Friday, September 19, 2014

Appalachian Trail: Camp Creek Bald Loop

Today I took a short day at work and Mom T and I took advantage of it by going for a short hike along a portion of the Appalachian Trail near Camp Creek Bald (aka Viking Mountain). We made the long drive up to Jones Meadow, parked the car and started hiking up the rough jeep road that leads to the summit of Camp Creek Bald. Almost immediately we found a blue-blazed trail that led to the AT.
Mom T on AT
Once on the Appalachian Trail we circled around the summit of Camp Creek Bald.
hiking Mom
Eventually we came to another blue-blazed trail. We turned onto this trail and followed it around some fenced off towers and buildings
to the summit of the mountain.

From the summit we followed the rough jeep road downhill back to the car. Along the way we passed lots of fall wildflowers in bloom including goldenrod
insect on goldenrod
and aster.
bee on aster
The flowers were loaded with insects gathering pollen, presumably preparing for the winter. We also saw a snake, a small ringnecked one,
ringnecked snake
and a pack of three hunting dogs.
hunting dog
After arriving back at the car, we made the short drive up to the end of the road where there is the foundation of one of the old Viking Mountain Resort cabins. There we a wonderful view of the Blackstack Cliffs
Blackstock cliff view
and down into the lowlands around Greeneville.        
view from old cabin site

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Cataract Falls

I don't know what I was thinking. For some reason I decided that when the grandparents came out to Tennessee for Sierra's birthday, it would be a good idea to go to Gatlinburg. I've learned that it's never a good time to go to Gatlinburg. It was crowded with hoards of people, a good number of whom were of the redneck persuasion. We ate lunch at the brewery and walked around town for a bit where the grandparents even sampled some moonshine.
in chairs
Then we finally headed out of town and into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Apparently, traffic headed  up to Newfound Gap was really bad. We scrapped our original plan and decided instead to make the short hike to Cataract Falls.
on the trail
Dad G had to turn around pretty quickly due to knee issues, but the rest of us kept on the trail passing an interesting tree that I had photographed Noelle at about 8 years ago.
Sierra in tree
on bridge
throwing rocks with Grandpa
Eventually we made our way over to the cascading waterfall
Cataract Falls (2)
where Sierra got to dip her piggies in the water.
playing at base of falls
playing in falls
After about 30 minutes of playing in the water we turned around and headed back to the car for the drive back to Greeneville.         

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Cherokee National Forest: Lower Higgins Creek Falls

Noelle is nearing completion of her Master's thesis. Sierra and I decided to give her a day alone to work out some of the last details of her enormous undertaking. We headed over to Erwin to do a little hiking in a recently acquired section of the Cherokee National Forest along Lower Higgins Creek. The hike was mainly along an old road that appears to get some use from ATVs. We started the hike at the end of the official Lower Higgins Creek Road
Sierra and Daddy
where we elected not to cross Higgins Creek on a dilapidated looking bridge
scary bridge
and then climbed steadily uphill along the creek.

Along the way we saw some fall wildflowers in bloom including jewelweed and goldenrod. We also saw lots of these yellow flowers which I am unable to identify.
Soon we found an old number 5 painted in white in a blue rectangle.
number 5
This was one of the highlights of Sierra's day. She excitedly repeated over and over that when she got home she would tell Mommy that she saw a number five on the rock. Just when it seemed Sierra could not get any more excited we approached our destination for the hike: Lower Higgins Creek Falls.
falls again

It was a steep decent from the old road down to the base of the falls.
Lower Higgins Creek Falls
There was a user trail that led over roots, rocks, and slick mud down about 100 feet to some small pools of water. Sierra was excited to "dip piggies in the water" and so that's what we did.
piggies in water
We spent about a half-hour playing in the water
playing in water
yay for water
and enjoying the cool spray of the falls and shade.
falls closeup
Then Sierra ate a snack
eating snack 2
before we carefully climbed back up to the old road for the return to the car. The return, being downhill, went fast. Before we knew it we were back to the parking area where we found, not only our car, but lots of butterflies lounging on the gravel of the road.
We admired the butterflies for a bit and then headed into Erwin for lunch.            

Monday, September 1, 2014

Pisgah National Forest: Mount Pisgah

We finally got away from the house for a bit on this three-day, Labor Day weekend. We headed down to Asheville to dispose of some recyclables, eat lunch, and go hiking. After taking care of our errand and lunch we hit the Blue Ridge Parkway, headed south through numerous tunnels, and arrived at the Mount Pisgah area ready for a hike. The trailhead offered a great view of our objective for the hike: 5,721 foot high Mount Pisgah.
Mount Pisgah
We readied ourselves in the parking lot with sunglasses and other necessary gear
ready to hike in sunglasses
and then set off at on the trail.
at trailhead

The trail started out as relatively level. However, the easy hiking did not last long. Soon the trail started climbing in earnest through tunnels of rhododendron.
Eric and Sierra hiking
Every now and then the vegetation cleared out enough to offer views of the surrounding mountains including nearby Fryingpan Mountain which is topped with an old fire tower.
Fryingpan Tower
The climb was relentless and on a warm day like today I found myself sweating profusely.

It was nice to see lots of other people (and even a few dogs) out hiking on this fine holiday. After ascending for a good part of the 1.5 miles to the summit we found ourselves standing on top of the wooden viewing platform with great views of Cold Mountain and over to Asheville. The huge television transmission tower on top prevented 360 degree views, but still we were able to admire the view of ridge after ridge of mountains. After some water, snacks, and relaxing, we headed over to the true summit where Sierra and I posed for a photo.
on summit
Then we made our way back down the mountain to the parking lot for the return drive back to Greeneville.   

Friday, August 29, 2014

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Old Sugarlands Trail

After my week of training in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I figured I owed it to myself to get out and go for a hike. I opted for the Old Sugarlands Trail since it is close to Gatlinburg and a relatively easy, and not too long hike. I parked at the small parking area off of the Newfound Gap Road
and immediately hit the trail.

The trail closely paralleled the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River
and soon followed the obvious roadbed of an old road.
old road
Much of what I've now read refer to this road as old Tennessee Highway 71. The road bed made for some fast hiking and I soon found myself at an area where I found lots of evidence of former habitation. I guessed that this might be the site of an old CCC camp and my internet research seems to bear this out. There was an old stone structure referred to as the old CCC Camp incinerator,
old structure
the old CCC clock "tower"
old sign
and an old garbage dump site.
metao pieces

Soon after leaving the old CCC site the trail actually became a well maintained gravel road.
gravel road
I'm guessing it is maintained to provide access to a cemetery that I did not visit. The gravel road got a bit steep, but not too bad. I saw lots of cardinal flower
cardinal flower
growing along the side of the road as well as some possible primrose and other assorted wildflowers.
I saw a few deer,
but not any bears. I did see plenty of evidence of bears though.
bear scat
When I reached the intersection with the Bullhead Trail I drank some water and turned around to retrace my steps back to my vehicle. Due to the day's humidity and heat, I was drenched with sweat by the time I returned to the car and cranked up the air conditioner.           

Monday, August 25, 2014

Twin Falls Resort State Park

On our drive home from Ohio we decided that southern West Virginia would make a good stop to split things up a bit. Twin Falls State park seemed to fit the bill perfectly, although we underestimated just how far off of Interstate 77 it is. We pulled into the campground last night after driving on some really curvy roads that induced vomiting in poor Sierra.

This morning we were all eager to explore our surroundings a bit, including the small cemetery right near our campsite.
Jenkins Cemetery
After packing up camp we drove to the Twin Falls Trailhead for our hike to the two "twin" falls. Almost immediately we found ourselves at the first of the waterfalls: Marsh Fork Falls.
Marsh Fork falls
The waterfall was nice, but not the most spectacular we have ever seen. From the first waterfall the trail continued heading first downstream
Noelle hiking
and then later and to our surprise upstream along a different stream.

We climbed steeply at times past lots of mushrooms
tall mushroom
and soon found ourselves at Black Fork Falls.
Black Fork Falls
It was a steep descent down to the falls, but the tricky descent was worth it because we could go behind the falls.
behind falls
Sierra was excited by this and said something about rabbits going behind waterfalls. I believe this was a reference to Disney's Robin Hood which she likes to watch and in which some of the characters live in a secret protected cove in the woods that they access by going behind a waterfall. She is a smart girl! From Black Fork Falls it was a short hike back to the car and then a long drive back to Greeneville.