Monday, April 15, 2013

Grundy Forest State Natural Area, Parts of the Fiery Gizzard, Raven Point, and Overlook of Foster Falls Tennessee

My husbands' wonderful pictures have inspired my to document one of our shared passions-hiking. We became obsessed with hiking when living in Knoxville, TN with easy access to the Smoky's. This past weekend we went with friends to Grundy Forest State Natural Area. Hiking is good for my soul and honestly good for our marriage.
The Drive:
We drove down from the Metro Nashville area, therefore taking I-24 then getting off at exit 134  for US Hwy 41 Monteagle, Sewanee. From there we turned right on Main Street (away from Sewanee) towards Tracy City. Left on Fairmont, next to the DuBose School, which interestingly was a theological seminary of the Episcopal Church from 1921-1944, until drafting for the war resulted in declining enrollment. It is now a conference center. Slight right onto TN Hwy 56/US 41 S Tracy Road. You will pass the Cumberland Visitors Center on the left with picnic tables and decently clean restrooms. Then turn right onto Pine Street (next to a blue garage), you will know you are on the right street if you then pass the elementary school on the right. Turn right onto Second Street and continue onto Dutchtown Rd. There are also bathrooms located at this jump off point for the trail, with parking and overflow parking.

The Prep Work
We started out at about 9:30 am for this hike. The weather was amazing - near the 60s in the mountains and next to the creek. We all wore layers so that we could strip down if we got warmer. In addition, since we were planning the 9 mi loop to Raven Point we packed light lunches and protein enriched snacks, such as my husbands favorite beef jerky or my preference of Mojo Bars by the Clif Bar Co. We always take his Camelbak as well which holds approx. 2 liters of water. We actually don't know the exact amount since it was a gift, nor have we taken the time to figure it out. It seems as if 8-9 miles is about the max distance we can go with sharing water. We haven't done very many hikes much longer than this and if so, will certainly be investing in another Camelbak or similar hydration pack. Now generally when we hike we go at a pace of 2 miles an hour, however this time one of our friends had their dog and a friend who had never hiked in tow, so our pace ended up being a bit slower.

The Hike
We started off at the Grundy State Forest trail head or Picnic Shelter and used the maps available at the outpost, though they are also found online at the Friends of the South Cumberland Recreation Area here. The trail was pretty well marked both on trees and signs at intersections, but there were times when it was easy to get off the trail. 
At .07 we split from the Grundy Forest Day Loop to stay on the Fiery Gizzard trail by crossing over a bridge. Photo: Fiery GizzardHere you will see the Little and Big Fiery Gizzard Creeks merge and cut a cascade, which is known as the Black Canyon for its organic stain on the rocks. from there at mile 1.2 you will see the Chimney Rock
which is a 20' column of rock. Just past this there is an option to hike 0.1 of a mile to Sycamore falls, but we stayed to the left as the Fiery Gizzard trail and the Dog Hole Trail intersect. We chose to stay on the Fiery Gizzard trail at this point (stay straight), but for those who are looking for an easier climb to Raven Point I would suggest taking the Dog Hole Trail.
 and yes that is the trail 
We traversed over the 'Fruit Bowl' which is a pile of giant boulders. This definitely slowed our speed down and actually our friends who brought their dog eventually ended up turning back due to the difficulty of the boulders, for the dog's safety. We saw lots of small falls, cave and rock formations, and wild flowers (from what I can tell we saw viola, trilium, dwarf crested iris and hepatica), though the rhododendron were not yet in bloom.

The most challenging part of the trail was the arduous climb to Raven Point which lasts for about a .7 of switchbacks and steep incline. Once you reach the top you are directed to turn right towards Raven Point and a spectacular overlook in .4 mi.

From there we hiked back down the Dog Hole Trail from Raven Point Primitive Campsite (complete with vile outhouse) which was blissfully free of rocks by this point in time and took us significantly less time. We ended up finishing up the hike around 4pm. Drove to the southern end of the the Fiery Gizzard and walked a brief ways to the Foster Falls overlook.

The Eats
We always like to wrap up a good hike with some good food, so after seeing Crust Pizza on Tennessee Crossroads (thank you PBS) we included a short trip to Sewanee The College of the South into the trip. Sewanee is a beautiful and unique campus. 
Crust pizza was homey and delicious. We ate the cheese crust and Sizzler pizza, with pepperoni, sausage, bacon, ham and beef  (disclaimer this is not our photo but one I took from Google Images courtesy of Carden Photography- we were too tired for photos by this time lol) which is on a lovely thin crust and the ingredients taste so fresh right down to the marinara. Service was impeccable as well.

what a great day! I don't know about you guys but trees are good for my soul and there is something about dappled sunlight that just brings me peace. I hope you guys find your version of peace this week.