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.