Our timing is off in planning these hikes. Another missed chance to see frozen falls as it’s surely bedecked with ice now. Alas the problem with planning one to two months ahead. I just have to put it on the calendar and hope for the best. It is not to say that it wasn’t worth it. Despite no ice, the trail scenery was beautiful with freshly fallen snow and frosted top mountains. The hike was fairly straight forward, well worn, and well marked. We made our way to the falls, enjoyed the view and a quick snack and got moving again before the cold got to us. The return home included a stop at the Greeneville Pizza Inn. No takers on this hike, just the Schaefer family including dogs Zoinks! and Beetle.
Tim Schaefer Reporting Frozen waterfall hikes in this area can be fickle. Although the beginning of the New Year was cold, we finished the week with some warm days. This apparently melted away whatever ice may have formed. It didn’t matter, as often, the destination is a motivator, but it’s the journey that is enjoyed best. The hike began at US321 to the AT and on to the falls. After enjoying a cool (but not frozen) stop at the falls for lunch, we decided to hike up out of the gorge to see the Koonford Bridge redone in 2014. The hike was more steps than I remembered the last time I visited here five years ago. We made it to the bridge and returned except staying on High Water Trail to see more trail (but really to avoid the descent back into the gorge). Joining us today was the Schaefer Family (Tim, Carrie, Jamie, Bob, Josie), the Zimmerman Family (Yuyan and Frankie), Jeffery and Amy Bryan, Gabrielle Ashley with dog Lucy, and Andrew.
Tim Schaefer Reporting
Hike date: 12/19/2015 “It will be a tough hike with all of the downed trees and overgrown brush.” As said by Vic Hasler, or something close to that. He wasn’t too far off. Roaring Branch Trail is an in-and-out 8mi hike and a mostly uphill climb from the road to the overlook. Not having any takers to join me, possibly partly due to the below-freezing morning that was forecast, I decided to bring the dogs with me. They’re two Great Danes often mentioned in trip reports, Zoinks! and Beetle. The wiki was right. The parking area is not much more than a narrow gravel shoulder on a curve of Business 23/Roaring Branch Rd. It made for some nervous dog wrangling as trucks and cars zipped by us. The light snow cover and brisk morning, to me, was perfect for a weekend hike. Several sections of trail as warned by Vic have some significant downed tree sections. Some were simple hop overs, others could be walked around, several required climbing over and under patches of downed logs. I didn’t have too many problems, but my four legged companions had some more difficulty. A few times I thought we would have to turn back, but we eventually found a way through the mess. Also difficult were the stream crossings. Roaring Branch was flowing quite well. This was the dogs’ chance to show off an easy passing while I struggled to find a rock hopping path but managed to keep my feet dry. We made it to the High Butte overlook and enjoyed lunch. I noticed that the yellow blazed trail does continue past the overlook on the right. I thought about exploring it, but with a family out home and two tired dogs that normally spend the day napping on their bed I saved that for another day.
Tim Schaefer Reporting
Hike Date: 12/13/2015
The Zimmerman family joined us for this 3.26mi hike on Purchase Ridge Trail at Natural Tunnel State Park. It was a great late fall day and fun was had by all. The trails were in good shape and the views of the tunnel were fairly clear to see with the absence of foliage. As luck would have it, shortly after starting our return we hear a train whistle in the distance. The trail head is a little hard to find with no clear parking area near by but the detail on the wiki was good enough to get us to find it. Since the campground was closed we parked at the camp store, but it’s not clear where you would park in the summer months. Having fun was the Schaefer Family (Tim, Carrie, Jamie, Bob, Josie and dogs Zoinks! and Beetle) and the Zimmerman Family (Yuyan and Frankie).
The cold and rainy day prior turned into a beautiful autumn Sunday afternoon; however, I ended up hiking alone, although a dozen backpackers were seen proceeding north on the Trail and one south. The fall color was a few days before peak with some individual trees providing dazzling displays. The hike started as planned with the 0.8-mile crossing of the open farm pasture with views north up the valley. The cattle were ready to be let in from the middle field to be fed at the barn. The walk continued roughly another half hour into the woods, and then returned to the parking lot. I decided to check out the new trail relocation south of the Cross Mountain parking lot, so proceeded a mile south just past the bog bridges. The falling leaves allowed the tread to be less muddy. With the remaining afternoon, I visited two places at Shady Valley managed by The Nature Conservancy at Schoolyard Springs and Orchard Bog. The winding drive on US 421 was enjoyed in the fading daylight.
A day prior, we decided to do a last minute change up. Based on prior reports of the fire tower being popular for fall hikers we decided to look for a road less traveled. We settled on Rogers Ridge Horse Trail. See the wiki page or this month’s Feature of the Month for technical trail details, but it turned out to be a fantastic day of hiking. With our few side trips, the GPS logged us for a 15.5 mile day of hiking. It was also a very solitary hike. On a weekend when many should have been heading out to bald vistas like this, we saw absolutely no one except for a couple in a truck near the Tri-State Corner Knob of TN-VA-NC. Although we had decent glimpses of the surrounding ridges, we were truly rewarded at 5.33 miles when we entered the first bald clearing. We took a side trip to the left for some early views before resuming the ridge hike to the right. A vandalized cabin on the bald ridge peak of Stone Mountain, provided many topics of conversation. We completed the outbound hike with a view of the prior mentioned Tri-State Corner Knob. Some maps suggested that we could have returned by way of the doing Gentry Creek Falls in the reverse, but how was not clear. After hiking 8+mi at that point, we didn’t want to inadvertently add a few more by taking a wrong turn to only have to turn back. Overall the trail was fairly well marked for the specified trail, but none of the many well used connections were marked. Also, despite many signs at the trail head saying differently, the trail is obviously used routinely by Off-Road Vehicle riders. Joining me on this hike was Charlie Outlaw.
Our son Billy, his wife Joy, and seven kids, are becoming missionaries, serving the Caribbean Ministries Association of Chattanooga. They have heard me talk about Grayson Highlands and the ponies. They decided to add seeing the ponies to their “Bucket List” of things to do before they leave the country. The original plan was to leave Joy and the three youngest at our house; but at the last minute, they decided that everyone would go, even 10 month old Zeke. And, it was a good decision: the Fall colors were great, it was a lovely day, we saw lots of ponies, as seen in the photos. As we were driving on HW 58 back to Tennessee, we noticed a black cloud in the western sky. We were told that the only gas station for miles around in any direction was at Whitetop Mtn, but before we could pump enough gas to make it home, the sky opened-up, and you guessed it – it rained by the buckets full. On the next day, the rain, forced us to postpone the next “Bucket List” item: Canoeing on Warrior’s Path Lake.
Reporting: Terry Dougherty
Trip Date: September 21, 2014
We started our four mile hike on the eastern side of the lake in very light rain.
The trail was in poor condition with lots of over growth, 15 or more blow downs,
many foot log bridges rotted out, but the trail tread was good. There were very
limited views of the lake from that side. After 3 mi. of borderline bushwhacking we
came to the dam with very nice views of the lake. The trail was well marked, but the last serious maintenance was probably ten or more years ago for that side of the lake.
The mile of trail from the dam back to the starting point on the western side was in very good condition with nice views of the lake. A few ducks was the only wildlife we saw.
This area is isolated and if one wanted to hike without seeing anyone this might
be a good place. Hikers were Mary Tennant ,Thresa and Terry Dougherty.
What a beautiful day for a fall hike in the mountains of east Tennessee! We honestly could not have ordered a more perfect day. Our illustrious group of seven gathered at the trailhead to begin our nine-mile round-trip up to Pinnacle Mountain Fire Tower. The restrooms in the relatively new building at the trailhead provide a convenient beginning in preparation for the lengthy hike.
Several other hikers and bikers were also taking advantage of the beautiful day to get out and enjoy God’s creation. The trails many switchbacks make the trail probably the most doable 4.5-mile hike up a mountain anywhere in these parts. It can be completed by even the most casual hiker with a few rest stops on the way if necessary. While leaves are on the trees, the trail is shaded the whole way. The 360-degree views from the top of the tower were spectacular with the reds and yellows really outstanding! Although overall peak color was probably just a few days away, there were many trees that were already in full color. The bright blue sky and clear air allowed maximum visibility for many, many miles.
The hike downhill back to the parking area went very quickly and our group headed for home with mental pictures of beautiful views and several new friends among fellow hikers and lovers of the outdoors. Hikers were Zhufang Liu, Junjia Liu, Lin Liu, Jackie Liu, Jinghua Yuan, Jim Floyd and Barry Griggs.