Saturday, November 21, 2020
Mountain to Sea Trail
Fontana Lakcshore Trail
Kentucky Side of Big South Fork
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(All hikes are subject to change at any time)
Benton MacKaye Trail
Friday, November 20, 2020
Lawson Mountain Section 9.8 miles
Arch Mountain Section 13 miles
Frozen Head Section 7.9 miles
Ross Gap trail 2.1 miles
Total Miles: 32.8
Marco picked the trail and off we went. I first showed him the wrong trailhead as we were going I remembered the last time here and had Lora drive to the Smoky Creek road and read the sign saying Cave Branch trailhead. Oops. We then drove to Norman Road and started our hike on the Lawson Mountain section.
First thing we noticed was the new bridges. The second thing we noticed was that the Cumberland trail has not been maintanced on the Lawson or Arch section in many years. Lot's of trees down, some extremely large, overgrown sections, and missing trail markers.
We hiked in 3.0 miles and set up camp at the top end of Lick Creek. We heard an owl as we were setting up camp. We enjoyed the stars as we sat around the campfire taking our cough medicine. The wind really got up during the night which made us wet the fire pit down before bed.
The next morning we continued to fight our way down the trail. The climb to the top of the mountain was brutal with large trees across the switchbacks. When we got to the section where the Bowling Town coal mining community once existed, where the ponds are we lost the trail. Two other trails are marked in this area, but the Cumberland Trail was not. The road went both ways with a split going on one end. We found the trail after going down the road that was signed "Dead End." We ate lunch at the creek at mile 6.4. The next climb to the top was the same as the first. This is such a beautiful area for hiking, I just wish they would maintain this trail. The rocks on the top were amazing along with the "Stacked Rocks". When the trail dropped off the edge heading down, we lost the trail again. We came to a road bed that went three different ways. There were no markers anywhere along any of these roads. After studing the map we just went down the mountain side until we crossed the trail again. It was getting late by the time we made it to the Cave Branch Trailhead. We crossed the new bridge over Smoky Creek and hiked along the creek and made camp for the night. This was supposed to be our coldest night so we gathered lots of fire wood. Another clear night to watch the stars. We saw deer two different places today and some salamanders in a puddle.
Another day of battling the trail through some beautiful areas. We lost the trail again as we crossed the footbridge over Straight Fork. There is no markers showing that the trail goes right. Another extremely hard climb to the top with trees across the switchbacks. We carried extra water for the 7.5 mile section that doesn't have any water. When you come to the road walk, there are no blazes to tell you which road to take. More exploring. When you do get on the right road it is full of waterholes all along the travel across the top of the mountain. While trying to go around the small lakes in the road you will be battling the briars. We did get to see some icicles along the rocks. The last time the trail leaves the gravel road we made camp on the side of the mountain. We saw a passel of wild hogs which came back through while we were setting up. Another windy clear night. We got to see deer again today and hear owls.
We got up and hiked on to Frozen Head State Park. The trails here are in good shape. Lot's of ups and downs still. We ate lunch where the CT crosses the Tower trail. We enjoyed the Castle Rocks, Mushroom rock, and the rock hop along the rock wall. We camped by the pond for the night. Another clear windy night. We heard owls and coyotes.
We got up and hiked to the Ross Gap trail and took it back to the headquarters of Frozen Head.