Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Trail Maintenance

Judy Varner, TC Varner, Jane Ellett, Carol Deakins, and Don Deakins hiked into Soddy Gorge along Board Camp Creek with fire rakes and cleaned a section of trail that was overgrown with poison ivy and briers. Conditions were relatively comfortable at start of this project but as the day progressed, temperature and humidity rose and reminded us that weather is still not suitable for hard work out on the trail. Leaves have already begun to fall so cooler weather is on its way.

Slide show of Don's photos

Lunch break on an almost dry Board Camp Creek

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sale Creek

Judy Varner, TC Varner, Mark Jordan, Teresa Jordan, Caroline Woerner, Joanne Denise, Jeff Guenther, and Don Deakins paddled Sale Creek and explored two feeder creeks we had overlooked in the past. Our first side trip was into Hodgetown Branch. We were able to paddle a distance of about .2 mile before we encountered unnavigable water. We turned around, paddled back to Sale Creek, and continued upstream for another half mile where we made a left turn into Rock Creek. Rock Creek looked good but, around the first bend, quickly became too shallow to proceed so we stopped for a snack break before turning around. After the break we headed back toward the boat ramp but took an alternate route shown to us by Jeff and Joanne. It was spectacular and resembled what I imagine waterways in the Amazon to be. We did not stop at the ramp but continued paddling downstream until we reached the large open body of water that extends to Browns Bridge. Wind was up and the water was white-capping. We played in the rough water for awhile and then returned to the boat ramp where some decided we wanted more paddling. Four of us then paddled back up Sale Creek to US-27 bridge and back which resulted in a total distance for the day of 9.75 miles.

Slide show of Don's photos

Preparing for launch

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hiwassee Island Overnite

Judy Varner, TC Varner, and I made an overnight kayak trip to Hiwassee Island. We used my flat bottom boat to haul necessities like lawn chairs and a few other heavy items. I also hauled my kayak in the flat bottom boat so I had two boats to contend with. Next time I'll take only one.

After camp was set up, we fished and paddled around on the east side of Hiwassee Island. Late evening was spent on Ziegler Island solving world problems while enjoying the shallow water and sandy bottom.

Fun ended at bed time. For anyone acclimated to an air conditioned environment, the heat and humidity created conditions not conducive to sleep. I'll either install an air conditioner in my tent or wait on cooler weather before doing this again.

Slide show of Don's photos

Enjoying evening coolness on Ziegler Island

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tadpole Branch

Today's 7.5 mile paddle trip began on the Tennessee River at the old Washington Ferry site on Highway 30 between Dayton and Decatur. We paddled 1.5 miles up river to Clear Creek, followed Clear Creek for about 500 feet and then turned our kayaks into Tadpole Branch which we followed for about 1.5 miles. Tadpole Branch was littered with many overhanging trees we had to paddle under and numerous log jams we had to paddle around or force our boats over. At the 1.5 mile mark Tadpole Branch had narrowed to the point where there was little more than enough room to turn the boats around and a concrete bridge blocked further progress so we turned around and headed back downstream. When we arrived back at Clear Creek, we decided to explore it. At about .6 miles up Clear Creek, our curiosity was satisfied so we turned around and began paddling back toward Tennessee River as rain began to fall. Rain ended after a few minutes and we had clear sailing all the way back to Washington Ferry.

Slide show of Don's photos

Preparing for launch

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hornet Hunt

The goal of today's maintenance hike was to destroy a nest of hornets along Cumberland Trail which had reportedly attacked and stung a hiker 15 times. The hike began at the new trail head recently constructed by Southeastern Climbers Coalition on Old Hotwater Road. This new access dramatically reduces the distance required to reach Cumberland Trail in the Deep Creek area where rock climbers practice their sport.

Highlight of the day came when we encountered a copperhead on the trail just after crossing Deep Creek. All previous venomous snakes I have encountered on the trail have been very cooperative and allowed me to photograph them but this little snake just wanted to go hide so I had to snap these pictures on the run.

After reaching the area above Big Soddy Creek where the hornets nest was supposed to be, we performed a thorough search but found nothing. We even extended the search area all the way down to Big Soddy Creek and still came up empty handed. On our return hike we did find a yellow jacket's nest in the ground along the trail near Deep Creek and destroyed it. We couldn't help but wonder if the reported hornets above Big Soddy Creek were actually yellow jackets above Deep Creek. One thing we didn't wonder about was the's still too hot to do much hiking.

Slide show of Don's photos

Group photo on Big Soddy Creek

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

And More Jeep Trails

Although Bob DeHart and I wanted to further explore the Persimmon Branch maze we found last week, a logging operation in that area prevented us from entering. Instead we found and explored side trails in other areas we had overlooked during previous weeks and, on Maple Branch Road, found rocks that provided a challenge to the jeep.

Maple Branch Road is a fun place for a jeep

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

More Jeep Trails

Bob DeHart and I thought we had just about traveled all jeep trails at Prentice Cooper but we learned today there are many more roads yet to be seen. Persimmon Branch Road, which we expected to be a short dead-end trail, turned into an endless maze of rugged ATV trails. We spent the entire morning exploring this maze and still left with much of it unseen. Looks like it will require many more trips to explore all jeep trails in this state forest.

Wildlife was scarce today but we did happen upon a pack of coyotes. They were as surprised as we were and scattered like a covey of quail. One even ran toward the jeep until it regained presence of mind, then turned and headed into the woods. I’m already wondering what we will encounter on the next trip.

Taking a break at Persimmon Branch

We got to do some minor rock crawling in numerous places