January 26, 2015

Virgin Falls

One of my 2014 goals was to hike to Virgin Falls near Sparta, Tennessee. In case you missed this blog post from January 2014, here it is again.

While I didn't accomplish this goal in 2014, I did make it in January 2015 and share below a few glimpses of Virgin Falls as well as other beautiful sites along the trail.  

Virgin Falls is formed by an underground stream that emerges from a cave and then drops over a 110-foot high cliff. 

Here is more information on the Virgin Falls State Natural Area along with directions to the trailhead.  This area is part of Tennessee's Cumberland Plateau. 

The area is noted for its unique geological features and several other waterfalls. 

Big Branch Falls

The hike into Virgin Falls totals around 9 miles (in and out) and is considered a strenuous hike.  The trail descends around 900 feet in elevation and has many rocky areas with uneven footing. 

There is a cable to provide assistance at the only difficult stream crossing. 

Big Laurel Falls 

Top of Virgin Falls 

Side view of Virgin Falls. 

Winter or early Spring is the ideal time for a hike to Virgin Falls.  Be sure to allow plenty of time to see all of the fascinating geological formations along the way as well as explore the trail to the top of the Falls. 

Hope you enjoyed my hike to Virgin Falls and you have plans in 2015 to "Keep on Hiking."

January 14, 2015

Beautiful Cumberland Island

In November of 2014, I was fortunate enough to join five members of the Chattanooga Hiking Club for an amazing three days of camping and exploring on Georgia's Cumberland Island.  Below are a few glimpses of an unforgettable trip as well as scenes of beautiful Cumberland Island.

The group of six.  Wait, where's the Professor and Mary Ann?  Believe me, this was no Gilligan's Island.   
Cumberland Island is Georgia’s largest, southernmost barrier island at 17.5 miles long and 3 miles wide.  It constitutes the westernmost point of shoreline on the Atlantic Ocean in the United States and is reported to be the largest “wilderness island in America.” 

The Cumberland Island National Seashore was created by Congress in 1972 with 36,000 acres sheltered by the national park and over 9,800 acres of wilderness protected by Congress under the 1964 Wilderness Act. 

A  foot-passenger ferry took us to Cumberland Island.  It departs from the St. Mary's Visitor Center on a daily basis.  The ferry does not run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during December through February.  
The ferry carries no cars, bicycles, kayaks, or pets.  It leaves the mainland at 9 and 11:45 a.m., and the island at 10:15 a.m. and 4:45 p.m.  Ferry reservations can be made up to six months ahead by calling toll free 1.877.860.6787.  Fees are charged for ferry service, entrance to Cumberland Island, and camping.  
Don't worry, the ferry will allow you to carry whatever supplies you need to be comfortable while staying on Cumberland Island. 
The island has three docking stations.  We departed at the second stop, Sea Camp Ranger Station. 
Sea Camp Campground offers restrooms, cold showers, and drinking water.  A camping permit and reservation are both required. One cold shower in November was enough for me! 
After camper orientation at the ranger station, we hauled our luggage and supplies down this sandy lane to our assigned campsite.
A few wagons, found at the ranger station,  were essential in hauling our luggage and gear to the campsite. 
Our campsite easily accommodated three tents with "Godzilla" becoming talk of the campground. Each campsite has a fire ring and picnic table.  I was lucky enough to camp in "Godzilla" with two other ladies.  At 5'11",  I could easily stand inside without my head hitting the top of the tent. 
Food storage bins are provided at each campsite to prevent raccoon and opossum from your food supply. Some varmint actually gnawed its way into a bag of our Tostitos. 
No more details, let's go exploring. 
Beautiful Spanish moss in the sprawling live oak branches. 
Dungeness Ruins, on the southern end of the island, is easy to access from the first ferry docking site (Ice House Museum.) Revolutionary war hero General Nathanael Greene was granted land on Cumberland Island in 1783. His widow built a four-story tabby home and named it Dungeness.  
Today, this is all that remains of Dungeness even though in 1884 Thomas Carnegie and his wife Lucy began building on its foundation.  
There are acres and acres of marshes at Cumberland Island. Marshes are Earth's most productive lands with their nutrients feeding large populations of fish, shellfish, plants, and birdlife. 
The marsh buffers the island's landward side from twice-daily influxes of tidal flow, and they also absorb some storm impacts. 
Horseshoe Crab along the beach. 
Not sure how the armadillo arrived on Cumberland Island. (Photograph courtesy of Patricia Smith.) 
Is that a dorsal fin? (Photograph courtesy of Patricia Smith.) 
There are many feral horses on the island. Safety regulations are explicit:  "Don't approach feral horses, they are dangerous and kick and bite.  Feeding any wildlife is both prohibited and dangerous. 
Walking along the beach is a delight for shell collectors. 

Cumberland Island winters are short and mild.  Summer temperatures range from the 80's to low 90's.  According to park rangers, November and December are the best months for camping on the island. 
From time to time, there are managed hunts on the island.  (Photograph courtesy of Patricia Smith.)
Sunset (Photograph courtesy of Patricia Smith.) 
 I think that I shall never see......A poem  lovely as a tree--from Trees by Joyce Kilmer. (Photograph courtesy of Patricia Smith.) 
A concessioner on the island rents bicycles --a great way to explore the island. (Photograph courtesy of Patricia Smith.) 
After three full days of hiking, exploring, food, fun, and fellowship, it was time to leave the island.  Departing was bittersweet as Cumberland Island is such a magical place.  Everyone in our group looked forward to a warm shower and clean feet.   (Photograph courtesy of Patricia Smith.) 

Whether you like to travel, hike, or just love the outdoors, there is something for everyone on Cumberland Island.  Go ahead and plan that trip to Cumberland Island... you won't be disappointed.  I hope you will "Keep On Hiking"

Special thanks to Patricia Smith for planning and organizing such a wonderful trip.