The first thing we saw when arriving at the Rocky Fork parking area was a whole lot of cars – a rare sight for this area! The second thing we saw, and the explanation for all the parked cars, was a church group gathered at the creek bank for a baptism surrounded by some of the prettiest scenery for many miles. After finding our own parking spots, five of us made the relatively short but steep trek to the top of the first high point inside Tennessee’s newest State Park. The weather was hot and muggy, but rhododendrons were still blooming in the shady forest. A branch trail, which is on the right about 1/2 mile up the main trail from the parking area, leads up the White House Cliffs. The route has some flags marking the way, but it is by no means a well-established trail. Vic Hasler turned this hike into somewhat of a work trip too as he brought clippers and a GPS to get the trail route recorded in his GPS (to be posted on our Trail Wiki). Vic also was able to locate 3 or 4 geocaches along the trail. Those participating in the hike were Vic Hasler, William Werner, Jianhui Zhou, Xiaofang Dong, and Tim McClain. This hike would also be a great fall color hike as the destination provides a very rewarding 360 degree view from the top (approximately 3300 ft elevation).
We were blessed with a very comfortable Sunday afternoon for our 2.6 mile round-trip hike to Laurel Falls. This is a very family-friendly hike with the only somewhat challenging part being the actual walk down and back from the waterfall. This path is make of large stepping stones some of which are easier to navigate than others. But with reasonable care the route is well worth the reward.
There was a decent amount of flow over the falls, but the water level was lower than I had seen it before. Lydia and Paul enjoyed cooling their heels in the creek and several other hikers at the falls were swimming. Extreme care should be taken in the water below the falls since a father and son tragically lost their lives here in July, 2012. There is a small plaque in their memory attached to a rock at the bottom of the steps. Probably the most excitement today came from watching some swimmers (not part of our group) try to capture/kill(?) a small water snake of some kind. We weren’t close enough to tell what kind it was, but they were approaching it like it was a man-eating python. The snake eventually made its escape swimming on down the creek.
Our hiking group consisted of Chris Garrett, Patti Garrett, Lydia Garrett, Paul Garrett, Leticia Brock, Beverly Griggs and Barry Griggs
Barry Griggs reporting
Our number was small due to a couple of last-minute cancellations, but the day was beautiful! We were blessed with a picture-perfect day for the very family-friendly trek to the South Holston Dam Spillway. The dogs seemed to be out to enjoy the day, also, as essentially every hiker we met was escorted by at least one dog, including us. This is an easy, relatively short hike which is very doable for beginners or anyone just interested in an enjoyable hike that won’t take all afternoon. The view of the lake and mountains at the end of our hike was very peaceful. A few wildflowers were even spotted along the way. Hikers were Sharon Burnette and Barry Griggs.
P.S. For those desiring a little more hiking in this area you can stop at the large parking/picnic area at Osceola Island on the road to the dam. This is a very nice area to trout fish and picnic. There is also 1.5 mi. trail around the perimeter of the island which can be accessed by crossing the footbridge. The trail is covered with fine gravel making for comfortable walking.