Sunday, April 13, 2014

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Twin Creeks and Noah "Bud" Ogle Nature Trails

Another trip to the Smokies for Sierra, Noelle and I. This time we cut through the monstrosity that is Gatlinburg and headed up the Cherokee Orchard Road to the Ogle Nature Trail. I paid 50 cents for a trail guide and we started on our way. It was quite warm this morning, so shortly after starting our hike we stopped to take Sierra's sweatshirt off and to apply some sunscreen. There was lots of yellow trillium in bloom
yellow trillium
on the nature trail and the fiddleheads were getting ready to unfurl their fronds.
Before we knew it we were at the intersection with the Twin Creeks Trail.

We made a right onto the Twin Creeks Trail and started a long, gentle descent. We saw a few traces of old walls and two badly crumbled chimneys. However, this trail was not the most interesting trail I've ever hiked in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The best part of the hike was just being out with my family enjoying the wonderful weather. Even though the trail is called the "Twin Creeks" Trail, we did not spend a whole lot of time hiking with either of the two creeks within sight. Just a few glimpses here and there
cascading creek
and an unbridged crossing of one of them.
crossing creek
We hiked all the way down to the outskirts of Gatlinburg and then it was time to turn around and head back up to the nature trail.

Noelle took a photo of Sierra and I at the lower trailhead
Twin Creeks Trailhead
and shortly after turning around we found a nice rock to sit on and take a break.
snack break on rock
We ate some snacks and played a little bit. Then Sierra got some time to stretch her legs and walk a short distance.
hiking girls
Eventually we put her back into the backpack. It was a long, hot ascent back to the nature trail.

Once back on the nature trail
between walls
we visited the site of the "honeymoon" cabin, an old tub mill,
tub mill
and then the Ogle barn
Ogle Barn
and Ogle House.
Bud Ogle Place
We explored the inside of the home a bit
Noelle in doorway
and then sat on the shady porch of the house for another snack
snack on porch
before we made the short walk back to the car. We drove into Gatlinburg for a late lunch at the Smoky Mountain Brewery. After our meal we hit the road for our drive back to Greeneville.             

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Porters Creek Trail

This morning, Noelle, Sierra and I packed up and headed out for a hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. While I've paid a few visits to the most-visited national park in the US in the past few weeks, today would be Noelle's first visit in quite a while, and Sierra's first visit ever! We made the drive on US-321 through Cosby and parked at the end of the Greenbrier Road, where we got our stuff ready
ready for hike
and hit the trail.

The start of the trail is actually an old road. We followed the gently ascending gravel road along the cascading Porters Creek. 
Porters Creek
The Porters Creek Trail is reputed to display some great wildflowers in late March and early April, but at first it seemed we might be a little bit too early for a good showing. We did find some purple phlox
and a few white trillium along the first mile of trail.
single trillium
If wildflowers weren't exactly in abundance at first, signs of past habitation were. There were lots of stone walls lining the trail and even an interesting set of stairs that probably led into someone's yard at one time.
old stairs

Soon we found a cemetery.  What I later learned is the Ownby-Longbranch Cemetery. It was a lot like many of the other cemeteries in the park, only this one saw a much higher number of visitors. So many visitors in fact, that there was a well-defined trail that made a loop through the cemetery. I took photos of a few of the headstones, including one that belonged to a soldier.
Proffitt grave
Soon after visiting the cemetery, our gravel road ended at a cul-de-sac and we continued on a narrow, but well-worn trail. We crossed Porters Creek on a long, narrow, log bridge and soon entered a section of trail whose sides were just carpeted with wildflowers and greenery.
green carpet
There were Dutchman's breeches
Dutchmans breeches
and lots of white fringed phacelia.
fringy flower
We took some time to enjoy the flower and take off some layers as it was growing warmer.
Noelle hikes amongst flowers

Shortly after the flower-carpeted section of trail, we came to Fern Branch Falls.
Fern Branch Falls
Sierra enjoyed getting out of the backpack and stretching her legs on a rock.
on rock
Then it was time for a snack!
ready for snack
eating snack
After our snack (and a diaper change for Sierra) we hit the trail again. I had originally wanted to try to hike the entire length of the trail, but it was a wise decision to turn around and head back to the car. Besides, we still had plenty to see on our hike back.

Of course we saw more wildflowers.
two trillium
We crossed the long footbridge over Porters Creek
Noelle crosses big bridge
and followed the trail back to the gravel road section. Here we took a side trip to the Messer Barn,
cantilevered cabin
a cantilever style barn built in the 1870s, and the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club cabin which had been built in the 1930s.
Smoky Mountain Hiking Club
Apparently, the NPS allowed members of the club to use the cabin up until 1981. It must have been quite the experience to stay in the old cabin. Besides the cabin there was a springhouse
and some old millstones scattered around the grounds.
on millstone

Our last stop on the hike was  side trail that we had passed up earlier. It turns out that it led to the very rusty remains of an old Ford Model-T.
old model T
Noelle took her for a short spin and then we hiked back to the car. We even let Sierra do some hiking on her own out of the backpack. On the way home we stopped for a delicious late lunch at Carver's Apple House Restaurant. Then it was a long drive back to Greeneville. I was glad to get home. It had been a great day, but I was very tired!                     

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cherokee National Forest: Phillips Hollow/Artie Hollow Loop

We were supposed to go for a family hike in the Smokies today. However, the forecast called for snow last night and cold temperatures in the morning. With Sierra getting over a cold these were not ideal conditions for a hike with her. instead, I opted to stay close to home and go for a solo hike. I decided to check out the Phillips Hollow Trail that I had mistakenly hiked away from last week. I would make a loop out of the hike by connecting with Artie Hollow, Davis Creek and Shelton Mission Road.

As I drove out into the country I saw thick clouds hanging around the tops of the mountains and what appeared to be snow on the lower slopes. Could this be winter's last gasp? I arrived at the empty trailhead, parked and hit the trail. It was a quick walk on the right-of-way gravel road to the Phillips Hollow Trail. Once on the trail I saw familiar scenery, though today it was blanketed in white.
snowwy trail
The buckeyes were leafing out, but of course covered in snow.
snowy buckeye 2
As I made my way up the old road and gained elevation the snow got deeper and deeper.  I closely followed a cascading creek.
creek and trail
The cascades looked beautiful decorated with snow on their margins.
cascades in snow
Eventually I found a decent sized waterfall.
large watefall

The trail crossed the creek several times, passing close to many cascades.
double cascade

small double waterfall
Besides the leafing out buckeye, I saw evidence of spring in a small spider walking on the surface of the snow.
snow spider
The upper reaches of the Phillips Hollow Trail  were tough.
hiking in the snow
The trail was steep and the tread was slanted. With the snowpack, I was constantly sliding towards the creek. I should've brought my microspikes! Eventually the trail made a sharp left away from the creek. I took this to be the start of the Artie Hollow Trail, though it was not signed.

The Artie Hollow Trail ascended up to a ridge and then started down the other side. It soon followed a creek. Again the tread was slanted and slippery. It was tough walking even though it was downhill. Eventually the trail led right into the creek. Was the creek the trail? It was difficult to tell. The rhododendrons that lined the creek were weighted down with snow and bent low over the water making the going tricky.
I had just about decided that I must have lost the trail when I saw the remains of a foot path on the side of the creek. I had almost turned around. I'm glad I didn't turn around though, as the Artie Hollow Trail featured an impressive waterfall I had never heard mention of before. It is apparently called Mary's Falls.
mary's Falls

As I made my way down lower the trail got easier to follow. The sun started to poke through the clouds, warming the air and melting the snow that had accumulated on tree branches. It started to feel like I was walking in a cold sun shower. Soon I came to the junction with the Davis Creek Trail. I made a left and started to descend to Shelton Mission Road. I had to cross Davis Creek several times. My feet got quite wet. Suddenly , I found a trail intersection.
Davis Creek sign
The road which the trail had been following crossed Davis Creek again, but the official trail bore to the right and headed up to a ridge and then back down. I'm guessing this was a reroute to avoid private property. Before long I found myself on Shelton Mission Road near the foundation of a building on private property. Could the foundation have once been a mill?
There was a small stream running next to it. Shelton Mission Road featured some interesting homes like this log cabin
nice cabin
and views through the fields up to the highest reaches of the still snow-capped peaks.
snowy mountain tops
It was a quick walk on the road back to my car.       

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Greeneville, Tennessee

One year ago today, Noelle, Sierra, Parker and I pulled off Interstate 81 and into our new hometown of Greeneville, Tennessee. What a year it's been! Some images of Greeneville for your viewing pleasure. 
Greene County Courthouse
The Greene County Courthouse
Big Spring
The Big Spring: Where Greeneville was Founded
Birthplace Replica
Replica of Andrew Johnson's Birthplace

Old harmony Cemetery
Old Harmony Cemetery
State of Franklin Capital
Capitol of the Lost State of Franklin
Dickson Williams Mansion
Dickson-Williams Mansion
Noelle and Sierra at Gaol
Sierra and Noelle at the Old "Gaol"
Old Gaol
The Old "Gaol"