Hike to Piney Falls

I have passed the sign to Piney Falls a gazillion times on my way to more talked about destinations. I mean, I had NEVER even heard Piney Falls mentioned anywhere.  It was always one of those that I thought I ‘might’ go to one day.

Well, I decided to look it up online one day when it just popped into my head. You know, to see if it was anything worth seeing. Well, to my surprise it was. As a matter of fact, it is one of the prettiest falls I have seen. Now, you need to be sure to go when there has been rain. I heard a woman talking about how in the middle of summer it is a trickle and not worth the trouble to get to.

Speaking of trouble…well, if I go there is usually trouble. Something happened that will forever be referred to as ‘The Incident at Piney Falls.”  The hike started out great. It was so good to get out. We just came out of what seemed like forty days and forty nights of constant rain.  All three of us were happy to finally be out and walking in the woods. We came to an intersection where you could go to the lower Piney Falls or continue on to the upper and walk across the top of the falls. That’s the way we decided to go. This was all of ten minutes into the hike. I had finally gotten a little handheld tripod for my phone and I had my big tripod for waterfall pics in my backpack. I was just about to put my phone up and watch where I was walking when my feet slipped out right from under me and down I went. First I landed hard on my butt and the back of my head hit the rock face I had slipped on. Then I was flung forward where I tried to keep from falling forward and this must of been when my knee hit and twisted causing me to hit the front top of my head on another rock. I knew instantly I had hurt my knee pretty badly. All I could hear was one of the ladies in the group say ”She hit her head! She hit her head!” When I fell my little tripod hit the water and my phone dislodged and sank near my head and the tripod went right over the falls. Unfortunately, no pictures of this section.

I pulled myself together and my friend ran over to help. I handed her my phone and she dried it off. I took off my pack and sat there for a few minutes holding my knee. After a bit, I got up and started to walk when I slipped again on another rock and slammed my shin on the same leg (left) inbetween two more rocks. I am shocked that this did not break my leg. I couldn’t believe TWO falls in one day. I got up from that and finally managed to get over to dry land. We stood there a few minutes and I really thought about going back. HOWEVER, that would mean crossing right back over where I had just fallen and I just didn’t think I could do it. So, I decided to trudge on to the rest of the hike. It’s a loop and I knew that at least I wouldn’t be on this part again. I just hoped there would be nothing else as difficult on the rest of the trail.

Well, just a little walk from the fall I had brought us to this steep descent with a rope. Of course, there would be a steep section with a rope. Why not?

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As you can imagine I was a little unstable on this section. I went insanely slow since my knee was screaming. I scooted on my rear down some of it as I would on other upcoming sections.

After a little bit, we got our first look at the falls.

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You will be on a hillside the entire time down to the falls and only levels out on the section of trail that is behind the falls.

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It wasn’t until I got down to the area where I could get a good shot of the falls that I found out that I had broken the head off my big, expensive tripod in the fall. I was so frustrated. All I had now was a mini pod thing and, honestly, my knee was hurting so  bad that I had a hard time concentrating on getting a really good picture of the falls.

Here’s a look after crossing behind the falls at the trial.

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I thought that the top of the falls was upper Piney and this section was lower Piney. I was wrong. We had not come to lower Piney.

I can’t remember how far you have to hike before you come to the lower piney sign.  The trail was very pretty and had some interesting rock faces. Lower Piney had a more level area where I could sit more comfortably and use my mini pod to get some good pictures.

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After a good break there we headed on up the hill.

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After we climbed up some wide steps we ran into this little guy and his people. His name was Garth.

He was the cutest dog EVER. He’s also a better hiker than I am. He’s done several from what his people said.

Soon after this, the trail leveled out and we were back to the fork. We headed on out to the car and to get our post hike meal (That’s why we do this. So we can eat without guilt.)

Now, if you look this up on alltrails it will be listed as an out and back. That’s not true. It’s a loop and it’s also around 3 miles total. So, the person that originally submitted it probably did not do the whole thing. https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/tennessee/piney-falls

Here is my wikiloc recorded trail:
https://www.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/spatialArtifacts.do?event=setCurrentSpatialArtifact&id=23976471

If you go, please just know that this is a moderate to difficult (in certain areas) trail. I recommend doing this clockwise UNLIKE what we did.  The hike was worth the trouble. Go after a good rain and take a camera and tripod.

Update on Knee:

The Monday after hike I went to the dr. She sent me for an xray and an mri. I have two sprains and a femoral attachment of medial patellofemoral retinaculum. In other words, something tore (not meniscus) and it will heal without surgery. So, I have been icing it for two weeks now and it’s still swollen.

Happy Hiking!

Lori

A Savage Rescue

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Hiking the Collins Gulf West Trail in Savage Gulf

The start of the hike was on a cool March morning. The time change had not happened yet so our hike would need to be paced so we could get out before dark. Six miles are all it was supposed to be. There would be waterfalls and spring flowers and a beautiful valley to hike through…and one whopper of a big hill to get up. I felt confident that the six miles would be completed way before sundown.

I was wrong.

First mistake.

Not checking the park website to verify the information I had gotten from a hiking website.  You see, a lot of the hiking websites have information uploaded by regular ol’ people.

Sometimes people get the information wrong.

Sometimes that wrong information can put someone in dire straits.

ALWAYS check the official website for park info.

I had been to this trail the year before to check out a waterfall and a bridge. On that hike, I first went to the waterfall and then double backed to go over to the bridge. The way that leads to the bridge has a long boulder field with small rocks and took forever to get through. You will need to know that for later in the story.

Lisa and I got to the trailhead and I had fixed up one of my extra day packs for her so she would have a full bladder of water.  I didn’t think the hike was long, but I did know it was going to have some difficult areas and that she would need water. She had brought her own backpack and two bottles of water. She turned down my offer of the bladder, insisting that she had plenty. At this point, I didn’t know what to do. I knew two bottles would not be enough, but I don’t like to tell adults what to do. So, I said, ‘ok, have it your way’.  Worst case, I could always share my water with her. I had 3 liters and I never actually drink that much. I put the pack back in the car and we started down the trail.

About a half mile into the trail she stopped and bent down to tie her shoe. When she did the water bottle she had in her backpack pocket leaked out all over the ground. She looked at me with an ‘oh, crap’ look and also a look of ‘please don’t say I told you so.’  I told her I had plenty and not to worry about it. I filled her bottle up with some of mine and off we went.

We got to Suter Falls in no time at all. Suter is gorgeous. There is a narrow path that leads down to a metal bridge that is in front of the falls. We stayed there for a long time taking pictures. It’s just one of those spots you can’t hike on through. You HAVE to stop and take it all in.

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Once we were through there we hiked on and started down into the valley. Everything was fine. The sun had really warmed us up and it was a beautiful day.  On the way down to the valley we met a group of four hikers.  They were on their way to a campsite. We talked for a few minutes and they went on past us.

Next stop was Horsepound falls. This was a smaller falls, but was pretty just the same. Here I decided to lose the thermals I had on. And Lisa, a yoga instructor, wanted me to get pics of her being silly with some yoga poses.  I took all the pics of her with her camera. We stayed there for quite awhile taking pics just like we had done earlier at Suter. Again, we took too much time doing that. We would pay for that in just a few hours.

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We left Horsepound and walked in the valley along a beautiful creek. We stopped over and over to take pictures not realizing we had been lollygaging a bit too much.

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We strolled along and before we knew it we had caught up with the family that passed us earlier. They had already set up their camp. We spoke as we walked on by and as we passed, the man asked if we had a flashlight.  Flashlight? Darn it. I usually carry one but I didn’t think I did this time. He ran over and gave me a tiny little light and said ‘you’re going to need this.’ Huh? Really? I said ok and thank you and we went on our way.  Soon we were hiking up Stagecoach Road (which is a dirt trail). This is a very steep section of the trail that will lead you back into the woods at the top. It was while we were hiking up this section that one of Lisa’s knees began to hurt. It’s also when I realized the trail was not six miles long but twelve.

Two young men passed us on the way up Stagecoach and spoke for a minute and then went on. It flattened out at the top but Lisa’s knee was really starting to bother her. I didn’t say it outloud, but I was thinking ‘Doesn’t matter. We have GOT to get moving to get out before dark.’ I am going to say that at this point it was probably around 4 or so. We went on into the woods  crossing over several little creeks. This section was so pretty but we couldn’t stop to enjoy it. We were on a mission. I realized about thrity minutes or so on this section that Lisa was moving even slower. She said her other knee was now hurting. We were moving incredibly slow. Like .3 miles an hour slow and the sun was setting quickly. All we had for light was our cell phones and the little flashlight the man had given me. The flashlight was no longer than my index finger and I was praying that it had a fresh battery.

I turned around to watch the sun setting behind Lisa.

There we were in the Savage Gulf in the pitch black with the tiniest flashlight I have ever seen to get us out.

Complete Silence.

I wasn’t sure how long she would be able to go. I told her that I knew if we got to the big bridge that we would be about a mile from the car. Remember, I had been there the year before. What I didn’t tell her was that past the bridge was the boulder field. Also, what I think is the hardest part of the trail.

We would walk a few feet and stop. Over and Over again. The weird thing was I wasn’t scared. Worried for her, yes. I wasn’t thinking of bears or bobcats or bigfoot. I was just thinking that we had to hurry up. Temperatures were beginning to drop as well. She had worn a light jacket. I had not.

I would run ahead and see if I could find the bridge and run back. Over and over nothing.  Finally, after a couple of hours of barely making any progress she told me she could not go any further.  She was done. We were next to a large boulder that had space in the middle of it. She suggested that we just hunker down and stay there for the night.  I knew that wasn’t going to be possible. I was freezing. We had to get out of there.

Off and on we had cell service. I took our phones, leaving her by the boulder and ran back up the hill we had just come down. I was able to get service. I finally got through to her husband who was none too happy with the situation. I asked him to call the rangers station and gave him the info on where I thought we were.  I told him we were not lost, but that her knees had just locked up. I hung up with him and finally got my husband and told him to do the same. After I hung up I heard Lisa calling my name and I ran back down to her. And there, standing with her, was a lady ranger. She said, ‘We’ve been looking for you two.’

Because we had not returned to our car they checked the hiker registry and they ran a check on my tags. Also, the two men that had been on the stagecoach part of the trail with us were camping at the first campsites nearest the parking lot. When it had gotten late and they had not seen us they called the rangers. They were looking for us long before our husbands had called.

It ain’t over yet.

The ranger called back to a couple of guy rangers that were on their way in as well. She told them that Lisa was not able to walk and would need assistance.  The ranger said that the big bridge I had been looking for was literally right there and that Lisa was going to have to try and walk herself across it. With her help we got her over the bridge. I knew now we weren’t that far from the parking lot, but, as I stated before, I also knew she could not do the next section. We sat down and waited for the men to arrive. Lisa told the ranger that she felt like it was her IT bands on her legs that were the problem and that they were really hurting. The men arrived and one got on either side of her. They would lift her legs and walk a few feet over the boulders and then put her down to rest. They did this several times when they finally called it. They said there was no way just the two of them could do it and would have to call for rescue.

It’s about nine o’clock.

It was cold.

They called in for rescue. While we were sitting there I told them that I was going to go ahead and try to get back to the car. I was freezing and had no jacket. Lisa did have one and I felt like she was in good hands.  She agreed and was ok with my living her and trying to get back to the car. One of the rangers gave me his headlamp and off I went.

In the dark.

By myself.

It felt like it was taking forever. At this point I had been hiking for over 12 hours. The adrenaline was finally wearing off and I was now feeling my own leg pain and exhaustion. I would walk 10 minutes and stop to rest. It was eerie. It was so quiet. I saw not a single animal. Just complete stillness.

After several minutes, maybe even an hour or so, I saw some headlamps coming towards me. Not just one or two but, about 24. And just like that they got to me and asked how far she was and I couldn’t even try to calculate it. I said the usual hiker answer “mile, mile and a half’. I know. Bad. It felt like ten since I had left her and I honestly had no idea how far. The trail of eager young men who seemed to live for this sort of thing zoomed on past me with a contraption called the wheel. It is basically a gurney with one wheel on the bottom of it in the middle.

 

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Once again, I was in the dark and alone.

I finally made it through the rocky area and back on regular trail. I could hear Suter falls rolling down the path that I passed to go back to the car. I sat down to rest. My legs were starting to really hurt. I needed to rest but rest made it worse when I would get up to walk. I pressed on and finally made it back to the car.

There was a fire truck there. Oh , yay. I am just glad there were no news crews. A fireman that was up there handed me some water. I got in my car, turned it on, cranked up the heat, laid the seat back and TRIED to get some sleep. I was going to have an almost three-hour drive home and I knew I couldn’t do that without some type of nap.

I think a couple more hours passed when I heard a commotion outside that woke me up. There was a pickup truck that had Lisa in the back strapped down to the wheel. Apparently they had backed the truck down the trail as far as they could go.

I jumped out and ran over. The men got her out of the truck and carried her over to the car and gently put her in her seat.

The ordeal was over.

I felt horrible. I could not believe that I had completely, foolishly  went by what a hiking website said.

This was a very hard lesson learned. I am thankful for all the help we had along the way. From the man with the flashlight, to the guys hiking up the trail with us, to all the rangers that were looking for us and for the volunteer rescue team that came out.  It was amazing to see how it all came together. Of course, it took a couple of days to ‘see’ it all. This could have turned out so much worse.

Twenty-four hours after I left my house to go on the hike I walked back through my front door and fell on the bed and slept for hours.

The next morning I contacted the owners of the website ( a VERY well known website) and told them what happened and that they needed to update the mileage for the trail. Within fifteen minutes it was updated.

 

Be Safe and remember to always check the park websites for info!

 

 

 

 

Hiking Cloudland Canyon’s West Rim and Waterfall Trails

The West Rim Trail

We started the trail at the trail head that is NOT at the main day use area. See link below for exact location. The section we did was just under three miles.

https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/cloudland-canyon-west-rim-trail-23300772

We did the loop clockwise walking along the rim. The views were incredible and only got better as the trail went along until we looped back and started the woodsy part of the trail.

I would rate this as a moderate trail only because of the tree roots and rocks on the rim section. The woods section is relatively easy with clear trails. For the most part it is pretty level but there are a few inclines you will trek up. That’s the main reason I would do it counterclockwise next time.

We only did the loop in this area. We opted to not go on to the waterfalls, but decided to head back to the car and drive over. A friend that had gone with us stayed back at the car because she had suddenly gotten sick. I wanted to go back to check on her anyway and get her thoughts on the rest of us going ahead with the other trail or if we needed to take her home.

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The Waterfall Trail

When I first read about this section I knew I had to come and see it for myself. The massive staircase that leads to the base, with all 600 steps, is really something to see. I can’t imagine being one of the trail workers on that project.

The area is very pretty but it was also very crowded. I was relieved to see some very much-older-than-I folks making their way back up the steps. That gave me hope. I knew though that this was going to be a brutal hike back up. It was. The hike down was worth the pain I feel today. I am glad I did it.

There are two falls that the steps lead to. The first one you come to is Cherokee falls. If you don’t think you will be able to do the rest of the steps you can just do this one and come back up. This waterfall is gorgeous and reminds me of Foster Falls here in Tennessee. It is eerily similar. If you decide to go on down to the bottom you will see Hemlock falls.  Stay there and rest up for the climb out. It took me right at thirty minutes to get back to the top. The two ladies that went down with me got back up a little sooner. I am slow on hills and stairs.

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Cherokee Falls

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Hemlock Falls
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There are so many places to see in this park that I can’t wait to go back.

Happy Hiking!

 

Ice Hiking Greeter and Foster Falls

The crazy low temperatures we have had for the last several days have made for some spectacular Instagram posts for frozen waterfalls and icicles.  And, as I am prone to do, I waited until the very last day that low temperatures were forecasted to go out and find me some frozen water.

I gathered together my closest hiking buddies (for the record, I have the BEST group of gals to hike with) and the four of us headed off into the cold, dreary Saturday morning in search of beauty and fellowship. We found it.

I have to admit I was taken aback by the number of cars that were in Greeter Falls parking lot when we pulled in. I mean, who is crazy enough to get out early with degrees in the teens and go hiking? Oh, wait!!! Nevermind.  I had really hoped that the hoopla was done and that I was the last person to decide to venture out and do this. I was so very wrong.  It was packed.  Packed with lots of people with cameras and equipment far better than mine. I suffer from LE aka. lens envy. I look at everyone else and figure why should I bother.

But I still do…..

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Not sure how I captured a pink sun flare. I did not add that in post.

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We stopped at Upper Greeter Falls first and were blown away.

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After seeing this we couldn’t wait to get down to the lower falls. The spiral staircase was clear of almost all ice. There was a huge frozen ice mass right next to them.

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Down the spiral and then down the long staircase to the base. It was ALL clear.

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treesccThere was even a husky running around. He was thrilled with the cold temperatures. His tag reads ‘Winter’. How cool is that?

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After Greeter we trekked on over to Foster Falls. I have to admit Foster is my favorite waterfall. However, my picutres did not do it justice. Unlike Greeter it was actually flowing quite well. I had accidentally left my neutral density filters at home ( I know, made me sick too). I was not able to catch the soft flowing water without them.

The hike down to Foster is very steep. It is not a long hike at all, just very, very steep. There is a little cave house right at the beginning of the descend and the ice was absolutely beautiful.

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Foster was creating a bowl at the base where the water had frozen when it splashed up.

It really was something to see.

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A little further up on the rock climbers trail there was a huge, frozen fall on the rock face. It was stunning.

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And, just like that, it was time to head back up the hill.

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Did I mention it was steep?

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And now, for the important part. I want to give a shout out to this awesome restaurant.

The post-hike meal. I mean, that IS why we hike isn’t it?

Whenever, and I mean with.out.fail, I am in the Savage Gulf area we stop and eat at Jim Oliver’s Smokehouse. I would describe it as Cracker Barrel’s redneck cousin. Their food is the best. I always get the bbq. They have a buffet as well that usually sports a gigantic iron skillet with bread budding. They have bbq sauce called “Blazin’ Rectum” and also have coffee and peach flavored sauces. You HAVE to stop there.  insert blurry iphone pic.

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That’s it!

Happy Hiking!

Hike to Busby Falls

Short Springs Natural Area in Tullahoma, Tn is, most notably, home to Machine Falls. It is the main destination for most people. However, the area has so much more to offer than just Machine Falls.

I have been to the area on numerous occasions and have photographed Machine Falls every time I have gone.  However, today I had another destination in mind. I wanted to hike back to Busby Falls. There is an overlook trail that takes you to a neat little area that overlooks (hence the name) upper Busby Falls. I have been to this overlook several times and have always wanted to see the falls from below.

The trail is quite tricky to navigate and there are no signs even indicating that you can get there the way I went. So, listen closely, and you can also trek to this little, hidden gem that I assure you few people would try to get to. Keep in mind I did this solo. So, you can do it too.

The day started out with rain. It was expected so I wasn’t too concerned and I made sure I brought along a big umbrella. I know most hikers use ponchos. I would if I did not have glasses.  Poncho’s don’t keep the rain off your face and that drives me nuts. The umbrella works fine for me.

In your GPS just put in Short Springs Natural Area in Tullahoma, Tn. You will park at a large water tower. They have recently actually made an officially paved parking area.  It had been just a gravel pull off.  You will park, and then cross the street to start the trail.

I would encourage you to go to the Busby Falls overlook trail first. It’s a nice little hike and will give you an idea of where you will be hiking up to.  The trail goes on over a bridge but, the last time I was there it just went onto a small loop trail that brought you right back to the bridge and there really wasn’t much to see on the loop.  But, by all means, check it out if you want.

Since I did not go to the overlook on this trip I cannot remember if the trail takes you back to the Machine Falls loop or not. So, if there are no signs pointing you to Machine Falls come back to the trail head and take the Machine Falls Trail. Stay on the main trail. You will eventually come to the part of the trail that you can tell is getting a little more rugged.  You will descend down a very steep area with some wooden steps. Go all the way to the bottom. You will see a sign pointing you to Machine Falls (don’t go over the bridge)  to the right and the Wildflower Trail to the left.  Even though this post is about Busby Falls PLEASE DO GO check out Machine Falls. It’s RIGHT THERE and it’s stunning.

To get to Busby Falls take the Wildflower Loop trail and go counter clockwise (mainly because the clockwise way was very overgrown).  You will follow the loop right to the point where it would be looping to come back to the beginning. You will see a small trail that goes straight to the right (it’s right at the center of the loop).

This is where it gets fun. In a sort of weird, hiker fun kinda way. Normal people will not think this is fun.

Now, when I say ‘trail to Busby Falls’ I use this term ‘trail’ lightly. What little actual trail there is comes and goes and has been closed off by various blow downs. Basically, you will be in a very rocky creek bed that you will follow all the way to the falls. The good thing is you can’t really get lost since it just takes you one place…the falls.  You will, however, get wet. Your feet will, more than likely, be completely submerged in water or muck at some point on this little jaunt. So, take either water shoes or a change of socks and shoes with you.  As always I do not recommend flip flops or sandals.

This is what you will be walking through. I am not sure about the mileage. I don’t think it is all that far. Maybe, at most a half mile, but I doubt it’s even that far. It was just so slow going that it seemed that far.

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Along the way, there were several smaller falls coming off the sides of the hills on either side as you walk down the creek bed.  I only stopped and took pictures of one.  Can you tell why? (cough, cough) No, I did not make this Cairn, but I love it!!

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Tons of photo ops on this trail from water features to cairns, to mountain laurel that was falling from the trees above the falls.

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bf9The pollen was really bad. I didn’t realize that my lens was covered when I took this picture. I still like it though. I was constantly wiping my lens off.

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Pretty much the whole way you can hear the falls. Just keep following the creek bed and the sound and you will eventually get there.

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This area was so beautiful that three hours passed before I knew it. I had literally stayed three hours here taking pictures.  I climbed over more stuff and walked through more stinky mud than I have in a long time to get some of these pictures. And I absolutely loved every minute of it. Well, except for the mosquitos. They were BAD.

So, there you have it. A beautiful, hard hike that I would do again in a second.  Take your time. Oh, and watch out for snakes. Surprisingly I did not see a single one, but I know they had to be there.

Here are some need to knows before you go:

  • Bug Spray.  A LOT of bug spray. In fact, don’t just spray it on. Soak in a vat of Deet from head to toe.  I used skin so soft which usually does the trick. Well, not with these mosquitos. They must be terminator mosquitos. I have over 50 bites to prove it.  As a matter of fact, they are why I left and didn’t go back to the overlook.
  • Good Shoes/water shoes that you don’t mind getting wet and muddy
  • Extra shoes to change back into and socks as well
  • Water. It was 89% humidity yesterday and I felt every bit of it.  Take more than you think you will drink.
  • Snacks
  • Camera
  • Neutral Density Filter if a sunny day. You could get by without one if it’s very overcast.
  • Tripod

 

Winding Stairs

A quick text from my nephew came in the other day to tell me about a park in Lafayette, Tn in Macon county. He asked if I had ever been to this park. Nope. It was a new one to me, but I could not wait to check it out. There was very little online about it, but I did manage to find a few YouTube videos and a couple of news articles talking about the city acquiring the land.

I typed in Winding Stairs Park into google and off I went. As usually happens with new areas google took me past the clearly marked park entrance down a road that dead ended at a family cemetery.  I decided to just see where google would take me. I thought maybe it knows better. Obviously, not. So, I backtracked and went back to the sign. If you put in Hearthstone Inn in Lafayette it will take you right to the entrance. It’s next door to the little motel. There is a long gravel road you will go down passing a small fishing pond. Parking for the pond is across from it on the driveway. Keep going and you will see a pavilion with parking.

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The park is so new, in fact,  that there are no printed maps. I took a picture of the hand drawn map that was stuck at the pavilion.

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The area is quite pretty but the falls are a little difficult to see in the summer months. I expect it to be much better viewing in the fall and winter. There are several trails that lead all around this large basin where you can hear water and you know there is a waterfall, but it’s just difficult to see and almost impossible to get a good picture. Some of the trails lead you to the bottom but then are roped off indicating, I guess, that they don’t want you going beyond that point.

There is a short paved trail that is wheelchair accessible that leads to a nice overlook area. But again, because it’s summer, there just isn’t anything to see once you get there.

The easiest trail to the cascades is the Red Oak Trail. Both Jacob’s Ladder and the Cascades Trail are very steep and, if it has rained, very muddy.  A lady I ran into showed me how to get down to smaller falls via the Red Oak Trail and said that it was the easiest one. Now, easiest is relative to your own hiking experiences. I would call this trail moderate. Jacobs Ladder is strenuous. I actually came back up from the cascades via JL. I did not do the whole cascades trail. I only went by what the lady told me as to the difficulty of it.

These are some of the trails down towards the falls in the basin. As you can see very steep.

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When you are in the parking lot standing at the kiosk. Do not take the trail straight ahead. Instead, take the trail that is to the left of the kiosk. It will take you down to the Red Oak Trail.  The sign is across the creek and you have to look for it. Sort of like if it were a snake it would have bit you.

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Before heading up the Red Oak Trail stop at the creek and walk down a bit and you can climb down to these. It is VERY SLICK. I had to scoot on my butt to get down there to these. The map is very accurate. If you look at it this spot is right after the blue line crosses over the creek.

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There were several little moles running around down there. So, if you have a backpack make sure to keep it on. I had dropped my pack but decided to put it back on. I didn’t want one of the little critters getting in and scaring me later in the car.  Here is a little video I took of a suicidal mole.

After that, I went on up the Red Oak Trail and followed the little map to the cascade waterfalls. The trail was very dense and so green. I mean REALLY green. I am certain that in the fall this will be a gorgeous little hike. So, follow the map and go past Jacobs Ladder and follow on up to the cascades. There are two sets. The one on the left looks like it will be really pretty once all the brush is cleared away from it. Right now you can barely see the water peeking through all the blow down that is across it. The one that you can see though is very nice.

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On the way back up I took Jacobs Ladder. I wanted to see if it was as hard as the woman made it sound. Well, yes it was. If I had not had my trekking poles there would have been and ‘incident’ no doubt.

(This was at the top of the hill)

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This is on the way up and this wasn’t even the steepest part.

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Once at the top, you are standing in front of the 100-year-old oak tree and there is the most beautiful bench you will ever see. I was so happy to see it.

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After making sure I wasn’t having a stroke I took the trail that is back to the left of the bench. It’s a short walk back to the car from that point. Technically you could more quickly get down to the cascades by going down Jacobs Ladder. Just know that it is incredibly steep and you really do need trekking poles or, at the very least, sturdy sticks.

Now for my soap box.

This was an enjoyable hike. It was very crowded. What I saw were a lot of folks that had absolutely no clue what they were in for on these trails. I saw lots of cute sandals and flip flops, lots of kids being carried by their parents and lots of hands carrying no water. I have hiked a lot. All of these could be issues in the right conditions. Granted, it’s not a long hike as far as hiking goes. It is, however, strenuous and in hot months you can become dehydrated very quickly. Carrying small children up something like Jacobs Ladder is an accident waiting to happen. If I were with the city I would be sure to post something about carrying water and wearing proper footwear. There was a sign giving the usual warnings about not playing on the rocks etc, but nothing about water or footwear.

What to know:

  • Good Shoes (no flip flops)
  • Water
  • Trekking Poles or sturdy sticks
  • Don’t carry your kids
  • Camera
  • Tripod
  • Neutral Density Filter for waterfall photography
  • Take a photo of the map

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