Sunday, August 30, 2015

Cumberland Trail Graysville Mountain Segment

     With my wife's summer classes over and me having a weekend off from work, we decided it was time to go hiking again. Between her school and my work schedule, we have not had much time to get away from the house other than for the necessary trips.  I began looking for the place to go and a new waterfall on Tuesday and by Wednesday had decided on the Cumberland Trail.  I will confess that I am developing a love hate relationship with this trail.  I love it because it is a long distance trail within Tennessee, and like the Benton MacKaye Trail, is only about an hour, probably less, from my house.  I also love the views you get from being on top of the plateau and the many waterfalls that the trail goes by.  See it is these waterfalls that help me to convince the wife that we should hike on this trail. If the Benton MacKaye Trail had as many waterfalls close by we would probably have hiked more of it.  The hate part of the relationship is that it is incomplete. I know it takes years to finalize a trail's path and even then it is changed over time, but the Cumberland Trail Conference appears to only be working on connecting the northern end of the trail. Now before I go too far, I don't want people to think I do not know about or have forgotten the 30 miles of trail in the Three Gorges Section, because I haven't. It is just that other than that and the Mullen's Cove Loop there are not any substantial parts of the trail connected below Crossville.  I really appreciate all of the hard work that the trail crews and the trail maintainers put into keeping the trail open for everyone to enjoy.  I guess I am part of the Gimme Generation and wish that the trail was open NOW, but I know that once it is completed it will be a trail that has been well worth the wait.
This is a screen capture of my track using the AllTrails app
This is the trail map given by the Cumberland Trail Conference on their website
     We were dog sitting for the in-laws this weekend and it took us a little longer to get their dog ready to go on the hike.  In thinking that I wanted to ditch my roughly 15 year old Eureka! day pack, I decided to use my Jansport Carson 90 liter external frame pack.  That was an interesting decision.

The Trail head
I was definitely over packed for what I needed for the day!  I was carrying 2 liters of water in my hydration bladder, an ENO double nest and straps, an ENO Pro Fly, first aid kit, another liter of water and a smalbowl for the dogs, some tp, snacks, and about 85 liters of air.  But hey if we never experiment, we never know what will work and what won't.  After looking at the CT's website and watching a YouTube video I knew that the trail started out fairly level so I wasn't too worried about getting the pack dialed in completely before we took off.  When we got to the trail head, I was happy to see that we were the only car there.  Being a nice weekend I was afraid that the trail would be crowded, but it was not.  My wife says that it was because we went hiking instead of shopping on tax free weekend.  To each their own I guess.  One thing to note, cars need to be careful pulling in to the parking area as the gravel is washed away from the pavement and the right hand side has a larger drop off than the left, as of our trip.  I made sure to ease the Cobalt down off the road.
     The trail began fairly level on an old roadbed.  The dogs loved running back and forth from one side of the road to the other.  My in-law's dog stayed in the bushes for most of this part of the hike and we had to pull some ticks off of him because of it.  The trail parallels a stream with some wet weather 
The Right Hand Turn about .8 miles from Trail Head
streams crossing the trail after heavy rains.  It was a nice hike.  The gravels in the road are fairly well compacted so you do not have to worry about turning an ankle or anything of that nature.  The road forms a Y and we followed the solid white blazes to the right and began a slightly higher climb.  It was after this turn that I began to get antsy about making sure we did not miss the cut off to the right before we began our climb up the plateau.  For some reason this really concerned me this day.  But after about a mile from the car, we saw it.  The two white markers were clearly visible, as was the trail.  My wife looked at it and said, "So I guess we go up now?"  I just smiled back and the dogs took off.  Some parts of the CT that we have been on have very steep ascents/descents and I was slightly concerned how this one might be, but it was the smoothest climb we have had to date.  I also enjoyed the air being a little cooler as we climbed.  For the most part, the trail is like the picture to the left, but after about a mile, we came to a grassy grown up area on the trail.  The grass was about knee high and quite unexpected.  My wife picked up Mia and carried her through this patch to help prevent the possibility of ticks.
     After about a mile and a quarter, I could hear the waterfall, which was the second reason I chose this trail to hike.  We were coming around a bend in the trail and could just make out the stream from the bottom of the waterfall when my brain screamed STOP!  So I stopped and looked down.  There laid out in on the side of the trail with the in-law's dog standing beside it was a five foot long black snake sunning itself.  I called the in-law's dog back to me and began to check the snake out.  I looked to see if it was digesting anything, but saw no large lumps along its length.  Then I looked to see if it was shedding its skin, which it wasn't.  I said, "Well snake will you let us pass or do we need to take the long way around?"  I took a step towards it, but like I was walking past it, and it took off like a shot down the side of the trail and back to the creek.  Both dogs finally saw the snake at that point.  I put my heart back in my chest and we walked over to the waterfall.  It was running fairly well and my wife got several good shots of it with her camera.  I was having to hold the dogs and had forgotten my camera at home.  The previous shots were all taken with my iPhone and I just have never been able to master taking a good waterfall picture with a phone.  So we hit the waterfall at about a mile and a quarter, like I said earlier.  We rested for about five minutes and went on.
     I knew that at two miles, according to the mileage listed on the CT's website, that there would be an overlook.  I mentally picked the overlook as my turn around spot.  The trail runs for a total of about 5 miles, but we were not physically ready for a 10 mile day and neither were the dogs.  So we hiked on.  The trail got a little rougher here.  There were rocks that we had to go between and climb over; nothing too hard just large enough rocks to make the trail interesting and the trail was well marked in this area.  I knew that we had made a decent climb up from the car so far and was beginning to feel it.  The trail began to switchback more that it had previously.  My special day pack was letting me know it was there.  I checked my phone and we had hit the two mile mark.  Thinking that my phone was off, I asked my wife what her Fitbit told her she had walked and it said two miles as well.  Then both dogs laid down in the trail.  They just decided they were done.  I pulled out the water and bowl and gave them some more water.  We all sat down then and took about a ten minute break.  Mia the Hiking Chihuahua was ready to get back on the trail but my Scout, the in-law's dog, was ready to go to the car.  I looked at the map and figured that we had at least a quarter of a mile more before we made it to the overlook.   I knew then that either the mileage on the website was a tad bit off or our two mileage trackers were off, possibly even both.  So, without making it to the overlook, we decided to go back to the car.  The trip back to the car was just as enjoyable as the trip up the side of the plateau, just without any snake sightings.  On the whole, I would love to do this hike again, maybe catch it after a couple of days of good rain as there is another waterfall a little ways after the first overlook.  Maybe this section will be linked with another soon and some overnight camping would be in order, you know so that I could possibly have a real reason to be carrying that 90 liter pack.

Directions:  From Soddy Daisy, continue north on 27, turning left onto TN 303 for 0.4 mile, then right onto Dayton Avenue (still TN 303).Take the first left onto Pikeville Avenue for 1.6 miles as the road becomes Pikeville Blvd./Brayton Mountain Road. Just after a sharp curve left, the dirt and gravel parking area for the trailhead is on the right. The Foot, a local bar, is a cinder-block building on the left. (Borrowed from the CT website).  I just put 1721 Brayton Mountain Rd, Graysville, TN into my GPS and it got me there.  I did watch the linked video a couple of times just so I knew what to look for.