Thursday, December 10, 2015

Big Soddy Creek

In December 2014, I made a video about the Soddy Gorge segment of Cumberland Trail. At that time the bridge over Big Soddy Creek was still under construction. We had to turn back because the creek was too dangerous to attempt a crossing and we couldn't include the bridge in the video. It is now one year later and the bridge is finally complete. TC Varner, Carol, and I hiked in to record some video of the new bridge which will be edited into the original video. We picked an excellent day to hike; conditions couldn't have been better. T-shirt weather in December is becoming common place.

Group photo at Big Soddy Creek

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

McGill Creek Prep

In preparation for McGill Creek trail construction, TC Varner, Don Deakins, Bob DeHart, Keith Weller, and Caroline Woerner along with Chattanooga Hiking Club (Suzanne Dorough, Teresa Dean, Mac Dean, Louis Spencer, John Rowland, Bill Kinnaman, Gwen Brimer, Trish Appleton, Che Carico, and Wanda McCarter) cleared the approximate one mile long logging road that stretches from Brayton Road to McGill Creek. We used a chain saw, brush cutter, weed eater, many handsaws, pruners, and loppers. You can now walk the entire length of the old road without being hit in face with limbs or having to climb over blow-downs.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Bushwhacking McGill Creek

TC Varner and I accompanied Cumberland Trail State Park Manager Bobby Fulcher on a bushwhacking tour of McGill Creek. Today's trek was on the south side of creek. I have never walked, stumbled, slid, or crawled over more rugged terrain. Today's hike gave me a completely new meaning for the word "bushwhacking". It's gonna be a tough trail segment to build but it will be beautiful once complete.

Group photo in an unnamed creek

McGill Falls had good flow today

We gonna put a trail thru here!!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Pot Point Loop

Our crew met Sara Pollard's crew at the secondary trailhead in Prentice Cooper for a hike around Pot Point Loop. We hiked down to Hemlock Branch Campsite, then on to Ransom Hollow Overlook, followed by a stop at McNabb Gulf Campsite for lunch. Leaving McNabb Gulf, we bushwhacked to Davis Pond where we had previously staged two vehicles for a total hike distance of about 4.5 miles. Sara's hard core group continued on around the loop with plans to complete the approximate 12 miles.

Group photo at Ransom Hollow Overlook

Monday, November 16, 2015

Mowbray to Hotwater

We made our third pass on the 4.9 mile segment of Soddy Gorge Trail between Mowbray Pike and Hotwater Road, removing blow-downs that we had ignored on previous trips because small hand saws were not big enough. Today instead of a chainsaw, we carried large hand saws and an ax. Hand tools require more work but sometimes it seems easier than carrying a heavy chainsaw for 5 miles.

Group photo along the trail

Rock hopping across Little Soddy Creek

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Big Soddy Creek Bridge

We spent most of the day on Cumberland Trail with most of that time at Big Soddy Creek Bridge. The bridge is finally complete except for cleaning up the construction site. It was completed just in time to be used by trail runners during their annual 50k UpChuck trail race. We saw the majority of 78 runners cross the bridge and I'm sure they all prefer the bridge to wading the cold and deep creek.

bridge photos

Group photo on south end of bridge

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

McGill Creek Again

Our second venture into McGill Creek which I expected to take about three hours ended up taking about six. Although the first mile was on an old logging road and relatively easy walking, the remainder of the hike was bushwhacking and extremely slow and difficult. Probably at least two or three more trips will be required to explore the entire proposed route for the new McGill Creek trail segment and I'm looking forward to it. It is a beautiful area.

Bushwhacking photos

Group photo below McGill Falls

Sunday, November 8, 2015

McGill Creek

Larry Hill, Bob DeHart, and I made our first exploratory hike along the proposed route of the McGill Creek trail segment which will connect Graysville Mountain Trail to Rock Creek Trail. Construction is scheduled to begin in January. The first 6/10 mile from Roaring Creek to Brayton Road crossing is very rugged and will probably require one mile of trail to span that section. An old road stretches from the Brayton Road crossing to McGill Creek, at least the topo maps indicates it does. We were short on time and hiked less than 1/4 mile down this road but our next trip will be to McGill Creek and beyond.

Group photo on old road to McGill Creek

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Blow-down Removal

Keith, TC, Carol, and I spent the morning on Soddy Gorge trail removing 3 large blow-downs and a few more smaller trees that were overhanging the trail and would have been on the ground soon. Two of the larger ones were near the Mowbray Pike trailhead, one at Little Stone Door and another about 1/2 mile beyond. The third large blow-down was near the Sluder Lane trailhead in Little Soddy Historic Mining Area. Now that these have been removed, we can hike the entire length of trail with an ax or small chainsaw and remove numerous other small trees on the trail.

time lapse video

Group photo on Soddy Gorge Trail

Friday, October 30, 2015

Trail Maintenance

Bob DeHart, Carol Deakins, and Don Deakins hiked the 5.5 mile section of Soddy Gorge from Mowbray Pike to Hotwater Road crossing, removing debris from trail along the way. Expecting a relatively clean trail, we carried only hand saws and pruners but quickly learned a chainsaw was needed. We did lots of work with tools we had but a return trip with chainsaw will be required and a pass through with weed eaters wouldn't hurt.

Group photo along Soddy Gorge trail

Saturday, October 24, 2015

CTC Board Meeting

I had the pleasure of attending a Cumberland Trail Conference board meeting today which consisted of about two hours of business followed by about two hours of hiking on new trail. This new segment north of Black Mountain begins on Hebbertsburg Road and runs along Daddys Creek. It will eventually connect with the Obed River segment. This trail is out in the boonies. You don't hear road traffic, jets overhead, or trains in the distance.

Group photo at yet to be named overlook

Arriving at work location

Pete and Charlie hard at work

Trail building machine

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Possum Gorge North

We planned to remove blow-downs from the southern half of Possum Gorge Trail but tackled the longer northern section instead. There was plenty to do on this approximate 5 mile segment which took us about 7 hours of trail time. We did it the hard way with ax and hand saws. Fortunately we didn't encounter any trees that were too big for the ax so we won't have to make a return trip with chainsaw.

Don's photos

A very tired group at end of day

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Trail Along 111

TC Varner, Judy Varner, Carol Deakins, and Don Deakins spent this morning on the one mile section of Soddy Gorge Trail that parallels highway 111. It skirts along the highway right-of-way fence and is covered with small trees and weeds. We trimmed the weeds, removed countless limbs obstructing the path, and cut a few blow-downs laying across the trail. This completes Soddy Gorge Trail preparation for the UpChuck Trail Race in November.

Group photo at trail entrance on highway 111

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

More Soddy Gorge

Judy Varner, TC Varner, Carol Deakins, and Don Deakins hiked the section of Soddy Gorge Trail between highway 111 and Soddy Gulf, removing blowdowns and other trail obstruction along the way. We carried hand saws, pruners, and TC carried his ax. Fortunately we didn't encounter anything the ax couldn't handle so we won't have to go back in with a chainsaw. To complete the Soddy Gorge Trail we lack only the 1 mile section that parallels highway 111 and plan to clear it this Saturday.

Group photo in a hard to reach spot on Board Camp Creek

We did lots of this today

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Soddy Gorge

Larry Hill, Caroline Woerner, Judy Varner, TC Varner, Carol Deakins, and Don Deakins spent about 5 hours on the 3 mile section of Soddy Gorge Trail between Deep Creek and Hotwater Road. Our intention was to inspect the trail but, as usual, we did much more than inspect. With pruners and hand saws, we were able to remove all trail obstructions except one which will require a chainsaw, digging tools, and a come-a-long (hand operated winch).

Group photo at Posey Point
We cut many like this with hand saw
Another big one cut with hand saw

Monday, October 5, 2015

More Loop Maintenance

Keith Weller, Bob DeHart, Carol Deakins, and I completed removing blowdowns from the upper section of Rock Creek Loop and returned a short section of trail back to its original route (shown in group photo below) which completes the entire Rock Creek segment of Cumberland Trail. Fred Doss and crew cleared the section from Retro Hughes Road to Boiling Spring Bridge. Next we will inspect Possum Gorge and Soddy Gorge for trail obstructions.

Group photo on restored trail segment

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Loop Maintenance

Caroline Woerner, Bob DeHart, and I took a chance on the weather and returned to Rock Creek Loop to resume clearing trail for the upcoming trail race in November. We completed the lower half of the loop which is the route used by runners but we didn't complete the upper half. We will complete the upper half soon. Our gamble with the weather almost paid off but but we got caught in rain about 1/4 mile from vehicles. It felt good because we worked up a sweat today.

Photos and time lapse video

2nd time lapse video

Group photo on Rock Creek

Monday, September 28, 2015

Rock Creek Maintenance

TC Varner, Bob DeHart, Carol Deakins, and Don Deakins spent Monday morning at Rock Creek removing trail obstructions from the 1.14 mile access trail between Lower Leggett Road Trailhead and Rock Creek Loop Trail. Now that this section is clear, our next project will be removing blow-downs from the loop trail followed by the remainder of Rock Creek Trail which ends at Retro Hughes Road.

Trees we removed & time lapse video 

Group photo after removing two big trees

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Paddling Chickamauga Lake

Today's six mile paddle from a rugged lake access upstream from Sequoyah Nuclear Plant to Chester Frost Park was much easier than many others as we had wind to our backs the entire trip. Weather was ideal and water temperature is still comfortable. We also had the good fortune to see a bald eagle which flew across the lake from Bear Trace golf course and circled over Lakesite until we lost sight.

Don's photos

Entering Chester Frost Park slough

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Rock Creek

Today's Rock Creek hike from Upper Leggett Road Trailhead to Lower Leggett Road Trailhead unexpectedly turned into a maintenance event. Fortunately TC Varner brought his magnum hand saw which was used to remove countless small trail obstructions along with many others we were able to drag off the trail. Larger blowdowns that require a chainsaw were documented. We will probably return with a chainsaw on a cooler day and get this section of trail ready for the Up-Chuck trail race in November.

We also discovered Boiling Spring Bridge has collapsed (see photos).

Don's photos

Group photo in Rock Creek

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Big Soddy Bridge

Work on Big Soddy Bridge is progressing at a snail's pace. In the last six weeks decking has been completed and installation of safety fencing has begun. At this rate it will probably not be functional during the upcoming Up-Chuck trail race. Let's hope it is completed before winter rains make the creek impassable.

Don's photos

Installation of decking complete

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Thief Neck Island

Hadn't been to Thief Neck Island this year so Bob DeHart and I made a quick trip to Watts Bar Lake before weather becomes inappropriate for playing on the water. Except for a couple of fishermen, we had the lake and Thief Neck Island to ourselves. The campsite where we ate lunch and enjoyed the tranquility sure is a great place to be. I think an overnight trip there might be fun.

Crusing along Thief Neck Island

We scared a flock of birds we could not identify

Lunch break at island campsite

Back to boat ramp

Friday, August 14, 2015

Trail Maintenance

Bob DeHart, TC Varner, and I treated a small portion of Cumberland Trail to a haircut with our string trimmers. First stop was the unofficial entrance to Soddy Gorge segment along highway 111. There is about 1000 feet of trail that is thick with weeds and requires frequent attention to prevent Mother Nature from reclaiming it. It got that attention today. After completing that job we drove a short distance to Heiss Mountain Road and the Possum Gorge Trailhead which was also in need of a trim. A mower would have made this easy but three weed eaters got the job done.

Don's photos

Clearing trail

Friday, August 7, 2015

Big Soddy Bridge

Mitch Wolfe, TC Varner, Judy Varner, Jim Hardy, Don Deakins, Jane Ellett, and Keith Weller met at the Soddy Gulf entrance and hiked to Big Soddy Creek Bridge. Our goal was to check status of bridge construction and do some equipment inventory at bridge site. Trail maintenance was not in our plans today but we encountered a few blowdowns on the trail. Fortunately they were only tree tops which were easily removed with two hand saws and elbow grease.

Group photo at Big Soddy Creek Bridge site

Still work to be done but getting close to complete

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sand Island

Bob and I had Watts Bar Lake and Sand Island to ourselves today. Lake conditions were excellent but the temperature was climbing so we only spent about an hour on the island before heading back to the boat ramp. Looks like this day would be better spent in the water rather than on the water.

1.3 miles to go

Approaching Sand Island

Arriving Sand Island

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Bat Cave

Our night paddle to Nickajack bat cave was fun but the number of bats we saw was far less than expected. I anticipated hundreds or thousands exiting the cave but it appeared closer to twenty, and was too dark to see any others that may have been flying around. Regardless, we had a good crowd and paddling around in the cool evening and night more than made up for the lack of bats.

Don's photos

Bat cave

Monday, July 27, 2015

CT Volunteers at Work

TC Varner, Bob DeHart, Teresa Hice, Pete Berntsen, Carol Deakins, and Don Deakins helped CTC's Mitch Wolfe move Cumberland Trail Conference equipment, tools, and material from the Soddy Daisy Lutheran Camp to a storage location in Crossville. Four truck loads and seven hours later, most CTC equipment is now stored in or near the main office.

Don's photos

Unloading Bob's truck

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Sale Creek

Judy Varner, TC Varner, Bob DeHart, Joan Hartvigsen, Jane Ellett, Karen Ritchie, and Don Deakins spent the day paddling Sale Creek. Our destination was the sand bar and log jam about 3.8 miles upsteam where we usually stop for lunch but as we were within about one forth mile, a tree across the creek blocked our path. This tree may have the creek blocked for years to come. Someone with a chainsaw needs to paddle up there and remove the obstruction.

Joan Hartvigsen, who lives in Winchester, killed two birds with one stone today. She shopped around on the internet for a cat to adopt and found what she wanted at the Pet Placement Center in Red Bank. She paddled with us and picked up the new kitten on her way back home.

Don's photos

Paddling up Sale Creek

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Collins River

Thanks to Sara Pollard and MTTA, Cumberland Trail Volunteers were afforded the opportunity to explore a river new to us. The Collins River near McMinnville treated us to an excellent day on the water with ideal conditions for recreational kayaking. I expect we will be looking forward to another float down this waterway.

Don's photos and video

Going ashore on a sand bar

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Road Walk

Ten hikers showed up for today's approximate four mile road walk at Prentice Cooper State Forest. We began at Davis Pond about 9:00 AM, hiked out Pot Point Road to the intersection of Lower Pot Point Road, and followed the lower road back to our starting point. Since the entire hike was on dirt roads, we stayed out of weeds so ticks and chiggers went hungry today.

Hike begins at Davis Pond
Group photo on Pot Point Road

Molly cools off in a mud puddle

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ziegler Island

Judy and I were the only two kayakers that showed up today but Harry Tirey surprised us when he showed up in his flat bottom boat. Robert and Pam Dwyer arrived next in their cruiser which had to be anchored in deep water. Harry's boat provided the perfect shuttle between the cruiser and Ziegler Island's shallow water.

It's been years since this group of Sequoyah Nuke Plant retirees have been together and we didn't have time to do much catching up today so another trip to Ziegler may be in the works. Maybe a cookout in shallow water might be fun.

Don's photos

Group photo on Ziegler Island

Monday, June 15, 2015

Hiwassee Island

Judy Varner, TC Varner, Bob DeHart, and Don Deakins spent about four hours paddling around and inside of Hiwassee Island. We tried something a little different today. In an attempt to shorten the total distance paddled, we made an effort to force our way through the sawgrass that separates some sloughs inside the island but it was too thick. It was suggested we bring weed eaters and machetes on our next kayak event.

Don's photos

This shortcut resulted in a dead end

Friday, June 5, 2015

More Trail Maintenance

We hiked the northern section of Possum Gorge just six days ago and documented some of the bigger obstructions but didn't realize until today just how many we didn't document. TC and I spent almost six hours cutting blow-downs off the trail. We were almost out of fuel and were completely out of energy at end of day but I think we can safely say that the Possum Gorge section of Cumberland Trail is clear from Heiss Mountain Trailhead to Retro Hughes Trailhead.

Don's photos

Relaxing for a minute after lots of work

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Soddy Trail Maintenance

Our plans to work at Laurel Snow were cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances so we decided to remove a Soddy Gorge trail obstruction discovered by TC and Judy just a few days ago. The tangled mass of vines, limbs, and trees was located on the trail above the new Soddy Gulf property. We had the good fortune of working with the state crew today. They had a key to Soddy Gulf gate. We were able to drive to Board Camp Creek which left less than a mile walk to the work location. A big Stihl chainsaw plus 5 workers made this job much easier and the trail is again passable to Cumberland Trail hikers.

Don's photos

Removing a mass of vines, limbs, and big trees