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  1. #1
    Senior Member Bearpaw's Avatar
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    Fiery Gizzard Trail (TN), January 18-20, 2013

    I had often heard that Fiery Gizzard Trail, near Monteagle and Tracy City, Tennessee, was one of the more popular trails on the Cumberland Plateau. I had also heard it was very rocky. And some even say it is the crown jewel in South Cumberland State Park.

    And for one reason or another, despite having hiked all the trails in South Cumberland’s Savage Gulf/Stone Door complex, I had never ventured into this little pocket of trails. This weekend, I walked nearly all the trails in this area, and found out what folks were talking about.

    Friday, January 18, 2013

    It was a hectic time, getting out of school, then driving straight to the Foster Falls Trailhead near Jasper, Tennessee. There, I filled out my permit and left my truck. My wife, who had followed me, then drove me up to Grundy Forest Trailhead and dropped me off.


    There was only about 15 minutes until sundown. Hiking is not allowed after dark on the trails, so I had to move to cover the 6/10ths of a mile to the CCC campsite. There I set up for the night.

    (This shot was actually taken the next morning due to such a late arrival.)

    I climbed in and relaxed, reading my kindle until I drifted off to sleep.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Bearpaw's Avatar
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    Saturday, January 19, 2013

    This was going to be a busy day. I started off by getting up before daylight and heating water for cocoa and a fried pie breakfast. Then, with only the ambient light of pre-dawn, I loaded my little day pack to hike the two-mile Grundy Day Loop.


    The Day Loop is beautiful, packed with walks along both Big and Little Fiery Gizzard Creeks. This included some very pretty small falls.




    It also included Cave Spring Rockhouse and its 500 year old Hemlock.


    I continued back to my camp where I packed up and headed out. I retraced my steps back to where the Fiery Gizzard Trail breaks off from the Grundy Day Loop.


    Both Little and Big Fiery Gizzard flowed together here and created a powerful waterfall.


    A quarter mile later, I passed three huge mounds of crumbling choss rock, the middle known as Chimney Rock.


    Just past this was the side trail to Sycamore Cascade.


    A quarter mile past Sycamore Cascade was the trail intersection with the Dog Hole Trail. In just 1.5 miles, the Fiery Gizzard has offered me more sights and rewards than many trails will in over a dozen. The Fiery Gizzard stayed down in the gorge, while the Dog Hole Trail climbed a couple hundred feet up to the rim and followed it onward to Raven Point. Both routes were just shy of three miles.

    If I had know then what I know now, I would have followed the Dog Hole Trail to my camp at Raven Point, carrying the full pack along the much easier route. But I wanted to backpack the whole Fiery Gizzard, so I continued down along the Gizzard.

    It immediately became very rocky.


    And the trail remained rocky to various degrees for the next three miles.


    It also offered many short very steep climbs to get up and away from sheer drops down into the creek. Then it would drop down a steep rock scramble back to the creek bank again. I lost the trail a few times in the rocks, though I could eventually find another white blaze somewhere down the gorge.

    Eventually I began what the map guide called an “arduous” climb up to Raven Point. It was actually only about 450-500 feet of climbing over two steep sections. Personally I found the rock scrambling in the gorge more difficult than this honest climb.

    Once at the top, I walked the tenth of a mile to Raven Point Camp. Dewey and I were the first ones to set up camp for the day.


    Then I grabbed my daypack and headed east the 300 yards to grab water at Anderson Falls.


    I returned and grabbed a bacon cheddar sandwich for lunch.


    After that, I loaded up the flash pack with my possibles and Dewey, and we began the 6-mile there-and-back walk along the Dog Hole Trail. It offered excellent views at a number of overlooks, the best being Werner Point.


    I stopped for a quick snack at Yellow Pine Falls.


    Near the end, I dropped down into the Gorge to rejoin the Fiery Gizzard Trail at the intersection from earlier in the morning. Just up from the intersection is the old Dog Hole Mine that gives this trail its name.


    Then I scrambled back up the 200 foot climb to the easy walking along the rim and headed home for the night.

    Once there, I cooked dinner while Dewey snuggled down into the quilt to stay warm.


    A host of other campers had arrived, more than I had seen in the back country any where except the Appalachian Trail. There were at least 15 other campers in this site.


    I sat in my hammock eating dinner and watched the sun go down. The cloudless day meant there would not be any brilliant colors, but it was still a supremely relaxing way to end day a satisfying day. As the dark rolled in, I slid into my hammock to read with the smell of campfires and bits of laughter to keep me company. The stars above were the best I had seen in a very long time.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Bearpaw's Avatar
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    Sunday, January 20, 2013

    Once again, I was up before dawn, heating cocoa water. I packed up breakfast and Dewey, and we headed the half-mile to Raven Point to enjoy breakfast with the sunrise.


    It wasn’t all that cold, but Dewey still wore his “Christmas Story” parka. He calls it that because just like the little brother Ralphie in A Christmas Story, Dewey can’t put his paws down when he wears it.

    We headed back to the camp and packed up. It was with satisfaction that Dewey and I were the first to walk out of camp, just an hour after sunrise.

    We made excellent time. The Fiery Gizzard follows the rim almost the entire 8 miles from here to the trailhead at Foster Falls. Unlike the rocky gorge walk, it was easy ambling. The corridor is surrounded by private property with fences close to the trail in many places. I reached my first stile over a fence next to Perpendicular Creek.


    A mile later, I passed an old moonshine site.


    The shiners must have drawn their water from right next door at what I dubbed “Shine Falls”.


    The easy stroll continued for another 3 miles until the trail abruptly dropped into Laurel Branch Gorge. There, the trail dropped 200 feet in .2 miles. At one point, steep cables guarded against a fall into the gorge and provided hand holds to a youth group working their way up and out.


    Though the temperature had reached 50, there were still patches of snow in the gorge. I crossed Laurel Branch and began the steep climb out.


    The trail immediately leveled out again. Small Wilds Campsite waited. Along the way, the trail crossed over a couple of small streams, each offering views from the top of the falls they created.


    Small Wilds Falls, from the top looking down.


    This area also offered nice views from Small Wilds Overlook, where I enjoyed lunch.


    The remaining 2 miles to the trailhead became littered with dayhikers. It offered many more excellent views, climbers’ access trails, and view points to Little Gizzard Creek. A half-mile from the trailhead, it opens out to views of Foster Falls and its tall, slender cousin.


    Foster Falls and its plunge pool.


    From this viewpoint, I headed on a quarter mile to the bridge over Little Gizzard Creek which dropped and became Foster Falls just 100 yards downstream. On the other side, cables and a stone wall prevented the stupid from joining the falls in its plunge pool. Another 200 yards brought me back to the parking lot. Dewey posed for a quick photo as I loaded my pack and poles for the trip home.


    All that remained was the 2+-mile Climbers’ Loop, and I would have hiked all the trails in the Fiery Gizzard corridor. But that would have to wait for another day. This area’s many great sights, combined with perfect hiking weather (sunny in the mid-50s), had filled the parking lot to overflowing, and folks swarmed about in all directions.

    Since Dewey is about all the company I can usually handle, I decided it was time to head home.

    Yes, the Fiery Gizzard Trail is popular. Yes, it is very rocky in the three miles down in the main gorge. But it a great little trail, just an hour down the road from my home. I’ll be back.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Les Rust's Avatar
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    As always, great shots and write up, BearPaw. Looks like you and Dewey had a great walk on a neat trail.
    Les Rust
    "My goal is to live long enough to become a character."

  5. #5
    Senior Member WickedKlown2's Avatar
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    Great Report and it looks like it hasn't changed much since I was hiking there 23 years ago when I was a Boy Scout. I need to get back out there in the near future.

    Thank You for rekindling great memories
    Dave aka WK2
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  6. #6
    Old Gorge Rat Hawk-eye's Avatar
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    Another great trip and report! Thanks for sharing ... I wonder ... what kind of mine was that in the picture?

    WARNING: Will discuss Rhurbarb Strawberry Pie and Livermush at random.


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  7. #7
    Senior Member Bearpaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hawk-eye View Post
    Another great trip and report! Thanks for sharing ... I wonder ... what kind of mine was that in the picture?
    Coal. It was coal that brought industry to Tracy City. The coal was brought out and immediately used to smelt iron at a forge in Tracy City called the Fiery Gizzard, hence the name of the creek and trail.

  8. #8
    OutandBack's Avatar
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    Great trip report Bearpaw. Love the picts. Thanks for sharing them.
    O&B
    May your mileage in the backcountry exceed your post count.

  9. #9
    SQWERL's Avatar
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    great trip report. i have yet to visit out there. looks like that one is getting added to the list.

  10. #10
    Senior Member BEAS's Avatar
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    Great trip report, just in the nik of time. I was looking for your posts from previous trips today. I saw something on here that reminded me of your screen name and was curious to see if you had been out lately.

    Nice job as always
    BEAS
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