Saturday, April 27, 2013

Gray Fossil Site

Outside Gray Fossil Site photo P1010344_zps00f29399.jpg
It was raining this morning with more showers in the forecast throughout the day. We wanted to do something and not get wet, and so we headed towards Johnson City to check out this much touted fossil site. We were not disappointed! The exhibits are well done and there is a lot of information available about the fossil site and the natural history of the area.
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Monday, April 22, 2013

Bible Covered Bridge

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We took advantage of another beautiful day to do a little bit of exploring in the Greeneville area. We headed out into the western part of the county to find the Bible Covered Bridge which is named after the Christian Bible family. It is a nice covered bridge of the Queenspost Truss style and is about 45 feet long. It is a nice little drive out to the bridge if you’re ever in the Greeneville area and looking for a short excursion.
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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Cherokee National Forest: Turkey Pen Cove and Middle Spring Loop

Another nice day and so we decided to get out of the house for a hike. I found a nice loop marked on the map and decided that it did not look too difficult for our experienced hiking crew. We loaded up the car and hit the road headed for Horse Creek. We arrived at the Horse Creek picnic area, parked the car and got ready for the walk.
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The start of our hike followed the rough, flower-fringed 
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Horse Creek Road for a short distance before crossing Horse Creek on a footbridge and heading into the Sampson Mountain Wilderness.
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I knew there would be a few creek crossings on this hike, but I was surprised to find the first few were bridged,
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especially considering that we had entered into a designated wilderness area. Soon, however, we passed into a small section of private property and an old A-frame cabin I along the banks of Squibb Creek. The owner of the cabin must have some sort of easement to allow entry of wheeled vehicles etc. into the wilderness area.

After we passed by the cabin, we crossed Squibb Creek
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and followed the trail into a tunnel of rhododendron gently ascending. A little later we found ourselves at a trail junction where we left the Squibb Creek Trail and headed up Turkeypen Cove. The climbing got very steep and Parker had a difficult time with it. To make matters worse there were several blow-downs that we had to make our way over , under, or around.
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Eventually we found ourselves on the top of a ridge and it was here that we started to make our descent on the Middle Spring Trail.
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Sierra was in good spirits this whole time. She never complained at all despite a wet diaper. We changed her right on the trail, ate a snack and made our way back to Squibb Creek. All in all it was a good hike, but it was much more difficult than I had anticipated.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Cherokee National Forest: Allen Branch Pond

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A beautiful day for a hike! Noelle, Parker, Sierra and I headed out not too far from home, into the Cherokee National Forest and quaint little Allen Branch Pond. We put Sierra into her backpack and hit the trail almost immediately. Upon nearing the pond we were treated to the sight of thousands of tadpoles swimming around in the warm shallow water at the water’s edge.
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Amongst the tadpoles were a few salamanders swimming around looking for food.
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After a few minutes looking at the aquatic fauna we started the hike around the perimeter of the small pond. The views were gorgeous on this beautiful spring day and there were several fishermen (and fisherwomen) taking advantage of the nice weather.

The hike was not long and so after a short time we found ourselves back at the start of the hike where we rested on a bench and enjoyed the view over the water.
Noelle and Parker at Bench photo P1010316_zps887942c3.jpg
Eric and Sierra at Pond photo P1010317_zps4d9ceafd.jpg
Allen Branch Pond is a nice short hike for families with young children. It is only about .8 miles in length, yet still interesting. After we got back into the car we decided to take a drive up and over Paint Mountain and over to Paint Rock. We drove the road along Paint Creek before heading back home.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Appalachian Trail: Devil Fork Gap to Hogback Ridge Shelter

The other day I made plans to meet up with a good friend from elementary and high school. His name is Colin and he is currently thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. Greeneville is pretty close to the trail and he happened to be in the vicinity so we met at Devil Fork Gap where the trail crosses NC Highway 212 just feet from the boundary with Tennessee. When I pulled up in my car, Colin (trail name Scarecrow) was already there waiting and we hit the trail soon after my arrival. It was exciting to think that the last time I had hiked this section of trail was nearly 13 years ago during my thru-hike!

After we started on the trail, we soon crossed over a livestock stile and headed into the woods.
Colin on AT photo ColinonAT_zpsf26b4ad6.jpg
We ascended up a small mountain and then descended down to another road. After crossing the road we again began an ascent. Soon we passed a small cemetery plot
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and then found ourselves roughly following a small flowing stream. Eventually the trail led to an old habitation site, a cabin mouldering back to the earth. There was a small waterfall where the trail crossed over the stream.
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As we ascended higher the trail got steep. Luckily great conversation about old times and family kept our minds off the climb. When we had ascended to the top of a ridge we were treated to a great view of some of the distant mountains.
Colin Admires View photo ColinatOverlook_zps51c0b25a.jpg
While the trees in the lower elevations are starting to leaf out, the ones up on the mountains still have a while to go before they get their greenery. The bare branches allow for better views and for sunlight to reach below the forest canopy and reach the abundant wildflowers.
Trail Flower Carpet photo ATandflowers_zpse2e83a78.jpg


We spent some time traversing the ridge, mostly ascending but also descending for short stretches. Eventually we found ourselves at a junction in the trail. A side trail led to the Hogback Ridge Shelter and we followed the trail so Colin could get some water and we could relax for a bit.
Hogback Ridge Shelter photo HogbackRidgeShelter_zps20403833.jpg
According to my journal I stayed at the Hogback Ridge Shelter when I had thru-hiked, seeing it did not inspire any memories. A barbed-wire fence that ran parallel to a long portion of the trail did seem to look familiar though. I remembered walking along the fence as a light drizzle changed over to flurries and my journal seems to confirm this.

When Colin had returned from getting water we relaxed for a few minutes before it was time to get moving again. Colin would be heading north while I would retrace our steps back to Devil Fork Gap. We got a photo of the two of us together
Eric and Colin Part Ways photo SayingGoodbye_zpsf6d6a8fe.jpg
and then I watched as Colin headed north and continued on his great adventure.
Colin Walks Away photo ColinWalksAway_zpsb2ff2b24.jpg
In a way I was jealous of him and the great sense of freedom being on the trail inspires, but I live a life of responsibility now with a wife and daughter, both of whom I love so much.

After I watched Colin walk away, I made my way south. Since I was alone I didn't feel guilty about stopping to take photos and so I stopped several times to photograph the many wildflowers in bloom like bloodroot,
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violets,
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trout lilies, Dutchman's breeches,
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and spring beauty.
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Despite the fact that I stopped quite often I made good time on the mostly downhill hike back to the car. I covered roughly 12.2 miles round-trip and enjoyed every second of this hike, especially the great company on the first half. Good luck Colin! I'm sure in about 4 months you'll be standing on top of Katahdin.
        

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Cherokee National Forest: Paint Creek Corridor

Wanting to get out and enjoy a beautiful day Noelle, Sierra, Parker and I headed over to Food City for some picnic supplies and then headed over to the Paint Creek portion of Cherokee National Forest. It was a pleasant drive into the forest and we quickly found the Overlook Picnic Area where we ate our lunch and listened to the sounds of cascading water in Paint Creek.
Sierra's Flower photo Sierrasflower_zps153b7a94.jpg
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After lunch it was time for a walk. We decided that instead of driving the road along Paint Creek or looking for a trail to hike, we would just walk the road.
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This turned out to be a good decision and we were not the only ones walking the road. We saw lots of families and dogs and even the local Boy Scout Troop. The plants are starting to green up a bit and we even saw some flowers in bloom
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including one of my personal favorites Trillium.
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We also saw two waterfalls, both right off the road. The first was the impressive Kelley Falls.
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The second was Dudley Falls, known for its deep swimming hole below the falls and rocks that swimmers often jump off of into the water.
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At Dudley Falls we turned around and walked the road back to the Overlook Picnic Area and our car. It was a pleasant walk through the beautiful springtime woods.       

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Cherokee National Forest: Sill Branch Falls

It was a beautiful day today and the Grunwalds decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather by going for a hike. I researched some hikes that would be pleasant but not too tough for the whole family and the hike to Sill Branch Falls seemed to fit the bill.

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The hike started off Clark Creek Road in a very pretty pleasant area. Some wildflowers were starting to bloom
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as we hiked along Sill Branch.
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We crossed the stream on some stepping stones and then steeply ascended to the falls.
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The falls were impressively tall with lots of water from the late week rains.
Eric and Sierra at Sill Branch Falls photo P1010265_zpsd2d7b892.jpg
We admired them for a bit before retracing our steps back to the car.