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.
Barry Griggs reporting
Trip date: September 28, 2014
On a warm, but comfortable Sunday afternoon our hike began at the trailhead at the intersection of Legion Street and Alabama Street in Johnson City, TN. The parking lot at the trailhead was overflowing, but parking was available in other nearby gravel areas. The trail is obviously very popular with walkers, runners and bikers, especially on weekends, as we were never out of sight of one or more people. With two cancellations and one no-show, this became a Griggs/Metcalf family hike. My wife Beverly and I were joined by our daughter, Jill Metcalf and her husband, Josh Metcalf. We walked out two miles and back to make it a four-mile hike. The trail has markers every 0.2 miles, so it’s very easy to make the walk/ride whatever distance you like. The finished portion of the trail from JC to Elizabethton is 4.5 miles. It should be a very easy walk for most anyone, with a slight uphill grade when returning to JC. The trail is a very nice addition to our region.
This started out as trip to Lake Keokee, but the leader was out voted by popular
demand. The water level was low in Devils Fork which made the fifteen or so
creek crossings much easier. There were lots of hikers on the trail that day
because of the good weather. Attending were Brenda Hitch, Gabriela Bruggeman, Thresa Dougherty, and Terry Dougherty.
Another in the TEHCC Sunday Hike series, on August 17th the featured hike was in Kingsport at Bays Mountain. The Bays Ridge Loop covers about 5.3 miles to the southwestern side of the park and back. Weather was warm but rain free for a pleasureable Sunday outing. Enjoying this hike were Peggy McClain and Tim McClain.
The warm, sunny afternoon with a chance of thundershowers did not deter our feisty group of hikers. They weren’t even too discouraged by the leader’s difficulty in locating the planned starting point for the hike – a little whiny, but not discouraged. My wife, Beverly, and I met good friends, Lowell and Betsy Biller at Natural Tunnel State Park to hike the Purchase Ridge trail. The plan was to get on this trail in the campground, compete the loop at the end of this trail and return via the Cabin Trail and the campground road.
The starting point proved to be a little hard to find, so it was decided to do the planned route in reverse. We walked up the road to the Cabin Trail and hiked to where it joined the Purchase Ridge Trail. Since we had already some extra walking on the Gorge Ridge Trail to Lover’s Leap Overlook and because of more whining from certain hikers, it was decided to omit the loop and head back to our originally planned starting point on the Purchase Ridge Trail. It was cooler after we actually got in the woods on the trail. The leader no longer feared a mutiny. But seriously, it was a fun afternoon with friends in a beautiful part of our region. Our total distance was about 3.5 miles, not much more than the 3.25 we had planned.
We discovered the planned starting point is actually off the right side of the road about 100 yards past the camp store. It is off the road several yards at the edge of the woods and there is no sign marking the trail by name. There is a sign showing all the trails, but it’s easy to miss if driving down the road.
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
Under dry but threatening skies, four dedicated hikers decided to forge ahead and tackle the 3-mile round-trip hike to White Rocks on Buffalo Mountain. According to the forecast and radar, it was almost certain that we would get wet before we returned, but so what! About thirty minutes into the hike our weather expectations were realized as a light drizzle began to fall. The rain gradually increased in intensity and everyone donned their rain gear (those who had it) for some degree of protection. While there was a steady drizzle and some wind, it never reached the level of a downpour and there was no thunder, so we were good. We encountered one other wet group of hikers from a Johnson City church who were trying to locate their church through the fog/rain from the White Rock overlook, but no luck. Footing was a bit iffy at times with piles of wet leaves on the sometimes rather steep trail, but that just added to the adventure. After White Rocks, we decided to continue on to the communication towers and return via the Tower Ridge Trail to see some different scenery. In spite of the uncooperative weather, we had a very enjoyable hike with good company. Our group included Paula Cahill, Peng Song, William Werner and Barry Griggs.
Vic Hasler reporting
On a gorgeous, late fall, Sunday afternoon, one car carrying David Kossor, Gerald Scott, Marc Schurger, and Vic Hasler took the 50-minute drive to the trailhead arriving at 2PM. With an early 5:30PM sunset, long shadows were already creeping into the valley. Leaves thickly covered the gravel road which runs along the cascading Rocky Fork stream. Back on wintery January 10, 1789 morning, John Sevier and his men had to walk or ride horses in snow along or in the cold flow – pulling “grasshopper” field cannon with three pound balls/canister shot. A portion of the troops were also sent over Flint Mountain to close the retreat path. Upon reaching Flint Creek, we discovered that a large blowdown across the stream has been converted into a simple bridge, thus affording a quick and dry passage. The Indian encampment site was in the bottomlands where the two creeks merged. Sevier reported determining their exact location from the smoke of their campfires. The wet weather caused the gunpowder to not function, so the battle quickly evolved into hand-to-hand combat with sword and tomahawk. The encounter was no longer than an hour, leaving a “bloody field” per the governor’s report. For the hikers, we could see the regrowth forest in the lowlands, but could only imagine what occurred on that snowy morning. We hiked to the upper end where the Flint Trail continues following the creek up to the ridgeline at the A.T., and then turned back. A nice easy three-mile hike was enjoyed. Some will be back next year to pursue fishing, and a hike to the top of White House Cliffs as a newly cut trail was observed.