Monday, October 31, 2011

Hike 2011.078 -- Fort Henry Trails, Land Between the Lakes NRA, TN

Hiked Sunday, October 30. Trail map linked here. I started my hike where the Fort Henry-North-South Connector Trail crosses LBL Road #230 (Piney Road). From the Trace, you take the road immediately opposite the driveway entrance to the South Welcome Station, which is Road #230. Approximately 2.1 miles from this junction, the Connector Trail crosses Road #230. On the map (and on the ground), it says this is Road #399. However, in practice, as you drive by this spot, you won't recognize this as a road. It drops right off of #230, and looks more like one of the many unnamed, unnumbered access roads to the small field (which will be on the left, if you're heading up Piney Road from the South Entrance Station).

Best thing to do (if you want to start your hike here) is to pay attention to your odometer, and be looking for this field as you pass the 2 mile point. The turn is a sharp one, and there may be a bit of a drop from road level to this dirt passage to your south. On either side of #399, right below the shoulder of Piney Road (#230), there's room for a few cars to park. If you have a high-clearance vehicle, you could also drive along this road for less than 1/4 mile, where it dead ends adjacent to another field. When I returned from my hike, two pickup trucks were parked there.

For those in passenger cars, however, this road is not easily passable, and you'll probably prefer to park right on the shoulder (assuming the ground is not too wet--otherwise, you might get stuck down there).

The Connector Trail runs on either side of the Trace. At this point, the Connector Trail is also part of the Bear Creek Loop, although it is not labeled in any way. Indeed, had I not walked this section of trail previously, I probably would have driven my car right by, without even realizing the trail passed here.

I headed south from here on foot, along Road #399. After a hundred yards or so, the road curves to the west, then back to the south. It also climbs a bit, depositing you at the edge of the aforementioned field. Once there, your trail bends back to the south, and cars are not longer going to be sharing the route.

Just over 1/4 mile after the end of Road #399, you reach junction "10." There's a green mileage sign at this junction, the only such sign you'll see on this particular day hike. The other junctions along this trail are only indicated by a letter or number. Someone may have added destination directions in Sharpy pen on the road signs, but those are sometimes faded and illegible. That means it's a very good idea to have the trail map (linked above) so you can figure out which way to turn and what's ahead along each branch before you.

At this junction, I turned right (on my previous hike in this area, which included the Bear Creek loop, I turned left). After 3/10ths of a mile, you're at junction "9."

I made a left at junction "9," which is the Tennessee Ridge trail. This trail starts out low, but slowly climbs and runs along a "ridge" (Like most ridges in LBL this one is pretty rounded-- not very ridge-like). When you reach a crest (after about 1.3 miles), the sounds of US highway 79 (which runs directly south of LBL) become more frequent.

The previous picture is a pretty typical hollow of trees on this hike. There are a number of places with similar views. Occasionally, the dip is a little steeper, but it's pretty typical.

At junction "16" (Artillery trail), I made a right. The highway is at this point under 1/4 mile away, but you only very briefly get a glimpse of it through the trees (I'm sure earlier in the year, you can't even get that glimpse, though the sounds seem very close).

Somewhere along the way, I stopped and snapped this picture, of a tulip tree leaf. I took a tree i.d. nature walk in LBL a few weeks ago, and they mentioned this leaf. Had to go on-line to figure out which tree it belonged to, though. The reason for the recollection? They're shaped like a cat's face. I think they're cute.

Seven-tenths of a mile after junction "16" is junction "17." Arrows point you to the right to stay on the trail. However, if you choose to go left, you'll reach US highway 79 in only about one-tenth of a mile. There's a gate to the dirt road here, and no apparent space to park there to access this trail without illegally blocking the gate. However, across highway 79 is an entrance to "Old State Highway 76." There may be parking near this junction, if you wanted to pick this trail up here.

Once I got back to junction 17, I then proceeded straight ahead and additional 3.2 miles, to junction 18. There, I made a right. After another 1/10th of a mile, I made another right, to get on the Shortleaf trail (a right would have put me on Devil's Backbone trail, which I covered on my Hike 2011.054, also in the Fort Henry trail system.

The end of the Shortleaf trail is at junction "6," which is where it intersects with the Telegraph trail (when ever I walked on this trail, I start humming a song by Dire Straights: Telegraph Road). Less than 1/10th of a mile later, Telegraph trail intersects with LBL Road #400. From there, a left turn would send you back towards other LBL roads, while a right turn keeps you on the Telegraph trail. Cars can travel this area, so you should pay attention to that possibility as you walk this section.

The trail/road descends briefly and somewhat steeply. When the trail levels out, you'll see a large field to your left. Adjacent to the field, there's a flat, cleared area that has clearly been used as a campsite by people driving high clearance vehicles.

A bit ahead, there's a forest on the left (and a hill to your right). Through the forest on the left, I could see a fair-sized pond.

Soon (as in just about 1/4 mile after the trail flattened out), the road ends. A berm has been constructed to block cars from going any further, although I get the idea that cars not too long ago did drive through the water and on towards a small cemetery, ahead.

Now, there's the berm, and a recently-constructed pedestrian bridge across a rather large stream (large, in the sense that you would probably get your feet wet crossing it, even now--but it's still only 8-10 yards wide in spots). Of course, this is deeper and wider than most of the steams in the park this time of year, so this stream was very densely filled with small fish. I taped a bit of video of the fish, which I've uploaded, below. I shot it leaning over the bridge railing on the downstream (left side) of the bridge, pictured above.

Two pickup trucks were parked here, too. I'm sure they (and the pickup trucks I saw when I got back to near my car) were hunters. Never saw them, though.

After crossing the stream, the trail runs to the left (north) of the stream briefly. I suspect the hunters must have been hidden somewhere nearby, waiting for deer to return to the stream to drink.

Don't even remember passing a trail marker or junction "8," but That should have been right here, where the dirt road ended and the trail began. I assume "Blue Spring" is just the bridge crossing.

About a half-mile later, I saw evidence of a relatively recent wild fire here. Several charred stumps or scorched tree bases were visible here.

One and three-tenths miles after Blue Spring is junction "9." A left turn there, and I was back on ground I had trod earlier in the day. Three-tenths of a mile there, then it was junction "10." Left turn yet again, and another two-thirds of a mile or so, and I was back at my car.

Total mileage for the day was probably a bit under 12 miles.

The difference in appearance between this area now and when I first walked it in August (or even the second time, in September) is pretty dramatic. Then, it was green, with many flowers. Now, there are very few flowers blooming, many leaves are on the ground, and the leaves still in the trees are yellow, red or brown.

It's also interesting how differently areas may look just a few hours apart (with the sun at a different angle, or the light a little dimmer or warmer. As with my Nature Station Connector trail hike, I've got a picture at the top and bottom of this post that shows pretty much the same view, several hours apart. The second to last picture, meanwhile, is the same view as both, but closer up, focusing on the sign and the maple that overhung the sign.

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