Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Gobblers Knob

DAY ONE:6.8                                                                   Outcasts Total Miles: 1546.58
Gobbler's Knob Trail 0.8 Miles
Hatfield Ridge Trail 0.9 
Hatfield Ridge Loop 1.0
Twin Arches Loop 3.1
Slave Falls to Charit Creek Trail 1.0

DAY TWO:13.5
Slave Falls to Charit Creek Trail 2.6
Slave Falls Overlook Trail 0.4
Slave Falls Overlook Trail 0.4
Slave Falls Loop Trail 1.1
Middle Creek Nature Loop 1.8
Fork Ridge Road 0.8
Gobbler's Knob Trail 6.4

Travis joined us once again.  We headed back to Big South Fork to take in some more wonders of the world.  There is so many things to see in this one park that it is amazing.

We headed out and were on the trail by lunch.  We started at Gobbler's Knob trailhead and did a loop clockwise.  Our first place to see was the Charit Creek Lodge.  A place that you can hike or ride a horse to and stay the night.  It is very pretty and rustic with no electricity.  

We then headed to the Twin Arches which is a very popular site in the park.  The North Arch has a clearance of 51 feet, a span of 93 feet and its deck is 62 feet high.  The South Arch has a clearance of 70 feet, a span of 135 feet and its deck is 103 feet high.  We got to spend some time exploring the area and rock features around these arches as well as take the stairs up to the top of the arches and enjoy the view especially from the top of the North arch.

From here we continued to Jakes place where they keep a cleared field and the rocks from the chimney of the original house which has been moved to the Charit Creek Lodge grounds.  We passed many rock houses and walls.  We then headed toward Slave Falls and camped along the creek for the night.

Travis slung straight into building us a rock fire ring which turned out quite impressive.  He had a fire going by the time Marco and I got our hammocks up.  We had a very nice evening enjoying the stars along with some lies and cough medicine around the fire.  We had a full moon which lit up the woods all through the night.

The next morning we headed up to the 60 foot Slave Falls.  There are two trails each 0.2 miles long from either side of the falls.  In between we got to see Needle Arch, a narrow band of sandstone 10 feet high and 30 feet wide that resembles the eye of a needle. 

We incorporated the Middle Creek nature loop trail into our hike which added a couple of more miles in for our viewing pleasure.

Once again we really enjoy the Big South Fork and all that it has to offer.


Friday, November 15, 2013

The Georgia Loop Trail

Total Miles 66.1                                                            Outcast Total Miles: 1526.28

The Georgia Loop Trail is the "toughest" trail in Georgia according to the Benton MacKaye website.  It is also called the "toughest" trail this side of the Mississippi.  After hiking it I would say CAUTION, THIS IS NOT A BEGINNERS HIKE!  I would suggest this hike after the leaves have fallen off the trees, just for the views.  After hiking in a foot and a half of leaves, I figure that you would not have many views with the leaves on.

The Georgia Loop Trail is made up of 23.5 miles of the Appalachian Trail, 19 miles of the Duncan Ridge Trail, and 14.6 miles of the Benton MacKaye trail for a total of 57.1 miles.  Being the Outcasts that we are, we decided to add a few miles and start and end at Springer Mountain for a total of 66.1 miles.  The toughness of this trail is figured on the elevation change.  Troy figured our total elevation change was going to be 30,000 feet.  We used "Dances with Mice" dated 05-05-2005, 07:46 trail description which is very accurate.

After work Marco and I headed to Georgia.  We dropped off the truck in Chattanooga and took the Subaru the rest of the way.  I knew from experience that Springer Mountain road is often just for four wheel drive vehicles.

We arrived at Springer about 12:30 pm to find a parking lot full of vehicles.  They were even parked down the side of the road.  We found a spot in the lot and noticed that two of the vehicles here had windows broken out of them.  Not a comforting site at all. The parking lot is a mile from the top of Springer Mountain.  We decided to do that section at the end of our hike because we wanted to get as far as we could the first day.  We did not know how many days it would take so we planned and packed for eight days on the trail.

Day One: 8.5 miles
AT Springer Mt Parking to just before Horse Gap

This part of the AT is pretty easy going for the day.  We passed many hikers and backpackers heading out.  Of course we were going in on a Sunday of a Holiday weekend.  I asked one of the backpackers about the shelter being full and he said that it was packed last night.  Marco set the pace for our hike and you could tell that he had been getting in shape for this trail.  I backpacked 139.9 miles this fall to get ready myself.

At one Gap we came across an army water trailer and another Gap we came across another military vehicle parked.  They have been doing some training in the area.

We were figuring how much daylight we had and stopped at Hawk Mountain shelter to fill up our water.  We carried an extra four liters to camp without water and made it to just before Horse Gap.  I knew the road was at the gap and we were not wanting to do Sassafrass Mountain today for sure.  I have done this section of the AT before and I know all about Sassafrass Mountain.

The wind was blowing quite hard, so we left the trail to the down wind side of the mountain to make camp.  We got our fire going and sat down to cook dinner.  With the wind blowing, we made sure that all the leaves were moved far away from our campfire.  Our campfire was warm enough that we sat with our backs to it to eat.  Marco yelled "watch out" to me and I turned to find that our sitting log was engulfed with flames.  I jumped up and did as all professional firefighters would do......I panicked.  The first thought is always what the headlines would say followed by the second thought about the harassment from our coworkers FOREVER!  Our third thought was grab a stick and start rubbing the fire out.  We have been trained to adapt and overcome, so after we got the flames out, we peed on the log since we didn't have enough water to do the job.  Then as any professional would do, we finished our dinner.

We got to enjoy the stars and owls as we sat around the fire.  We had to hang two bear bags since we had around 16 pounds of food.

Day Two: 13.5 miles
Sassafrass to Lance Creek

As we always like to do we start out uphill after each meal.  Sassafrass is one of those mountains that you remember.  It starts out with some sweet switchbacks and then goes straight up.  Of course you go straight down on the other side so Justis Mountain can do the same thing to you.  This was our warm up for the Duncan trail to follow.  Marco made me proud as he climbed these mountains like a pro.

We stopped at our first water source which was Justis Creek.  We visited with a couple of backpackers here.  After that we stopped at the last water source at Gooch Gap to top off our water and eat lunch.

We picked up some great views from Woody Gap, Lunsford Gap, and Big Cedar Mountain.  At Woody Gap we met Brooks and his dog Carter who would be joining us tonight at Lance Creek.

At Lance Creek the campground has been moved and the old area roped off for regrowth.  We set up camp and got our fire going.  We had a great visit with Brooks as his dog Carter snored by the campfire.  They are from Florida and not used to our weather at all.  Carter was plum wore out!

Day Three:  13.3 miles
Lance Creek to DRT Buckeye Gap

Marco made sure we got up at sunrise every day so we could make miles.  We woke Brooks up as the campfire was a few feet from his tent.  Carter is the first dog I have ever known that can sleep through people getting up.  He got up after we had eaten breakfast.

We had 4.5 miles to Duncan Ridge trail.  Surprisingly it was uphill.  The Woods Hole shelter had a note on the sign saying no water at spring.  There was water at the Slaughter Creek spring.  We had to do some studying on the map as my AT map did not show the Duncan Ridge trail.  I was thinking I knew where it was but found my idea signed as the Slaughter Creek trail.  After studying our National Geographic map we continued up Blood Mountain to find the intersection.  This is where we saw our last backpacker as we had the DRT and BMT all to ourselves.

As soon as we started the Duncan Ridge trail we saw some wild turkeys.  Marco got to hike in his first cloud as the front was moving in.  The wind started picking up.  We found that they have made some attempts at switchbacks over the years, but they really don't grasp the idea.  You start around the mountain and then turn straight up.. This is not better!

On the first long ridge we stopped for lunch.  From here it was up, down, up, down and an occasional around the side for some kind of switchback.  The trail spit around one rock so I went one way and Marco the other.  Pretty soon Marco comes sliding down the hill on his butt and ended up on his stomach in front of me on the trail.  After the picture, I helped him up of course.

As the wind picked up to a gentle gale force wind, we had to do the steady clothes changing exercise.  On one of the parts where we were going along the side of the mountain and the hurricane force winds were blowing us off the trail, Marco headed for the edge.  Luckily he ran into a tree which kept him on the trail or it would have been a long way down to get him.

We filled up our water and carried extra at White Oak Stomp.  It was still early, but we didn't think we would make the next water supply.

We stopped at Buckeye Gap for the night and had to cross the old road to get out of the wind for a camping spot.  We had a small fire as once again we were scared with the wind and still having flashbacks.  As I was screwing my stove on the fuel canister I found out that the threads on my stove were stripped.  Not good as this took my stove out of service.  This is why I usually use alcohol stoves.  You cannot mess up an alcohol stove.  There are no parts!  So here on out we shared a stove for our meals.

Day Four: 10.1 miles
Buckeye Gap to Licklog Gap on BMT

It got down to 15 degrees last night.  Our water bladder hoses were frozen and until the sun came up good we could not keep them from freezing up.  In one Gap we saw deer, turkeys, and a hawk.  The trail was flagged in this area for the Georgia Death Race they are supposed to run next weekend.

We stopped on Clements Mountain for lunch and aired our gear out.  Marco entertained me fighting his tarp in the wind trying to get it rolled back up.  I had my first eggcicle.  My hard boiled egg had ice between the shell and the egg.  The rest of the egg was frozen solid.  Not as good as a regular egg.

There was a lot of hog damage to the trail all through this area.  After Fish Gap we learned about the Duncan Trail.  Hightop, Akin, and Payne are killers.  Straight up and then straight down.  There was one switchback halfway up that just plain made me mad.  It of course went over twenty feet and then turned back straight up.  It's like, why bother?

We were sure glad to see the Benton Mackaye trail when we got there.  Marco had already run out of water and I had very little left when we got to Licklog Gap for the night.  We didn't have any problems sleeping that night.

Day Five:  10.2 miles
Licklog Gap to Bryson Gap

Today was more hog damage, ups, and downs.  We got some really pretty views again.  We stopped at Skeenah Creek for an early lunch and a bath.  When we were getting ready to leave we heard some gunshots nearby and as we crossed GA60 we saw a faded red Ford Ranger leaving a store just down from the trail.  We got across in a hurry just in case he did something bad.  Then the climb was on....again!

The next crossing was over the suspension bridge at Taccoa River.  This is a very pretty area and there is a cool spring just on the other side with a trough built out of a log running out.  From there the climb was on...again!

We made it to Bryson Gap and made camp.  We got the fire going and sat down for dinner.  Marco realized that he had lost his spoon.  Being the concerned dear friend, I carved him one out of a stick of pine.  Of course when I gave it to him his comment was "You could have made it out of a hard wood".

After dinner I went back up to my hammock and the one tree that I tied to had a hole in the bottom.  Well in that hole was a mouse smiling back at me.  I thought "Great"!  So I peed in his hole.  The mouse ran off and I never saw him again.  We hung our packs that night just in case he wanted to get even with me.

Day Six: 10.5 miles
Bryson Gap to Springer Mountain and back to parking lot.

Marco was excited this morning.  He got me up before sunrise.  Right after breakfast it started sprinkling.  We packed up in a hurry and hiked in the soft rain all day.

A little bit down the trail, we passed a tent that had at least one dog and one man in it.  The dog barked and the man told it to shut up.

There is a very pretty and well used area along a creek that leads into Long Creek before the AT.  We followed the first loop of the BMT after we joined the AT and ate lunch on the ridge.  When we joined the AT for a second time, we stayed on it to the parking area which was packed again.  There were backpackers and the trail maintenance team which was picking up trash.  They told us that the truck had been broken into about three months ago.

We dropped our packs and hiked up to the top of Springer Mountain.  No views because of the low clouds, but we got pictures of the monument.  We headed back to the car and called it a great hike.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Frozen Head State Park

Day One: 7.5 miles                                                           Outcast Total Miles: 1460.18
Visitor / Interpretive 0.5
Old Mac 0.3
Spicewood 2.5
Chimney Top 1.0
Tower 1.0
North Old Mac 1.1
Panther Branch 1.1

Day Two: 11.4 miles
Falls 2.0
Panther Branch 1.1
North Old Mac 1.1
Lookout Tower 4.0
S. Old Mac 2.4
Old Mac 0.3
Visitor / Interpretive 0.5

Total Miles: 18.9

For our second hike of this season, we picked a new park for us.  Frozen Head State Park in Wartburg was our destination.  Travis was brave enough to join us again for this hike.  As usual between getting off of work, travel time, lunch, and getting our permit, we got on the trail around noon.

We started behind the ranger station with the Visitor trail taking it to the Interpretive trail to the Old Mac trail to start on the Spicewood trail.  A ranger came up the Old Mac trail on a bike to ask us if we were the ones that left the gear in the parking lot.  Believe it or not, it was not us!  Someone had about eleven bags of gear that they just left there.  After our visit we passed the only two people for the trip and they were just day hiking.

It was a cool morning, but it got cooler as we climbed.  Where the Spicewood trail meets the Chimney Top trail is the coldest place with a good strong wind blowing.  We stopped at the Tub Springs campsite for a break when Troy realized that he had lost his seat cushion.  So Marco and Travis went up to the lookout tower while Troy and I headed back down the trail to find the cushion.  We found it about a quarter mile past the Spicewood / Chimney Top intersection.

We all met up at the North Old Mac trailhead, swapped stories and then headed down the trail to Panther Branch trail.  We stayed the night at the Panther Branch campsite.  It was getting dark fast so it was a race to collect firewood and set up camp.  There is a large tree down at the campsite, which is the only downed tree we saw in the whole park.  The trails are very clean and in great condition.  They will also get you in great condition as you are either climbing or descending the entire time. The average elevation gain and loss per trail is 1142.5 feet.

The water level in the park is very low at this time.  We still had running water at the campsite, but not a rushing creek.  We had a good cool night in the 30's and were being sung to by the owls all night long.  Not only a lot of owls, but a good variety as well.  We sat around the fire telling lies and drinking cough medicine.

The next morning we got up and ate breakfast.  Travis and I headed out to see the falls.  We knew there wasn't much water, but both of them were flowing.  We got some pictures and then joined back up with Troy and Marco at the camp.  We headed back up to top backtracking the way we came down last night.  
We ate lunch at the Tub Springs campsite.  They wanted a picture by the Tub Springs so we went there next.  From there we were going to take the Fire Tower trail back down to the campgrounds.  We were talking and Travis asked if this was the trail and I said yes, because the Fire Tower trail is a roadbed hike.  It wasn't too long and we came to a switch back in the road which went either way.  I did not remember any such thing on this trail, but after investigating we pick a road and stuck with it.  Before long we saw a paved road.  This was not good as there is no paved roads in the park.  Pretty soon we walked down to it.  Time to check the old map out.  Yes, I had taught the men how to pay attention to where you are going as I had planned.  We were on the wrong side of the mountain.  Their punishment was to hike the two miles, 1180 feet in elevation, back up to the top of the mountain for the second time today.

It was getting late and we needed to be out of the park so we took the South Old Mac trail down the other side of the mountain.  We stopped at the park sign for our final picture on the way out and since there was no Waffle House anywhere close we stopped at Hardee's for our off the trail celebration before heading home.

Frozen Head is a great park for hiking.  It is a very clean and well kept park.  Most of the campsites do have a table.  There are some sites without water so make sure you check out which one you will be staying at.  


Friday, October 4, 2013

Long Hunter VIII

Day one: 5.9 miles...........................................Outcasts Total Miles: 1441.28 
Day two: 5.5 miles

As we start out our eighth year of hiking together we did our annual hike to Long Hunter State Park.  As we signed in at the office we saw our first three deer and a Genie.  It was good to see that our State Government is better than the Federal Government and we are still up and running.

Marco decided to use his fancy phone this year to find out exactly how far we hike here.  We have been going from the park mileage and some guessing in the past.  Basically they advertised the Volunteer trail as a six mile trail and the day loop as a four mile trail.  We estimated it at eight miles in the past one way.

We took the usual route going the lake side of the day loop to the Volunteer trail.  When we got to our break spot which is the bench at the Northern most point of the day loop trail, we met Don Haynes.  Don is an active hiker and we had a good visit with him.  Just as we got started again we found a box turtle with a hole in the top of his shell.  He was moving right along, so it took me a few pictures before I got a good shot.  I figured it was a pocket for his cell phone?

When we got to the kiosk on the Volunteer trail Marco had us at 2.4 miles.  It was looking like we were going to be a bit shorter than we thought.  We ate lunch there and then headed on.  It wasn't long before we came across a mileage sign which they have never had before.  We figured that someone else had the same idea.

We saw many more deer on the way to camp.  When we got to camp we saw the mileage sign stating 5.5 miles so they have cut the trail by .5 miles.  Marco came up with 5.9 miles of course that was with the day loop in it.  The trail was more grown over than it has been in the past and they still have not repaired the two bridges that floated away in the 2010 flood.  There are a few very large trees down too.

Campsite #1 was upgraded with three long Ceder benches on blocks and the fire pit in the middle was mortared stone.  We set up our hammocks and collected fire wood.  Soon afterwards I was swimming in the lake.  It was hot and muggy so I needed to cool off.

We had a calm night listening to the owls and coyotes.  We sat around the fire taking cough medicine and telling lies.

The next morning we hiked out going with just the Volunteer trail at 5.5 miles.  Yes, we had our Waffle House meeting afterwards.


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Fiery Gizzard

Day One:                                                 Outcast Total Miles: 1429.88
Fiery Gizzard Trail 8.1
Day Two:
Fiery Gizzard Trail 4.4

Total Miles: 12.5

Marco and I headed out to hike the Fiery Gizzard in Tracy City.  We dropped our car off at the trailhead and then headed to Foster Falls to start the hike.  There were no cars at either parking area so we figured we might have the trail to ourselves.

We started at Foster falls and took the trail down to the bottom of the falls.  We had a big rain so the falls were wonderful.  It was a little wet with all the mist at the bottom.  We walked along the famous climbing walls and took the second exit back up to the Fiery Gizzard trail.

Just before we got to the first campsite, we came across three different logs that had been torn to pieces and scattered across the trail.  So if there were any questions, Yes, there is bear in this area.  The logs were over five feet long and two foot in diameter.

We visited all the overlooks and water falls on the trail.  The trail follows the rim of the gorge except where it drops down to Laurel Branch.  Right before we got to Anderson Falls there is a newly build shelter with a sign on it about "Indian Rock Campground" which is new.  I have no information other than the sign.

At Anderson Falls we took the 196 steps down to the base of the falls.  A good work out it is!  This is also your water source for the campground.  When we got to the Raven's point campsite we found that there were now fire pits in all the sites.  Yes, you can now have fires as the private property now has a new owner.

Shortly after we got to camp another backpacker came in.  He was looking for the building where you check in at.  Ben was a brand new backpacker from Cincinnati Ohio.  He had ran the half marathon in Nashville and now was doing a little camping.  We spent the evening visiting with him.  We hiked down to Raven's Point to see the sunset before heading back to camp.  We took Ben over to the falls hoping that the lights would work on the stairs, but they didn't.  He had to go back the next morning to see the falls.

Marco surprised me with a burrito dinner.  The fancy trail dinner turned out a success.

The next morning we parted company and headed down into the gorge.  The gorge was covered with wildflowers.  Lots of water falls and rock formations. Marco danced all down the trail.  He is always so happy:)  This is considered the hardest part of the trail do to rocks and elevation changes.  It is also a very pretty section of trail.  We passed the only other person on the trail when we were leaving close to the end.

We stopped at The Lunch Box in Tracy City for our lunch.  They got some really good food.  After that we headed back to Foster Falls to recover our vehicle.  There were probably ten cars in the lot most of which were rock climbers.  


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Signal Mountain - Cumberland Trail

                                                                                        Outcast Total Miles: 1417.38
Cumberland Trail Signal Mountain to North Suck Creek Campsite 6.94
Campsite to Pretice Cooper Main trailhead parking 6.32
Total Miles: 13.26

We hiked the beginning section of the Cumberland trail on Signal Mountain, the River Gorge Segment.  Marco, Travis, and I headed out after working our shift.  We dropped a car off at Prentice Cooper WMA at the Main trailhead and then headed to Signal Mountain.  The streets on Signal Mountain were a little confusing, but we finally agreed where we needed to be.

There is a parking area and a big paved overlook area with views of the river valley at the trailhead and plaques describing the history behind this place.

After we got on the trail, the first overlook was the cove of the 95' Julia falls.  It is a pretty falls that is a long way away when you look across at it.  Then about a mile down the trail you come to the side trail that leads to the bottom of the 40' Rainbow falls.  This trail is really steep and there is a rope tied to hang on to as you descend to the bottom.  There is a beautiful pool at the bottom of the falls.  As we were exploring I hear a loud noise over the sound of the falls.  I look over and Travis is laying on his back on a large boulder.  He decided that the rock may have been a little slippery.  I told him to hold still while I took his picture but he got up anyways.  Marco had volunteered to stay up top to "watch the packs".

After a vigorous hike back up to the trail, we headed off with Marco in lead.  Soon the trail turned into a creek bed and we were climbing over downed trees.  I look down and see a trail runner go by.  I pointed this out to Marco who said he was on the trail.  I mentioned the fact that the trail runner was probably on the trail as he was making some good time.  So we descended down to the trail and continued on.

Soon we got to the first campsite on Middle Creek.  After you cross the bridge you start back on the other side of the gorge.  There is a trail on the other side of the creek that leads to Rainbow lake, but I never found a distance for this trial.

Halfway up the gorge you hike next to Lochart Arch and then you cross over the creek leading to Julia falls.  After that you come to Edwards Point overlook which again gives you a scenic overlook of the river valley.  The trail follows the gorge the rest of the way back to the rock formation known as Mushroom Rock.  You cross many creeks along the way.  Mushroom rock is an amazing formation that has been standing up to the test of time.  Unfortunately, some people cannot keep themselves from marking on natural land forms.  From there you drop down to North Suck creek where our campground was.

We collected fire wood and then did some cleaning up in the creek.  Life was good!  Then the trail runners came through, one single and one couple.  The campsite is not as far from civilization as we had hoped.

Travis got the fire going and before long we were eating dinner fire side.  The owl started early and was loud enough to hear over the creek running.  The clouds cleared out that night as the stars came out and we told lies and took cough medicine around the fire.  Everyone left their tarps off so we could see the stars through the night.

The next morning we got up and headed out.  The trail crosses Suck creed road which is a well traveled road and then you climb the stairs into the Prentice Cooper WMA.  The trial then follows the gorge up to Popular Springs campsite and Lawson's Rock overlook.  As we turned to walk out to the overlook there was a flat spot on the trail where Travis decides to twist his ankle and hit the ground.  I quickly pointed out to him that it was better to do it there instead of at the overlook.  So, while he rested at the overlook, I went looking for the campsite.  I crossed a dirt road and walked about fifty yards into the woods where there was a dry creek bed.  Then I came back an consulted the map.  The campsite is a ways off the trail anyway.

From the overlook we continued along the gorge with many many different rock formations.  There is numerous chimney rocks which are really cool to see.  Many more creek crossings and one flat area that Travis fell for the third time.

We ate lunch a creek crossing which was just before we got to the Indian rock house which is a half mile from the parking area.  Another great hike on the Cumberland trail.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Prentice Cooper WMA II

Day One:                                                      Outcast Total Miles: 1404.12
Main trailhead parking to McNabb Gulf Campsite 8.7 Miles
West side heading South
Day Two:
McNabb Gulf Campsite to Main trailhead Parking 11.42 Miles
East side heading North
Total Miles:  20.13 Miles

Well Troy, Marco, Travis, and I headed out to Prentice Cooper WMA.  Marco and I had hiked it back in  2009, so this was a make up hike for Troy.

We hiked the outside loop and we did it counterclockwise.  It is a good trail with lots of ups and downs.  There are a lot of overlooks, wet weather water falls, rock formations, along with a Natural Bridge and a Rock House.

When we headed out they were calling for rain that night and scattered showers the next day.  We got a later start on the trail around 10:00am our time.  We were just short of the first overlook when we stopped for lunch.  The last time we hiked it, we had rain in the morning so we didn't get any overlooks.  This time they were beautiful.  Ransom Hollow Overlook is off a short side trail and well worth the stroll!  Just before we crossed Tower Drive, a group of about ten trail runners passed us heading the other way.  After we made sure that they were not being chased by anything bad, we continued our hike.  These were the only people we saw in two days.

We made it to camp by 5pm and Travis had a fire going in no time.  We set up our camp and got dinner going.  No stars tonight, but we got to listen to an owl.  The smoke kept us walking in circles as we took cough medicine and told lies.  This was Travis's first time to camp in a hammock.  Just as I crawled under my tarp, the rain began.  It didn't stop until daylight.  

We were woke up by the owl as now it was really close to camp.  Marco got up and got the fire going.  Travis not only survived the hammock, he liked it.  We took our time and got on the trail around 9am.

It actually got cooler as the day went on and the first half of it we were wearing our poncho's as the mist was keeping us wet.  Raccoon Mountain Overlook is over grown and the valley was clouded in.  When we got to the Natural Bridge we got to take off the poncho's and we did some climbing around.  The clouds had cleared out pretty good by the time we got to Snooper's Rock Overlook and we got some good pictures from there.  We got some pictures of the Indian Rock House and the Stone Door before we headed back up to the cars.  Another great hike.  We would rate these trails at moderate to difficult.

After we hiked we headed into Powell's Crossroads and ate dinner at the "Open Door" Restaurant.  They have really good meat and two dishes.  Good Food and Great service.    


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Virgin Falls / Scott's Gulf

Virgin Falls Trail 8.2 miles                                                     Outcast Total Miles: 1383.99
Polly Branch Trail 2.2
Caney Fork River Trail 3.5
Yellow Bluff Trail 1.0
Road Walk 1.6
Total Miles 16.5

The weather cooperated and we headed to Sparta, TN to hike the Virgin Falls State Natural Area and the Bridgestone/ Firestone Centennial Wilderness Wildlife Management Area.  We had hiked this area before but had to change our route a little bit because of the Caney Fork river ford that we didn't realize was so deep this time of year.  This year we planned it out without a fording of the Caney.

Before we even got on the trail, Bob and Rick pulled into the parking area and headed down the trail.  We would meet them three more times on the trail.  They were doing a day hike to Virgin Falls.

There was still patches of snow on the ground and icicles on the rocks.  With the partial thaw there was also plenty of mud.  The sign on the kiosk warned of a strenuous and dangerous trail ahead.  This is one of those trails that is easy on the way in and a steady climb on the way out.  The hardest hiking area would be around Laurel Falls.  We did not take the overlook trail this time.

We got on the trail and made the many crossings of the creek.  The cable crossing was a lot safer than last time as the water was a lot lower.  The water falls were looking good.  We stopped between Laurel and Virgin falls for lunch.   After lunch we hiked on to the loop and took it counterclockwise going by Sheep Cave first.  We met up with Bob and Rick for the third time at Virgin Falls and then we headed back up to Laurel Falls where we met them for the last time.  We were stopped for a snack break when they came by.

We hiked up to near the trailhead and made camp.  It was a cool night as we sat by the fire taking cough medicine and telling lies.  Marco and Troy headed back to the creek for some more water when Marco saw a deer in the night.  We had a small amount of sleet a couple of times before we went to bed.  That night it rained for a while and we got some light snow as well.

We got up in the morning and headed up to the trailhead where we repositioned our cars to the Polly Branch trailhead.  We headed out on Polly Branch trail, which is a road bed to start with and then cuts through the woods where you ford the Polly Branch Creek.  From there you see the Upper Polly Branch Falls and then get back on a roadbed to go to the bottom of the Gulf where you take the Caney Fork River Trail.

The Caney Fork River trail follows the river but you are hiking up and down the side of the Gulf.  It is all old roadbed except for the crossing of Gun Stock Branch which really needs a bridge.  The dam of an old lake above the rim collapsed during a flood and washed out a large section of the mountain side, creating a chasm that should be crossed carefully.

The Caney Fork River Trail is not cared for and is not marked very well.  You ford the Polly Branch just above the lower Polly Branch Falls.  There is a lot of downed trees for you to go over and it drops down to the river a couple of times before it goes up higher and stayes up.  We did kick up a couple of Turkeys and got to see a hawk while we walked.

The crossing of Gun Stock Branch is a steep basically slide down to the water and a four legged climb back out.  The trail is not marked well at all here.  After you get across head up toward the rock bluff and catch the road bed.

There is a sign where the Yellow Bluff Trail connects to the Caney Fork trail, but it does not mention the Yellow Bluff Trail.  So when you get to a sign that looks like it should be at an intersection, look uphill across the trail from the sign and you will see a green hiking dude on a marker.  That is the trail which follows an old roadbed up the side of the Gulf.  It is not marked well at all and not worn either.  A good steep climb will bring you up at the Joe Holloway Rock House.

The trail from here is poorly marked and unfollowable, so we took the road back.  You can get back on the Yellow Bluff Trail at the trailhead when you pass it, but we just walked on back to the car.

This is a pretty area with lots of water falls for hiking.  It would be rated as difficult.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Ten Essentials

Essentials for Any Hike
What You'll Need  - The Ten Essentials
#1. Map
Even if you are positive about where you’re headed and how to get there, it is always a good idea to bring a map with you on the trail. A good topographical map, or “topo” is indispensable. Know how to read your map and consult it often.  Visit the Trading Post for map info.

#2. Compass
A compass can help you find your way through unfamiliar terrain – especially in bad weather where you can’t see the landmarks. With a map and compass you can accurately determine your position, travel cross-country and avoid cliffs and other dangerous features in the landscape. Global Positioning Systems are great, but beware of their limitations. Batteries go dead, and, in gorges and beneath heavy forest canopy,
 GPS units may be unable to receive a signal. Speaking of signals, a compass with a sighting mirror will double as a signaling device to alert passing planes or distant hikers in an emergency.

#3. Water
Without enough water, your body can’t perform as well. Drink plenty of it and don’t drink untreated water. Many hikers assume the water is pure and about 48 hours later wonder why they have a queasy feeling. Even clear-looking water can contain the organism Giardia Lamblia, one of the causes of “travelers diarrhea”. If you are not carrying the water in yourself, treat all backcountry drinking water with purification tablets and/or a quality filter.

#4. Extra Food
You’ll need all your strength, especially on those steep grades out of the gorges.  Bring more food than you think you can eat. You can survive days without eating, but you think more clearly and react more quickly when you’re fueled up. Carry more food than you think you need, even if it’s just a bag of raisins or nuts.

#5. Extra Clothes
It almost doesn’t matter when you are hiking, the weather often changes quickly and with little warning. The key is to be prepared. Wet clothes can be a recipe for hypothermia. Remember to layer for insulation and carry raingear even when the threat of precipitation seems remote. A lightweight emergency shelter such as a tarp or space blanket is also advisable.

#6. First-Aid Kit
It’s important to be prepared for a range of mishaps: blisters, cuts, scrapes, sprained ankles, among other things. Always carry medical supplies adequate for minor injuries and blisters, including sterile bandages and antibiotic ointments.

#7. Pocket Knife
From slicing salami or opening a can to cutting an ace bandage to rigging an emergency shelter, a simple knife is the most useful tool you can carry on any hike. Better still are compact multi-tools like Swiss Army knives. Whatever you carry, keep the blade sharp and rust-free.

#8. Sun Protection
No matter where you live, or what season it is, hikers need to be aware of the hazards of the sun’s rays. Overexposure to the sun can leave you fatigued, dehydrated, and painfully burned. Don't be fooled by the forest canopy.  A combination of a hat, sunglasses, sun block and the proper clothing can keep you protected.

#9. Flashlight
It is good to carry a flashlight or headlamp with you every time you head out for a hike. Although you may have no intention of being on your hike past dusk, it’s easy to underestimate just how long a particular hike may take. A light can be inexpensive, lightweight, and along with an extra set of batteries, pretty reliable. Headlamps have the extra benefit of being hands-free. Whichever you choose, be sure to find one that’s waterproof. While you may never to expect to get caught in the dark in the rain, it’s worth the extra expense.

#10. Matches and Firestarter
Carry matches that have been waterproofed or wind and waterproofed, or else carry extra strike anywhere matches—along with something to strike them on—in a waterproof container. Keep these matches separate from your regular match or butane lighter supply. Keep them available for emergency situations. Fire starters are useful for quickly starting a fire, especially in emergency situations. They are also useful for igniting wet wood. There are several commercial fire starters available: magnesium blocks w/striking flint; chemically-treated fire sticks, etc.