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 days; 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 (subject to further updating).

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.

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.

Trail 5: Western Section Perimeter (7.5 mi loop). I haven't done this one yet.

Trail 6: Forestry Cabin/Dotson Point (4.5 mi loop). I haven't done this one either.

Trail 7: Thumping Dick Cove (2 mi RT). This one looks interesting but I haven't done it either.

Trail 8: Cedar Hollow Lake (2 mi loop). Haven't done this one yet either.

Sewanee Golf Course
Green's View
Trail 9: University East Gates/Beckwith's Point/Green's View/Shakerag Hollow Loop (3.5 mi).  I didn't see the loop when I did this trail, so I missed the Shakerag Hollow portion upon returning from Green's View back to the parking lot at the University East Gate.  For me, it was a round trip trail.  Part of this trail fronts the University's Golf Course.  The trail was much more interesting than I anticipated, with some excellent bluff views.

Trail 10: University East Gates/Piney Point (2 mi RT).  This is next on my list.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Our trip to Australia and New Zealand

Neal Tew, Patricia and Dan Potts, Judy and Tom Tew
This is a travelog of our trip to Australia and New Zealand during 26 Feb - 17 Mar 2018.  Judy and I traveled with our son Neal, and my niece Patricia Potts and her husband, Dan.  The trip consisted of 2 full days in Sydney, Australia; 2 weeks on a Holland America cruise ship...destination New Zealand, departing and returning to Sydney Harbor; then spending two additional days in Australia before departing home.

Map of Sydney

Sydney facing North
MON (26 Feb)  We left home at 7:00 AM to make it to the Nashville Airport with ample time to spare, leaving our vehicle at the Hilton Airport Hotel parking lot ($110 for the 3-week period we were gone).  Flight time in the air from Nashville (BNA) to Los Angeles (LAX) was from 11:30 AM CST to 2:30 PM PST (5 hr).  Flight time in the air from Los Angeles to Sydney (SYD) was from 11:30 PM CST to 9:00 AM SYD (14.5 hr).  We used Virgin Australia, traveling from LAX to SYD.

Bus stop at Hyde Park (behind me)
TUE (27 Feb)  In the course of traveling to Australia, we crossed the International Date Line.  Thus,we effectively skipped TUE en route to Australia.  When we arrived in Sydney at 9:00 AM Wednesday, it was 2:00 PM Tuesday in Los Angeles, a +19 hour difference, honoring the Int'l Date Line, or a -5 hour difference, ignoring the date line.

BreakFree Hotel
WED (28 Feb)  We finally made it to our hotel (BreakFree on George) in downtown Sydney by 12:15 PM.  After settling in, we traveled by bus to the famed Bondi Beach on the South side of Sydney, arriving at 3:00 PM.  I watched our belongings while everyone else took to the water.  We returned to the hotel around 6:00 PM.  Our hotel was in the so-called Chinatown neighborhood of Sydney, so we ate dinner in a Chinese restaurant before crashing for the evening.
Bondi Beach
Judy and Neal inside circle

Darling Harbor
THU (01 Mar)  Early in the day, Judy, Neal, and I walked up Sussex Street to Darling Harbor.  We returned, and joined with Dan and Patricia on a free walking tour from near our hotel to the famed Harbor Bridge - Opera House area.  We realized that we had to break away and walk briskly back to our hotel (nearly 2 miles away) in order to catch the ride to board our cruise ship.  We boarded the ship at 4:00 PM, and about two hours later, we were on our way to New Zealand.

FRI (02 Mar) and SAT (03 Mar) were open water days on our way to New Zealand.

First sighting of New Zealand at Milford Sound

Numerous waterfalls in Milford Sound
Exiting Milford Sound
SUN (04 Mar)  In the early morning, we first saw land, as our ship entered Milford Sound.  It was an overcast day, and had been raining in the area overnight, so that when we entered, there were numerous waterfalls coming off the very steep mountains.  Milford Sound, like the other two sounds we visited, are technically fjords, rather than sounds, and this whole area of New Zealand is referred to as Fjordland.  Kelley, our outdoor expert on board, informed us that she had never seen waterfalls in Milford Sound as full as they were on this trip, so we got a special treat.  The ship also entered Doubtful Sound and Dusky Sound before going around the bottom of the South Island of New Zealand.  Going around the bottom (roughly 47 degrees South) to get to the east side of the island, is the furthest south I have ever been in all my travels.

Aerial view of Dunedin
MON (05 Mar)  We ported at the City of Dunedin (Du NEE dun) in the morning, and spent most of the day touring around this most interesting town.  It is a college town with a rich history.  We also went on a land tour to a beach outside the city that took us over some steep terrain in getting to our destination.  There, we got to see fur seals up and close.

Googled photo of Akaroa Bay on a sunny day
TUE (06 Mar)  Overnight, we traveled to Akaroa (Auk ah ROW uh).  The harbor at Akaroa was too shallow for us to port, so we used tender boats to get ashore.  Akaroa Bay was formed by an extinct volcano.  We had booked a tour on a sail boat in the bay, which was a fabulous experience, highlighted with travel near mussel and salmon farms inside the bay area, and Hector dolphins guiding us back to the port after we got to the furthest point on the sail boat ride.  The tour guide was a delight as he rehearsed sailing stories from his own life, and areas of the world he had seen.

Googled photo of Picton on a sunny day
WED (07 Mar)  Overnight, we traveled to the town of Picton.  The weather was bad, with a lot of wind and rain.  We went into town, and visited a small aquarium, but missed out on an opportunity to ferry to a highly rated bird sanctuary, due to the weather.  It was Judy's birthday, so Dan and Patricia arranged for the evening servers at dinner time on the ship to join together in singing happy birthday to Judy, Indonesian style.

Weta workshop logo (mirror image = A. Tew)
THU (08 Mar)  Overnight, we traveled across the Cook Strait to Wellington on the North Island.  Wellington is the capital of New Zealand.   The highlight of our stay in Wellington was to take a tour of the Weta Digital Workshop.  Weta is the second most important developer of special effects for movies in the world, and its owners were responsible for the making of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings series in New Zealand.  They have had a hand in the development of 150 full feature movies, many of which are very familiar to most of us.  While in Wellington, we also went to their very impressive museum near the wharf downtown.  The museum had an entire floor dedicated to the Maori culture.

FRI (09 Mar)    Overnight, we traveled to the city of Napier (NAY pier).  The weather was so rough that we were unable to port, so we headed on toward Tauranga (Tau RONG uh).

Tauronga Harbor
SAT (10 Mar)  In the morning, we arrived at Tauranga.  One of the trainers in the gym told me that this was his favorite port.  A land tour took us through Tauranga, and toward the interior of the island, out to Rotorua.  There, we went to the Whakarewarewa Thermal Village, a Maori village inside a geyser area.  We got to see the Maori people put on a most impressive performance, somewhat reminiscent of the Polynesian Cultural Center, with much dance and story telling.

Maori Show
Geyser in thermal village

From Rotorua, we went to the Hobbiton, which was highlight of the entire New Zealand trip for many.  The weather was great for a change, and the Hobbiton was everything we had hoped for.  I think for most, it exceeded their expectations.  There were some 44 little round-door homes against the side of a hill, and other buildings to give the feel of an entire village.

We thoroughly enjoyed the travel to and from the Hobbiton, seeing more agriculture (especially kiwi fruit farms) than we had seen on previous stops.  The route back to Tauranga took us through an impressive mountain range.

Path of Cyclone Hola
SUN (11 Mar)  Due to Cyclone Hola bearing down on the North Island, the cruise ship was forced to abort plans to go to Auckland and beyond, and to go back toward the Cook Strait between the North and South Islands, and return to Australia from there.  However, all was not lost, since this allowed us to return to Napier and port this time with much improved weather.

Judy at the aquarium
Beach fronting Napier town
We visited Napier between 3-7 PM, and spent most of our time at an impressive aquarium, where we got to see a living Kiwi bird foraging in its darkened area inside the aquarium facility.  Judy held a stuffed Kiwi, which the aquarium personnel had available for photo shots. Napier had to be rebuilt after a massive earthquake, and was rebuilt during the art deco period, so it has the art-deco South Beach Miami look.  The beach was made of dark-colored small smooth pebbles rather than sand, with the Norfolk Pine as the primary tree species behind the beach area.

MON (12 Mar) - WED (14 Mar) were open water days on our return to Australia.

Sydney Opera House from Harbor Bridge
THU (15 Mar)  We disembarked at 7:00 AM and took a taxi back to the BreakFree on George Hotel where we had stayed earlier.  Shortly thereafter, we went to the train station nearby and took the train to North Sydney just across the Harbor Bridge from Sydney.  Judy and I elected to walk back across the bridge to the Sydney side of the harbor, and there we met up with the rest of our group, who had elected to return to the Sydney side via the train. 
Manly Beach
We walked to the Circular Quay (sounds like Key), and from there, took a ferry to Manly and Manly Peninsula, followed by a brief walk to the famed Manly Beach.  Following our return to Circular Quay, we walked to the iconic Sydney Opera House, and paid to take a tour of the opera house.  I was very impressed with the architecture of this multi-faceted building, inside and outside, and the story of the building's history.  We briefly visited the  nearby Botanical Garden afterward, then returned to the hotel via the bus.

Blue Mountains 100 km NW of Sydney
FRI (16 Mar)  Our final full day in Australia was spent on a country tour which included a visit to a zoo north of Sydney, and several stops in the Blue Mountain area northwest of Sydney.  The visit reminded me of the Cumberland Plateau where we now live in Tennessee.  Many of the animals we saw at the zoo are unique to Australia, including the kangaroo, the koala, and a wide range of bird species, including the emu and kookaburra.

SAT (17 Mar)  We woke up at 5:30 AM Saturday morning in Sydney, and by the end of a 42-hour Saturday (crossing the Int'l Date Line), was home in Tennessee by 6:30 PM Saturday evening, having traveled nearly halfway around the world.