Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hiking to Camp Sam - Norris Dam State Park 7/2/2011

Another 4th of July has come and past us by. Two weeks later and the neighbors are finally getting the fireworks out of their system. Of course it'll probably be another 2 weeks before their completely out of explosives... and then they'll reach into their ammunition stores. For the rest of us (here at the Bird House) we are over the basement fiasco, thankfully. The pipes are repaired, everything that was ruined or deemed as junk has been cleaned out, and hauled off to the landfill. I call that progress.

So the weekend of 4th of July (on the day of the basement fiasco and prior to the get together), Robin and I decided we needed to take solace in the woods for a little while. It had been nearly a month since our last hike so it was well overdue. We packed up our day packs and headed out to Norris Dam State Park, just a hop, skip, and a jump from our house, and decided to hike the Camp Sam trail via the Norris Dam Tea room.

We arrived at the trailhead shortly after 9:00, before the heat of the day arrived. There wasn't hardly a soul out at this time. Matter of fact, before hitting the trail, we only saw an older hiking couple, and a couple of park workers rounding up garbage from the previous day. So we donned our packs, harnessed the Mighty Clover Beene, fired up the "CPS", and headed on down the road trail.

Our hike starts at the Christmas Fern Loop Trail next to the Tea Room on the east side of Norris Dam SP. As you walk the trail to around the backside of the Tea Room, you are immediately given a decision - continue straight on the Christmas Fern loop or go right and descend a staircase of at least a hundred steps to find the junction with Tall Timbers trail. We had no choice but to turn left as that was our previously planned route to reach the Camp Sam Trail Head.

We took our time walking down the stairs, Robin stopping every so often to snap pictures, I stopping to listen to the birds, and Clover to sniff the area. Of course we also had to take it slow, as Robin's center of gravity just isn't the same, "something" has taken over her body and she hasn't quite gotten used to it yet. After the tenth of a mile it takes to descend the stair case we finally reached the junction where Tall Timbers trail and Christmas Fern Loop meet. We turned to the right to head towards our eventual goal of the Camp Sam trail, rather than go left to continue the loop trail.

From here we walked semi-lakeside for approximately .5 miles to the start of the Lake View trail (which happens to be the newest trail in the park that was opened last year). On the Tall Timbers trail we meandered through the woods taking in the scenery of the tall Tulip Poplars, Red Cedars, and various Pines and other trees. We also had to deal with the sounds of jet-skis, boats, and other assorted water craft. It was next to the lake and it was 4th of July weekend, what did we expect? Nothing more than just that. The terrain to this point has a fairly easy footing, nothing too hard on the feet, ankles, or knees. The elevation gain/loss along this point is +/- 50 - 100ft if that.

After the half mile on the Tall Timber trail, we finally came to the start of the Lake View trail. The Lake View trail is a 4.9 mile one way trail that travels along the lake side up to the Norris Watershed and the outskirts of the town of Norris. For this hike though we were only on it for about .3 miles. At about .1 the trail forks off to the left down a steep slope to continue the trail up to Norris. At this point we continued straight on the trail. After another tenth of a mile we reached a point where the trail seems to dead end at a fence, of course the trail doesn't end here, it actual switches back and up the ridge. At the fence however, we found the Holy Trinity and I removed a big fallen limb from off the fence.

The Holy "Spirt"??

We continued up the ridge for another tenth of a mile or so until we reached the junction where the Lake View trail, Camp Sam Trail, and High Point trails all meet. We continued to the right for about 50 yards and the Camp Sam trail goes down the other side of the ridge to the left. Starting on the Camp Sam trail it is clear to see that even though there is a creek bed off to the left about 75 yards, the trail also acts as a run-off for any rains that fall in the area. The footing is a bit tricky here due to that fact, chock full of loose rocks and plenty of ruts. Additionally the trail is quite narrow and a bit grown up all around. However, during this hike, there were plenty of raspberries all around. It's a good thing we had picked our fill at home the previous weekend, otherwise we might had been tempted to stay here all day picking to our hearts content.

We continued down the ridge for .3 miles or so until we came to a side trail on the right. This side trail actually leads to Camp Sam, which was at one time a CCC camp, but has since been converted to a Boy Scout camp. After a good hundred yards on the side trail, we came to a jeep road that circles the camp and also led back out to Norris Freeway and is an access road for the Boy Scouts to make it into camp. From our looking around, it seemed it had been a while since the last time the scouts had been there to camp. Walking around in this area, we found two different remnants from the old CCC camp, a couple different camp fire pits, a flag pole fashioned out of a tree trunk, a few different wild flowers, more raspberries, and a large reed/bamboo forest that blocked one side of the circling jeep road.

We stayed in this area for a good thirty minutes or so, just checking it out and taking it all in. After that time passed though, it was getting pretty warm, and round ligament pain was starting to plague Robin. So we decided instead of hiking out to the other trail head for the Camp Sam trail - (this is located along Norris Freeway up at the picnic shelter) we would instead head back up the ridge and then hike out to the cabin area which was only a tenth of a mile from the trail junction for Camp Sam, High Point, and Lake View. Upon reaching the rustic cabin area, we walked the road back to the Tea Room and ended our hike with approximately 2.10 miles hiked (not quite long enough for the "Be a Mapper Contest" by Backpacker Magazine) and an elevation loss/gain of +/- 390ft.

It was a pleasant hike and a welcomed escape to the solitude of the woods. When we were done, we returned home and ate some lunch. Robin then took a little nap, and then we ventured back out to the Fourth of July celebration at Robin's aunt's house and had a good time with family and friends.

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin

Trimble Track: