Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cumberland Trail Conference - Call for Volunteers

Spring is almost here and it's time to get outdoors. State parks, national parks, natural areas, and more offer an abundance of hiking trails, camping spots, and other outdoor recreational opportunities. However, the only way these outdoor destinations can continue to provide us with that escape from society and/or technology requires more than what the employees (park rangers, maintenance crews, etc.) can handle. That's where we, the outdoor lovers come in. We enjoy these places. Otherwise we wouldn't be out there. It's time to give back though. There are plenty of opportunities to pay it forward, to show our appreciation, to show that we care and want to continue to enjoy our natural environments.

This year we've already mentioned the volunteer opportunities available at Frozen Head State Park in Wartburg, TN. Now we have another opportunity to list, and this one is just as near and dear to our hearts as Frozen Head. The Cumberland Trail Conference (CTC) is need of volunteers. Remember that grant survey from the CTC that we posted last week? Well they are ready to get the project rolling and have several dates in the books for the New River segment projects. In addition to these projects, they also have a few trail maintenance projects for the Obed segment, a different portion of the New River Segment, and the Tennessee River Gorge segment of the trail.

So hop on over to the CTC's volunteer page, see what's on the schedule, and sign up to be a volunteer. They will be glad you did, and we would be too. I'm hoping that we can make it out to lend a helping hand on some of the weekends myself.

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin

Why do we hike?

Ashby's had a tough week at school. For most of the week, she's gotten up at 6am to go to school where she's forced to do things like learn and socialize.  She's also had her first week of Track conditioning -- a sport she has chosen on her own accord.  She worked out three times this week, done math homework almost every evening, and skimped on her chores at home.  We understand.  We know what "tired" is.  It only gets worse with age.

Upon arriving home from school Friday, she promptly did her homework like a good "little" girl, and then spent some time bonding with the television and the couch.  I think more bonding happened with the couch, as Tim had to peel her off of it near bedtime.  She'd fell asleep during some Batman movie she's seen a hundred times after we'd spoiled her on pizza - bought pre-made - already cooked! (woo-hoo!)

Beforehand though, she'd whiningly posed the question to Tim, "Why do ya'll have to hike every weekend?!"  Apparently, she's not looking forward to Saturday's gorgeous sunny skies and 55 degree temps like we are. It's also funny how she just so happened to have a sore throat minutes after posing this question, and then the following, "What happens if I'm sick tomorrow?"  It's also funny how she asked Daddy and not me - I don't fall for such behavior. Daddies fold every time a pouting lip comes their way.

So, in response (and for your reading pleasure - or maybe because you'll have to answer these questions one day - or maybe because you already have and you'll find humor in our situation):

To our dearest teenage daughter:

First - we don't hike every weekend. You are being highly exaggerative and unfair. Out of the nearly 80 miles we hiked in 2010, you accompanied us for 30. My dear, most of our hiking last year was decided upon last minute after you had chose to stay at a friend's house. I, however, remember a little girl who (not long ago) wouldn't have dreamed of being left behind.

But a serious inquiry deserves a serious response... so this - darling - is why we hike:

  • Because we are slaves to the system.  In order to give you things like electricity, heat, cellphone, unlimited taxi service, TV, clean clothes, and food at least three times daily --- we have to work.  Daddy works 40 hours a week.  Momma's work is exponential.
  • Because we sit on our rears for most of the week.  It's very difficult to debug software or "Photoshop" pictures while standing, running in place, or balancing in tree pose. It is, however, mind-blowingly exhaustive.  So, walking, prancing, dancing, even waltzing up a trail is refreshing.
  • Because daddy works away from home. In a cube. That is dark.  And because Momma works from the home, and sometimes (like a friend said today) feels like she's under house arrest.
  • Because there are no telephones in the woods. No cat puke to clean up. No laundry to fold. No customer support. No bills in the mail. No grocery shopping, no pet grooming, no checkbook balancing, no Farmville requests. None of the things that drive us crazy. Albeit, it's all still here when we come home. At least, when we're out there, we can pretend it doesn't exist.
  • Because we like to be together (including with you). We like to be out there doing something fun, not tasked in different rooms or swallowed whole by the routine of the daily grind.
  • Because neither of us were born with a silver spoon shoved up our... noses.  Hiking is cheap. It costs gas, sometimes food, the occasional park entry fee or equipment upgrade. That's it. We could literally hike (within a 50 mile radius of our home) six times for the amount it would cost us to take you out to eat once.
  • Because we have a border collie. And, last I checked, no sheep.  Clover wants - needs - must have exercise, and lots of it.  We cater to that.  We chose her, she chose us. She even chose you.
  • Because it's good to feel like a kid again.  All the responsibilities of growing up ---- yeah, one day you'll understand.
  • Because it feels great to accomplish something using our feet for what God intended them to be used for.  That'd be walking, by the way, not holding down the coffee table.
  • And on the topic of God: Because we have the opportunity to relish in the glory of His creation - the grass, the fields, the trees, the flora, the fauna, the majesty of His Greatness.
  • And last, because we like to.  It is enjoyable to us. Because out there, in the wild, we are free.
Love you always -- even during this short time in your life when the aliens have stolen your brain,

Momma & Daddy

Friday, January 28, 2011

Traveling Walking Sticks

A couple of hiking trips ago, we came across a familiar sight.  I cannot tell you how many times I've seen those handcrafted walking sticks forgotten in a parking lot.  If we weren't as honest as we are, we could probably make some extra dough selling those babies!  Usually we either leave them where they are, or turn them in to the park office.

The office was closed the day we happened upon that stick.  After commenting on how someone was going to kick themselves when they realized it was missing, we headed on towards the trail.  But it was here that the larger mystery began.  Propped against the trail sign were two more hiking sticks, hand-sanded and perfectly proportioned.

Now, its not uncommon for people to leave sticks found along the trail, but someone had obviously put a lot of time and effort into these.  They weren't poly'ed or carved, but they were sanded and rounded with the utmost care.

At this point, we realized this was no accident.  They were intentionally left by someone with the intent that the next hiker to come along could use them.  We didn't choose to grab these though.  Tim had his hands full with the video camera and Clover, and I like the freedom of being able to use my hands for things like taking pictures, scratching my nose, and - uh - breaking my fall should that frequently encountered situation arise. (I'm careless; what can I say?!)

But their presence gave us something to talk about for a bit.  But, just as that bit had arose, it quickly left. It didn't take long for us to forget that mystery in favor of another (remember the ice sounds?).  Halfway up the trail, though, we were greeted with a reminder.  I immediately began to think, "Boy Scouts," but have yet to prove the sticks' origin.

We found two more at our exit point, and decided to take these as we took the road back to the car.  I decided it would be pretty fun to take them to the next trail we visited and leave them there, maybe even attaching a "Traveling Walking Stick" tag to them suggesting that the next bearer do the same.

A week later and the sticks are still standing in the corner -- tagless, trail-less, tramp-less. It's not because I haven't had time, but rather the more practical version of me reminded myself, "Hey, Self! Remember that article you just read the other day?" Yeah... The one where people who left their names and/or contact information in summit logs found in national parks (some having been there for quite some time) were being warned of their "federal offense."  Apparently leaving something behind in a national park is a federal offense - even if that something is just your contact info in an already present summit log. Now I'm beginning to question whether our parks (state or national) would frown upon the idea of a couple of "Traveling Walking Sticks."

We haven't made any solid decisions, and I'm leaning more towards leaving them tagless and hoping the next bearer will appreciate the craftsmanship enough not to just dump it in the woods. Either that or taking the Dremel tool to them. But, we'd love to hear your opinion.

Happy Trails,

Robin & Tim

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A New Home

Please pardon the interruption as we are currently undergoing a little move to a new home. We will bring you back to your normally scheduled programming shortly. Taking a page out of Steven's book over at My Life Outdoors, we too, have purchased a domain name for the blog. Our new address is now Woohoo! Of course you will still be able to reach us through the blogspot address we've used for so long, as it will just forward you on to the new address.

Anyway, it may take just a bit for the name change to travel through all the tubes, but before you know it you will be receiving your normal fix of Appalachia in no time. In the event you can't get here after a while, might I suggest blasting some lottery balls through the tubes, that generally blasts through the tube clogs of say poker chips and racing horses that get stuck from time to time. After all "the internets is a series of tubes not a truck you can dump stuff on."

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin

Burnt Mill Bridge Loop - BSFNR

The weekend was upon us once again, and in the dead of winter, Mother Nature was kind enough to provide a sunny day for hiking.  A couple of hikes have been on our to-do list, and a quick deliberation lead us north to the Big South Fork National River and Recreation for a relatively easy 4.3 mile hike on the Burnt Mill Bridge Loop Trail.

After readying our packs, layering our clothes, and packing an after hike lunch, we were out the door and on our way with the mercury rising by noon time.  It was a pleasant, uneventful drive up I-75 to our exit towards Huntsville, TN in Scott County.  As we ventured further north and up the Cumberlands, the peaks showed what was left of their white winter blanket.  It wasn't long before we reached the trail head, geared up, and headed down the trail.

Burnt Mill Bridge Loop is an absolutely gorgeous hike, especially in the winter time.  We had hiked in the same area back when we did Honey Creek Loop in the early fall of last year. The trail is relatively flat, and the terrain isn't very difficult, featuring soft footing and sandy stretches as you follow alongside the Clear Fork River for most of the trail. There are, as always in Tennessee, some rooty and rocky parts, a few foot bridges, a couple sets of stone steps, and one ladder -- dubbed by the Kiddo as the "bestest part of the trail."

The scenery was so much like the Honey Creek trail, only much milder, that we were glad we could finally share this with Ashby.  Remember, Honey Creek is the trail that's on steroids... not something Ash would be fond of. But this trail was perfect for her. Tons of opportunities for ooohs and ahhhs (Robin ended up with over 250 photos!), vistas as far as your eye would take you up and down river, rock shelters and bluffs, icicles taller than us, and lots of sweet little swimming holes if you're out in summer -- all packed into this kid-friendly hike.

If you're doing the trail clockwise, like we did, you'll find one of these swimming areas about .36 miles from the parking lot. There's a tree there with boards nailed on to fashion a ladder and a nice rope swing.  There's another rope just two trees down. If it'd been summer, I would have been hard pressed to have resisted the inner child. The water looks deep enough here for jumping, and the rope looked to be in decent shape. But looks can be deceiving, so it never hurts to be cautious. This summer, a hot, sweltering day may find us picnicking here, and taking turns jumping in the river.

Overall, this was one of the prettiest trails we've been on.  The website states that it's 3.6 miles, but our GPS confirmed others that have said the same - the trail really tops out at 4.3 miles. The trail is rated moderate, but I don't think it's the terrain that causes this. There were signs that the river had raged over the trail, and we met a friendly couple and their dog along the way who confirmed this.  During heavy rains, part of the trail may be covered, and the current of that river looked very swift at times. You wouldn't want to be caught out there when flash flood warnings are in effect. Otherwise, the trail was very easy with a small elevation gain (about 150 feet that we could best guess) towards the halfway point.

With lots of resting spots (backcountry campsites galore!) and way too many things to look at for the time allotted, we had a hard time keeping ourselves moving. Towards the end we were losing light fast, but we really didn't mind. Although the temp was dropping and the Hamgeek (Robin's dad) would be worried, we couldn't help but watch the evening sunlight dance through the rhododendrons and sparkle off the many ice cascades near the end of the trail. The opportunity to behold the majesty of hemlock forests at sunset is worth the cost of tired feet and chilly noses. We can't wait to visit here again and again to watch the landscape change with the seasons.

Happy Trails,

Tim and Robin

PS... We've created a Flickr account so we can share more pictures with you! So, if you're interested in seeing more photos of this hike, click here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday Fun Stuff

I don't think any of us look forward to Monday. Monday marks the end of weekend adventures, the beginning of the work/school week, five days worth of getting up before the sun (I really should do this all the time), more homework than is good for anyone, and the day designated for laundry, amongst other things.

Monday is weird for me. It never feels right. It's a day of extreme reality check. It's all the things I should have done over the weekend, but didn't 'cause I spent my time having fun using my feet for what God intended them to be used for. Because my weekend is full of conversation and laughter, and my Monday's remind me of the quieter time. Not that I don't enjoy that, because I do, but it's different -- and in all these years I've never really gotten used to it.

So, on Monday morning while Ashby dolls herself up for school, I occupy my mind catching up on blogs I follow and window shopping online. I usually find myself on Amazon reading the "LOOK INSIDE!"s. This morning though, a glance at the calendar reminded me that Valentine's Day was right on the horizon.

"Another commercialized holiday," says my brain. Tim and I usually just do something a little special (like breakfast in the park) while we sweeten Ashby up with the traditional bear and candy heart. Sometimes he buys me flowers, but he's "learnt" over the years that I'd rather have flowers growing in the dirt. So, now (other than the cut daisy bouquets I can't get enough of) flowers come home striving to grow instead of living to die. :-)

I was deep in my excursion, my sleep-deprived brain on overdrive, trying desperately to think of something "outdoor-oriented" to buy my Timmy this V-day, when I came across the following:

Although the resemblance is uncanny and the shop is local (!), I didn't feel any love coming from Mr. YeeHaw Bunny, and promptly moved on to this:

Now this had potential, right? Two cuff links for two wrists... a symbol of compatibility and love??? Plus, if he were to get lost on that huge campus he works on, he could find his way. Or not...

So, how about some Sasquatch Ipod porn love? It's unfortunate that Sasquatch looks so blue here. Nothing says "Happy Valentine's Day" like a sad, naked Sasquatch. Moving on... Something a little more cheerful maybe?

Oooooohhhhhh! A lightweight hiking hat! Eco-friendly and all. Personally, though, it looks a bit feminine for Tim's taste. I wonder how much she had to pay that guy to model this. Sometimes things look really good on paper. NEXT!

This definitely has potential. If there is one thing Tim hates, it's snakes. So if I got him this Voodoo Snake, I'd never have to shoo away another snake on the trail! I could just stand there and scream, "Poke it's eyes out, Tim!" or...

I could just get these nose warmers. We're both always complaining about our noses being cold on the trail, and Eskimo kisses are nearly impossible unless you're willing to risk thermal conductivity and refreeze. Plus, they're on SALE!

But... I think what I should really do is buy this set of five "Hiking is for Lovers" postcards (too cute!). I'll just sign them "Wish you were here! It's gorgeous up here on the AT. With Love, Your Robin"

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cumberland Trail Conference Grant Survey

The Cumberland Trail Conference was awarded a Tennessee Recreational Trails Program grant to use to complete/maintain the New River segment of the Cumberland Trail. The funds for the grant are collected from gasoline tax from recreational vehicles such as ATV's, snowmobiles, off road motorcycles, etc. The grant is given to organizations to use to build and maintain sustainable recreational trails for motorized and non-motorized use and to provide and maintain recreational trails as directed by Congress via SAFETEA-LU.

As part of the grant requirements, the Cumberland Trail Conference must solicit public input about their project to complete the New River Segment of the Cumberland Trail with the grant money. To do so they are hosting a quick two question survey on their site. To help the Cumberland Trail Conference meet this requirement please take a couple minutes to fill out the survey.

When you are done with that you can come back here and enjoy our posts from earlier in the week. Until next time...

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Drive to Roan Mountain

The weekend finally arrived and after all the snow, we were looking forward to the sunny, above freezing day that the forecast promised us. After our typical cups of morning joe, we decided a drive to the Blue Ridge Mountains sounded like a novel plan. Considering it was already past 1:00pm by the time we got out the door, we knew it would be impossible to make it to our proposed destination but continued on the path set before us figuring we'd find something along the way. We like it that way. Spontaneity creates memories.

We really didn't have any plans for a hike or anything along those lines as I was on call and it would be my luck that I'd get a call just as we set foot on a trail. Yes, that has happened before. Also, Robin has been plagued with some major sinus congestion so she didn't need to be out in the cold for any major length of time.

We headed north as I thought if we did make it to the Blue Ridge Parkway, I'd like to head to Linville Falls, and the best way to get there would be over Roan Mountain in Northeast Tennessee. With this plan in mind I knew we would at least get to see some of the sizable snowfall in Elizabethton, at Carvers Gap on the AT, and Robin would have the opportunity to take some photos. We also knew that Clover would have the opportunity to get outside and have a little fun. She's been cooped up most of the week, and a bored border collie in your house is comparable to a bull in a china shop.

When we got to Johnson City we found that Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park was along the way and we had never been there before. Of course we had to stop and check it out. There is a nice museum display and a theatre inside the visitor center which covers the rich and important history of the area. For the history buffs out there, it was here at Fort Watagua where the Overmountain Militia mustered and marched to the Battle of Kings Mountain to defeat the Red Coats and turn the tide of the Revolution.

After our walk around the fort we decided to continue our journey towards Roan Mountain State Park. Upon arriving we stopped at the visitor center so Robin could snap some shots and to let Clover stretch her legs a bit. Boy, did she stretch them! We went behind the visitor center where the Peg Leg Mine and Cloudland Nature trailheads are located. Since there was no one around, we let Clover "The Hover Dog" loose from the leash and she had an absolute blast running and bounding about in the 8" deep snow.

Once we were done at the visitor center, we decided to press our luck and head up the mountain to Carvers Gap. I don't know what it is, but when I'm that close to the Appalachia Trail, I just have to see it and most times put my feet on it. Unfortunately as we headed up, we soon realized that we made a stupid decision, but it was too late. There was no where to turn around as all the pull offs and turn around points were covered in snow from where the plows had been through. There was still ice and snow covering the road in spots where the sun hadn't reached and as we continued up the mountain it got to a point where the whole road was covered in ice and snow until we reached the Gap. Luckily as we started up the mountain, we passed a snow plow that had just made it's way down the mountain which meant that the ice and snow was loose enough to provide traction as we drove.

At the top of the mountain, at Carvers Gap, there were lots of vehicles (SUVs and 4-wheel drive varieties) in the parking area, which was covered in plowed snow. It appears that people had ventured out for some cross country skiing and the like. Since it was getting late, everyone up there was packing up their gear and calling it a day. It looked like they all had a ton of fun.

We were able to get turned around up there and we slowly made our way back down the mountain but not before snapping some shots of the snow, the AT, and the breath-taking views on the way down. Overall, it was a wonderful day out even if Robin was ready to beat me by the time we got back down off the mountain in our little Nissan Versa hatchback. I couldn't help but giggle at her.

All the snow was beautiful and it was great to get out for a nice drive. Maybe next time we can get out earlier and make it to the Blue Ridge.

Happy Trails,

Tim & Robin

P.S. Appalachian Trail report at Carvers Gap - Lots of snow and this rhododendron says, "It's freakin' cold!"

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Appalachia & Beyond Presents:

Run, Clover, Run!

Don't forget to check out and subscribe to Appalachia & Beyond's You Tube Channel.

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Volunteer Trail Days - Frozen Head State Park

The new year has been in full swing for nearly two weeks now. We've seen a lot of weather here in East Tennessee, and due to that, there's sure to be some damage on the trails we know and love. If your resolution for 2011 was to give back then there's plenty of opportunities. I know that we enjoy getting on the trail and hiking until our hearts are content, but if it wasn't for the volunteers who sacrifice their weekends to maintain the trails we love, our hike would be more laborious, or worse - unavailable - to us to enjoy.

One of our favorite camping and hiking destinations is Frozen Head State Park in Wartburg, TN. There's over 80 miles worth of trail hiking at Frozen Head and to keep these trails up takes a lot of hard work. This weekend on Saturday, January 15th will be the first of many opportunities to give back. Everyone wishing to volunteer should meet at the park office/visitor center at 9am equipped with a daypack and water, appropriate clothing for the weather, sturdy hiking shoes, and a will to work/give back.

Work to be done will be announced before hitting the trail. Moderate hiking maybe required. Work should be completed and crews returning to the visitor center by 3:00pm or before.

If you can't make it this weekend, don't fret. There will be plenty more opportunities throughout the year. The rest of the year's volunteer trail maintenance dates are March 19, May 21, June 4 (this is the same day as National Trail's Day), July 16, August 20, September 17, October 15, and November 19.

So be sure to make an effort to give back to your local, state, or national parks if you can. We'd love to be at this one, but I'm on call this weekend. Hopefully, we can make it to the next date.

For a complete list of volunteer trail days and other events at Frozen Head State Park go here.

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

First Hike of 2011 - Lake Trail to Ole Mill Trail - Big Ridge State Park

Old man winter has been working overtime this year in Southern Appalachia. I believe we've had more snow days this winter than the previous few winters combined and early in the season to boot. An inch here, two inches there, we've even had an ice day where everything was covered with a tenth of an inch of ice. Needless to say, it's been tough trying to get out for the first hike of the year. Temps have rarely gotten above freezing, and the one or two days that we had balmy 40 plus temps it was during the work week. Go figure.

It was another one of those weeks where the weathermen were just as clueless on the weather as always. Wednesday was supposed to be rainy. We ended up with 1.5 inches of white fluffy "rain". Friday it was supposed to snow 2 inches. We had a wintery mix instead and none of it stuck because the ground was too wet and warm. Saturday was supposed to be the day with no snow, a high of 32F, and sunny. It was for the most part, but wind chills were down in the teens. Sunday turned out to be the clear day we were looking for, but the high was only 30F.

We couldn't stand it any longer. All over the blogosphere, people - hikers - were out having fun on the trails. It was time we got a piece of the action. After much deliberation and consideration of the weather, Robin and I decided the Lake Trail at Big Ridge State Park would be the safest choice for our first hike of 2011. When the temps are below freezing, and you haven't a clue as to how much snow might still be on the ground, and threat of more winter weather coming in at some point, you want to make sure you are a) prepared, b) on a familiar trail, and c) not too far from the car or emergency assistance if the need arises.

The Lake Trail is one we've hiked several times, as it's not very far from home. Matter of fact, Big Ridge is only a 10 minute drive from the house if that. The trail is 1.5 miles end to end and the elevation gain is approximately +/- 100ft. The Lake Trail offers wonderful views of Big Ridge Lake, plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities, 3 4 foot bridges for crossing, and an old dam built by the CCC in the 1930's at the 1 mile mark - provided you start the trail from Norton Gristmill.

Snodderly Cemetery is also along the trail about a quarter mile in. Many of the earlier inhabitants of this area are buried here including members of the Snodderly, McCoy, and Hutchison families. If you've been on the Ghost Hike at Big Ridge then the name Hutchison should sound familiar to you as Maston Hutchison is one of the main subjects of the Ghost hike and said to haunt the park. The Lake Trail also offers access to the Ghost House Loop Trail - the trail you hike for the Ghost Hike, Dark Hollow West Trail, Loyston Overlook Trail, and Meditation Point Trail.

It was definitely cold out, but beautiful nonetheless as we hiked. Big Ridge Lake, we had noticed, was mostly frozen. It was a thin freeze so nothing we'd dare to walk out on. On the second foot bridge, we noticed a deer track in the snow, but we weren't lucky enough to see said deer. As we came to Snodderly Cemetery we heard a very creepy, eerie noise. At first we thought it was birds. However, the more we listened, we realized it was too loud to be birds. It was all around us, or so it seemed. The best description of it is the sound of steal cables snapping like in the movies when you hear an elevator cable snapping or something like that.

As I said before, we were at Snodderly Cemetery and this spot in the trail is right alongside the lake across from the boat house and swimming area. It dawned on us that it must be the lake that was making that sound. To prove this we walked to the bank and pitched rocks onto the frozen water. Sure enough, we reproduced the sound, although it wasn't as loud. We must have stood there a good five or ten minutes just pitching rocks and sticks and listening to the sounds it produced and watching the debris glide across the lake. It was the first time we had heard such a noise in nature and it was the first time Robin had seen Big Ridge Lake frozen this early in the winter. Come to think of it, it's the first time I had ever seen the lake frozen.

After our fun with the lake sounds, we continued on our way. Before long we reached the dam and the connection to Dark Hollow West. We stuck around the dam for a bit. On one side, frozen Big Ridge Lake. On the other, unfrozen Norris Lake. Again Robin played with the sounds of the frozen lake by throwing handfuls of rocks and pebbles. We took several pictures and I had been shooting video off and on, some of it of Robin tossing rocks onto the frozen lake. I just hope I was able to capture the sound.

Several minutes later, we noticed the wind had picked up a bit and our cheeks told us it was getting colder. So on up the trail we headed. The other side of the dam is only a half mile long, but contains the largest ascent if approaching from the dam. Before the climb the trail connects with the Loyston Overlook trail around .10 miles past the dam. At this point we decided to head up to the overlook, which climbs up about 150 ft and loops around the overlook. It's only a .25 mile detour and from the top, it offers a wonderful view out onto the Loyston Sea area of Norris Lake. Of course the view is through the trees, so I'd imagine in the thick of summer it's harder to see.

Once we were finished admiring the view, we headed back down and finished up the trail. Just before the finish is another side trail to Meditation Point which offers a gazebo to sit and look out onto part of Big Ridge Lake, at least during the winter. We decided to just finish the trail instead of taking this trail the .15 miles to the point as it was getting colder and time was becoming an issue. We also still had to walk back to the car, which was parked at the gristmill. We decided as we walked past the boat house and towards the park road that we would walk the Ole Mill trail back to the gristmill. It's an easy trail that meanders .3 miles from the cabins to the gristmill along side the lake. Around the lake and especially along the Ole Mill trail, there is plenty of evidence of beaver work. We even imagined at one point that one beaver must have been pretty disappointed after all his hard work was for not because the felled tree was caught by another tree and fell short of landing in the lake.

It was indeed a great hike and a much needed one at that. Just before exiting the trail we turned to look out across the lake for one last view and was graced with a view that certainly God provided - a brilliant sun setting across the snowy banks of the lake and a sun dog that was absolutely amazing. 2.8 miles later and we were standing back in the gristmill parking lot feeling pleased, satisfied, cold, hungry, and 97.2 miles away from our 100 mile goal.

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin