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: http://www.tennesseeanytime.org/homework/historicsites/pinsmoun.html


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.