As the seasons moved on to spring, I was looking for a new hike. After looking through some of the hikes listed in Outdoor Knoxville, I saw the River Bluff Trail, which winds along the western side of the Clinch River, just south of Norris Dam. The description mentioned this as a great opportunity to see spring wildflowers. Wildflowers are always good subjects for photographs, so that seemed like a perfect idea.
A colleague of mine at the University of Tennessee, another hiking enthusiast, let me know about the House Mountain State Natural Area. This mountain, with a network of easy or strenuous trails, is just 8 miles northeast of Knoxville. Since I currently live in the northeastern area of Knoxville, it's right nearby.
Some time ago, I was driving through the Smokies looking for a trail that I had found on the map called the Huskey Gap Trail. This trail was listed in trail guides as being 4.2 miles round trip and moderate. According to the official Smokey Mountains trail map, the trailhead was just off Newfound Gap Round, a few miles south of the Sugarlands Visitor Center.
Last year, some friends of mine with whom I was working at the Clemson Libraries went with me to hike to the top of Blood Mountain, which lies along the Appalachian Trail in northern Georgia. It's one of my favorite places, and I was glad to share it with folks who had never been there. Unfortunately, due to rain and low clouds, there wasn't much of a view when we reached the top. This is a pretty strenuous hike, although it is only just over 4 miles up and back, and it was disappointing to have worked so hard for so little to see.
Completely unaware of the serendipitous nature of the hike I was about to take, I headed off on Oct. 31 to see what I could find up at Big Ridge State Park. I had been getting more annoyed with the crowded nature of the Smokies in the fall, and going in the opposite direction to find a quiet experience in the woods seemed appropriate.
During my transition from working at Clemson University to working at the University of Tennessee, I took a few trips to the Smokies to try to get connected to new opportunities for wandering. To start with, I went with a hike that I had done before, the Andrews Bald hike. This hike is part of the Forney Ridge Trail, near Clingman's Dome. It's a shortish hike, about 3 to 3.5 miles round trip.
The transition from South Carolina to Tennessee is proceeding apace, but I figured I'd toss in this last South Carolina "hike". It was really just a brief stroll through Town Creek Park's series of trails. According to SCTrails, part of this series of trails follows the route of a train system used by the Appalachian Lumber Company, in the '20s. Town Creek Park is in Pickens, SC, not far from the main part of the city itself, but it still provides a "walk in the woods" type feel.
There are big changes happening in my life, and I'm preparing to open up possibilities for new places to explore. My wife and I are in the process of moving to Knoxville, Tennessee. Although that means that I won't be hiking around the South Carolina and north Georgia areas as I have for some years now, the Great Smoky Mountains are right nearby. As an example of the kinds of new places opening up for hiking and photography, this post is about a hike in the Smokies taken earlier this summer.
For the next hike with Clemson librarians, we decided to head to Rainbow Falls, in Jones Gap State Park. This is a repeat hike for me and was for at least one of the other hikers in the group. But, Rainbow Falls is such a gorgeous spot, it is worth repeated visits. This hike, about 5 miles round trip, is relatively strenuous, but the view at the end takes one's breath away.