Sunday, August 2, 2009

The High Road or the Low Road to Rock Creek...

I awoke Sunday morning around 9:30am and started my normal ritual. I made the coffee, turned on the radios (HAM Radios that is), and then sat at the computer to surf for a few. It wasn't long after that that Robin was up and we sat together and surfed while sipping our coffee. I then made my way over to the HF radio to work a few stations on 10 meters....Wait, I know what you are thinking, I know this is our outdoor blog not my ham radio blog. It's called building a story.

Anyway, Robin and I eventually ended up out on the back deck drinking coffee and trying to decide what to get into. The weather was beautiful. Sunny, 70's, and low humidity. As you may or may not know, the last week and a half has been nothing but rain, rain, and yet more rain. So you can imagine how cooped up Robin and Ashby must have been feeling. Back to what to get in to. As I said, the weather was wonderful and we didn't want to be inside. So our options became, wash the outside of the house, pull weeds and try to clear our bank in the back yard, price our junk for a yard sale in September, or go hiking.

We must have toiled over our options for an hour or more. It was around 2:00pm when we decided that we didn't want to do any work and it was getting too late to do anything anyway. So finally we decided what to do after a brief amount of time sitting at the computer. We decided we ought to take our side kick for a walk, but where? We didn't want to go too far from the house, so that left us with two options; Big Ridge State Park for a typical walk, or Norris Dam State Park for a walk on one of its various trails. I had found a nice trail map for Norris, as we didn't know a whole lot about the trails, at least other than the fitness trail and the various short trails around the tea room. We decided to head to the west side of the park and hike one of the trails around the campground, Hootin Hollow Trail.

So off we were, making our way to Norris. We got there around 4:30pm or so, parked the car, and on our way from the Andrew's Ridge trail to reach the Hootin Hollow trail head. This stretch was about .5 miles to the trail head. Of course I spied on the trail map that there was another trail head in this area for the Rock Creek trail. In all actuality, I believed this trail would be more worth while as it seemed to go down to a creek and the lake. The other trail just lead up to the campground and really didn't seem to offer any natural wonders or items of significance.

Well the .5 miles from the Andrew's Ridge trail head to Rock Creek trail head is a gentle sloping grade on what appears to be an old jeep road. The terrain was soft, easy and sloped down gradually to the other trail heads. We got to the Rock Creek trail head and had a decision to make. Did we take the first turn off or the second? After looking at them we decided we would take the second because it look like it would be tougher to come up that one than the other one. I will add here that we were right. The half mile to the back of the loop was quite the descent. Looking at the topographical trail map it traverses 7 grade lines. Unfortunately the map didn't have increments for the lines, but if my guess is correct, each line is 100 feet. So the trail descended approximately 700 feet in just under a half mile. I don't know about you, but being in the shape we were (Robin and I at least) that would have been killer coming back up. The way down is a bit steep. I wouldn't recommend sandals or flat bottom shoes. This is definitely a trail you want good footwear on, like hiking boots or trail shoes of some sort. The terrain is gentle and soft and according to Robin not too bad on the joints. Seeing as I don't have the knee or ankle issues that she does, I'll let her be the judge on that.

There are plenty of poplars, maples, and other trees along the trail. We saw several different species of fungus (i.e. mushrooms), trillium here and there, and a couple different types of ferns. We saw several little frogs as well. Back to the trail though. The terrain is mostly gravel with some larger rocks. There were hardly any roots or anything that makes a trail tough when it comes to footing. There were several stretches where the ground was almost grassy.

We finally made it to the bottom of the ridge to the point where the loop heads back up, or you can take the side trail about 800 feet to the lake for what is an excellent spot for the kids to play or if you are a pair of hikers only.... Let's just say it's quiet, secluded, and looked like it didn't receive much traffic from other hikers. At this point in the trail you can see what might have been a natural spring feeding part of the creek.

We got back to the lake and I guess we stayed there for a good half hour or so to let the kids play. Robin got plenty of nice shots too. The trail back there follows beside and at some points in the creek bed. Of course in those spots there wasn't much if any water at all. After about a half hour, and the side kick thoroughly soaked, we decided it was time to head back. Besides, it was a little after 5:30pm by this time and we still had to run to town for a few things, get home and have dinner, and all the nightly routine stuff.

So back we traveled. This part of the trail is a nice gradual ascent up the ridge. It's approximately .65 miles up to the trail head. So that 700 foot elevation gain, as I said was much easier. Although the last .15 miles is probably the toughest but again it's only about .15 miles, so it's over pretty quick.

It took us about 30 minutes to get back up to the trail head. Along the way there are two little foot bridges and a big tree across the trail that you have to crawl under. On the way up, Robin spotted a deer in the middle of the trail. It wasn't but a second or two later that it darted into the woods and was out of site. We finally made it to the top and we were on our way out towards the car.

Overall, I thought it was a great trail. Depending on which way you take the loop, it can be either a moderate 1.7 mile hike or a hard 1.7 mile hike. If you go the way we did today (counter clockwise) it will be a moderate hike. Allow plenty of time to enjoy the scenery and especially the spot by the lake. Bring some water as well, on days like today we worked up a good sweat. Luckily, this time of the year the canopy is full and that helps keep it cool.

I hope that if you decide to go on this trail, you enjoy it as much as we did. Let us know what you think about it and share your stories with us by leaving us comments. And now for everyone's favorite part....

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin

...The Pictures.

Andrew's Ridge Trail Head

A Fungus is Among Us

A View Through the Woods

Signpost at the Back of the Loop

A Hole in the Ground?
Looks Like a Dried Up Spring

The Secluded Cove

Leaves on the Water

Kiddo is Exploring the Area

The Side Kick Looking for a Rock in the Water

Up and Under
The Final Ascent