Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hike 2011.087 -- Peytona Trail -- Land Between the Lakes NRA, TN

Hiked Saturday, December 3. The weather is making my march to 100 hikes difficult. Rain early last week (and last Saturday being a travel day) kept me off the trail for over a week.

On Saturday, I was back in the far southern reaches of Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. This section is in Tennessee, just a few miles north of US 79. I got to the trailhead via the Trace, and parked at the South Entrance Station. This visitor center is closed for the season, however, so there's no reason to go there other than to be oriented.

Kitty-corner across from the Trace is the small parking lot that provides access to the North-South Trail (the southern terminus of that trail) and the Fort Henry Trails. I traversed some of this land at the end of October, as well as in mid-September.

Today, I started by heading south from the parking lot, crossing Road #230, to get on the start of the Telegraph Trail. After briefly running along the east side of a field, the trail dives into a forest. What I immediately discovered to be different today versus on my previous hikes in this area was that the creek beds that were essentially dry during my last trips here were now flowing with water. Fortunately, I was wearing my waterproof boots, and managed to cross the water with only a slightly amount of moisture getting into my boots.

I then climbed quickly up, and could see more of Bear Creek. It was all flowing nicely, which probably made those poor fish that were isolated in small pools last month really happy.

I had several additional creek crossings during this hike, but were any deeper than this first crossing. Socks stayed mostly dry the rest of the day. Without waterproof boots, however, a lot of soggy walking would have been required.

After the steep climb, there's about a mile of alternating ridge-running and valley crossings before reaching trail marker 13, which is photograph and presented here in a very uncompressed format. If you're so inclined, you can zoom in and see all of the Fort Henry trails laid out there, along with mileage markers. You could also follow along on that trail map, if you prefer it to the .pdf maps I have linked above.

Oddly enough, the map at marker 13 faces away from you, and you can only see it if you briefly leave the defined trail and walk uphill a bit. I guess there used to be a different trail access point back when this map was posted by the TVA.

For the actual trail, you turn right and start descending towards a small spring that was seeping out of a grate-covered concrete construction. A bit under a mile later, I reached marker 11, where the Peytona Trail splits off from the Telegraph Trail. I had some uncertainty as to if this trail was supposed to be open. I even called the LBL phone number, where a phone tree led me to a message that claimed "all hike and bike trails are open."

I really get the feeling that the people making the recordings and the people posting and removing trail closures are not on the same page, because earlier in the day I came across two trails that are still posted as closed (part of the trail that leads from the south end of the South Bison Range, and the short segment of the North-South trail from south of LBL Road #205).

With the phone recording and my previous trip telling me there was no definitely no closure sign on the other side of the Peytona Trail, I figured I had sufficient ambiguity that I could continue on the Peytona.

This trail heads almost due south, mostly along an old road (although there is a brief segment that detours up a hill and past a cemetery, then drops back down). Dried and dead leaves still clung to some trees along this route, and I photographed them.

It's 1.3 miles south from Marker 11 to Marker 15, at which point you are definitely within sight and sound of US 79. A very clear detour can take you to the highway, where you'll meet it just across the street from mailboxes for 2331 and 2335 Donelson Parkway.

After making that short roundtrip detour, I headed the 1.9 miles west on the Peytona Trail to marker 16 (which is at the top of a rise), then turned right to take the Tennessee Ridge trail 1.8 miles north, back to the Telegraph Trail (trail marker 9). I then took the Telegraph Trail .3 miles east to trail marker 10, where I made a left and took the N/S Connector Trail to the North South Trail (1.4 miles), then the North-South trail 2 miles east, back to the South Entrance Station. Guess that totals up to about 11 miles of walking for the day.

The scenery consisted of mostly barren trees. Although I had hoped for a few views overlooking the Lakes in the distance, there are no clear views to either Kentucky or Barkley Lakes on this trail, even with the foliage gone.

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