Hike To Laurel Snow Waterfall

April 1, 2017

The morning drive to Laurel Snow Pocket Wilderness started out with drizzling rain and very cool temperatures.  There were four of us on this trip. My nephew and his girlfriend and a good friend of mine from work. None of them had been there before and I was excited to show them the area.

When we arrived the parking lot already had several cars and, because the day was to clear up and be nice, I knew there would be a lot more people showing up.

We started out for the stroll on the Richland Creek Part of the trail. This section is easy. Anyone who is a budding photographer or limited in their ability to hike long distances will love this section. You could just stay on this part all day and not run out of photo ops. It’s absolutely gorgeous.

There is an entrance to the old mine that websites say you are not to go in. Well, I don’t know how serious they are about that since it’s wide open and clearly, everyone who does this hike goes into the mine.  If they are serious about that then it needs a gate.  It’s very dark so if you really want to see anything be sure to have a flashlight handy.

Once you are past that, the trail will turn sharply to the right. I actually missed the turn and kept going straight until I realized something was wrong. I saw the ‘main trail’ sign when I turned around.

So now, the ascent begins. It is steady going up and loaded with switchbacks and ‘short cuts’ leading straight up. I may do a couple of short cuts here and there, but for the most part, I stay on the regular trail.

There was a long 150′ foot bridge that had been there since 1976. However, several years ago it was damaged during a storm.  Up until sometime recently it was still there and was a mangled mess. It was there the first time I went but has since been removed. Now there is no man-made crossing. You have to use fallen trees.  We watched some other hikers and decided what they were doing was the easiest and it was. We got over the creek with no problem at all.

The difficulty in the trail picks up a bit once you cross the creek. There are several rock fields you have to go through and it’s very easy to slip and roll and ankle. It’s a steady climb up the trail. At one point, where the tiny falls where the crosses are painted on the rock, you will have to climb through a small tunnel to get to the other side of the trail. This area is very pretty and there are several smaller falls making for some great photo ops.

After stopping for a few minutes for lunch on the trail we were back at it and got to the falls within just a few minutes. The falls are very impressive. It’s 80 feet tall and, if the rains have been good, will be flowing well enough to get some good long exposure pictures. I don’t know how well it would be flowing in the dryer summer months. So, if you go in the summer just make sure it’s after a rain. It would be a huge disappointment to go all that way for it to be a trickle.

You can climb up on the rocks to get a closer view of the falls. I did not do that on this trip. To be honest, I was tired and just wanted to sit and look up at them for awhile before heading back down.

When we got back down to the Richland Creek trail we saw some people practicing rock climbing. We met a girl carrying a mattress type thing on her back. It was really funny. She had a very determined look on her face. I turned around once she passed and snapped a picture. When we got back to the trailhead I was shocked at how many cars there were. I had never seen it that crowded before. So, just be sure if you go on the weekend to get there early to beat the crowds.

Need to know:

  • Hard Hike
  • Depending on what website you look at you will see various mileage reports. The Fitbit said it was just under 7 miles (round trip)Some sites say 4. Who knows? Just plan on about 4-5 hours (breaks and picture time added in)
  • Good shoes!!
  • Trekking poles ( I NEVER hike without them)
  • Snacks/Water
  • Camera/tripod/neutral density filters for long exposture water flowing pictures

 

 

Hike To Slave Falls and Needle Arch

March 30, 2017

The weather could not have been more perfect. While they were predicting storms of biblical proportions back in west and middle Tennessee, I decided to head about three hours north east and take in some hiking.

My original plans were to take a good friend of mine on a birthday hike to Twin Arches. However, the weather alerts spooked her and she dropped out. No amount of reasoning was going to convince her that the storms were not going to be anywhere near the area where we would be hiking. She thought I was nuts for going. I knew I would be fine.

So, I hit the road and headed out for yet another solo hike. Early on I decided to ditch the Twin Arches hike. I have been several times and wanted to see a new area of Big South Fork. So, I decided on Slave Falls.

According to the sign at the falls the area is named Slave Falls because escaping slaves would often hide in the caves around the falls.  The area, like all of Big South Fork, is gorgeous. I imagine there were plenty of places for someone to hide. There are many caves in the area and water is everywhere.

After you turn onto Divide Road just follow the signs to the Sawmill Trail head.

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Looking back up the trail after starting the descend.

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The trail hugs the sandstone walls all the way to the falls.

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The falls were not flowing that great, but it was still a hike worth doing. There is a fence to keep people from trying to get to the base.

Hike to Needle Arch

After coming back up the hill at the Slave Falls trail I went left and took the short path up to Needle Arch. It’s a small arch created after thousands of years of erosion. NOTHING compared to the Twin Arches a few miles away. Now THOSE are some arches. While this wasn’t anything monumental, kids will like seeing it. There is a sign posted to keep off the arches. Since the hike to it isn’t all that far it’s worth doing.

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 From the National Park Service Website:

Slave Falls/Needle Arch
This short, easy hike includes a good view of a 60 foot waterfall as well as a natural arch. The hike is approximately 1.5 miles one way and can be done in about an hour. There may be very little water coming over the falls in late summer and fall but the hike is still worthwhile. To access Slave Falls use the Sawmill trailhead located on the western part of the park in Tennessee. Turn on Divide Road and travel one mile from Hwy 154. At the next intersection turn right on to Fork Ridge Road. Sawmill will be on your left just past the Middle Creek Equestrian trailhead.

Need to know:

  • Easy hike for beginners and children
  • Take a camera
  • water/snacks/comfortable shoes

Burgess Falls

A chilly day in November was the perfect day to head to Burgess Falls in Sparta, TN. The drive is only about an hour and a half from Nashville.

The one mile hike down to the falls is one of the best and easiest hikes for newbies to hiking. It is especially beautiful in the fall. There is an overlook that gives you a nice view of the falls and then a lovely trail that takes you down to the top of the falls. At one time there was a metal ladder that ran alongside the falls that you could take to get down to the base. However, due to a flood those steps are no longer safe and have been closed.

There are several tress that have been carved with various loves over the decades.  It’s so neat to walk around and read the trees. I have never had my name or initials carved into a tree.  How neat that would be to go back and see something that was done when you were young and point it out to your children.

 

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Need to know before you go:

  • Easy hike(except for the hike back up the  hill)
  • Great for people just getting into hiking
  • Take a camera with a polarizer and neutral density filter. Tripod a must.
  • Great hike for kids