Upper and Lower Loop Over Night Trails - Fall Creek Falls
We knocked this trip out over 2 days and 1 night. The Rangers warned us these trails have several downed trees to work through.
We started from the parking lot with our day packs. We decided to tackle the upper loop because it is the easiest of the two. With that said, the Upper loop is moderately strenuous at times.
You hike in almost a mile before you get to the actual loop. We took a right at the fork to begin the loop. This choice provides a nice gradual descent, followed by a slow climb which was surprisingly easy on my knees. You cross a couple creeks before you come to some camp sites about 3/8 of the way through this loop. This great a good spot to camp if you want make this a 3 day 2 night journey. We continued across a bridge and continued to finish the loop.
We hiked the mile back out to our car in the parking lot and switched to our much heavier overnight packs. We made great time knocking out 14 miles in just over 5 hours.
We headed back down to start the lower loop. Warning this trail has a lot of downed trees. The trail is generally easy to follow, and paths have been made around many of the downed trees. Watch out for snakes hiding in the fallen trees. This trail is rated difficult!
You again hike in about about a mile to begin this loop. We tooka right to head toward camp site #1. We made it to camp site # 1 about 4:45pm. We decided to make camp here at mile 16.3. It was 2.5 miles from the parking lot to camp site 1. There is a creek you pass right before you head up the hill to the camp sites. That's your water source. The campsite has an outhouse, but it's old and mice infested. The area around the outhouse is trashed!
It's important to rest up really well before journeying further past camp site 1. It's about 2.5 miles between campsite 1 and campsite 2. After exiting campsite 1 you are quickly met with a steep descent. This is followed by an equally tough and steep climb. Its rocky and its shades of the Fiery Gizzard at times (but not quite as torturous). This part is an ASSKICKER!!
At one point you may have thought you made it to campsite #2, unless it's clearly marked as camp site #2 then it's an illegal campsite.
After you reach camp site 2 you have about 7 miles left to hike, but it's much easier than the earlier sections.
From camp site 2 and on you are afforded with incredible views of different water falls. After crossing several bridges you will walk by the nature center. The loop ends and you walk a mile back out and you've just completed mile 27!!!!
Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve
Very nice trail system in the heart of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fl. Located right off A1A. Great place to spot deer, birds, and various insects. Watch out for spiders that like to build webs across parts of the trail. I would recommend insect repellent as well.
Signal Point to Prentice Cooper WMA
The most difficult part of this trail in my opinion on the steep descents. There are several descensions if you start at Signal Point Park and hike toward Suck Creek Road, especially around mile 6.0 or so. Which is then followed by a steep climb. I don't mind the climbs, but going down really wears on my legs and knees. Once you get through the first two miles, you basically just continue across the top of Signal Mountain where there are several overlooks to the valleys below. Over the top of the mountain there isn't as much tree cover as you might expect, so pack some sun screen on a really sunny day! This trail will lead you to Mushroom Rock (picture above) and across a couple wooden suspension bridges. I usually don't mind heights, but one of the bridges you cross is really bouncy, and very high up over what appears to be a very rocky creek bed below. If you fell off this bridge for some reason, its gonna hurt really bad (if you're lucky enough to even survive the fall)! This bridge has a 20 person limit, but was very bouncy with just two people on it.
After the fact, we also discovered there was apparently a suspected attempted murderer that had evaded the local police department and was hiding out in the signal mountain area. We never saw him, but as of this write up, I don't believe he was ever found. However, this trail is very populated up to Edwards point, but after that overlook, we didn't see very many people. There is no offical parking lot on Suck Creek Road, you just have to pull off the road to the side near one of the Green "Cumberland Trail Crossing" signs (the CT crosses over Suck Creek Road and continues into Prentice Cooper WMA).
Obed Wild and Scenic River Segment
This trip was intended to be a backpacking trip but ended up being a day hike with full packs! According to the Cumberland Trail website this section was supposed to 14.1 miles long. Also according to the Cumberland Trail website there was a backcountry campsite located at mile 11.7. From the beginning of this trail at the Devil's Breakfast table (Rock Formation) to Alley Ford (camp site location) there is no available camping areas as this section of the trail is located within the Catoosa WMA. However, we were informed by NPS Rangers at the Visitors center that if we had to camp in that section the closest we could get to the Obed River the better for camping because the areas near the banks of the Obed River are technically NPS land, not Catoosa WMA.
Areas of this trail were very difficult due to several downed trees that are unavoidable on the trail. You just got to climb over, under, or through them which can be a challenge with a full pack! Areas of this trail were also poorly marked/blazed. It rained on us for the first hour and half or so, which made several of the rocks very slick. I earned a very nice bruise on my butt check from one of several slip and slides. Once I even fell and hit face first as I slipped climbing up some wet rocks, that didn't feel good with the entire weight of my pack on my back.
When I looked at my Iphone and it showed we had gone 12.5 miles, we assumed we missed our campsite and continued hiking. Only to discover that at mile 13.3 (according to Gaia) we came across the path to the Alley Ford campsite. Thinking we only had 0.8 miles remaining, we elected to continue our journey rather than camping. About 3.3 miles later (again according to Gaia) we finally made it to the end of this hike to the area known as the Rock Creek Campground. It only took us 10 hours to make it there. Give your self plenty of time to shuttle between trailhead parking areas because they are almost about 20 minute apart from each other because you have to travel some Gravel roads.
I've never had Gaia be this far off from the Cumberland Trail website, so I'm not really sure who is right or wrong distance wise, but according to Gaia this trail is much longer than the advertised 14.1 miles!
Possum Creek Gorge (Retro Hughes Trailhead to Little Possum Creek South Camp Site)
We camp back to the Possum Creek Gorge to finish what we had started a few weekends before (Memorial day weekend 2015). We started at the Retro Hughes end and hiked to the Campsite (the portion of the trail we hadn't completed). The camped at the Little Possum Creek South Campsite. The following day we finished the 3.2 mile hike out of the Possum Creek gorge and hiked out to our Jeep parked on the Heiss Mtn Trailhead. We then moved the Jeep to Upper Leggett Road and day Hiked the entire Rock Creek Gorge back to Retro Hughes to where my wife's vehicle was parked the day before. WATCH OUT FOR SNAKES on this Trail, especially Copperheads (pictured above laying across the trail)! This area is very secluded so if you get bitten by one there's a chance you might not make it out alive.
Soddy & Possum Creek Gorges (Mowbray Mtn Trailhead to Possum Creek South Campsite)
A very long two day/1 night trip that we did on my 31st birthday! We were trying to finish the Possum Creek Gorge on day two, but it proved to be too difficult for us that particular day so we turned around at the Little Possum Creek Campsite and walked 3.2 miles back to the Heiss Mtn Trailhead. We would have camped there and finished the next day, but unfortunately my wife didn't have Memorial Day off from work this year.
Rock Creek Gorge (Upper Legget Road to Retro Hughes Trailhead)
Nice challenging hike with two or three strenuous climbs. A couple of camp sites are available on this section, however we enjoyed this trail as a day hike. We completed this section of the Cumberland Trail after completing the Possum Creek Gorge earlier that morning. We moved my Jeep to Upper Leggett Road Trailhead in Dayton, TN and hiked back to my wife's car parked at the Retro Hughes Trail head.
Possum Creek Gorge (Little Possum Creek South Camp Site to Heiss Mtn Rd Trailhead)
Short hike from the camp site to the nearby trailhead. Just over 3 miles, but this section contains a couple of the most difficult climbs of the possum creek gorge. Also beware of Copperheads in this area, we have run across a few. This camp site is only large enough for 2 tents and maybe 3 at the most. Water is available from the possum creek bridge, about .2 mi on the trail ahead. Walk across the bridge and then climb down the rocks for the easiest access to the stream.