Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Completing the Sewanee Creek Trail and Enjoying its Features

In early Spring 2019, I completed the Sewanee Creek Trail from the top of the bluff near the 'Triple Castle' rock outcropping all the way down to Sewanee Creek (about a 400' drop in elevation from 1,800' to 1,400').  Soon thereafter, I found an easier path to the creek from about 2/3 of the way down, going westward to the creek, thus creating what has become (at least for me) a commonly-used loop toward the bottom...a gentle way down and a steep way back up to where the two paths split.

Castle #2
Cool features of the Sewanee Creek Trail include the 'Triple Castle' feature at the outset.  This feature consists of three rock outcroppings end-to-end that can be negotiated, with the last (3rd) outcropping providing an incredible view of the entire Sewanee Creek Gulf. I have taken visitors to, and personally photographed the Triple Castle feature on several occasions.
Gary Stephes and Joe Nerio (hiking friends)
Castle #3

Rock Shelter from Creek
Easy-route view of Creek
There is the trail itself, that passes through multiple bluff regions, a substantial rock field, large trees (featuring, among other species, large hemlock and beech trees in abundance), a cave-like rock shelter (steep route) and a lower flat area from which the Creek can be easily viewed (easy route).

Cave on opposite side of Creek
Close up view of entrance area
There is a substantial cave on the opposite side of the Creek waiting to be explored.

There is the 'island', that is special in and of itself.

The "Island"

There is the stream of water that flows out of the the side of the mountain, that, during dry periods, exhibits greater flow than Sewanee Creek, itself.

Grant Miller observing stream flowing from inside the mountain

Sewanee Creek funneled
Same creek bed during dry season
There is 'the narrows,' where the stream is funneled, and the floor of the stream consists of large smooth slabs of rock, jigsaw puzzled together, creating a table-top stream bed.

There is so much more to explore, both upstream and downstream.  I have done some exploration, and plan to do much more in the future.

Creating additional trails leading to Sewanee Creek, and ultimately connecting to the trail I have already built, could be done.  I'm thinking primarily of Miller Creek downstream, and the Creek on Lot #21 upstream, both of which feed into Sewanee Creek and both of which have substantial waterfalls that would make these additional trails highly desirable.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Fiery Gizzard Trail

The 12.5-mi Fiery Gizzard Trail that goes the full distance between Tracy City and Foster Falls, is one of the best known trails on the Cumberland Plateau.  It received national attention after being ranked one of the top 25 hiking trails in North America by Backpacker Magazine.

My hiking buddy, Freddie Roberts
On the Tracy City end, the Fiery Gizzard Trail features a 2-mi day loop route, which Judy and I have hiked several times with visitors, and I have hiked with friends.  Going to the left from the trail head, The main Fiery Gizzard Trail promptly descends, goes under an impressive overhang feature, passes by some 300-500 year old hemlock trees, and follows the Little Fiery Gizzard River to the point where the Little and Big Fiery Gizzard Rivers converge.  The main trail crosses the river, and continues to follow the Fiery Gizzard River.

Sycamore Falls
 Going to the right from the trail head, the trail stays on the top for about 0.9 mi before it descends, then follows the Big Fiery Gizzard River after the descent forming the complete loop where the two rivers converge to become the Fiery Gizzard River.   Hikers commonly hike to Blue Hole Falls (Little Fiery Gizzard R.), Haines Hole Falls (Big Fiery Gizzard R.) both on the day loop route, and/or to Sycamore Falls (L), which is on the Fiery Gizzard River 1.3 mi from the trail head and 0.6 mi beyond the day loop trail.

Ravens Point
A much more ambitious loop on the Fiery Gizzard Trail begins about 0.2 mi beyond Sycamore Falls where the trail splits, and ultimately re-unites roughly 3.0 miles later, near Ravens Point, a very scenic lookout.  The named Fiery Gizzard Trail follows the the river and is classified as strenuous, whereas the Dog Hole Trail, which promptly goes up to the top of the bluff, is as easy as a "walk in the park," once on top.  The only time I have hiked to Ravens Point was on February 27, 2019.  I used the Dog Hole Trail in both directions, though I had initially planned to do the loop.  The trail was longer than I had initially realized, and I was pretty well worn out by the time I got to Ravens Point, so I was in no mood to take on the much more strenuous and technically difficult trail route going back.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Building a new Sewanee Creek Trail from the Village at Sewanee Creek to Sewanee Creek

A trail once existed that went from the Village at Sewanee Creek to Sewanee Creek.  It was built around 2010 by Grant Miller and Joe Nunley.  Judy and I went down this trail once together, and as best I can remember, once again with relatives, while it was in pretty good shape...probably during or near 2011.  This year (2018) I tried multiple times to find this trail and finally gave up.  No one has used it in years.

In November, I decided to build an entirely new trail, one that is up to the standards of the State Park Service.  I have spent the last two years or so helping the State Park Service build new trails, and have acquired trail building expertise that would allow me to build a trail up to their standards.  Right now, I don't have much else going on during the morning hours aside from hiking on existing trails, with the gardening completed for the year, and with the Park Service shutting down their trail building for the remainder of the year.

Stage 1 (1775 - 1770 ft elev).
The trail begins on the property of Chris Badarello and his wife, Heather Campbell.  I cleared the already existing four-wheeler road to the edge of the woods.  This road was built by Grant Miller.


Stage 2 (1770 - 1720 ft elev.).
Once into the woods, the four-wheeler road goes down steeply.

Stage 3 (1720 - 1700 ft elev.).
The trail then levels off, crosses a stream then gently ascends, ending near the 'Triple Castle,' a rock feature named by Grant.

Stage 4 (1700 ft elev).
The walk-only trail now begins, and immediately goes to the Triple Castle overlook.  One can look ahead to the 2nd castle (rock formation)...

...or look off the left side into the gulf (ravine) 80 ft below.  The new trail follows along the bluff from the Triple Rock toward the Lavers.

The bluff views are breathtaking and keep the adrenaline flowing, given how close the trail is to the edge of the bluff.

Stage 5 (1700 - 1680 ft elev.).
After walking from the Triple Castle along the bluff, the trail begins its steep descent to Sewanee Creek.  At the beginning of the descent (the bluff portion), I used existing rock features as steps as much as possible.  This stage is followed by a steady descent stage with switchbacks (Stage 6), which, in turn, is followed by a stage on rock outcroppings (Stage 7) that goes all the way down to Sewanee Creek (1450 ft elev.)

Stage 5 (cont'd)

Stage 5 (cont'd).  This stage ends where there is an outcropping of rocks, at which point the trail goes in the opposite direction.  I also took an end of stage photo (right side) in the opposite direction (looking up).

Monday, April 23, 2018

Exploring the Sewanee Perimeter Trail

The beauty of the University of the South Campus in Sewanee is only exceeded by the beauty of the land that surrounds it.  The campus itself is described as the second-largest among all college campuses in the U.S., with 13,000 acres of land.  Rimming the campus, and in fact, the town itself, is the legendary Sewanee Perimeter Trail, and associated trails.  I have concentrated on exploring these trails over the past several months; and in the springtime, what a delight this has been.  I don't begin to do the surroundings justice with the smartphone camera shots I have taken, but I will at least, perhaps, provide a small sampler of what is out there, with a couple of photos that I took per trail.

This hyperlinked PDF article, entitled "Sewanee's Best Day Hikes," will be my guide in describing my experience.  The map embedded in this article can be accessed as a separate PDF file.

View from base of memorial cross
Sewanee Memorial Cross
Trail 1: Cross/Perimeter/Tennessee Williams Loop (1.25 mi).  This is a
fairly impressive, but not a spectacular trail, that takes you through some impressive boulders, as described in the article.  At the Cross, one gets an excellent view of the valley floor below (500-800 ft elev) from the Cumberland Plateau (1800-2000 ft elev).  The town of Cowan rests below Sewanee.  On a scale of 1-9, I rated this trail a 5.

Overhang area
Proctors Hall
Trail 2: Cross to Morgans Steep (1 mi one-way = 2 mi RT).  This trail is highly impressive, with abundant overhang features.  Unlike other parts of the Sewanee Perimeter Trail that go above the bluffs, this portion is just beneath the upper bluff features.  One feature became an impasse for me the first time I was on the trail, namely the Proctor's Hall Feature, where one has to descend about 7 ft with toe holds to negotiate.  Another time, when I was better rested, I successfully passed beyond this feature, which was a major personal victory for me.  On a 1-9 scale, I rated it a 9.

Bridal Veil Falls
Trail 3: Morgans Steep/Bridal Veil Falls/Bluff Loop (3 mi).  This trail definitely exceeded my expectations for two reasons.  First, the falls was as far below ground level as it was above ground level.  I wasn't expecting that!  The falls goes into a very deep hole, then completely disappears, which, apparently, is not that uncommon in the Cumberland region.  The second, pleasant surprise is that there is a very good trail that goes more-or-less directly up to the bluffs above the falls, so that the return trip followed the rim, turning the trail into a loop experience rather than a simple down-and-back round trip.  On a 1-9 scale, I gave it an 8.

Trail 4: Morgans Steep/Lake Cheston via the bluff (2 mi RT).  This trail was the easiest, and would be a good trail for jogging.  The route along the bluffs crosses several homeowners properties.  It sort of felt like I was trespassing, but it is clear that this was a well worn trail, so not to worry.  There was nothing special about the small lake.  I stopped and talked with a fisherman for a little while.  He was fishing one side of the lake while his wife was fishing the other side.  On a 1-9 scale, this got a 4.

Looking toward Cowan farmland
Trail 5: Western Section Perimeter (7.5 mi loop). I completed this section after all other sections were completed.  I need to repeat this section, since on the date that I completed it, the weather conditions were not very good, and the views were not as advertised, so to speak.  On a 1-9 scale, I gave it a 5.

Dotson Point
Forest Cabin
Trail 6: Forestry Cabin/Dotson Point (4.5 mi loop). I have been to Dotson Point twice and the Forestry Cabin once. Since this trail runs along the bluff, there are opportunities to walk out to the edge and look primarily in the Winchester/Dechard direction.  The views below are impressive.  On a 1-9 scale, I gave it a 6.

Solomon's Temple Cave
Trail 7: Thumping Dick Cove (2 mi RT). This trail ends with a multi-layer cave system called Solomon's Temple.  The "columns" outside the cave, almost appear to be man made.  When I went, I didn't realize how steep this trail was, especially toward the end.  I was fairly exhausted, and didn't do much exploring when I got to the cave, and hence, missed the lower levels of the cave.  I plan to go back when I have more time to do a better job of exploring the entire cave system.  On a 1-9 scale, I gave it an 8.

Trail 8: Cedar Hollow Lake (2 mi loop). This was by far the most disappointing trail.  If one is out simply for a power walk around fire lane trails, I guess this would be a good trail for that purpose, but I didn't see anything noteworthy, or that beckoned me to take a picture of.  Apparently, there is/was an old growth forest that is/was associated with this trail.  If it still exists, I completely missed it.  On a 1-9 scale, I gave it a 2.

Sewanee Golf Course
Green's View
Trail 9: Shakerag Hollow / Beckwith's Point Trail (3.5 mi loop).  This trail starts and ends at the University East Gate with Green's View being the furthest point.  This is my favorite trail. 

Students observing basswood tree
The Shakerag Hollow portion is recognized as one of the very best
trails in all of Tennessee for observing a wide array of wildflowers in the springtime.  I love the diversity of trees as well, including groves of shagbark hickory, basswood, and buckeye, which are uncommon species on most trails.  The return trail fronts the University's Golf Course and continues to follow the bluff at the top, with short walk-outs to the edge, including Beckwith's Point, until it returns to the East Gate.  The trail is of the ideal length, from my vantage point, long enough to give me a good workout, but short enough not to make me want to sit out an extra day before hiking again.  On a 1-9 scale, I gave it a 9.

Piney Point view
Trail 10: University East Gates/Piney Point (2 mi RT).  This is a rather easy trail, all on the bluff with minor ups and downs.  The view at the end is good, but not any better than the view seen from Green's View.  I usually turn this into a loop by taking a side trail that leads to the entry road into the Saint Andrew's campus situated near Piney Point.  I cross the main highway and take the Mountain Goat Bike Path back to East Gate access. This ads an additional half-mile or so to the length of this hike, and makes it more interesting.  On a 1-9 scale, I gave it a 5.