Monday, January 27, 2014

Cherokee National Forest: Iron Furnace Trail

I had originally wanted to hike the trail up to the Pinnacle Fire Tower on Buffalo Mountain today, but drizzle and a forecast of snow showers led me to believe I wouldn't get any views from the tower and I decided to leave that hike for a clearer day. Instead I made the drive over to Clark's Creek for a hike on the Iron Furnace Trail. I started my hike at the wide gravel parking area near the first road crossing of Clark's Creek.
Clark's Creek
I crossed the creek on the bridge and found the old Clarksville Iron Furnace.
Clarksville Iron Furnace
There used to be a historic marker on TN-107 that explained the history of the furnace. It's either been stolen or was removed for refurbishing. Here is a link to an image of it.  I explored the furnace a bit and then made my way over to the Iron Furnace Trail.

Immediately I found a sign declaring that the trail was closed.
iron Furnace Trail
The sign went on to read that foot traffic is acceptable. That makes the trail "not closed" doesn't it? Perhaps it should have read "Closed to Horse Traffic". Anyway as I made my way up the trail I immediately found conditions very icy.
icy trail
A spring is located just off to the side of the trail and flows onto the trail. With the recent cold temperatures the water froze into some thick, solid ice. Luckily I had brought my microspikes and I took them out of my pack and put them on for the first time since my hike into the Grand Canyon about a year ago.
traversing ice

While this was the only section of trail where the microspikes were absolutely necessary, I decided to keep them on to make traversing the mud and slippery leaves easier. The trail followed the creek bed for a short distance and then became a well-defined old road. This road was apparently the route used by the furnace operators to transport resources to the furnace from nearby Bumpas Cove. While the road was well-defined, it was a bit difficult to traverse due to the many trees that had fallen over the trail.
blowdowns on trail
The tree mortality in the area is likely due to a forest fire that happened here back in 2007.

The trail climbed to a ridge and followed it for a bit, offering nice views of the snow covered peaks in the higher elevations.
mountains pano
Soon after reaching the ridge the trail came to a gap on Embreeville Mountain where there is an old bearing tree.
bearing tree
The old road continued down the mountain into Bumpas Cove, but according to my map the land on the other side was private (and also a highly contaminated superfund site). I opted to turn around at this point, but first I checked another road heading up the ridge at the gap. It led to the top of a small peak and there were lots of shallow pits dug into the mountain here. I'm guessing these pits were used in charcoal production for the furnace, but I may be wrong.

Soon I was headed back down the trail to the car. The downhill hike was fast, and before I knew it I was back to the car and on my way home.        

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Skiing Roan Mountain

This year's birthday present from Noelle was a day of Nordic skiing up on Roan Mountain. Up until this week, I was afraid I would never get favorable conditions for skiing up there, but the little bit of snow we got in Greeneville the other day added up (supposedly) to 8 inches of snow up on Roan Mountain. This morning I packed up my boots, skis, and winter clothing and made the drive through Erwin and the Town of Roan Mountain up to Carver's Gap where I would start my ski journey.

I was able to clip into my broken bindings relatively quickly and soon started an ascent on the road that climbs up to the Rhododendron Gardens. Conditions were worrisome at first. A strong wind had blown the snow off of the road in spots and in other areas the snow was really more ice than snow.
road with bare spots
Still, I had driven for about an hour and half. I would make things work. Luckily as I climbed, the bare spots got less frequent. Also, the occasional view opened up looking east into the Fraser Fir Christmas Tree farms of North Carolina.
snowwy mountains

After a good climb, I passed the fee collection booth and decided to get off the road and try skiing the Cloudland Trail for a bit.
on skis
snack break
Conditions on the trail were okay. Because there was thick vegetation lining the trail, the wind did not blow the snow off the trail, but there were a few rocks sticking up out of the snow here and there. After a short time on the trail I opted to get back on the road for a bit. By this time I was thirsty and hungry. It was quite windy and so I skied into a nice sheltered area for a snack break. The snow in the sheltered area hung on the branches of the spruces and firs creating a real winter wonderland.
sheltered spot
For just a second I could imagine I was in Colorado or Minnesota, and not in the southeast.

After my snack, I decided it was time to head back to the car. A flurry had turned into near blizzard conditions by this time and besides, having not skied in about 2 years, I just really don't have my ski legs anymore.
snow is flying
It was an easy downhill back to the car. On my way down I saw some other skiers out enjoying the fine winter weather. I arrived back at Carver's Gap
flying snow
and from there it was treacherous drive to Elizabethon, through Johnson City and over to Greeneville. We had enough snow at home that my car wouldn't make it up the incline of our driveway! A good day though.          

Monday, January 20, 2014

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park: History Trail

When Noelle, Sierra and I visited this park back in July we realized that there is a lot more to this park that we wanted to explore. Since I would be headed back to Greeneville and since it was only Parker and myself I decided to stop by again to hike around a bit and break up our drive. When we arrived I headed to the visitor center, but it was closed due to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday so we headed back to the trailhead for the History Trail where we began our walk.
Appomattox History Trail
The trail started off with a short walk in the woods with a stop at the headquarters of Robert E. Lee.
Lee HQ site
There is nothing there other than a plaque to mark the spot where the Confederates camped.

From the headquarters site I headed over to the Sweeney Prizery which is a tobacco packing house.
Sweeney Prizery
From the prizery it was a descent down to the Appomattox River which the trail then followed for a short distance.
Appomattox Creek
By the river there were quite a few birds flitting around, including some brilliant red male cardinals.
After paralleling the river for a short distance, the trail ascended quite steeply. This ascent was not an issue for me, but I could tell that Parker was not enjoying it. After we crested the hill the trail flattened out and then descended. We headed down to a road crossing and on the other side of the road was a sign marking the spot where George Armstrong Custer received the flag of truce.
Custer Truce site
At this point, because Parker had been having a difficult time on the hill, I decided to return to the car via the road.

The road walk turned out to be quite interesting. We passed a small picnic area with an interesting cannon.
We then took a short side trail to a small cemetery where we found the grave of Joel Sweeney.
Joel Sweeney grave
Joel Sweeney is not someone I had ever heard of before, but he is apparently the person who popularized the banjo. From the cemetery we passed the site where Lee rested under an apple tree while waiting for the return of the flag of truce.
Lee truce site
After that it was a short walk along the road back to the car. We did pass an interesting house,
Sweeney cabin
but there was no sign indicating who owned it or if it played any role in ending of the Civil War.          

Sunday, January 19, 2014

George Washington Birthplace National Monument

We rounded up all the cousins, aunt, uncles and grandparents and headed out into the wind to explore the George Washington Birthplace National Monument. It was about a 50 minute drive from Woodford. As we headed into the monument we passed by a monument to George Washington
that had once been placed on the site where it had been presumed he had been born. When they built the birth home replica they moved it to its current location. We parked the car and headed into the visitor center with its great view out onto Pope's Creek.
Popes Creek

After a few minutes in the visitor center (including a stop to be photographed like a ranger),
Ranger JT
we headed out on the trail that leads over to the birth replica and a working farm. There were great views out onto the water and we even saw an eagle flying high above. We ended up bypassing the historic area at first and instead headed out for a short walk on a nature trail.
Mommy Sierra Grandpa
Alaric on stump
We crossed several bridges and boardwalks which the boys and Sierra thought was fun.
crossing bridge
brothers on boardwalk
Sierra with grandparents on boardwalk
Eventually we found ourselves back in the historic area's farm. Unfortunately, there were not many animals out. Just a few cows.
Then we headed over to the birth home replica.
replica birth house
The rooms inside were furnished with period furnishings.    
bed in house
card table
From the birth home replica we headed back towards the visitor center past a field filled with geese.
fence and geese
We ate lunch in our vehicles and then decided to head over to the Washington Burial Ground. 
Washington Burial Ground
It was interesting to look at the grave markers.
Noelle inspects grave
Washington Ball grave
After a few minutes exploring the cemetery we hit the road and headed back to Woodford.             

Friday, January 17, 2014

Booker T. Washington National Monument

Booker T Washington statue
Last night after dinner, Noelle, Sierra and I packed up the ol' Subaru and hit the road. We got to a late start intentionally, hoping Sierra would sleep in the car. Our plan worked well, until we arrived at our hotel in Roanoke. Once she woke up in the strange hotel, Sierra did not want to sleep. We had a pretty restless night last night. This morning though, we were ready for a little adventure.

We made the short drive from Roanoke to Booker T. Washington National Monument and we were not disappointed. First we watched the short, though old video. Then we headed out to check out the farm area near the location where Washington was born into slavery. First we checked out the small Burroughs family cemetery.
Buroughs cemetery
The Burroughs were the family that owned Booker and other family members. From the cemetery we headed over to the animals. The first animals that we saw were the pigs.
Sierra really enjoyed watching them eat.
Mommy and Sierra
From the pigs we headed over to the horse. The horse was eating and Sierra petted him while he chomped down on his breakfast.
petting horse

Nearby to the horse was a cow out in its pasture.
cow eating
We watched it for a short time before heading over to the ducks and chickens.
pond and buildings
watching ducks
Sierra thought the chickens were quite funny and even imitated the sounds they made.
chicken 2
From the fowl, we headed into the area of buildings
Eric and Sierra walking
which included a replica of Washington's birth house,
replica house
a blacksmith shed, and a tobacco barn.
in tobacco house
We then started to head back to the visitor center. By this time Sierra was really excited and ran on her own towards the sheep.
Sierra runs to animals
sheep and horses
She loves sheep and lambs, probably because of her favorite stuffed animal Little Lamb. She watched the sheep for a while saying baa, baa. Then we headed back to the car for our drive to Woodford, Virginia to meet Sierra's new cousin.