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"

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Grapeyard Ridge/Injun Creek/Greenbrier Road Loop (with a Side Trip up Rhododendron Creek)

Noelle and I had originally planned a trip to Asheville, but Noelle ended up not feeling too well and decided to let me go off on my own for a "Man Day". It was about nine when I realized I had a free day, and so I had a late start in hitting the road. I quickly packed my pack, and hit the road for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I pulled into the gravel area off the side of the Greenbrier Road and the Grapeyard Ridge Trailhead a little bit after 10:30 and hit the trail.

I had originally planned to hike the Grapeyard Ridge Trail in its entirety, all at once. However, With my late start I knew that there was no way I could hike the 15+ miles roundtrip and get back home at a reasonable time. Instead, I decided to hike Grapeyard Ridge to Campsite 32. I had read that there was an unofficial trail, called the Injun Creek Trail, that started just past the campsite. I would hike this trail to the Greenbrier Road and follow the road back to my car.

As I started my hike, it was immediately evident that spring is, indeed here. I saw some vinca in bloom right at the trailhead.
Grapeyard Ridge TH
As I made my way up the trail (really an old road) I saw some yellow violets in bloom as well.
Almost immediately I found a side trail, an old road that led to a cemetery. It is apparently called the Friendship Baptist Church Cemetery, but many of the graves were marked with the name Whaley.
Ora Whaley grave
After exploring the cemetery for a bit I retraced my steps to the main trail which led through a tunnel of rhododendron. Soon I found myself closely following Rhododendron Creek.
daffodils and stream
I crossed the creek several times on stepping stones. I found more flowers along Rhododendron Creek including spring beauty
spring beauty
and even some trillium, not quite yet in bloom.

Soon I crested a gap and started a descent. The descent followed Injun Creek and I quickly found myself at the remains of a steam powered tractor that had been used in logging trees in what is now the national park.
Injun Creek wheels
I explored the remains a bit and then continued on. It wasn't long before I stood at the junction of the Grapeyard Ridge Trail and the unofficial Injun Creek Trail near Campsite 32.
trail sign and start of Injun Creek Tr
I passed the campsite and continued on the trail which was, not surprisingly, an old road.
hiking down old road
I passed a few cascades on Injun Creek
Injun Creek cascade
and then found a signed side trail that led to the EE McCarter Cemetery.
McCarter cemetery sign

The trail that led to the cemetery was well maintained and even had a bridge that crossed over a small stream.
bridge across creek
The cemetery itself was interesting.
McCarter Cemetery
There were headstones with barely legible names and dates carved into them.
The McCarters must not have had a whole lot of formal schooling. After a few minutes at the cemetery I returned to the main trail and continued to descend on an old road along Injun Creek.
old road
The park service must maintain the unofficial trail to allow descendents to get to the cemetery for Decoration Day. As I made my way further down I saw a few signs of past habitation, including a tall stack of rock,
rock stack
and a developed spring.
developed spring
I also found a faint trail that led to a very large tree.
Eric and big tree
Within minutes of leaving the large tree I exited the woods at the Greenbrier Ranger Station
Grenbrier Ranger Station
and turned right onto the road.

The road walk turned out to be more interesting than I had imagined it would be. Moving at a walking pace allowed my to discover trails leading off into the woods that I never would have seen had I been zipping past in a car. At a gravel parking spot, I found a path down to the Little Pigeon River.
Little Pigeon River
When I returned to the road i noticed a trail on the other side. I was intrigued. I had to find out where it led. It turned out to lead to an old home site complete with standing chimney
and old rusting metal wash tubs.
metal things
Just past the home site was another cemetery, the FE Huskey Cemetery.
Linsey grave
Again I spent a few minutes exploring the cemetery and then returned to the road.

The road passed some rapids on the river
cascades on Little Pigeon
and then I found yet another side trail on the opposite side of the road. This trail followed a section Rhododendron Creek lower down than the section that the Grapeyard Ridge Trail had followed. It wound its way through thick patches of trillium that were not yet in bloom. I also saw my first blooming bloodroot of the year!
Should be really good wildflower viewing in a week or two. Then it led to some small waterfalls and interesting cascades.
Rhododendron Creek cascades
small waterfall
more cascades
I followed the trail higher up the watershed until I found myself back on the Grapeyard Ridge Trail. Now I had a choice; should I follow the Grapeyard Ridge Trail back to the car, or should I backtrack on the unofficial trail along Rhododendron Creek and follow the road. I decided to retrace the Rhododendron Creek Trail since I wanted to get a better view of some of the waterfalls.
stair falls
tiered falls

It was a quick return hike to the road. Once on the road I hiked past the picnic area and saw some more wildflowers in bloom off to the side of the road.
white flowers
Before I knew it I was back at the car. It was an interesting day of hiking and I was glad I had the chance to make some discoveries on a pair of interesting unofficial trails.