Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Big South Fork

On October 26 five of us headed south to the state of Tennessee to backpack the John Muir Trail in Big South Fork. We were there about two years ago and hiked some of the northern part of BSF and we headed to southeast side for this trip. BSF is a national recreation area and is open to hiking, horse back riding, and mountain biking. Some trails are only hiking and some are multiple use. I only saw one trail that allowed mountain bikes, although I'm sure there are others. When we hiked there before the trails were pretty torn up by the horses, but this year they were pretty good about it, but we were mostly on trails that banned horses thank goodness. Dave drove his van down and we all got in along with all our gear.

I used an internal frame pack as the low temperatures were predicted in the low 40's so I could use my cooler sleeping bag, although I will admit that I used a light pair of long johns to ward off the chill at night. We drove to Onieda and had lunch and then headed down Toomey Road wondering if we were going to be able to get back out this steep gravel road after the rains arrive. There is a longer, but less steep climb out on another gravel road if Toomey Road is too difficult to climb out. We arrived at the O&W bridge and this was the trial head. It was along the BSF branch of the Cumberland River and there was some good white water under the bridge as it was the end of a long stretch of white water. I would have liked to see some kayaks come through, but we had 5 miles to hike to get to the camp site. Some horse back riders came over the bridge and I talked to them for a minute as they were stopping for lunch.

We got to site and set up camp and Rich went down to the river to justify his $15 fishing license and he caught two fish so he was happy for the time being. We gathered wood and had a fire going and sat around talking and making plans for the hike the next day. I really like this area as there are a lot of big rock faces with undercut areas and it's just very pretty.

Had a pleasant night, but didn't sleep too well. The hike today should fix me up though. We broke down camp and hiked about 1 1/2 miles to the next camp site and planned to drop packs and just hike with day packs as we were going to hike 9 miles up a "brutal" climb to the top of Angel Falls Overlook. They wanted to cover our packs and set up the tents when we got back, but I talked them into setting them up as it was going to be raining by the time we got back and I didn't want to be setting everything up in the rain. So we set up camp and then headed up the "brutal" trail and it wasn't too bad going, but it did start raining. One section had a cable assist stretch to keep you from slipping off, but I think the only time you would have trouble would be if there was ice on the trail.

Up on top at the overlook the sheer rock face was splitting away from the rest of the rock, but people had been on it so we jumped over and enjoyed the view.

The rain started to increase so we headed on out the trial and it started raining even harder so we decided to head back to camp as the rain looked to be a long one, and it was. On the way back as we passed the overlook the fog and clouds had moved in and the visibility was near zero so was glad that we had stopped on the way up as we would have missed it. We got back to camp and set up Rich's rain fly and gathered dry wood and got a fire going. After a while I went in the tent and started reading and I heard the conversation outside turning towards packing up and hiking out as they were getting bored. At first I said that I would do whatever the majority wanted to do as did most everyone else, but then I said that we should stay the night and hope that the rain stopped by morning as they were predicting. So that's what we did and I slept pretty well as the river wasn't as noisy as it was the previous night.

Woke up Wednesday morning and it had quit raining and there was just water dripping off the trees. So we had breakfast and packed up and hiked out in the dry. So much better than packing in the rain, getting everything wet and then force marching out to the van. We hiked the 5 miles out and headed out in the van. Got to Toomey Road and spun out the first run and backed up and made it on the second attempt. Headed on out and made it home safe and sound. I was a little disappointed that we didn't hike the whole loop on top, but that will leave us with another reason to go back down there and do it at a later date. I think everyone would be up for that. A good trip as Dave did a good job planning and executing it. Thanks Dave.