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View Full Version : Fiery Gizzard Trail (TN), January 18-20, 2013



Bearpaw
2013-01-21, 15:16
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.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/010.jpg

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.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/020.jpg
(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.

Bearpaw
2013-01-21, 15:17
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.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/013.jpg

The Day Loop is beautiful, packed with walks along both Big and Little Fiery Gizzard Creeks. This included some very pretty small falls.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/015.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/016.jpg

It also included Cave Spring Rockhouse and its 500 year old Hemlock.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/018.jpg

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.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/021.jpg

Both Little and Big Fiery Gizzard flowed together here and created a powerful waterfall.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/022.jpg

A quarter mile later, I passed three huge mounds of crumbling choss rock, the middle known as Chimney Rock.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/023.jpg

Just past this was the side trail to Sycamore Cascade.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/024.jpg

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.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/025.jpg

And the trail remained rocky to various degrees for the next three miles.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/026.jpg

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.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/035.jpg

Then I grabbed my daypack and headed east the 300 yards to grab water at Anderson Falls.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/029.jpg

I returned and grabbed a bacon cheddar sandwich for lunch.
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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.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/030.jpg

I stopped for a quick snack at Yellow Pine Falls.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/032.jpg

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.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/034.jpg

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.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/036.jpg

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.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/037.jpg

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.

Bearpaw
2013-01-21, 15:19
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.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/038.jpg

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.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/040.jpg

A mile later, I passed an old moonshine site.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/041.jpg

The shiners must have drawn their water from right next door at what I dubbed “Shine Falls”.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/042.jpg

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.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/044.jpg

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.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/047.jpg

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.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/051.jpg

Small Wilds Falls, from the top looking down.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/050.jpg

This area also offered nice views from Small Wilds Overlook, where I enjoyed lunch.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/049.jpg

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.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/054.jpg

Foster Falls and its plunge pool.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/056.jpg

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.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/bearpawat99/Fiery%20Gizzard%20Trail%20Jan%2013/058.jpg

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.

D'Artagnan
2013-01-21, 15:38
Great report and amazing scenery. Looks like you (two) had a lot of fun!

Ewker
2013-01-21, 16:40
Bearpaw, can't believe you hadn't hiked the Fiery Gizzard before. It is easy to get off the trail while watching where to step on the rocks. What is so surprising is that you step on a boulder 4-5 wide and it rocks back and forth. You should have heard Hamhocker when those rocks moved..lol

Bearpaw
2013-01-21, 16:50
Bearpaw, can't believe you hadn't hiked the Fiery Gizzard before. It is easy to get off the trail while watching where to step on the rocks. What is so surprising is that you step on a boulder 4-5 wide and it rocks back and forth. You should have heard Hamhocker when those rocks moved..lol

I don't doubt it a bit. I would never take Sleeps With Skunks through that three-mile section in the main gorge. She has an intense hatred for heavy rocks ever since she tore the tendons in her ankle four years ago at Savage Gulf, heading up to Hobbs Cabin. But I suspect she would be content taking the Dog Hole Trail in. That section wasn't bad at all.

Fiery Gizzard had mostly dropped off my radar until I decided to hike a big loop over fall break at Savage Gulf. The ranger asked if I had hiked the other trails in South Cumberland and mentioned Fiery Gizzard. Now, once I hike the four miles of the Buggytop Trail in Carter SP, the mile around Grundy Lake, and the Climbers' Loop at Foster, I will have officially hiked all of South Cumberland State Park. I will probably either do it in a day or maybe a relaxing weekend.

JAK
2013-01-21, 17:51
Great stuff. Spooky woods.

Bearpaw
2013-01-21, 17:58
They were actually pretty cheery with the sunny weekend. They still get a bit dark when you hit sections of heavy pine. But other spots were bright with the leaves down.

JAK
2013-01-21, 20:08
I was thinking more in the enchanted sense. If rocks could talk. That stack of chimney rocks and that really rocky area especially.

Bearpaw
2013-01-21, 20:20
I was thinking more in the enchanted sense. If rocks could talk. That stack of chimney rocks and that really rocky area especially.

Yeah, that area was kind of daunting. And those rocks have seen more than the human mind could possibly comprehend.

JAK
2013-01-21, 22:07
Are they all natural rock formations, or are some of the rocks strewn from early copper mines or whatever. There are some spots along the Fundy Footpath where the rocks are left over from some copper mining in the 1800s. Some of the rocks still have alot of green in them. It would be interesting to have been able to see the 'good' stuff. Did you see the size of that gold nugget they dug up in Australia or wherever it was? Anyhow, that chimney stone formation was really something. That's the stuff I find most spooky when you hike through an area that is almost completely grown back wild and you see a stone wall, or an old foundation, or some apple trees, or maybe just something that looks like it might have been touched in some way or another, or it just has old voices you can feel but cannot hear. We are pretty out of the way up here, did have the same population densities as further south, pre-contact or since, for reasons of climate, but the voices still carry. I would imagine they get pretty loud along the old war paths down south, and the places off the beaten paths.

Austin
2013-01-21, 22:28
Nice, Bearpaw. This is one of my favorite trip reports from you. Beautiful hike.

Bearpaw
2013-01-21, 22:41
Are they all natural rock formations, or are some of the rocks strewn from early copper mines or whatever. There are some spots along the Fundy Footpath where the rocks are left over from some copper mining in the 1800s. Some of the rocks still have alot of green in them. It would be interesting to have been able to see the 'good' stuff. Did you see the size of that gold nugget they dug up in Australia or wherever it was? Anyhow, that chimney stone formation was really something. That's the stuff I find most spooky when you hike through an area that is almost completely grown back wild and you see a stone wall, or an old foundation, or some apple trees, or maybe just something that looks like it might have been touched in some way or another, or it just has old voices you can feel but cannot hear. We are pretty out of the way up here, did have the same population densities as further south, pre-contact or since, for reasons of climate, but the voices still carry. I would imagine they get pretty loud along the old war paths down south, and the places off the beaten paths.

It's possible the chimney was formed from mining. Chimney Rock is the middle and tallest of three block mounds that look like they were all once part of one hill. Mining could perhaps account for it. But the mounds look like massive Jenga towers, where you could walk up and pull out a 12-foot long stone block. It's possible trees growing up through these choss piles, combines with ice expansion created the gaps over time. There's just no way to know.

sheepdog
2013-01-21, 22:42
Maybe bigfoots mined copper there.:albertein

Bearpaw
2013-01-21, 22:45
Nice, Bearpaw. This is one of my favorite trip reports from you. Beautiful hike.

I've hiked most of the trails in southeast Tennessee, and I'd heard about Fiery Gizzard, but had no idea how packed with neat stuff it really is. I love it when I get a surprise so close to home.

Bearpaw
2013-01-21, 22:50
Maybe bigfoots mined copper there.:albertein

Coal. Tracy City became an iron smelting town because iron ore from Nashville was brought into the coal rich gorge area and immediately blast smelted with local coal. The forge was called the Fiery Gizzard...

Go 75 miles southeast to the TN/NC/GA border area, and you're in die-hard copper country.

Bigfoot is an annoying bastard. But except for grunting and chunking an occasional log or rock, he leaves us alone. He's afraid of Dewey.

sheepdog
2013-01-21, 23:24
Bigfoot is smart if he fears Dewey. Dewey never blinks, it kinda creeps me out too.

john pickett
2013-01-22, 10:51
"If rocks could talk"
JAK, I believe you're thinking of Trees that talk.
Treebeard, Ents, Lord Of The Rings.
Bearpaw, Thanks for sharing. Beautiful, just beautiful.

JERMM
2013-01-22, 23:26
BP, great photos and TR, that's one of my favorite places to hike.