Another Sunday, another new "I'll make you wish you could call in on Monday, Sunday". This time out Swiss Army Gauge (Wifey), Tim, and The Trusty Side Kick Beene, headed out to Norris Dam State Park to hike the 4.3 mile Marine Railway Loop Trail.
I know what you are wondering. We came up with Robin's new trail name, Swiss Army Gauge, or Gauge for short, this afternoon on the trail as we were discussing how various parts of her body could tell us many things while out on the trail. For instance, her hair can tell us what the humidity outside is (a hygrometer), her knees can tells us approximately how far we have traveled (an odometer), her joints can tell us if rain or storms are likely and what the temperature is (thermometer). Finally, her head can tell us the barometric pressure, that is if it is high/low and whether it is falling or rising (barometer). So now you can see where Swiss Army Gauge was derived.
So back to the trail. There are two starting points for the Marine Railway Loop. One is on Hwy 441 just before the west side entrance of the park if you are coming up from the dam. The other trail head is on the west side of the park behind deluxe cabin number 8. Of course at this point there isn't a trail sign anywhere until you walk back behind the cabin.
The blaze on the trail is black and luckily the blazes are relatively new. Otherwise you might think it's a blaze but actually your eyes being tricked by the trees, much like Tim's eyes did thinking a tree had a white blaze on it at one point along the trail. Behind cabin 8, you walk a couple hundred feet before you see the blaze and a trail sign pointing to either the left or right. To the left, the trail heads straight down to the lake side. To the right the trail meanders along the ridge top at a gradual grade down. We opted to head down to the lake first, as we didn't think we would like that climb out after 4+ miles.
The trail is more or less a figure 8 loop. So there are a few options on how to traverse it. Also, as I stated earlier, you can start the trail from two locations. Total elevation Gain/Loss on the trail is 200+ feet. There are two ascents along the trail and two descents along the trail regardless of which direction you take it.
One of the descents/ascents is along an easement. It's great place to stop and take pictures, if you can keep the power lines from being in the shots. It was a steep hike down - a spot where if there were over a foot of snow, it might be a blast to sled down or something. Robin thinks this is ludicrous, and is rather, a sure-fire way to die.
Another notable spot along the trail is a rest area just off to the side of the trail. The rest area sits next to what would be an island if the lake was up but otherwise was a peninsula in the lake. We took that detour and walked around the peninsula and couldn't stop thinking how great of a place it would be to camp. Unfortunately, there are signs posted everywhere that state "No Camping". Darn the luck. I guess the park has had problems with boaters camping there or something. Nonetheless it is still a cool spot worth checking out.
The rest of the trail offers great views of the lake and along the easement at one point, a great view of the Appalachians, quite possibly the Smokies, off to the east. This trail is definitely one that will get your heart rate up but otherwise not real tough. The footing is decent, not a lot of roots or rocks. There is a bit of dead fall here and there but otherwise nothing real major to be concerned with.
So if you find yourself in the area and would like a nice little challenge of a hike along with some wonderful views, then stop by Norris Dam State Park and check out the Marine Railway Loop. You can also learn a little bit of the history surrounding this area at the Friends of Norris Dam State Park website. Oh and don't forget to play on the playground at the deluxe cabins when you're done. Until next time...
Tim and Robin