Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Frozen Head State Park Hike

It has been a crazy winter around the office.  The office "shutdown" for two weeks during the holidays, but unfortunately my global work load did not allow me to fully enjoy vacation during that time.  Additionally, the weather during that period was so poor that even when I did have free time it wasn't very conducive to hunting, hiking, or fishing.  I did make it out one day to fish with buddies David Knapp of The Trout Zone and Buzz from the LRO forum.  Although I didn't manage to catch anything, it was still nice to get out and enjoy the Smoky Mountains with those guys.  You can read David's report here: Report: Smokies Interlude

However, I still felt like I just had not taken the time I needed to decompress from the crazy workload I had seen during December and early January.  So, when I checked the extended forecast last week I saw that right in the middle of a lengthy cold streak we were to have a beautiful, sunny, and warm day.  So, I asked my manager if I could have a little decompression time.  Thankfully, he agreed that I could use the time, and I began to try and decide what to do.  At that time I contacted Buzz to see if he was interested in either going fishing, squirrel hunting, or hiking.  TVA apparently hates us as of late, as all tailwaters were blown out.  Ironically Buzz has been wanting to try some trails out at a nearby state park that I have always overlooked, so we both agreed that Frozen Head State Park in the Cumberland Mountains of East TN is where we should go.

Upon arrival at the park we discovered the ranger station was closed during lunch hours, so we took a look at the somewhat simplified map outside and selected a trail.  The trail we chose was the South Old Mac Trail that lead up to the top of the mountain and an overlook tower.  Total distance rountrip was 7.2 miles with an elevation gain of 2,100 ft (which we didn't know until afterward).  A little bit more than I would typically choose for my first hiking trip after several months of downtime, but Buzz provided motivation to push on in a timely manner.
The Hike In
I am very thankful that we did as the sight from the top was quite scenic, and even the sights along the hike were beautiful.  We passed old CCC buildings, sandstone bluffs that the cumberland mountains are famous for, caves, large ice formations, and other sights.
Trail is lined with sandstone shelves like this
I brought along more gear than I needed, expecting it to be a little cool at the top.  For example I brought along my MSR Pocket Rocket stove and cookpot to make some hot chocolate, my Patagonia Nano Puff Pullover in case it was a bit chilly, and even an extra fleece vest in case I needed it for the hike out.  Additionally,  I had my typical items that I carry on all day hikes which includes a first aid kit, emergency fire starting kit, and safety blanket in the event that an accident were to happen.  Ironically, Buzz and I noted on the hike in how many people we encountered that were making this moderately difficult hike without anything other than a single bottle of water in their hand and a T-shirt.  We both commented that we would rather be safe by bringing a little extra water, a first aid kit, and a fire kit than to find ourselves stranded without these necessities.  After cresting the top of the mountain and spending some time in the top of the tower, we made our way back down the mountain so we could keep our dinner plans with our families.

This is a park that I intend to visit again in the near future, and am seriously considering bringing my son here for either a car camping trip or his first overnight backpacking trip.  There are multiple backcountry sites, anywhere from 1/2 mile to several miles from the parking lot.

Below are some pictures from this nice little day hike that my legs are still recovering from.

Stopping for our first water break
Another of the ever-present ledges
This one had massive icicles, up to 4' long
Tub Springs Backcountry Campground at the top of the mountain
The view from the top


Bill Trussell said...

Awesome looking place to hike, fish and hunt. It reminds me of my home waters in the rolling hills near Smith Lake; which is the Bankhead National Forest. Thanks for sharing

Travis said...

Bill, it amazes me how I can live in this area all my life and I always seem to end up going to the same places... I am going to make an effort this year to try fishing, hiking, and camping in new places.

19" Clinch River Brown