View Full Version : Savage Gulf TN, Thanksgiving '08

2008-12-27, 18:08
Sleeps With Skunks and I returned to Savage Gulf State Natural Area north of Chattanooga, Tennessee the Friday after Thanksgiving. I had hiked this trip in January, but wanted to share the experience with my wife.

We got a late start (about 1 PM) due to driving in from her family in Alabama. We got our permits and set off toward Savage Falls, falling freely after much rain in the past week.

We continued on, enjoying the mellow walk along the South Rim Trail. It is mostly level, with great overlooks into the gorges below, such as Laurel Bluff Overlook.

After 6 1/2 miles, we pulled into StageCoach Road Campsite just after 4 PM. We set up camp, including my dining tarp, and settled in for the night.

We awoke to occasional sprinkles during the night, but were happy to awaken to relative dry. We stepped off just a few minutes after 8 AM and soon joined the old roadbed of historic Stagecoach Road Trail, still showing impressive signs of its days as a main thoroughfare from the farmland in the gorges below.

We moved a bit slowly due to rocks, but I was more concerned about the "grey mile" of terribly rocky trail in the uphill mile before Hobbs Cabin. Just as we began the Connector Trail toward Hobbs Cabin, rain began to fall in earnest. SWS struggled with her glasses fogging over. At one point in the rocks, she wrenched her ankle badly. We stopped and tightened her boot and I agreed to carry her pack for the worst of the rocks. At maybe 20 pounds, it wasn't as bad as I thought to simply hang it over one shoulder and move on. Moving less than 1 MPH, we inched on up the Connector Trail.

On the way, we passed a number of hikers heading down from Hobbs. Some moved quickly, but were still surprised by the difficulty of the trail, especially in the rain. One group of four men looked quite unhappy, with only one having actual raingear. We learned later from a volunteer that they had been evacuated Saturday from the gorge with a member suffering from hypothermia.

Finally, after taking 5 1/2 hours to cover 5.6 miles in the heavy rain and intense rocks, we arrived at Hobbs Cabin and found it all ours. I gathered water and made a hot lunch for us. SWS gathered several branches and small logs for a fire. In the process, she discovered the mother lode of fire luzury, a HUGE 6-pound fireplace artificial log, left in campsite 8. It made our 6 ounce cheater block look like a little leaguer by comparison.

She changed into dry clothes and I rigged a clothesline. Afterward, I wrapped her ankle and arranged for her to keep the foot elevated. I then broke out my Sven Saw and Gerber Camp Axe, two luxuries I almost never carry, and they immediately proved their worth as a substantial pile of semi-dry firewood materialized from the soaking wet woods.

Inside, SWS enjoyed the warmth as we began to dry boots and clothing.

As evening wore on, we enjoyed dinner and a fire fit for both human and teddy.


We settled in happily for the night.

The next morning, Sleeps With Skunks' ankle was still swollen, bruised and angry.

However, with an ACE wrap over her sock, some Alleve, and her pack weight reduced to about 15 pounds, she resolved to hike the 8 fairly level miles out.

With the mist and rain swirling about, the trek was a wet foggy endeavor.


SWS was happy to leave behind the short ups and downs of the North Rim Trail for the flat gentle Mountain Oak Trail.

Continuing on, we moved quicker than I would have imagined, swallowing 8 miles in just 4 1/2 hours. It was with much happiness that SWS crossed the final suspension bridge just .4 miles from the trailhead.

Once home, x-rays showed that SWS had thankfully not fractured any thing apparently. Instead, a torn ligament will likely keep her from hiking for 3-5 weeks. But she was pleased to have enjoyed a wonderfully warm evening in a cabin in the midst of chilling mountain rain and returned to tell about it. I suspect she'll be hiking with me again over Christmas Break.

2008-12-29, 00:35
Nice story and pictures all but the ankle it looked bad.Thanks for sharing your trip, Whiskyjo

2008-12-29, 13:59
looks like you had a blast... now that the holidays are over (almost) I'm ready hit the woods... going this weekend (somewhere)...