Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Big Ridge State Park and covered all but two trails in the park and half of the Lake Trail. By the time all was said and done, I ended up cutting out over 4 miles. For one, there was weather imminent and I didn't want to be caught in the rain. For two, it was 11am by the time Clover and I reached the Dark Hollow/Big Valley Junction. I wanted to be off the trail by 1pm at the latest so I could get home and be available to assist Robin's dad in troubleshooting our water heater (he's got more plumbing experience than I do).
The Dark Hollow West Trail is approximately 1.7 miles from the dam to the junction with the Big Valley Trail. The trail follows along side Norris Lake when it first starts from the dam for a about .4 miles or so before turning away from the lake and into Dark Hollow. There's plenty of water fowl to be seen along this trail including herons and ducks. Just before turning off from the lake, on the ground at the left of the trail is a benchmark. It's an old benchmark placed here by the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority). For those who don't know, TVA is the big Energy company that supplies power to most of the Southeastern United States. They were also responsible for having Big Ridge State Park built in the 1930's after the completion of the Norris Dam Reservoir.
It wasn't long, maybe .4 miles from the Big Valley/Dark Hollow Junction, before we reached the trailhead for the Ghost House Loop. Clover wanted to go that way, but we opted instead to continue down Big Valley as it would dump us out on the road directly across from the Chestnut Ridge trailhead, another mile away. It's been almost a year since I was last on this trail, and it looked a bit different to me in spots. It appears that with some of the storms this year, the trail has been re-routed at certain spots due to lots of windfalls so if you are on the trail, be careful and keep your eyes open for the orange blazes and flags to find your way. It really isn't too difficult.
We finally reached the trailhead and continued across the street and on to the Chestnut Trail. This trail is about .75 miles in length with about 190 ft. elevation gain. This is always a fun trail as it follows along side a small creek from the backside of the park and dumps you out in the cabin area up the ridge from the parks main road.
I've been fond of this trail for quite a few years now, even though I haven't been on it in ages. I guess the fondness comes from the fact that Robin and I volunteered one weekend day a few years back to help the, now defunct, Friends of Big Ridge Park group do maintenance on this trail. We cleared blow downs, re-blazed the trail, and much more that day. So to hike a trail you've had a hand in working on/maintaining always brings a certain sense of pride. This day's hike showed me that it's been a while since any work parties have been on it as it's getting a bit overgrown. On the top of the ridge however, you get a view of the park through the trees that you can only get in the fall/winter months. There's also water tanks up here to. I'll have to do some research, but I think it's the water supply for the Hinds Creek/Big Ridge area.
Past the water tanks, the trail heads down the ridge along an easement and then ends at the cabin road in front of a nice trailhead parking lot. From here Clover and I walked the cabin road down to the main road, through the picnic/boat dock parking area, passed the swimming area and to the car to head back home. We ended up with just shy of 6 miles for the day and a total elevation gain of over 1000ft with no climbs being more than 350 ft.
Tim and Robin
P.S. I promised Robin, after this hike, that I wouldn't go out on the trail without her ever again.
Trimble Track of the Hike: