the truck. The trail was beautiful as everything was covered in ice. The draw back of course was the ice on the trail, which made climbing a challenge. As we like to do and even more in the freezing rain, we decided to add a few miles on our trip as a warm down. We missed the intersection and started doing the loop on Hidden Passage. Things were looking familiar with the hike we did a few years ago. Greg finding the sign showing our mistake came heading back and pointed us in the right direction. He then went back to the park rangers’ house and caught a ride, while the rest of us that were further behind, found the intersection and made it to the truck about the same time. We got in 10.3 miles today.

We headed back to Big South and retrieved our cars. They have a restroom there that we could change into dry clothes. Luckily there wasn’t any hot water. We were making fun of how we had been out in the cold for the last five days and now in a mater of minutes we became sissy’s complaining of the cold.

This was a beautiful trail and our thanks to the fine folks of Big South and Pickett for the trail.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Fort Henry Trail

Fort Henry N/S Connector Trail ...3.4...........Outcasts Total..422.3
Telegraph Trail..............3.9
Trip to road............6
Day one total........7.9

Volunteer Trail........2.2
Artillery Trail.......7
Peytona Trail......1.3
Telegraph Trail....2.3
Day two total.........13

This hike we had Marco, Troy, Raleigh and myself. We met up at the South Welcome Station at Land between the Lakes. We got on the trail at 11:30 after a small communication problem.

It was a good day for hiking even though it never reached the forties that the weathermen convinced us it would.

Once again with hiking this area, you want both the hiking and the hunting maps so you will know where you are. Some of the springs on this section are not marked either. We wondered off the trail twice. Once at the 230 crossing and once at the 230 crossing that we weren't suppose to take. You can walk by the cutoff trails rather easy and when they don't mark the trail it is usually at intersections. You might take note that we did this on purpose to teach Raleigh the art of finding one's location when separated from the trail.

We did get the chance to see some deer but not alot of wildlife. We did not make are planned camp at Infantry Pass as we were running out of daylight. So instead we made camp where Telegraph and Volunteer trails come together. We had a good water source and firewood.

We got camp set up, water gathered, and the fire started. Sometime after dinner while sitting around the fire, Marco said that he saw a light out in the woods. When I finally saw what he was talking about, I thought it looked more like a camp fire. Shortly there after it raised high enough that we all agreed that it was the moon. It takes alot to fool us.

We had a clear sky all night with the full moon. Luckily mother nature had pity on us and stopped the temperature drop at 20 degrees. We all slept well with no interruptions.

It took a little longer than planned to get on the trail this morning. Warming around the fire might have been the reason. We got on the trail at 9:20. We had to make up 2.2 miles today. Once again we showed Raleigh how to get back on the trail at number 17. I think that he is catching on now. It is good that we take time out to trail the new members.

Troy was quite impressed by the fact that not only did I start the hike going uphill from the truck, but I also managed to finish the hike going uphill to the truck. The things I do to make everyone comfortable is amazing.

This was a good easy trail with mild hills.