I finally made it to a Nashville Hiking Meetup group hike, thanks to Kelly; I agreed to go at such a late hour, there was simply insufficient time for this socially paranoid introvert to come up with a plausible excuse not to go. 🙂
We met at the Target near Hickory Hollow at 7am; I was running about five minutes late due to a stop at a nearby convenience store for green tea. This worked out quite well, as I just missed what might have been one of those highly uncomfortable group introductions (particularly when you’re the stranger).
The event filled up at the Stewie-imposed limit of 25 hikers, and about 17 showed up. There were two or three carpools plus a few singles who opted to drive themselves so they could head back immediately after the hike and skip the traditional post-Fiery Gizzard dining experience at Crust (the name alone makes you want to eat there).
Kelly drove our group of five (six on return) which included “TOT” Kay, Matt “Logan” Damon, and Lawyer Scott. It was nice to have a chance to pick up on some of the group-specific lingo and lore on our way to Tracy City.
After a totless group photo (not as appealing as it might sound at first listen), we gathered ’round the map station to listen to Kelly some more, and then we were off into the wilds of Grundy County!
I was initially considering taking the more difficult route to the ridge/ Raven Point, but I wised up and stuck with the group. Although I have chosen the strenuous route on almost all my previous Fiery Gizzard hikes, this extra Ben & Jerry’s weight I’ve been carrying around for a few months now would have made it much more difficult.
Although the short Grundy loop trail officially begins from the right side of the parking lot and ends on the left side, we almost always skip this easy loop when going for Raven Point; so we began on the left side of the picnic area, beside the map station. Here, we gathered around Kelly Stewart for final instructions, Q & A, legal disclaimers, hand-holding, and what have you.
The Nashville Meetup Hiking Group filed onto the trail in single file, many of them using hiking poles — a great idea on this trail system, especially if you’re not of sufficient girth to bend a pole.
After a short section of level trail, there’s an immediate descent down a steep, winding path into the (at this point small) canyon; it’s like you drop into a different world.
After only a couple hundred feet we came to a massive rock shelter which contains Cave Spring, located toward the back of the rock shelter. On the far side of this huge rocky deal stands a 500+ year-old hemlock tree. It might take a third of the group, hand-in-hand, to form a human ring around this ancient plant.
This branch of the canyon is cut by Little Fiery Gizzard Creek. This stream runs fast and cuts past large boulders, some cradled by the large, gnarly root systems of trees that somehow survived growing atop these virtually bare, massive chunks of rock. There are many very interesting, beautiful rock ledges cut by the creek over eons.
Most of the trees here are old growth pines. It’s quite unlike just about any other Tennessee trail; the first mile or so has the rainforesty look and feel of the coastal Alaskan wilderness at Prince William Sound.
Less than half a mile down steam you’ll come to Blue Hole Falls, a very cool cascading waterfall about ten feet high. The water moves even faster here, as it is squeezed into a deeper and narrower gorge. Of the three waterfalls in the canyon, this is perhaps the most visually appealing, at least measured by sheer uniqueness.
A bridge crosses the stream about 3/4 mile from the map station. The day loop trail continues along the right side of the stream; for maximum variety, this is the best way to return to the parking lot; however, by the time you get back here after drooling off Raven Point and risking your life hopping across wooded fields of small slippery rocks and boulders, you’re unlikely to give a damn. Crossing the bridge to the left puts you on the Fiery Gizzard trail proper.
A few hundred yards further you’ll come to the junction of Big and Little Fiery Gizzard Creek. The water is extremely swift here and has cut “Black Canyon,” a deep gorge through the rocks about 5 feet wide and 30 feet deep. I’ve been told that people kayak here, though it’s hard to believe.
The first mile or so of the Fiery Gizzard hike was very picturesque as always. There was as much water flowing on this day as I’ve ever seen in Little and Big Fiery Gizzard Creeks, although there were still lengthy sections of Big Fiery Gizzard Creek with no flowing water; it’s all flowing through subterranean caves in those areas. But I’m getting ahead of meself.
Soon after this point he trail leaves the stream and climbs up a rocky slope. This is a moderate part of the trail and lasts for less than 100 yards. The climb is tricky; be sure to watch your step on the rocks — or else.
The trail widens again and comes to a group of tall rock outcroppings. The main one, called Chimney Rock, is more than 20 feet high. No one climbed it today –probably a good thing. Just past the chimneys, a spur trail to the right leads to Sycamore Falls.
The Fiery Gizzard trail proper (I think) continues for another 11 miles and ends at 100-foot high Foster Falls, although our farthest point was to be Raven Point. I have yet to hike all the way to Foster Falls; this would have to be either an extremely challenging day hike starting at the crack of dawn, or more sanely, an overnight camping excursion. D’oh — digression, begone!
(Much more coming soon – please check back)
(NOTE: I am still working on some content and all the imagery. Please revisit soon.)