After having spent many months (like 72 months altogether and the last six more intensely) to finish my doctoral thesis, I finally had the chance to finish making some gear (diy hammock, bug net, bishop bag, tarp lines, etc) and was eager to do more than try it out in the backyard. I had originally thought about heading to the Smokies, but the forecast was for heavy rain and the trip I had planned had some serious stream crossings. So with the skies clearing back to the west, I decided that an overnight to Virgin Falls State Natural Area would be a good trip. I had learned of Virgin Falls from FlightChick here on HF. It's only about an hour and a half from the house. It's about eight to nine miles around the loop.
I met a couple of guys at the trailhead and a group of two women and one guy down the trail; they said that they usually hike in the Smokies as well, but the forecast had suggested something further afield. Once I had passed paths with them, I knew that I had the whole area to myself.
Virgin Falls SNA is a spectacular spot. The stream appears from under the rocks and within about fifty feet falls over the ledge 110' feet into a huge sink where the water immediately disappears. There was a nice campsite right beside the falls. The sound of the falls is wonderful. The Cherokees have a saying, "go to the water" which is a call to find a spot with flowing water to restore the soul. Sound wisdom there!
I pitched the hammock and tarp. I decided on using one small tree so that I had something of a front porch facing the falls. Here I need to give a shout out to some folks on HF: Fronkey, the skins arrived and here is the promised trip report as well as some pics (thanks, too, to lymphocytosis at NK Outdoors); Scott over at DIYgearsupply, I used the double layer hammock plans and also the bugnet plans as well as the materials; Bloomgorge, I've got the tarp setup with a tarp cross on one end and a tarp key on the other; Paul at AHE, the Flamethrower UQ that I won is wonderful and warm; and to the others who have helped me learn and get all of this together, thanks also.
It was a restful and enjoyable night there with the falls. I slept much better than I usually do camping and I woke with no back pain; after having a couple of knee surgeries and a back surgery, I am well-pleased with the comfort of hanging.
This was a good shake-down cruise for some new gear that hadn't been more than twenty yards from the house. Everything performed up to expectations.
I love going solo and often do since my calling requires that I work most weekends. Great to have such great spots preserved by the State of Tennessee. Great to have such great folks as those here on HF. Great to have the chance to get away from it all even if for a little bit.
A word about the pics. The first couple are of Big Laurel Falls which falls 40' back into a sizeable rock room before disappearing into the ground. The second shot is from inside that rock room looking out. The pic of Virgin Falls simply does not do it justice. The last pic shows my hiking poles and GVP4 pack that I made--always get a picture that shows my poles.