Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lake Trail to Old Mill Trail Revisited - Big Ridge State Park - 4/17/2011

This past weekend was a rather hectic and tense one for sure. By Sunday we were ready for the calm and tranquility of the woods. We decided that after our trek the day prior to the Bass Pro and drive in the Great Smoky Mountains, we'd stay close and local considering gas prices continue to sky rocket for no real apparent reason. Robin was itching for a nice easy walk in the woods as her back has been bothering her and she didn't want to do anything to strenuous.

With this in mind we decided to head over to Big Ridge State Park and hit the Lake Trail. You may remember this from our first hike of the year. I've lost count now how many times we've hiked this trail as well as how many times in which direction. Last time we started from the Gristmill and hiked the loop which included the Ole Mill Trail. This time we opted to start from the Campground side and hike it that way. This time though we didn't hit the Loyston Overlook Trail nor the Meditation Point trail.

It was a nice gentle hike on a beautiful spring day. The temps were in the 70's keeping it cool with the sun shining nicely. The trail was in great shape for the most part. There were storms that past through late in the week so there were some muddy spots, washouts, and flooded sections of trail that we had to circumnavigate. The wild flowers were blooming wonderfully. We spotted White Trillium, Bluets, Dwarf Crested Iris, "Sweet Williams" and many more. Come to think of it I don't think I've ever seen the Dwarf Crested Iris blooming here before, of course on all the previous hikes here, I likely wasn't paying much attention.

Starting from the campground, the trail gently climbs the ridge that over shadows the lake to the right of the trail. In the first .2 miles the trail looks like a major washout for the run-off during storms, so the footing is a bit tricky. On the right of trail is the turn for the Meditation Point trail. another .2 miles up the trail the terrain is much easier and there's a nice covered bench to sit and rest if so desired. We sat here for a few minutes to snap some shots of caterpillars and other items of interest. Another .1 mile or so you come to Big Ridge Dam. After crossing the dam, we opted to stay right on the Lake Trail instead of turning left for the Dark Hollow Trail.

The back side of the Lake trail is a pretty easy hike for the most part. The terrain is easy with only minor ascents and descents. There are a total of 4 footbridges from the dam to the end of the trail. At the first bridge we stopped to watch the rushing stream and take a small break. It was at this point that the kiddo decided to take an opportunity to see if Hiking Fiasco would like to feature her trail exploits by laying on the bridge and dropping her cell phone right into the creek. We were actually quite surprised that instead of her typical "What do I do look" she promptly removed both shoes and socks and was in the creek faster than anything I've seen her do (unless she's running the 400 or 800) and retrieved her phone. We figured if it had been one of us in the creek it wouldn't have been such a prompt response (hehehe). Unfortunately, her phone flipped out and we turned it off and stowed it in my pack until we could get it home to dry out. (Oh no, what ever will the kiddo do with text messaging)?

After this fiasco and more photo onward we walked. One cemetery and 3 bridges later we were emerging from the forest and back to the road that runs between the group camp and the gristmill. At this point I asked Robin if she wanted to take the road back to the car or if she wanted to take the Chestnut Ridge trail. She opted instead for the Old Mill Trail that runs along the lake and by the cabins. The Ole Mill Trail is only .3 miles and is a gentle stroll where you can find several wild flowers and evidence of beavers in the area. It only takes a few moments to get to the other end but one should take their time to really check the area out. It is quite interesting seeing all the aquatic life close at hand.

We finally reached the end of the trail and still had to walk past one of the ranger's houses, through a small parking lot by the Tea Room, and past the swimming area of the lake. Final count at the end of the trail was 2.84 miles with only 140+ feet of elevation gain. I might add that along the Lake Trail on this day there was some fresh blow down on the trail from the recent storms. It's nothing to hard to get through though. By the end we were refreshed and a bit more relaxed than before we hit the trail.

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin

Trail Details on Trimble: