Hiking Yanahli with Levi

I’ve gotten behind on posting. I could use the excuse of busyness (and I think I will). Life has gotten in the way and since we’ve moved, the hiking trails are few and far between around here. I have to travel to hike now (and I’m not fond of that).

During a few days off due to a high volume of students sick with the flu at school where I am a teacher’s assistant, Levi and I took a day hike near Columbia, Tn. I enjoy nothing more than spending time on the trails with my son. He loves to camp, hike and spend time outdoors. That’s my love language.

Thankfully, Cub Scouts gives even more reason to get outside and enjoy nature. He’s learning so much about life skills, character development, and citizenship. I’m learning so much about leadership. I highly enjoy scouting. I wished I had been a scout when I grew up but it’s too late to change that now. I refuse to live vicariously through my son but I will thoroughly enjoy while he continues in scouting.

Hope you enjoy this quick day hike with us.


Mammoth Cave – First Creek Loop


Another hiking trip with my buddy Jason. We haven’t hiked together in a couple of years and I have been having trouble finding someone to hike in the cold with me. I posted something about it on Facebook a couple of weeks back and he commented he was going after Christmas. So we planned a three-day trip to Mammoth Cave.

The first day made me a little sore simply because I hadn’t walked 7 miles in a while. I had a hard time sleeping. We also tried setting our hammocks up with a ridge line to get that thirty degree angle that is a hammocker’s ideal hang. It was different so that may have had something to do with my lack of sleep. It also rained on us for about an hour the first night so we were a little uncomfortable with the weather and the temperature that it brought.

I also tried a new sleeping bag a friend gave me from the Army. It gets down to minus 10 degrees and is as light as my other sleeping bag. It was a great bag and I stayed nice and toasty inside.

The second day was the roughest because it was blistering cold with the wind reaching twenty mph and we were walking on the ridges most of the time. When we got to camp, we decided to set out hammocks up back near the rocks rather than on the edge of the ridge where the campsite was to keep out of the wind. I slept much better the second night.

We woke up to frigid temps and didn’t bother eating breakfast. We broke camp and got to the cars so we could get to some warmth and a cheeseburger soon.

Hope you enjoy the videos.

Chimney Tops

After checking out Clingmans Dome, we decided to head down 441 and take a quick hike up the very strenuous trail to the rocky face of Chimney Tops. When we arrived it was about 2:00 and the sign at the trailhead said it would take an hour and a half to reach the top. The first part of the hike seemed rather easy (for me anyway). There are many, many, many steps to climb that trail workers built to make the ascent much easier than it could have been. Carrie decided to count them but quickly lost interest when it became more work than walking.

Once we reached the halfway mark, speed began to allude us. The trail began to go straight up and the steps were becoming more laborious. At one point, I believe if I had turned to ask Carrie if she wanted to quit, she would have said yes. One couple that stayed ahead of us for most of the hike did actually quit 2/3 the way up.

When we finally reached a leveling off we could see that we were very close to the top. We were warned by a passing hiker to be cautious of the “killer” squirrels. They were definitely making their presence known and they would get rather close if you let them.

We reached a point where the trail actually came to an end but the sign informed us if we wanted to continue to the top , we could scale the rocky face of the mountain to get the views. Carrie decided to stay put where their were some other hikers there that had been there a while. They had even set up their ENO hammock. I went further climbing halfway up the rocky face before feeling the pressure of fear and shaky legs. I decided it was far enough and the views were spectacular at that point. Others continued further up but I had gone far enough. I was satisfied with the heights that I had reached.

As soon as I got my fill, I scaled back down, grabbed some water and a pack of Spam singles (I was hungry). Then Carrie and I hiked back down the mountain. The whole way down my legs were feeling the jitteriness since I was using my legs muscles more to stay paced and not rush down the mountain (like some we saw as we were going up).

Once we reached the bottom, it was time to find food and that we did in the Burg of Gatlin. BBQ was on the menu at Hungry Bear.

Clingmans Dome

For finally graduating with my Associates in Divinity from Grace College of Divinity in North Carolina, my wife and I spent a few days in the Great Smoky Mountains to celebrate both of our hard work; my studies and her putting up with me.

We decided to take on Clingmans Dome, which really is not daunting task. It is a concreted path with somewhat of an incline. It will wear out the not-so-in-shape person. They have a few places to take a sit on the way up if you get tired and you do start to feel it in your thighs as you ascend the pathway. Once you reach the top, the dome comes into view and what a view it is to see it peaking out of the tops of the spruce-fir zone.

One would think Clingmans Dome is a spectacular structure that beckons a moment of awe as it winds in spiraling form to the highest point in the Smokies. However, on closer inspection, the Dome is spartan and weather-beaten. The rock facade is beginning to deteriorate and the dome itself is showing signs of years and years of use.

Which is why there is an initiative by National Geographic to repair some of the nation’s greatest parks. You can visit VoteYourPark.com and vote for your top five parks to help unlock $2 million in preservation funding (only through July 5, 2016).

However, it was still a pleasure to visit the Dome. The views were not pleasurable since the day before experienced rain which left fog encompassing the altitude. Hence why they call them the “Smoky Mountains.” Through the fog, we got to see some distance but not much.

After some time we decided to hike the forest trails back to the parking lot instead of the over-publicized concrete path. At the Dome, you can take the Appalachian Trail for a half mile (or so) which then connects with Clingmans Dome parking lot trail. The AT was another chance to mark some mileage off walking such a prevalent and most acknowledged trail of all long trails (CDT, PCT, AT).

The fog cleared in some spots to give views to the rolling landscape below as we walked among the footsteps of those who had gone before on the AT; Benton McKaye, Grandma Gatewood, Earl Shaffer, Bill Bryson, Jennifer Pharr Davis, Warren Doyle, Bill Irwin, David “AWOL” Miller, Buddy Backpacker, Zach Davis, Baltimore Jack, Neva “Chipmink” Warren.

Knowing I’m walking in those footsteps was an honor for something I deeply respect and dream of.

After reaching the fork that takes hikers back to the parking lot of the Dome or continuing on the AT, we knew we needed to be getting back. We turned off the ridge line to walk back down the side of the mountain through the thicket of fir (so deep you couldn’t see ten feet to either side). We enjoyed the cool air, the shadowiness of the spruce coverage,  the countless streams pouring out of the side of the mountain, and the occasional view when the trees opened up.

We knew we were getting close to the parking lot when we starting hearing voices. The trailhead presented boulders larger than a house that presented a small glimpse of our size in comparison that could easily give someone a sense of insignificance in this word. After reaching the trailhead we over heard a park ranger giving an answer to the constant question of all visitors: Why are some of the pine trees dying.

“Those aren’t pines, they are Fir trees and the balsam woolly adelgid is killing the Fir.” See here

I wished we could’ve had a better view but it was still pretty cool to mark a few things off the bucket list so it was worth it. Plus who gets the opportunity to view the Dome with fog coverage? You can see pictures all day long of the 7 mile view because no one thinks the fog is worth seeing but I enjoyed it.

Hope you enjoy the video.


Wilhoite Mill Trail

Wilhoite Trail

During Fall Break, it is always hard to find something for you child to do when they are bored. It seems that all toys and games have been exhausted and it is up to the creative parent to find them something else to keep their attention. I admit, I fail to spend enough time with my son and I will give no reason or excuse why. I just do. So this week, I knew I would want to get him out and do some day hiking. However, his small legs and feet can only take so much before he tires and wants to go.


I chose a small trail by the Duck River (I refuse to call it the Duck Scenic River because I did’t grow up with that name and think it’s a stupid name). My wife and I used to hike these trails when were dating.


We parked at the trail head and started on the Wilhoite Trail. Hence the reason I called it the Wilhoite Trail. However, the Wilhoite Trail cuts to the left and circles back around. We went right at the fork.  It wasn’t an exciting hike and there is not much to see but it is a good time in the woods and cuts around to the back end of the campground.

IMG_5301Back in the thicket of pines we were pleasantly greeted by a doe and her fawns. They sat staring at us about as much as we stared at them. She would look at us then walk away then turn around and come back to look at us some more. We saw some squirrels also.

It was a good time to hangout. After the walk, we went to the playground at the campsite then the playground at the main park. We then got my state park passport stamped. This is a great program. It encourages you to visit all the state parks and record what you did while you were there. Click on picture to learn more.

TN Park passport

Through the whole trip he kept saying, “Hey Daddy.” It was hilarious. Watch to the very end of the video to hear him.

It was a great day of hiking and visiting my dad and riding in the country. I always loved doing that with my dad. It so good to be able to share those memories while making new ones with my son.

Mousetail Landing State Park

Mousetail Landing State Park

This was my first hike alone. It started as 8 miles but I took a mountain bike trail to extend it further. The drive there was nice. I stopped at an Amish store for a sandwich and okra chips. The entrance can sneak up on you but it’s a great State Park and I would love to hike it again… With friends!!!

Mousetail Landing State Park trail map

Most of my commentary is on the video. Some points I’d like to make are:

  • Difficulty: moderate (can be strenuous for some)
  • Miles: roughly 12 miles (this includes hiking mountain bike trails to make a figure 8)
  • Marking: Clearly marked but easily confusing since mountain bike trails criss cross the trail in numerous places
  • Shelter: Stay at shelter #2. Shelter #1 has no view.
  • Terrain: dirt, mossy, rocky; bridges can be slippery if recently rained
  • Water sources: Take plenty of water. Hardly any water unless it rains
  • Trail conditions: Lots of blowdowns and debris on the trail
    • Nothing but ups and downs. Hardly (but some) flat hiking

Hickory Ridge Trail – Henry Horton State Park

Hickory Ridge Trail Another semester down and another hike to do. However, this was a small day hike but it was a joy to get out to walk in the woods again. This trip took me to a local trail at Henry Horton State Park thirty minutes from the house. I didn’t know what to expect but it proved to destroy any expectations I could have had. Henry Horton State Park is offering more and more than they used to and I’m quite pleased to see that this park is finally up-scaling to offer many events and trails for the outdoors enthusiast. I parked at the camp store just off Highway 31. Although it was closed, I grabbed a map and checked out my options of trails. The Hickory Ridge Trail has two loops; inner and outer loop. Of course I chose the outer loop however I noticed that it also connects to another trail so I had to oblige and put two trails together to make it worth my travels. Hickory Ridge Trail I started at the Camp Store parking area. It curls though some trees then a small forest road crossing to the parking area where the trailhead actually is. From there the trail takes off with plenty of rocky scenes. A campsite resides to the right where some campers had already settled. I may have been too early for them because it didn’t look that they had began to stir. Hickory Ridge Trail I arrived at the first fork that offered the inner or outer loop. The outer loop continued through the woods curving through the trees offering birds of color and sounds and vegetation of Tennessee kind. I wrapped up some recording on my phone and tucked my phone in my pocket when I jumped a cute little fawn who took off just ahead of me and never looked back. Twenty feet down the trail I believe I ran into its mother staring at me from a distance. She saw me first. More walking brought me to a structure of rocks that I was guessing was a spring house but was unsure. I shot some more video of the structure and daydreamed of who would have constructed it and for what reasons. I spent some time looking around the structure and decided to move forward. Ranger Jenkins Hickory Ridge Trail spring house The trail came to a clearing where workers had put rocks down for what may be swampy when it rains too much. I was very thankful for their hard work not just because of their attempts to keep my feet dry but also it created a very picturesque area. I came to another fork where my connector trail would take me to the Adeline Wilhoite River Trail. Hickory Ridge Trail Hickory Ridge Trail fork The trail commuted to the right where it worked back into the trees for a distance. It led me past a rock wall and paralleled the wall for yards before cutting up through the wall. A little further it opened up to cross another forest road. The trail then cut through hedges and tall grass before coming to the fork of the Adeline Wilhoite River Trail Loop. Hickory Ridge Trail Adeline Wilhoite River Trail Adeline Wilhoite River Trail I went right anticipating the backcountry campsites and overlook deck. The trail would offer mud then dirt off and on through pines and overgrowth. I grabbed a perfect hiking stick from a fallen pine tree that fit my hand and was good enough to not cause discomfort by weight or length. Adeline Wilhoite River Trail IMG_4541 Here I began the first incline of the trail. Compared to my previous experiences, this incline was small. It didn’t make me work hard enough to lose breath but the humidity of the day caused enough sweat to fill buckets. When the trail made it to the top of the incline, it cut left and lined the ridge for  a while. Boulders began making themselves known and I even saw a Dr. Pepper can sitting on one. The backcountry campsites became visible moments after reaching the ridge-top. I never saw campsite three, found campsite two but didn’t follow the trail to see campsite one. The trail led to campsite one to the left but I took the trail that led down a steep decline to the right informing me of the overlook ahead. Adeline Wilhoite River Trail Adeline Wilhoite River Trail Adeline Wilhoite River Trail The steps on the overlook were a tad narrow. When I reached the top of the overlook, I noticed it overlooked a field. I was a little let down because the view I desired was not of a field but the Duck River. Further in the hike I noticed two other deer stands and began to wonder if maybe this overlook was built not to be an “overlook” but to be a glorified deer stand. Adeline Wilhoite River Trail IMG_4548 IMG_4551 IMG_4552 In any case, I spent a moment then climbed down to make my way towards the river. The river scene on the Adeline Wilhoit Trail is brief. They do provide a bench for contemplation or rest but the river opening is a few yards long then the trail cuts back into the trees. Adeline Wilhoite River Trail   At the fork you can take the left to continue the loop back to the connector of the Hickory Ridge Trail or you can go right which takes the River Trail which I’m sure has more water vistas. This was not my direction for today. Adeline Wilhoite River Trail I went left and the trail eased its way back up the ridge. No extreme climbing. The trail meanders back and forth (not necessarily switch backs) through the woods till it reaches back to the where the loop begins. I took the connector trail back to the Hickory Ridge Outer Loop and turned back towards the trailhead. So far the trail had not offered much in the way of views or vistas. It has been mostly woods and undergrowth with the songs of birds, crickets, tree frogs and wind. Towards the end of the trail (depending which way you turn at the fork it could be the beginning of the trail) I came across a tree that was very interesting. Hickory Ridge Trail

Hickory Ridge Trail

This was an accidental picture

Tradition says these trees were made by the indians bending the sapling over in the direction they wanted to remember and tying it down. Over time it grew with a bend. Check out this link to learn more. This one had a hollowed out area that contained some brown liquid. Not sure what that is. I lodged my phone in the bark of a birch tree and took a picture to give an idea of size. Hickory Ridge TrailFurther down the trail I came across another tree that was tall and hollow. I leaned my phone against a small tree and took another picture to contrast size. Hickory Ridge Trail Hickory Ridge Trail More towards the end of my hike I came across an area that is rocky and provided many holes and ditches that went deep in the ground. These are a gnome’s playground. The temperatures were very cool down in the bottom and provided temporary relief from the humidity above. IMG_4613 IMG_4614 IMG_4615 I finally came to the original fork that leads back to the trailhead and further to the camp store. I was stopped briefly by a camper’s small dog that refused to let me by. I reached out to show I was harmless and implore for passage. It gave in because I had paid the price with a belly rub. I smiled to the camper and continued to the Camp Store. Hickory Ridge Trail Unfortunately, a Fudge Round was not in order at the moment but a coke machine providing Mt. Dews were available. I put in my money and received as a reward for my hard work a hot Mt. Dew. The coke machine was on but I believe they forgot to fill it with freon. You better believe I chugged it anyway. The Hickory Ridge Trail and the Adeline Wilhoite River Trail surpassed my expectations more than it let me down with the overlook. I was very pleased with the hike. All in all, it was 6.5 miles. I can’t wait to take the wife and son back to do some backcountry camping. Hike out, camp out then hike back. Should be a fun trip. I do recommend if you are in the Henry Horton State Park area to treat yourself to this great day hike that shouldn’t take you more than 2-3 hours. Don’t expect views but do expect solitude and fresh air. IMG_4532_Fotor http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrSgJHEpThE